Endangered Review, A cooperative board game about saving endangered species, with Bonus: Monarch Butterfly Scenario Review

Endangered is a poignant, cooperative, dice placement game with the theme of saving endangered species. The core game box includes scenarios featuring Tigers and Otters.

My family has really been enjoying endangered with it’s unique card and dice based worker placement system, various difficulty levels, and tense gameplay.

Disclosure: Thanks to Grand Gamers Guild for providing us a review copy of Endangered, and for being a sponsor of The Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast (though they actually weren’t when we got the review copy). Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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What’s up with Endangered the Board Game?

The box cover for Endangered a cooperative game from Grand Gamers Guild

Endangered was designed by Joe Hopkins, features artwork from Ben Flores, and Beth Sobel, and was published here in North America by Grand Gamers Guild.

This conservation themed game plays one to five players, with games taking around an hour, or a bit more at the higher player counts (and much quicker when playing solo). The gameplay time will also be higher for your first few games, as you learn the ins and outs of the game and get to know the cards.

I would call Endangered family friendly. It does have some meat on it and falls in the medium weight euro range, so it wouldn’t be great for younger kids. However, the game is cooperative so I’m sure it could work with some coaching. I personally think the theme is a great one for kids of almost all ages.

In Endangered the players are part of a team of conservationists working together to save a species from extinction. They will have to deal with hazards like deforestation and pollution, the impact of poachers and oil spills, and more. While dealing with these calamities, the team must also try to influence UN members to take action and pass new legislation. The game is won if the player can get four UN members to vote yes before the species is wiped out or it becomes too late to save them.

Get a look at the components in this wildlife conservation board game in my Endangered Unboxing on YouTube.

Late in a game of Endangered from Grand Gamers Guild

There you will see the two sided board and destruction tiles, the uniquely shaped player boards, and other player components, including Specialty Cards and a unique deck of cards for each role.

You will also find Impact cards for each of the two scenarios in the core game and a scenario sheet that explains the special rules for each of scenario. There are also some wads of cash tokens to represent money and a set of green wooden cubes.

You get set of dice for each player as well as two other dice, one offspring die and one destruction die. All of these are standard D6 dice in various colours. There’s a wooden calendar token to mark the game year and best of all, wooden animeeples! The base game comes with fifteen wooden tigers and fifteen wooden otters.

I have no complaints at all about the components in Endangered. The card quality is good and the card design is even better. The iconography is very clear and easy to read from across the table, even with my aging eyes. The rulebook is also noteworthy for its clarity.

How to save a species in Endangered the board game.

All set up for a four player game of Endangered where we will be trying to save the Tigers

The first step to playing a game of Endangered is to pick which species you want to save. The base game box comes with two options, either tigers or otters. There are more species available through various Endangered expansions like Endangered: New Species, the Endangered: Giant Panda Scenario, the Endangered: Monarch Butterfly Scenario and the soon to be released Endangered: American Red Wolf Scenario. Plus you can also find some fan created content for Endangered over on Board Game Geek.

Next you decide what difficulty you wish to play at. Each scenario presents three difficulties and we recommend normal for your first game with any scenario. No matter the scenario you pick the goal of the game remains the same: get a specific number of UN Delegates to vote yes to conservation efforts at the end of a specific year based on the player count.

If you fail at that you get one more chance the next year. This has to be done before your species dies off (which happens if you only have one or less animals on the board) or you run out of time (determined by the timer moving past the second voting year).

Each species in Endangered provides you with a unique challenge. The base game comes with two, tigers and otters.

Next you place the board out with the side for the chosen scenario face up and place the calendar marker on the first year spot. Shuffle the UN cards and deal out six, three blue, two green and one purple. Then follow the scenario set up rules found on your chosen scenario card. This will tell you what animeeples to place on the board, the number of destruction tiles to use, and more.

Next each player choses a role to play. The base game includes the Environmental Lawyer, Lobbyist, Philanthropist, TV Wildlife Host, and Zoologist. There is also a Celebrity role that you can get direct from Grand Gamers Guild if you feel you want more options.

Players collect the role board, two speciality cards, player deck, turn marker, and three dice that match their role. These are distinguished by colour as well as inography. Players choose one of their two specialty cards to use for that game and returns the other to the box. They than search through the player deck for the card indicated on their specialty card.

A look at a couple of different cards from the cooperative board game from Grand Gamers Guild

If this card is an action card it is placed next to the board adjacent to the action spots already printed on the board. If it’s a continuous card it’s put into the players tableau and its effect will be in play the entire game. If the card is a Once card, the player follows the instructions on the card and then place it into their personal discard pile.

