Tusk!: Surviving the Ice Age Review

05 December 2022
A cold snap everyone can enjoy

TUSK! asks us to separate the hunters from the gatherers in the scramble for resources. Here, we’re setting out a board of hexes, some of which have materials and food to collect on them, before slapping a mammoth down in the centre. Players are attempting to gather as much food (presented as cartoony legs of ham) or the materials to improve their chances of a big haul from the hunt.

Each round your intrepid tribe chooses whether to commit members to the hunt, add members to the board, or wander off and do something gathering. Expanding your tribe simply means paying the cost and getting additional meeples to work with, and gathering is a case of going places and taking the materials you want. But the hunt is the most exciting part – here players will be committing materials (like pointy sticks) and then rolling dice to see if they managed to track and slice off a bit of delicious mammoth. The materials help with dice manipulation, or getting extra ‘hits’ (and therefore food). Then the mammoth strikes back, possibly wounding your characters. After all of that, the mammoth goes for a wander, maybe flattening a few of your tribespeople.

All of this is pretty straightforward, but the way the board grows each round makes for an interesting sense of exploration. And soon, with multiple tribespersons wandering the board the game speeds up from its early sedate pace.

But, it wouldn’t be a game with that subtitle without a chilly turn. Midway through the game the ice age turns up. Initially players roll for which direction it’s coming from, flipping every tile to its ice-covered side, suddenly these tiles are worthless and the hunting phase becomes the most important thing you’re going to do on your turn. After the first turn cards are flipped to show how many rows, from the same direction, will be turned to ice. This ranges from zero to two, which when the widest part of the board is seven tiles means that the ice age is more cold snap than a glacial approach. It turns the game from a fairly gentle Euro-with-some-dice-combat game to something closer to Fortnite – the end of the shrinking world quickly pushing players into more desperate situations.

This makes it one of those weird hybrid games that offers just a taste of various mechanics – pushing your luck with dice rolls, worker placement, destructive boards and so on. The shape of the game, after the first play, offers up tons of tactical choices as you and other players feel out the coming threat. Unlike some of Gale Force Nine’s recent lighter boxes (we’re not bashing Dune here), TUSK! absolutely delivers a great family game experience.

Christopher John Eggett


Silly, occasionally mean, and a little bit frantic – everything you’d expect from having to downsize with a woolly mammoth.

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Designer: Sean Goodison & Mike Haught

Publisher: Gale Force Nine

Time:  30-60 minutes

Players: 2-4

Ages: 10+

Price: £40

What’s in the box?

  • 37 Terrain tiles
  • 16 Tribe meeples
  • Mammoth meeple
  • 4 Dice
  • 18 Season cards
  • 9 Victory cards
  • 4 Tribe boards
  • Hunt board


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