Designers: Seppy Yoon
Publisher: Fight in a Box (Distributed by Atlas Games)
Play Time: 20 minutes
Rules Available Online: Yes (for an older version, but still good)
BGG: Squirrel or Die
Being a squirrel isn’t easy, especially when it comes time to prepare for winter. Not only do they have to work their furry little tails off collecting food for the winter; then they need to remember where they hid that food while trying to avoid certain death from a number of different sources. Squirrel or Die aims to put in in the tiny clawed feet of one of nature’s cutest survivors in a quick tile laying memory game. Will you survive the Winter? Maybe you’ll find squirrel love.
Most likely you’ll die a gruesome death.
Squirrel or Die contains 3 types of tiles: Food, Death, and Special. Depending on the number of players in a given game you’ll end up removing some Food or Death tiles, and most likely the Special Birdhouse tile. The rest of the tiles are shuffled up and placed in the center of the table. 4 tiles are then drawn and placed in a 2×2 grid in the center of the table, one face down and 3 face up. Each player is then given 3 tiles to form their hand.
Squirrel or Die is played in 2 phases: Autumn and Winter. In Autumn players are creating a grid of 5×5 tiles and in Winter they’re drawing tiles trying not to get killed. The squirrel who survives Winter is the winner, and probably the greatest squirrel of all time.
In Autumn players take turns taking the following actions until every tile has been laid on the table:
- Draw a tile – The tile drawn is placed face up adjacent to another tile already on the table. The tile may not be placed in a space that would cause the grid to become larger than 5×5.
- Swap a tile – A face-up tile is taken from the board and replaced with a tile, placed face down, from a player’s hand.
One there are no more tiles to draw players continue only taking action #2 until there’s no face-up cards left to swap. At this point players just place their remaining tiles face down on the table. Once all the tiles have been laid Winter begins.
The Winter phase is Squirrel or Die is simple. Players take turns drawing tiles from the board hoping not to die. If a player draws a food tile then, hurray, they live to forage another day. If a Death tile is drawn then it’s almost lights out…for good. If a player manages to draw 3 Death tiles they’re, well, dead. There are also some special tiles with the following effects:
- Bomb – Ups a squirrel’s death count by 2. Ouch.
- Again – The player who snags this immediately takes another turn.
- Lazy – The current player skips their next turn because they’re hibernating.
- Crazy, Sexy, Squirrel Love – OK, it’s really just Squirrel Love. Gives a player an extra life. It now takes 4 Death cards to kill them off.
- Confused Cat – This card is super mean. It’s a Death that you give to another player. Bad squirrel!
That’s Squirrel or Die in a nutshell. Survive the Winter to become the winner.
There are a few variant rules available in the game’s full rules.
There’s not much to Squirrel or Die. The game comes in a small box that perfectly fits the square card tiles. The illustrations on the card are full-art, and perfectly capture the mood of the game. The rules are actually printed on several cards and labeled as to what order they’re supposed to be read. Overall it’s an inexpensive production but gets the job done while keeping the game’s price at a level that makes sense for what it is.
There’s just something charming about Squirrel or Die. It’s light, silly, and plays extremely quickly. There’s something incredibly satisfying about watching your fellow squirrels die horrific deaths as you sit in your tree, quietly munching on some nuts and maybe a bag of chips.
I should mention that while I’ve mentioned grizzly death, the game is in no way explicit, violent, or gory. It’s a game that can be played with kids, so no worries about having to hide their delicate peepers from this one.
Squirrel or Die isn’t going to win a game of the year award, but it is a blast to play, especially with the right crowd of goofy players. It’s worth picking up just for the meta-humor of it all but it really does take a bit of memory and deduction to be a successful squirrel.
A copy of Squirrel or Die was provided free for review by Atlas Games
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.