A girl is playing Animal Upon Animal.

HABA Iconic Game Spotlight: Animal Upon Animal

A Recipe for Family Game Success

For almost 20 years, Animal Upon Animal, HABA’s best selling game of dexterity, stacking prowess, and fun has been delighting families and kids of all ages with its motley crew of animals, including crocodiles, frilled lizards, sheep, toucans, monkeys, hedgehogs and snakes... oh my! First released in 2005, this entertaining stacking game has sold over a million copies worldwide and has become a staple in game collections all over the world.

However, this beloved game has a very simple origin story from its birthplace of Germany where the game designer, Klaus Miltenberger, was inspired by a box filled with wooden animals. “My initial idea was to stack two snails on top of each other, and then different animals,” explains Miltenberger. “I picked up a couple wooden figurines out of a toy box at a game inventors fair in Munich and looked at them for a while before I began to experiment with them.”

Miltenberger had another inspiration for Animal Upon Animal that arrived while hiking as he watched children carry one another on their backs. In fact, the working title of the game was originally ‘Piggyback.’ “I quickly realized that stacking wooden animals is not just fun for kids, but also for adults.” And this universality is why HABA selected the game! Stacking these wooden animals is a real challenge for the whole family, and since each round changes, it keeps everyone's interest for a long time. Win win!

As the HABA team worked with Miltenberger, the animals were designed to provide different levels of difficulty with their variety of shapes. For example, the crocodile with its broad and jagged back makes for a good stable base. Adding the dice and the simple rules allowed the game designers to ‘piggyback’ and create a game that is engaging, fun, and easy to follow.

A family is playing HABA Animal upon Animal.

Stacking Up the Learning Benefits

Aside from the amazing dexterity benefits of stacking, this simple game has a surprising number of learning benefits that really stack up. Anytime animals are involved in play, expressive language is too. As children identify the range of animals in this game, there are many opportunities to name the animals and their attributes, as well as making a variety of animal noises! Kids can name and sort colors, while developing some early counting skills as they roll the die. Also, as children place the animals on the pile, there are lots of opportunities to work on basic vocabulary and directional concepts. For example: Where does the monkey go? Next to the sheep? During free play, children can also create stories as they build play set ups for all of the little animals. As they play with the animals, there are also opportunities to sort and categorize by size, animal diet and habitat, or their features.

Animal Upon Animal is also a great game to help kids understand how to be good sports and develop resilience and acceptance. Rather than getting frustrated when their animals topple off the pile, children can learn to laugh it off and try again, all while patiently waiting for their next turn!

The beautifully crafted wooden game components are another feature that sets this game apart. All the bright and wonderful animal shapes are made at HABA’s factory in Bad Rodach, Germany and sourced from domestic PEFC certified beech wood, harvested within 100 miles of the production site. This region also includes Spessart, a well-known forest in Germany where the game designer Klaus Miltenberger grew up creating even more of an enduring connection for him.

A family is playing HABA Animal upon Animal.

Thousands of Five Star Reviews

Miltenberger reflected on his game designing process on Animal Upon Animal’s 10th birthday and how he gets his ideas and then ensures each idea has a wide appeal. “My main goal is to invent games that are exciting, but easy to learn,” says Miltenberger. “I get my ideas from just about everywhere; sometimes several impulses all at once, and then none for weeks. For me, it’s important to first test my ideas with my girlfriend and friends, and also with kids or colleagues. Particularly satisfying is when adults also enjoy a game that was intended for children.”

We can confirm that Miltenberger’s initial testing of Animal Upon Animal indeed passed with flying colors as the thousands of starred reviews for this game prove. Fans of this stacking game love that everyone can play together, that it is easy to follow, and you can bring it with you anywhere you go. It has provided family laughter, enhanced fine motor skills, and brought people together since the beginning and continues to spread its good cheer and animal love to more and more families around the world.

Here are just a few of what the fans of this wooden stacking game say about it:

“Oh goodness, where to even start?! This game is so much fun! It’s fun for 2 people, but if you have 4 people - it’s just a constant laugh. We shuffle the animals in the lid of the box and do a random draw rather than letting players see the animals. Just read the instructions and it’s easy to catch onto quickly. SO MUCH FUN!”

“We played this game at a friend's house and it was so much fun for my four-year-old that I purchased it for our house. The rules are simple enough that he's memorized the different symbols on the dice and can tell anyone how to play. The pieces are well made. It's a quick little game that we play frequently. I've purchased several as gifts for kids in the 4-7 year old range. I even have an extra one at home in case I need a last-minute gift for a birthday party.”

“We take this game everywhere with us. It's great to play at restaurants, doctors offices or any other time when waiting can be hard. It's so easy to play my 3 year old gets it and keeps Mom entertained too.”

“A great game for all abilities! This game is a favorite with ALL my nieces and nephews! Even my niece who is partially blind, non verbal, in a wheelchair and has a little movement in her right arm!!! When the 5 kids start stacking before her, she usually finds a way to knock them down, and everyone laughs and says “oh no! Not again” and then she laughs (in her unique way) the sound and sensory is so great!!!”

“It is difficult to find games that are both fun and entertaining not only for the toddler you are playing a game with, but also fun for you. Animal upon Animal is one of those games. You won't mind playing with your child when they ask. As the stack up progresses you will find it challenging to not topple the stack. Kids love it, because on one hand they want to stack the animals, and on the other it creates a lot of fun smiles when it comes crashing down. Should you get it, sure. Will you play it if you do, absolutely.”

“This game is the perfect blend of luck and skill that makes for a family game that everyone can enjoy. Everyone, from my 4 yr-old to his Gammie, likes this game. It's one of the games that's often taken out of the game closet. It's also one of the games that rarely goes back in and that's my true measure of what's popular in our house.”

“This is an excellent game for encouraging children to be good sports. Rather than getting mad or upset when their animals topple off the pile, they learn to laugh at themselves and with their friends while enjoying the game. They learn to make appropriate comments--"Oh no! It fell off"--rather than pouting when things didn't go as planned. This game provides excellent opportunities to learn turn taking, waiting, and handling manipulatives appropriately as well.”

Animal upon Animal sits on a wooden table.

How to Play

Play in a clockwise direction and whoever goes first, rolls the die. The die determines what action each player takes depending on what appears.

A dot: Take an animal from your pile and place it carefully with one hand anywhere on the pyramid.

Two dots: Take two animals from your pile and pile them carefully one after the other, with one hand, onto the pyramid.

The crocodile: Take an animal from your pile and put it next to the mouth or tail of the crocodile so that both animals touch. This enlarges the piling surface used for piling animals. Each time this symbol appears on the die, you can place an animal from your provision next to the animals touching them.

The hand: Choose any of your animals and give it to another player who now has to pile the animal carefully on the pyramid.

The question mark: The other players now determine which of your animals you have to pile. Do this with the utmost care.

Have animals tumbled down during stacking? If so, you need to take 2 animals and add to your pile.The game ends as soon as a player is left without animals. They win and are elected best animal stacker of the day.

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