Animal Crossing needs a board game

I don't care how many loans I have to pay to get it.
Four villagers from Animal Crossing round a table, playing a board game in-game.

This week, the studio behind the wildly successful farming village sim Stardew Valley have announced a new board game. It’s a mammoth of a tabletop physically and mechanically, with 1-4 players taking up to 45 minutes per player to complete. Players work together to build and grow their farm town revealing hidden goals while stopping the ‘Joja Corporation’ from spoiling it. It looks extremely charming, but all I could think was: why hasn’t Animal Crossing done this already?

Photo of Stardew Valley board game in its box.
Credit: ConcernedApe, Delano Games

Nintendo’s animal town simulator has had global landmark success in cultures around the world, and I think a board game could be a great merchandising step. Stardew Valley definitely has more mechanics and objectives to keep busy with, but Animal Crossing still has many iconic features that could translate to the table.

Firstly, it should be co-operative. Conflict and battle are not themes of Animal Crossing, and a board game gives players a chance to work together on a town in ways that the very lacking multiplayer modes haven’t been able to supply. In ways this could be like Animal Crossing: New Leaf in the way players can act like mayors of the town in control of the construction and general upkeep, something also reflected in the latest New Horizons title.

My Animal Crossing character at an in-game radio studio.
I built an Animal Crossing radio station, because I'm lame.

Villagers are a significant part of Animal Crossing, each one becoming memorable names traded back and forth like shiny Pokémon cards. In a board and card game sense these could translate to having unique powers or statistics that assist the town, whether it’s Redd bringing dodgy art, Blathers with a museum, or a simple towns member like Maple bringing construction or design resources. It could work like Civilization on a smaller, cuter scale.

The game also lends itself to tabletop genres just because of its design. You play top-down, navigating a fixed area that can easily be translated into a board game’s base. Tiles can be used to set up new businesses, and random card draws could affect what happens next. Do we get a card that allows us to select a new villager for the town, or a ‘bee sting’ card that reduces our progress? Animal Crossing is made up of mundane tasks and random encounters like fossils or flying presents, and cards within a board game could reflect that perfectly.

Animal Crossing player in front of their house, surrounded by yellow flowers and fences.
Overlode co-founder Danielle staying on-brand as always.

If you wanted it spicier, the terrifying existence of Tom Nook could be a key part of the experience. How many turns until we need to fulfil our loan or get a game over? Do we take a short-term gift from Nook, or pick something to help the town long-term? A player could even act as Tom Nook, having to hand out ultimatums, and give out loans. That stuff about no conflict? We could bin it and turn it into a Monopoly hellscape.

The point is while Animal Crossing was one of the most successful games of 2020, the iconography within it has so much more potential beyond using it in a microtransaction-stacked mobile game, which Nintendo already did. Animal Crossing brought people together in lockdown in a global way, and if Nintendo won’t make their online multiplayer match 21st century standards, at least give us pieces of card and cute villager figurines to fail at running a town with.

Let us know in comments or on our Twitter: what’s your dream Animal Crossing board game?

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