Each specialty card gives the owning player an asymmetric rule breaking ability that is tied to their role. For example one of the Zoologists cards lets them move animals one additional space when taking any action that moves animals. The TV Wildlife Host has one card that lets them reroll any die during their turn by discarding a card.

Everyone now shuffles their play deck and draws two cards. Players decide as a group who will take the first turn and the game begins.

Endangered is broken into five phases, Actions, Offspring, Destruction, Impact and Upkeep.

In Endangered you use place your dice on cards to take actions.

In the Action phase players gather their dice and roll them. They then take actions by placing these dice onto action cards. These can be the actions pre-printed on the board or action cards brought into play at the start of the game or during the game. Each player can only have one of their dice on each card and to play on a card the die placed must be higher than any dice already on the card (this is a key part of how Endangered world).

Basic actions include drawing a card or getting money, playing a card from your hand, removing a devastation tile that is not adjacent to any animal, and moving an animal one space. Through the play a card action new placement spots will be added to the table, giving the players more places to place their dice and thus more options.

The abilities on these cards include things like discarding a card to move two animals up to two spots, earning money by working, paying money to both draw and play a card, removing devastation tiles by spending influence and more.

Debating which UN member to influence in a game of Endangered from Grand Gamers Guild

Placing influence cubes onto UN Cards is the way you win the game. At the start of the game all of the UN Cards are hidden, face down. Once you place at least one influence cube onto a card it flips over. The card will list a condition on it that must be fulfilled to get a yes vote. These conditions are based on the number of influence cubes on the card plus something, and you are looking to hit a specific total indicated on the card. For some nations the something is based on the number of animals on the board and/or their location, others have you roll one or two dice and add them to the existing influence, some are based on the amount of devastation tiles either in play or out of play, and others have still other conditions.

After the active player has spent their three dice and taken three actions you move to the Offspring Phase. Here you count the number of mating pairs out on the board, these are squares with at least two animals in them. You then roll the orange die. If your die total is equal to or less than the number of mating pairs you get to place a new animal onto the board.

Note the specific rules for mating do vary by scenario. For example after tigers mate the pair has to split up, and in the Monarch Butterfly Scenario there’s no die used, butterflies automatically mate if they are in the northern part of the board, but don’t if they are in the south.

Tigers surrounded by devastation in a game of Endangered

Next it’s time for bad things to happen, starting with the Destruction Phase. The active player picks a row or column on the board and then rolls the black devastation die. They then find the spot on the board that the die corresponds to and places a Destruction tile there. If there’s already a tile they instead place it on an open spot in the same chosen column or row that’s closest to an animal. Tiles placed on animals remove them from the board.

Similar to the Offspring rules, the exact rules here may change depending on which scenario you are playing.

The Impact Phase comes next. This involves flipping over the top card from the Impact Deck (which is unique for each scenario). While some of these cards are good things that will help you out, most are quite nasty and make things harder.

Some cards are one and done, you flip them, read them, carry them out, and then discard them. While others are Persistent Impacts that stay in play until someone takes an action to get rid of them. The stacking of multiple Persistent Impacts can be quite deadly to a species.

The impact phase is always tense in the cooperative conservation game Endangered

Finally, there’s an upkeep phase. The active player draws one card from their deck, places their turn marker onto the calendar piece and picks the next player to go. This has to be someone who still has their turn marker and hasn’t gone yet. When everyone’s turn marker is on the calendar, it’s the end of a year.

At the end of the year you check to see if it’s a voting year. If it is a voting year you resolve each UN Card from left to right to see if they vote yes or no. If you get the required number of yes votes (four in a normal difficulty game) you win.

If it’s not a voting year, or you fail the vote and it’s not the final voting year, play continues with the player who went last collecting and distributing the turn markers, and then choosing which other player will go next.

If you fail to get the required votes on the second voting year or if you ever end up with either one or no animals on the board, the team loses. Try again and perhaps reduce the difficulty level if anyone was getting frustrated.

Trying the otter scenario in the cooperative board game Endangered.

These rules apply to all player counts except solo. The only change when playing by yourself is that you choose two roles to play and control both of them.

One important thing to note, what I just covered are the generic rules that, for the most part, will apply in every game of Endangered regardless of what scenario you play. This is an exception based game though and many things can modify these rules, with the biggest amount of change coming from what scenario you choose. The roles chosen and what cards come into play will also affect some of these rules.

