Zooloretto is the latest game in the Coloretto family. This zoo-themed family game is based on a familiar mechanism that works so well in the small card game. This big box board game turned out be another success for Michael Schacht.
A simple idea
The basic idea is the same: there are eight kinds of animals, and players try to collect only some of them. The animals you collect go to your zoo, where you have room for three different kinds of animals (four, if you expand). Extra animals go to your stables, where they’ll hurt your score in the end. There’s limited room even for those animals you want, so you better be careful.
Players are faced with simple decisions each turn: do you take a cart and the tiles (animals, coins and stalls) in it, or do you draw another tile to add to the carts? There’s a cart per player and each cart holds three tiles. If you take a cart, you’re out until everybody else has taken a cart and a new round begins.
Of course you try to set yourself up with the best possible carts, but more often it’s really about setting other players up with as miserable set as possible. The first turn will be somewhat random, but after that things get interesting. There’s a definite mean side to the game!
That’s the basic mechanism, but there are other things. I mentioned coins: you can use them to expand your zoo, move animals around and buy animals from other players’ stables. Collecting coins gives you flexibility. Stalls help with scoring, both by themselves and by allowing the scoring of enclosures with only few animals in them (regularly only full or almost full enclosures score).
Finally, there are babies. Some animals are fertile males, some fertile females (most just aren’t fertile) and if the two meet in the same enclosure, a baby animal is born. That’s cute, and what’s most important, influences the values of the animal tiles in an interesting way.
These extra features spice up the game. They’re quite elegant, too, the game doesn’t feel clunky. The money actions could use a memory aid on the player boards, but play a game or two and they aren’t a problem anymore.
As a result, there’s a game that’s clever, simple, has some nice interaction between players but nothing too major and looks cute, too. Clear Spiel des Jahres material, and no wonder it was a finalist (and my bet for the big winner!). The game works with the full scale of 2-5 players, but the two-player game is slightly dull and the five-player game has bit of downtime, so I’d say it’s best with three or four.