Anansi And The Box Of Stories Review - Level 99 Games
Quick Glance: Anansi and the Box of Stories
Game Type: Card Game
Number of Players: 3 - 8 (!!)
Mechanics: Spades Variant with Multiple Play Modes
Publisher: Level 99 Games
I was skeptical of this game at first. I’m not sure what turned me off to it initially, possibly the box art and the Sesame Street meets Jumanji vibe it was giving off. However, after playing a surprisingly refreshing round of Anansi, I’m very glad I got to crack it open. Ken Maher went ahead and dusted off the old African / Caribbean legend of Anansi the Spider and melded it into classic Spades to create this tribal folklore themed card game.
Standard Mode, where every player randomly selects a character card, one of 9 different animal characters. Each character gives a different amount of points per trick and each has a different ability that you can use once per round (except Anansi!). Once everyone has picked their characters at random, they they get dealt a hand and play can start. Turn order is determined by either the character that player chooses or the player’s (actual?) size. We weren't sure on our first play-through whether or not they were referring to the character’s size or the player’s, so we went with player’s (use this method at your own risk). The first player leads with a card and the following player’s goal is to either sabotage the trick with an Anansi card (possible negative points and a “Fool card”) or win the trick if it is clean, by playing a higher card of the same suit (or any card of the trump suit if they don’t have any of the lead suit). The trump suit was a little confusing to identify, because the rules say that the default trump suit is Cleverness, but the cards in our version were printed with the word Craftiness instead. A quick Google search cleared up that these are intended to be one and the same. A minor snag, but hopefully this gets ironed out in a future version of the rules. Once everyone is down to one card, the round ends. Scoring is done based off of the character you selected and the number of tricks you won, and whoever had the most Anansi cards gets awarded with a fool card. Three fool cards or 5 rounds completed ends the game. If three fool cards are awarded to any player, that player loses and the remaining players tally their points to determine the winner.
Partnership Mode, where you team up with one other player, against up to three other teams, and your fool cards and trick points are shared. Be warned though, three total fool cards for your team will still cost you the game. Your partner can’t modify any of your cards, and vice versa, and the usually “blank” Anansi character gets an additional ability, where each trick you and your partner earn get 1 bonus point.
Character Trait Mode, where you pair up the extra character trait cards, for example “Strong” which gives you one extra point for each card of the Strength suit that you collect or the “Confident” trait which gives you double points for each trick that contains an Anansi card.
Off-Suit Ability Mode, where whenever you play a card that is not of the same suit as the lead card’s suit, an extra effect is triggered based off of the animal that is displayed. An example being, if you play the 7 of Strength as an off suit card, because it features the Snake character it prevents any other off suit abilities from triggering for the rest of the trick. You could also engage the Chameleon on the 8 of Friendliness, which changes it into the lead suit, whatever that may be, potentially winning you the trick! Each featured animal has its own ability, except Anansi.
Multiple Variants, Anansi also allows the players to choose and activate any combination of the above variants all at the same time. A very nice touch to add more complexity to an already strategy heavy game.
The rulebook is pamphlet style, two-sided, multi-fold and gives an accurate description of the rules and gameplay. The one exception as mentioned above is the confusion between Cleverness / Craftiness. Featured here are the video rules for the game, which is also located in a QR code on the rulesheet.
The theme is tribal / folklore. Each component of the game has artwork reminiscent of a 1st or 2nd grade storybook that reflects this.
Getting a game of Anansi started is extremely straightforward. You separate out the animal cards and the role cards. Spread the role cards out for all players to randomly select one. Then deal out the remaining cards in an amount that is determined by the number of players. You will need a scorecard though (not included).
Cards, cards and more cards. Fitting components for a card game, really. The colors and art leave a little to be desired, but the card stock and quality are above average. The box is solid and the rulesheet is high quality, glossy paper.
There is no solo-play feature for this game.
While I definitely judged this book by it’s cover (sorry!) I was pleasantly surprised by the tactical gameplay and backstabby laughs that were had during our rounds of Anansi. I would recommend that you purchase this game at its current MSRP. Get a few bucks off of it if you can, of course, but it’s worth full price in my opinion. Gather some friends who like games like B.S., Uno, Spades, Egyptian Ratscrew, War, etc., and play a few rounds!