Noah Review

Noah card game in play

A lightweight little card game that I was able to play recently is Noah.

In Noah, you are attempting to help Noah load animals onto ferries - which are then shipped out to the main ark.  To do this, each turn consists of loading an animal on a ferry, and then moving Noah.  When loading an animal onto a ferry, you must be careful not to overload the ferry (because it would be a bad thing if they sank - and so they game doesn't let you).  What this means is that each ferry can hold a total weight of 21. (21 what you ask?  Pounds?  Kilograms?  Tons?  I have no idea.)  Each animal weighs a certain amount, and will contribute his weight to the total on the boat.  Also, when placing animals on the boat, the animals must either be placed in alternating gender, or a boat must consist only of one gender.  (Again, you may be asking - why?  Because it makes the game more interesting.  Why, thematically?  Because apparently Noah like arbitrary restrictions for his ferry owners.)  And, if you successfully play an animal that matches the previous animal (two pandas in a row, for example), then you get to take another turn.  If a player cannot legally play a card on the current ferry (the one where Noah is located), then they must pick up the entire stack of animals, and then play whichever one they want from their hand.  After playing an animal, the current player must move Noah.  There are five ferries laid out in a hexagonal pattern.  If a male animal is played, then Noah must move to either of the ferries that are not immediately adjacent; if a female is played, then Noah can only move to an adjacent ferry.  Once a player manages to play all of their animals, then all of the other players count the number of tears that they make Noah shed by allowing their animals to drown.  The game is played over three rounds, and the player that makes Noah cry the least is the winner.  (Seriously - I didn't make that up.)

fat animals from Noah card game
Noah with the fat animals he dislikes
So, what is good about the game of Noah?  Honestly, my first pro is something that I didn't mention in the rule overview - some of the animals have different abilities.  For example, when you play a giraffe, you can look at an opponent's hand.  When you play a snail, it can be played as a male or a female.  More interestingly, a donkey prevents Noah from moving, and a woodpecker reduces the total weight limit on a ferry from 21 to 13 - because he can't help pecking at the ferry.  These different animal abilities allow you to have more options and strategic decisions when playing the game.  For example, if you use a giraffe to see what an opponent has, then you can make better decisions about where you should move Noah to prevent them from being able to play.  Or, if you hold onto a snail as one of your last animals, then you will have extra flexibility at the end of the round.

The next pro that I have for Noah is that it is light and easy to teach.  Anyone can understand the rules of Noah, regardless of how many "strategic" games they have played in the past.  Games like this are useful to have in your collection, as you never know who might wind up interested in a game.  Plus, with the theme of Noah's ark, many people will already be familiar with the subject material (though the theme doesn't make terribly much sense if you inspect it too closely).

So, with the pros about Noah, what are some of the cons?  Well, first, there are some things that make sense in game terms that make no sense thematically.  For example, different animals make Noah cry a different amount.  Specifically, Noah really loves pandas, but cares nothing about your fatter animals - giraffes, rhinos, and bears.  And, honestly, even in game terms I don't really love the fact that there are animals that aren't worth any tears.  If I successfully get rid of all of the cards from my hand, I feel like either I should get rewarded (for making Noah happy), or my opponent's should be punished (by making Noah cry).  But, since Noah doesn't care about fat animals, it's quite possible that you will be the first one to get rid of all of your cards, and yet at least one opponent may not get any points.

panda and Noah tile
Noah with his beloved Panda
The other con that I have for Noah is that the game isn't engaging enough that I would want to play it repeatedly.  Now, I realize that each person has their own opinions on what makes a game engaging, but in Noah, I felt like my decisions were far too repetitive.  Which animal do I want to play?  What about gender?  Should I fill the boats up with fat animals that Noah hates, or get rid of my lightweight animals that can easily fit on most boats (but that Noah would cry over losing)?  Where do I want to move Noah?  These decisions are important in the game, and making the best decisions based on what you have is strategically crucial.  However, I still found the game to be missing the "it" factor that made it really engaging.

Overall, I give Noah a 7.0/10.  The game is fine as a filler, or as a lightweight game to play with either kids or non-gamers, but it isn't one that I will really look to bring to the table very often.

If you're looking for games that can be played by anybody, you might also check out Dixit, 7 Wonders, and Crokinole.

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