Badger + Coyote is a delightful and cozy two-player RPG take on an unexpected animal duo.
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Did you know that badgers and coyotes sometimes hunt together? The duo form suitable partnerships frequently, helping each other acquire meals, and—according to wildlife camera footage—have a little fun.
“…The carnivores complement each other’s hunting styles. If a coyote spends time near a badger, there’s a good chance the badger is going to scare up a squirrel, which the coyote can then run and catch. If the badger hangs around a coyote, there’s a likelihood the coyote will drive the prey underground, which then gives the badger—a superior digger—a meal.”–National Geographic
And now you can explore this relationship in a TTRPG designed for two.
Badger + Coyote is an asymmetrical, GM-less two-player tabletop roleplaying game. Players take on either badger or coyote and try to survive by helping each other with unique skills. The game is published by Pandion Games and retails for $2.50. I was lucky enough to acquire the game in a bundle. You can find it in English and Spanish on Itch or DriveThruRPG.
I came across Badger + Coyote during a self-promo Saturday event on Twitter. It’s hard not to be immediately captured by the lovely and cozy watercolor-style of the art that graces the cover. My partner and I both love TTRPGs, so when I realized it didn’t require a game master, prep, or additional players, I committed to bringing it to the table. My partner is a zoologist, so he’ll play anything that gives him the opportunity to roleplay animal behaviors.
The rules for Badger + Coyote are quite brief. The PDF itself is only 8 pages with the rules and character sheets taking up half that. In addition to the rules, the PDF contains a concise overview on safety tools and content warnings as well as a nice dedication/credits page. To play, you only need:
- A copy of the character sheets.
- Something to write with.
- Four six-sided dice.
- A pebble, coin, or some other marker.
We also melted some pine-scented wax and had this video playing in the background.
I chose to play as badger first, so my partner played coyote. We looked over our character sheets, and started the game per the rulebook. Together, players choose a goal for their critters, their quirks, and a starting scene. Badger is always the one to begin the game.
The mechanics are simple yet interesting. The creatures are “asymmetrical” in their abilities, meaning they don’t use the same mechanics to reach their goals. Badger can collect a pool of dice which it uses to create outcomes, while Coyote has a skill number to reference that can change over the course of the game. Players narrate what they do but don’t directly communicate in game. The mechanics are compelling because they attempt to capture the changing whims of the environment and a wild animal. They work fluidly.
We decided on a scene that took place just outside the meadows. A garden, owned by an older woman and guarded by her dogs, held delicious fruit that would serve as our target.
The beginning is where I immediately found trouble, as I realized I know little-to-nothing about badgers. This fact became even more apparent when one of the instructions on my character sheet said to add a dice to my pool if I do “something badgery.” I wanted to play the badger because I think they’re adorable animals, not because I know anything about them from a nature perspective. Looking closer at my character sheet, I struggled to define “flush” and “trap” in the context of being a badger too. My partner was kind enough to explain these actions to me, but we went ahead and switched characters. I was much more effective at roleplaying a coyote—even if I failed almost every check. Even failing, I still had fun.
In the end, we had a lovely time sneaking around the garden. We hid from the hounds while we successfully stole zucchini and fled the scene. We laughed and gasped at most moments presented as we collectively unfolded the world around us. My husband made for an intelligent and focused badger while I played a cautious and impetuous coyote. Yes, we are cute.
My Closing Thoughts
This is a quick, mostly lighthearted, and enchanting game that brings two odd creatures together. We enjoyed playing two rounds for a little over an hour total. Because it doesn’t require much, you could easily play this in the park during a nice day.
Pandion Games recently updated the game to address the two issues I list next. Now the game includes a section describing animal behaviors, clearer/optional rules, and more variations of the text in accessible formats!
There were two small things that missed the mark for me. The pebble is meant to represent who is in charge of the story; however, my partner and I completely forgot to make use of it most of the time. We built off each other naturally. This might not be the case for some pairs, but we didn’t need it. Secondly, I think this game would have worked better for me if I had a brief overview of tips for how to roleplay each animal. I read through the rules before we played but didn’t think about doing any research on how badgers behave in the wild. I realize this part is on me, but I also think there’s room to add a page or small reference card to give players an idea of how these animals live.
Overall, I recommend this game!
Badger + Coyote doesn’t ask a lot of its players, the pages are beautiful, and the stakes are low enough that you can easily enjoy it with a good friend and a morning cup of coffee.
Review at a Glance
|Content||The PDF is easy to digest and the artwork is beautiful, evoking a calming and serene meadow. I only wish it featured more specific roleplaying tips.|
|The rules are easy to understand. Note the “or” in Coyote’s failure mechanics. We didn’t realize that you could choose to change your skill number or endure a complication, so we did both for a bit. It’s underlined in the text, and we still overlooked it.|
|Accessibility||There are many variations of the text available in both printer friendly and accessible formats.|
|The games can go fairly quick, but I think you could also stretch it out as long as you want. It felt mostly freeform and natural even though there are win/fail mechanics.|
|Price||The game is currently $2.50 which is a wonderful and easy investment for two people who want to spend an hour or more in a snug world.|
|This game can venture into some less colorful areas. These are carnivores after all. But the players have complete control of the game with tips included for keeping the session wholesome. |
If you’re at all drawn to the animal kingdom, I encourage you to check out this work.