Zooloretto Game Review

The Basics:

  • Ages 6 and Up
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • 45-60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization & Pattern Matching
  • Risk vs. Rewards

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Essentially themeless if you look past those cute animals

Endorsements:

  • Father Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Zooloretto is a set collection game where players fill their zoos with animals.

Each player has one zoo consisting of 3 animal pens, each of which can hold 4-6 animals of one type, and a barn for excess animals. In the central playing area are placed delivery trucks (one per player), each of which can hold up to 3 tiles.

Most tiles depict animals (up to 8 types, depending on the number of players) and the remainder depict coins or vending stalls. Some animals are denoted as male or female breeding stock, and owning one of each produces a baby animal. The tiles are “shuffled” and placed face-down in stacks, constituting a “draw pile”.

On a turn, a player has three choices: draft a tile (placing it on a delivery truck), take a truck or pay for a special action:

  1. If a player turns up a tile from the draw pile, he chooses a delivery truck to place it on and his turn ends. Unlike many other games, the player who draws the tile does not get the first opportunity to take that tile into his own zoo; rather, all of his opponents will get that chance before he does.
  2. If a player chooses a truck (must not be an empty truck, but need not be full either), he transfers the tiles to his zoo. Animals are placed in pens or the barn. Each pen also has at least one space for vending stalls. Coins are stored separately. That player takes no further actions until the next round, which begins after all the other players have taken a truck.
  3. Special actions include disposing of an animal, purchasing (actually compulsorily acquiring) an animal from another player’s barn, building an extra pen, or moving animals within one’s zoo. Special actions require coins: each player begins the game with two, and can acquire extra by taking them from trucks, by earning a bonus for filling a pen, or by selling an animal to another player.

The game ends when there are fewer than 15 face-down tiles left at the end of any round.

Players score points if at the end of the game, their pens are full or almost full (only one empty space). Vending stalls allow part-scoring of pens with fewer animals. Bonus points are scored for owning a variety of vending stalls. Points are lost if there are animals in the barn.

Final Word

The theme appeals to pre-school children, but the subtleties of the game are better appreciated by more mature players. It is often, but not always, advantageous to choose a truck with two or three tiles rather than seizing single tiles, but this requires patience and judgment (particularly, estimating whether an opponent is likely to take the truck before you do).

My son (five-and-a-half years old) enjoys this game, but the complexity and length of the game are a bit beyond my daughter (four years old). It is a great choice for introducing players who are new to gaming. There are several expansions for the game (I have not tried any of these) and also an iPhone app.

About Meng

Board Game Fanatic, and Father of Two, Meng is an Australian who became hooked on board games at high school, with such classics as Talisman and Diplomacy. Years later, he rekindled his interest while living in the United States, both immersing himself in the local gaming scene and also taking advantage of mail-order to expand his collection to some 300 items. After returning to Australia in 2008, and with little time left after work, study and travel, the majority of his gaming nowadays is with his two young children. Hoping one day in the distant future to teach them to play a rollicking game of Die Macher, in the meantime he provides more age-appropriate fare and tries to discuss some life lessons along the way. Meng goes by the handle meng on Board Game Geek.
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