Discover the Fantastical, Fanciful, and Fearsome Creatures of Vivarium | Casual Game Revolution

Discover the Fantastical, Fanciful, and Fearsome Creatures of Vivarium


Explore an underground cavern and identify strange new, fantastical creatures to complete contracts all in the name of science!

Published by Studio H, Vivarium is a set-collection board game designed for 2-4 players, with a playtime of roughly 30 minutes.


The game board has four rows and four columns. The first two rows are filled with creature cards. The third row is filled with Equipment cards. The fourth row is filled with contract cards. Each player has two dominos that show two different numbers ranging from one to four, and one domino is placed by the board. On your turn, you must trade one of your dominos with the one by the board. You then must use the number on one of your dominos to select a row and one number on your second domino to select a column, and you take the card at the space where that column and row meet. Alternatively, if you do not wish to take a card (or cannot) after you have swapped dominos, you can instead take two gems. Each gem is worth one point at the end of the game, but you can also discard a gem to increase or decrease the value of a number on a domino by one on your turn.

Creature cards are worth 1-3 points, but they also come in four different types and colors. Contract cards will score you extra points based on collecting certain types or sets, or they might score you points based on the equipment cards you gather. Equipment cards give you special abilities when you gain them or sometimes can be counted as certain creatures for purposes of contracts at the end of the game.

Each round, there is a new priority token. Priority tokens give you a gem each time you claim a certain type of card. At the end of the round, the player with the most cards of that type gains the priority token, which is worth two points at the end of the game. Players always know what the priority token will be for the next round.

Once each player has taken two turns, you draw new cards to replace those that have been taken, the current priority token is awarded to one of the players, and then a new round begins. The player with the most points after seven rounds wins the game.

Vivarium Components

Photo provided by the publisher


Vivarium is a great, accessible set-collection game, with easy-to-learn mechanics and fun choices to make each turn. There is an enjoyable give-and-take between collecting more creatures and collecting the contracts that can be worth a lot of points at the end of the game. The card selection mechanism is also nicely balanced, limiting your options while also giving you enough to choose from so that you still feel you have agency, even if you’re going late in the round.

There’s something very smooth in the gameplay: swap a domino, take a card, it is now the next player’s turn. This keeps the game moving nicely. A few of the icons need a little studying to learn, and that can slow you down at first when getting to know the equipment or the contract cards, but the pace soon picks up and it makes for a fast 30-minute game that still has plenty of weight to it.

Aesthetically, the game is quite pretty to look at. The artwork really stands out. It’s a unique style that is bold and colorful and gives the game a nice table presence. The dominos are fun to handle and just look lovely, but we do wish they were a little bit more utilized. It’s very neat that they have such a tactile feel to them, but their being dominos is not key to the mechanics and it feels like a missed opportunity for such a cool component.

Vivarium is enjoyable and attractive and doesn’t overstay its welcome. While there’s no direct player interaction, the selection of cards and the fact that new ones aren’t drawn until the end of the round, results in players’ actions affecting one another’s choices more concretely — especially because the domino you leave behind directly affects the next player's turn. A clever game with some fresh ideas, Vivarium is worth checking out.

Pros: Artwork, speed of turns and game, card selection mechanism

Cons: Dominos feel a little underutilized

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.