How an Animal Crossing Fan Brought New Horizons to Life With a Board Game

Animal Crossing Villager Hunt is a fan made play-testing prototype.

If you’ve ever played Animal Crossing amiibo Festival, then you’ve probably felt a deep sense of disappointment at Nintendo’s attempt at an Animal Crossing board game. Even if you haven’t played it, you’ve likely heard the horror stories of the terrible reception that the game garnered from critics and fans.

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Since amiibo Festival, Nintendo has made one attempt to dip its toes back in the pool of Animal Crossing board games with a themed Monopoly game, but there hasn’t been any substantial effort to revisit the concept. This is where Ryan Rydalch comes in.

Ryan created a play-testing prototype called Animal Crossing Villager Hunt and it seamlessly translates the concepts from Animal Crossing New Horizons into a board game for two to eight players. The objective is to create a 5-star Island before all the other players and invite K.K. Slider to perform a concert.

Getting a 5-star Island requires you to have every villager personality, every type of fruit, and fully built facilities. You obtain these things by villager hunting but you might find yourself running into different roadblocks if you get an unlucky draw and your turn gets skipped.

Luckily, there are boards for every season in the game and each can protect you from some of the cards that appear within the deck. For example, the Spring board will stop you from getting attacked by tarantulas, scorpions, and wasps.

The game is full of villagers, event cards, and special characters that will either help or hinder your progress as you go for a 5-star Island. As I played, it was clear to see the passion that went into building a game that captured the Animal Crossing vibe in such a lighthearted yet competitive way.

Animal Crossing Villager Hunt Game Board
Image Source: Ryan Rydalch via Twinfinite

I got the opportunity to sit with the creator, Ryan, and learn more about his history with the Animal Crossing series, his interest in board games, and what it took to get this play-test product to the players.

Even though Ryan has dabbled with the Pokemon series here and there, he has never been really into video games. After a recommendation from a friend, Ryan decided to give Animal Crossing New Horizons a try and it immediately clicked. The game struck gold with him and he immediately started asking how to time travel and get all of the cool things in the game.

Though he was very new to Animal Crossing, he had a much longer history with board games and creating board games. “I’ve always wanted to get into actually making games because I’ve made board games probably since I was little,” Ryan mentioned to me. “I’ve just always been that person who doesn’t want to bring a well-known board game to a game night. I want to bring something brand new and have people try it out.”

Animal Crossing Villager Hunt Mystery Island Tour
Image Credit: Ryan Rydalch via Twinfinite

He would force his family and friends to play, much to their reluctance, but was happy to see their positive reception after they played one of his creations. And Ryan has had many creations to share with those around him.

“I did one for the Aliens franchise where you have to escape from a ship. I have a Pokemon life game where you grow up as a trainer and choose your path in life. I want to do a Drag Race TCG that I’m still developing kind of like the Pokemon TCG,” he said.

Ryan bought the Animal Crossing Monopoly set but really wanted to see an original idea for an Animal Crossing board game. He thought back to the type of things he enjoyed watching online and quickly settled on a villager hunting concept for the game because people were so passionate about finding their dreamies.

The concepts and lore of Animal Crossing remain intact as you explore the pieces. Villager cards feature the character’s unique quote that appears on their villager photos in-game, their personality types are the same, and the goals for a 5-star Island are similar to the major accomplishments in the video game.

Of course, taking the concepts of Animal Crossing and changing them from their usual relaxing and low-stress gameplay can be a challenge. He questioned: “What does it take to make a 5-star Island, and could I put that into a paper format that’s competitive?”

When designing the game, Ryan wanted to focus on the excitement of villager hunting and collecting fan-favorite villagers. Additional challenges like getting every personality type, acquiring all the fruit, and building all the facilities became a key part of the challenge. The idea of building a 5-star Island basically wrote itself.

Animal Crossing Villager Hunt Cards
Image Credit: Ryan Rydalch via Twinfinite

During play testing, some mechanics were added allowing players to disrupt gameplay and create more chaos on the board. Players could draw wasps, scorpions, or tarantulas that would cause a skipped turn. Other disruptions could remove all villagers with a certain type of fruit from play.

There’s a great variety of mechanics that transform the Animal Crossing charm into a surprisingly competitive board game while staying true to the cute animals and goals.

Ryan has been trying to break into the game industry and has sent his resume to a variety of companies trying to get them to buy into his board games. He told me about his early attempts to get a company to pick the game up, including Hasbro: “With Villager Hunt, I went to Hasbro. I went through Hasbro Spark to try and see if they were interested because they hold the IP with the Monopoly game and they had to deny it because it’s not within the threshold of what they want to do.”

While Ryan was initially discouraged by the responses, he knew that Animal Crossing Villager Hunt was something he wanted to see players enjoy and have in their homes. This experience pushed him to print the play-test prototypes himself and make them available through Etsy.

“I consider what I have on Etsy to be a play-testing game for my own safety. I know it’s a trademarked product but this is sort of something where I’m willing to put it out there and essentially all you pay for is the printing materials,” Ryan said.

Animal Crossing Villager Hunt Seasonal Game Boards
Image Credit: Ryan Rydalch via Twinfinite

Ryan doesn’t earn anything from selling this prototype and people are really just paying for the paper. He even covers the cost of shipping within the US in an attempt to get the game into as many hands as possible.

As somebody growing up in the old era of Animal Crossing, I would go to conventions asking every booth if they had any Animal Crossing merchandise or memorabilia but always came up empty-handed. Seeing Ryan’s passion for getting a game like this into people’s homes was something a longtime fan of the series like myself admired.

Ryan sees a lot of opportunities for Nintendo to make more games and merchandise around the Animal Crossing series. He truly went above and beyond with his play-test prototype, Animal Crossing Villager Hunt, and it’s easy to see the love he’s put into the game.

You can check out Ryan Rydalch’s Animal Crossing board game on his Etsy page here.

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Image of Chuy Bosque
Chuy Bosque
Chuy was a freelance writer for Twinfinite who covered all things Nintendo. Whether he was diving into the Animal Crossing community or inking it up in Splatoon, he'd be covering the ins and outs of 'The Big N.'