Gain Influence to Save Animal Species in Endangered | Casual Game Revolution

Gain Influence to Save Animal Species in Endangered


Take on one of five roles in an effort to win the favor of international ambassadors to preserve habits and conserve endangered species. 


Endangered is a 1-5 player cooperative game in which players are working together to slow the rate of deforestation or pollution that threatens endangered species in one of two scenarios, as they also try to gain influence with various nations' ambassadors to convince them to save the species on a global level. 

Each player will take one of five roles (Zoologist, Environmental Lawyer, TV Wildlife Host, Lobbyist, and Philanthropist) and choose one of the two specialty cards that provides a unique action for the role. Players will also have three dice and a deck of player cards that they’ll use to complete various actions.

Depending on the scenario, the board will be seeded with the chosen species and players will be presented the scenario’s unique rule set. These scenarios also have a corresponding deck of impact cards, which will present players with challenges that they must manage throughout a game. The game board also has a calendar marking each year, which represents each round. The larger the player count, the fewer years players have to win the game. Finally, there are action spaces on the side of the board which allow players to complete actions dependent on the scenario, as well as add more actions from their player decks that can become further action spaces as the game progresses. 

The main objective in each game is to stave off the extinction of the species by winning favor from randomly drawn ambassadors (three blue, two green, and one gray). These cards begin face-down at the beginning of the game, becoming uncovered when a player places influence on them. Each ambassador will have a game condition that players must meet during the penultimate or final rounds of the game, such as having a roll of dice higher than the amount on the card, having a number of specific impact cards showing, or a number of pollution/deforestation tiles off the board. The more influence players put on ambassadors will count toward meeting the goal totals. 

Each player begins the game by finding the card in the player deck that corresponds to the chosen specialty and resolving it immediately. Some cards are actions, which are played beside the action zone on the board, which becomes a new action players can take. 'Continuous' cards are ongoing effects that can help during the course of the game. 'Once' cards are immediate benefits that are used and then the card is placed in the discard pile for each player.

Players will then draw two cards from their player decks and roll their dice, and then go through five phases. The action phase involves the player using their dice like workers, placing their dice on one of the action zone spaces or cards and fulfilling the action. Some of these actions involve collecting money, moving animals on the board, removing deforestation or pollution tiles, or placing influence on ambassadors. Players may also use a die on the space to play action cards from their hands. When placing dice, players must be careful not to lock out other players. In subsequent turns, only dice with a total higher than a played total on a card may be used. Therefore, if the first player uses a die with the value of 3, then players who want to complete the same action must play a die with a value of 4 or higher. And many action zone actions allow only three dice. 

After the action phase, the player will move to the offspring phase by rolling the offspring die and following the rules of the specific scenario. The destruction phase follows, where the player will choose a row or column, roll the destruction die, and place a deforestation or pollution tile in the space they rolled. If the roll would impact a spot an animal is on, the animal is removed from the board. The impact phase follows, with players drawing the top card from the impact deck and forming a continuous line. These cards will present extra challenges that are triggered by further draws from the deck and can cause further destruction or animal loss. Finally, the upkeep phase occurs where the player draws back up to two in-hand cards and chooses the next player to go through each of the phases until the round is over. After a round ends, players will move the calendar token to the next year/round and continue. 

Depending on the player count, the calendar will have icons that determine voting years which will occur during the penultimate and final rounds of the game. This is when players will look at the face-up ambassadors and determine if the conditions have been met for that card. If so, this counts as a yes vote. To win the game, players must gain four yes votes. If players cannot gain four yes votes in the penultimate round, they have one more chance at the end of the final round. If players cannot secure four yes votes, they lose the game.

Endangered components

3D rendering of Endangered game components (provided by the publisher)


Despite the initial learning curve during setup, Endangered is a near-perfect introduction to casual, cooperative games.The rules are few and the objective is very clear: gain four yes votes from ambassadors. This makes the gameplay very easy to follow, where players are collaboratively working to do what it takes to gain influence and expose all the ambassadors, determining which four of the six ambassador criteria they can meet to win the game. 

Likewise, the order of each phase becomes clockwork after a player’s first turn. As the board begins to take shape, actions begin to accumulate in the action zone, and players begin to learn their role and how to maximize their specialty, groups will find a lot of fun figuring out who should go next, where they should play, and what actions they should take with their three dice. 

This team-building idealism is reflected in the game’s theming as well. While the game is very simple — gain votes and preserve the animals and the habitat as best as the group can until they can meet the ambassador’s criteria — the stakes feel dire with otters and tigers at risk. And yet, despite the gravity of the theme, the game makes learning about these stakes as lighthearted and enthralling as possible, and does so in a casual package. It may feel like a massive undertaking, but Endangered makes its mechanics and theming accessible from the get-go. The rulebook is easy to read, player aids make the phases easy to follow, and even a group of gaming beginners will be able to understand the collaborative elements to make the game flow. 

Endangered does have two minor flaws. First, the solo gameplay is rather uninspired, with a solitary player just taking on two roles during game play. While susceptible to the luck of the roll a little more, it’s still rather simple for solo players to meet the conditions of four ambassadors.The second is the lack of scenarios in the base box. Though both scenarios do offer harder variants as players become comfortable with how the base game plays, just having two scenarios out of the box leaves a bit to be desired. The game’s first expansion (recently funded on Kickstarter) promises a handful of new scenarios and roles, which will add to the game’s variability but having more of those options in the base game would massively improve the experience from the get-go. 

Yet these are small gripes to what is a great game that presents a challenge that both casual and more hardcore gaming groups will enjoy. Designer Joe Hopkins has created a game that represents very-real scenarios of species on the verge of extinction and the socioeconomic struggle that happens with professionals working to save these animals and their habitats.

Pros: Top-notch cooperative experience, immersive theming, high-end casual gaming experience

Cons: Not enough scenario and role variety in the base box, solo mode is a little lacking