You are the owner of a small zoo, so small in fact that you have but three enclosures and a rather large barn. Throughout the game you will receive animals for your zoo, although not necessarily the ones you want, it seems that your zoo suffers from a lot of clerical errors. When all the animals have run out (possibly through extinction or deforestation) the player with the most animals in enclosures and not in the barn will be declared supreme Zoo Master.
So the theme is a bit pasted on, but the theme is the reason I bought the game. My little brother loves the zoo and animals and I was sick of playing Talisman over and over, so I bought Zooloretto and while the theme may feel tacked on when viewed from an abstract viewpoint, it is so beautifully realised with the components that once you start playing you don’t really notice.
So, what’s in the box?
16 Round Offspring Tiles (2 x 8 Animals)
112 Square Tiles:
88 Animal Tiles (11 x 8 Animals)
12 Vending Stalls (3 x 4 Types)
12 Coin Tiles
5 Zoo Boards
5 Expansion Boards
5 Delivery Trucks
1 Round Wooden Disc
5 Summary Cards
1 Rule Booklet
First off, the copy I have is produced by Rio Grande and it has all the quality that I have come to expect from them. Good, sturdy box, clear concise rules, thick beautiful tiles. One thing I really love is the way that the art on the boards links to the expansions seamlessly. Overall I couldn’t be happier with this game… but… The wooden components, the coins and trucks don’t add that much to the game, in fact the cardboard trucks in Zooloretto Mini look far cooler than the chocolate brown slabs of wood. As a rule wood adds to the price point and I don’t think this game needed it.
That said… it’s still a beautiful game and worth every penny I paid.
So, how do you play Zooloretto? Each player receives a Zoo board with 3 enclosures and a barn, plus an expansion which is placed facedown next to your zoo and can be built later. Each player also receives 2 coins and a reference card.
Fifteen tiles are randomly removed and placed in a stack with the Red Disc placed on top of them, these tiles will be used for the end game. You are now ready to start the game.
In turn each player may perform one action:
Take a tile and place it on a truck
Perform 1 money action
Take a Truck
Once you take a truck you can no longer take any more actions and your turn is over. There are as many trucks as there are players and each truck has 3 spaces on it.
If you take a truck you must immediately place all the tiles on your truck into your zoo. Only one type of animal can be placed in each enclosure, so for examples only Monkeys in one and only Pandas in another. Any animals that cannot be placed must be placed in the barn. Any stalls (brown tiles) must be placed on one of the four (or five if you have expanded your zoo) brown spaces in the corners of the zoo. Any coin tokens are immediately exchanged for a wooden coin.
Once everyone has taken a truck a new round begins and this repeats until all the tiles run out. Once all the tiles are gone, players must draw from the stack with the red counter on it. The current round is played until everyone has taken a truck and then the game is over.
And that’s it… sort of.
Players can perform Money Action during the game. You may perform as many actions as you like in a round but only one per turn. The Actions are:
Move a Tile: For 1 coin you may move any 1 animal tile from your barn to an empty space in an enclosure or you may move a Stall to any eligible place in your zoo.
Exchange Tiles: You may exchange one or more tiles from one location with one or more different tiles in another location as long as all the tiles will fit in the new location.
Discard a Tile: You may discard any tile from your barn for 2 coins.
Buy a Tile: You may purchase any one tile from another player’s barn for 2 coins, one to the player and one to the bank.
Expand Your Zoo: Once per game you may buy the zoo expansion for 3 coins, which gives you an extra enclosure for 5 animals and a new space for a vending stall.
So, what’s the point? To win the game you have to get the most points, this done by getting the animals you need but none of the ones you don’t. The number of animals in the game changes with the number of players:
3 Players – 6 Types of Animals 4 Players- 7 Types of Animals 5 Players – 8 Types of Animals
Each enclosure has two numbers, if you fill an enclosure you will score the higher number as points at the end of the game. If you are just one animal shy you score the lower number. If you have two or more empty spaces you will score 1 point per animal but only if you also have a vending stall adjacent to the enclosure.
In addition, filling either the four or five point enclosures will score you 1 or 2 coins immediately, but not if the enclosure was filled using the exchange action.The coins are scored immediately and may be scored multiple times during the game. Points are only scored at the end of game based on where the tiles are when the game finishes.
Also at the end of the game each different colour stall in your zoo scores 2 points (for a maximum of 8). Each type of animal or stall in your barn scores you –2 points.
What about the Babies…
Ok, so I couldn’t find a good place to shoehorn in this bit. Four of the 11 tiles for each animal have a gender symbol on them. If a male and female of the same species are placed in an enclosure, they immediately have a baby, regardless of whether or not you want them too. Only a pair of animals will produce an offspring and only once per game. A baby tile is immediately added to the enclosure, if there is no room it is placed in the barn and you will score negative points for it at the end of the game.
Zooloretto is a good game. The first game we played was very high scoring as players pretty much just built their zoos and paid little attention to everyone else. Which lead me to think that game pretty much devoid of strategy, but it’s not!
For example, there is a truck with a fertile Monkey that would be perfect for you, but also perfect for someone else. Well, you draw a zebra, the other player isn’t collecting Zebras and has no spare enclosures, you drop the zebra on the truck, now if they take that truck they will also get –2 points. Dropping unwanted animals onto a truck that someone else wants is also a very satisfying experience.
Completing the small enclosures, collecting the coins and then exchanging the animals into the larger encloses so that you can score more coins is also another valid tactic.
Overall, it’s not as deep a game as say Carcassonne or Setters (the other two Spiel Des Jahres winnging games I own) but it has enough strategy to stop it being dull. It’s certainly not a game I would play with just adults, but there is enough meat to it to keep me entertained while playing with younger people and that’s pretty much why I bought it.
The real tactic in the game is knowing when to quit and take your truck, being able to read the other players and knowing whether or not to push your luck. The game is very easy to teach and very enjoyable for people of all ages. Younger kids might not really get the scoring, but they’ll have fun building the zoo and will quickly realise having animals you don’t need is a bad plan.
So, the Unboxed verdict is, if you can find it for the right price, get it!
3, 4 or 5 Players
Finally just a note on the number of players. Generally the scores will be higher with the fewer number of players. In any game you can have a maximum of 4 animal types in your enclosures so in a 5 player game you can end up with up to –8 points for the animals in your barn, as opposed to –4 in the 3 player game.
This means that a five player game is a lot more competitive and even cutthroat than the 3 player game. Regardless of the number of players, the game plays quickly, 30 to 50 minutes tops and there is no downtime because player turns are either draw a tile or move some tiles. The game also includes a 2 player variant but I have not played it.
This Review is based on the Rio-Grande Edition of the game. Zooloretto currently appears to be out of print in English, however the game is language independent.