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Save endangered species in this gorgeous board game Kickstarter

Kavango challenges players to build a thriving nature reserve, and was made by real-life Botswanan conservationists combating the illegal wildlife trade.

Closeup on cards and playboard from the Kickstarter board game Kavango, the card for the Lion front and centre

The board game Kickstarter for Kavango, a beautiful card-drafting game that challenges players to build thriving nature reserves, has smashed its funding goal with 23 days to go. Kavango is the creation of Mazaza Games; real-life conservationist Zara and her designer husband Matt, with support from the University of Botswana.

Wargamer has a soft spot for games about animals and conservation, provided they’re done well – check out our Ark Nova review to see why that game has a spot on our list of the best board games – so we’re keen to see more of Kavango. At it’s core, Kavango is a drafting game, with players selecting animals and plants to add to their reserve to build up its ecosystem.

Prototype cards for the Kickstarter board game Kavango - cards representing lions, lovebirds, and flamingos

At the start of the game each player gets to choose a unique landscape and conservation expert, giving them unique abilities. Throughout the game there are opportunities to fulfil research tasks, earning money that can be reinvested to protect the reserve’s vulnerable and endangered animals. Here’s The Rules Girl with a full rules rundown:

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You have until 8.55am PT / 11.55am EST / 4.55pm BST on October 19 to back Kavango on Kickstarter. The basic edition costs $60. Mazaza Games states that it has followed the Green Games Guide “to make sure the product is sustainably produced and delivered”.

The Kickstarter page gives some backstory to the game. Zara and Matt moved to Botswana in 2019 when Zara got a job “working on combatting the illegal wildlife trade”. Kavango is “based on the incredible real life success stories we’ve been so fortunate to see and engage with”.

Creators of the Kickstarter board game Kavango Matt and Zara, a caucasian man and woman with dark hair, standing together outdoors

The University of Botswana Environmental Sciences department has provided “incredible support” to the team, and “want[s] to use the game to help teach conservation and sustainability in their courses”.

If you’re interested in another beautiful game with an animal theme, check out our Wingspan review. We can also recommend some excellent couples board games, if – like Zara and Matt – you game with your partner.