My family has really been enjoying Endangered and so have other local gamers.

Working with Gwen to decide what to do in a game of Endangered

The big thing that drew me to Endangered is the theme. This feels like an important game because it has an important theme. A theme that may actually get people thinking about conservation and potentially even get someone to start doing something about it. That on it’s own makes me like the game.

What’s even more awesome though is that the game here is also fantastic. Endangered is one of the best cooperative games I’ve ever played, and it’s even managed to win over some people from our gaming group who aren’t usually fans of cooperative games.

I think the key to this is the dice placement mechanics, specifically two parts. The first being that the number of actions, the number of worker placement spots you have, grows as you play and it grows through the direct efforts of the players. While there is some luck of the draw involved, for the most part the players will get to decide what actions they are going to need in play and when to shift focus from creating opportunities to using the ones you have.

Brenda placing her dice in a game of Endangered.

The second key to why I think Endangered has been such a big hit with us is the dice placement mechanic. The fact you can’t place a die on an action unless it’s higher than all other dice there has a huge impact on the game, and it impacts almost every aspect of it. I don’t think you can really get just how big a deal it is just by hearing about the game or reading the rules, you have to experience it.

One of the biggest parts of this is the fact that once you place your dice they stay up until the next time you act. This makes choosing who goes next at the end of the turn really important. Do you pick the player with the great card you want to get into play, or someone with a lot of fives and sixes already up so that those dice clear and you open up more opportunities for everyone?

These mechanics combined with the way card play works does a good job of mitigating some of the quarterbacking in the game. Sure players will be discussing which options are best, but you don’t usually have someone telling another player exactly what they should be doing. I find keeping your hand of cards hidden helps with this as well, though I do know of at least one local group that prefers to play with them face up.

Trying to save the otters in a game of Endangered

Now you take these great cooperative mechanics and add in a very tense set of “bad things happen” mechanics and you end up with a very tight game. A game that, after the first year at least, starts feeling desperate, with the tension only ramping up as the game goes on. Every game we’ve played of Endangered has been close.

Every game we’ve won we felt like we could have lost at multiple points along the way, and only in one game so far have we had it so that we were guaranteed to get four votes when we got to the end of the last year. The games we’ve lost also feel very possible. Losses aren’t devastating and they make you want to try again.

As we’ve played more and gotten to know the cards and the strengths of each role, the game has gotten easier, but that’s not a problem, as we can always up the difficulty. Plus we’ve found that each scenario plays very differently and the strategies that work on one may not work on another.

The stress and tension in Endangered are also it’s biggest downfall. Not everyone wants to be stressed out when playing a board game and that is going to be the biggest consideration when trying to decide if this game is for you and your group. If you really don’t like a lot of tension in games there is also the option to try on the easy difficulty. My family found this variant a bit too easy, but it does make for a lighter more family friendly game feel, and might be a great option for when you have younger kids at the table.

Things are not looking great in this game of Endangered. The tigers are about to be wiped out!

Another concern is the fact that this is a cooperative game and not every group enjoys games where the players have to rely on each other. That said, my wife is someone who usually doesn’t enjoy cooperative games, yet she enjoys this one. I’m pretty sure she would never ask to play Endangered but won’t say no if asked to play.

One of the cooler aspects of Endangered is it’s expandability. The two scenarios in the box, while they play the same mechanically, feel very different at the table. It wasn’t just playing the same game with different pieces, and we know for a fact that other scenarios change the game up even more.

It’s also great to see that the game is still going and growing. The latest expansion should be up for preorder at Grand Gamers Guild in the next week or so and you can expect it to see it in stores later this year.

Overall I’ve had a great time playing Endangered with my family. My mother-in-law and oldest daughter love it and even my competitive game loving wife enjoys playing it now and then. It’s also been a pretty big hit at our local public play events, where the components do a great job of drawing a crowd. Everyone loves animeeples!

Early in a game of Endangered where we are trying to save the otters.

If you are a cooperative game fan and your group loves playing together to try to beat the game, I strongly recommend you try to save some animals with Endangered. This is one of the best cooperative games I’ve played plus it features a fantastic and important theme.

If you normally shy away from cooperative games you may want to give Endangered a try. We’ve had surprising success with this one even with people who don’t normally enjoy co-op games. Maybe see if someone local has it, or if your FLGS will do a demo, or check out the Print and Play version (all you need are some D6 dice, and I’m sure you have some spares around).

Now if you or someone in your group doesn’t enjoy tense games where it can feel overwhelming and that the chances of winning are slim or if there’s a concern about the theme of animals being forced to extinction mainly due to the actions of humans, you probably want to avoid Endangered.

Personally, I expect this one to keep hitting the table here at home and at our local events and I can’t wait to try out some other scenarios. I’ve got a review copy of the New Species expansion for Endangered calling my name from my pile of shame right now.

Finally, just a reminder that you can save 10% on Endangered, or any of Grand Gamers Guild’s other games, by using our special code Bellhop at the Grand Gamers Guild online store.

A look at the Monarch Butterfly Expansion for Endangered

The Monarch Butterfly Expansion for Endangered.

The Monarch Butterfly Scenario for Endangered is a special expansion that is not available in stores. You can get it directly from Grand Gamers Guild, either on its own or in a bundle (and save 10% with BELLHOP).

You can also pick this expansion up at any convention Grand Gamers Guild is attending.

This expansion adds one new scenario to your games of Endangered. It comes with a new scenario card, a set of impact cards, awesome monarch butterfly animeeples, and a special migration tile that is only used in this scenario. 

When trying to save the monarchs you use the forest side of the base game map and all the deforestation devastation tiles. The map is divided into north and south, with three rows in each. All of the butterflies on the board start in the north. 

The first big change the Monarch Scenario brings to Endangered is during the offspring phase. Here every butterfly pair in the north produces an offspring in an adjacent space. Then there is a migration. 

There is a bit more to set up when you play Endangered with the Monarch Butterfly Scenario

What happens here is dependent on what generation you are in, as tracked on the new board. In general you will pick up a bunch of butterflies from off of the map and then drop them back onto the map, one at a time. Depending on the generation, how many you pick up could range from just the mating pairs to all of the butterflies on one half of the map. 

After the migration you suffer losses, again based on the current generation. This could have you losing one or two monarchs or losing all of the butterflies in either the north or the south. 

Next we come to the rather harsh destruction rules. Here players don’t get to pick a row or column, instead they roll both dice and then place a devastation tile onto the corresponding spot. Then they have to flip one of the dice over and place another one. Thankfully on this second placement if there’s a tile already there you don’t have to place it. 

The rest of the rules are the same as the core game. You are still drawing an impact card (though it’s now from a new monarch specific impact deck) and you are still trying to get four yes votes from the UN. 

So far so good with saving the Monarch's in Endangered from Grand Gamers Guild

As I’m sure you can tell from this description, the coolest part of the Monarch expansion for Endangered is the unique way it recreates the multi-generational migratory patterns of actual monarchs, though in a rather abstract way.

While trying to save the monarchs you will be constantly trying to group them in the north so they can mate, then trying to get them to move down south before all of the ones left in the north are wiped out. When the monarchs are down in the south they can’t mate, so then there’s a rush to get them back up north. There’s a real feeling of flow here. 

So far each different species we’ve played in Endangered has felt like a very different game. The urgency of the migration, the matting pattern rules, and the new method of deforestation, leads to a whole new shift in the feel of the game here.

I am also fascinated by the dexterity element. You don’t have to drop the butterfly meeples from very high up, but those animeeples really bounce. This randomness felt rather thematic with the butterflies feeling wild and uncontrollable. 

I really enjoyed playing Endangered with The Butterfly Scenario. This is a great example of just how different one scenario can be from another. It also showcased how the game can expand beyond the base game box with only a minimal amount of new components and rules.

It’s probably also worth noting that we haven’t won Endangered with this scenario yet. Despite that, each game using it has been a lot of fun and we keep going back for more.

If you have played Endangered and enjoyed it we strongly recommend seeking out the Endangered Monarch Butterfly Scenario. Watch for it at Grand Gamers Guilds’ booths at various cons throughout the year or order it online where you can use our code BELLHOP to save 10%

I’m really looking forward to diving even deeper into Endangered and trying out even more different scenarios. We’ve got Endangered New Species in the pile of shame and obligation and I’m expecting that to change the game up even more, in a good way.

Once we do get to that expansion we will be talking about it on The Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast which you can find on your podcatcher of choice (on Spotify, etc).

Do you enjoy cooperative games like Endangered? I would love to hear about the best cooperative game you’ve played. Is it the now classic Pandemic, or something else? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

Grand Gamers Guild Endangered
  • Mechanics: Cooperative, dice placement
  • Playtime: 60-75 minutes
  • Age: 13+
  • Players: 1-5
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