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How to Play New York Zoo

how to play new york zoo Feature

The New York Zoo, a place where the wild meets civilisation. A gallery of living art where nature is the only subject. Your role is to design the perfect mix of animal enclosures and attractions to ensure you fill your respective plot of land. The first player to do this wins. The rest? They have to make do with half-finished plots, where flamingos can pray on the unwary penguins and the meerkats and kangaroos form gangs to bully the arctic foxes. Well, that’s the fiction in my head, at any rate.

In New York Zoo, a 1-5 player eurogame designed by Uwe Rosenberg and published by Feverland, you take on the role of zoo designers. You are competing to build New York Zoo? Or a part of New York Zoo? Ok, it’s not clear, but you’re building something Zoo like. New York isn’t relevant, it could be called Cromer Zoo or just Zoo Builder. Your goal is to place geometric tiles, representing animal enclosures or attractions, onto your player board until all the spaces are filled. This is how you play it.


To start, each player gets their own player board. The ones you use are determined by player count. Each board has a different sized area in which to build your zoo and a varying amount of houses to store animals. You then choose a starting player, they will take the board marked with a 1, for that player count. Animal meeples are then placed into the carboard tray and each player takes 2 animals of the type marked at the top of the player board. These are placed in two of the houses on the player board.

You then lay out the Action strip. This is used to determine what action each player performs on their turn. You then add enclosure tiles to the spaces on the action strip. The smallest most adaptable pieces on the bottom of each pile with the larger pieces being top. These are differentiated by their respective shades of green. There will be 3 pieces in each slot. You then place the elephant at the start position of the track, marked by a red dot. The attraction tiles are placed off to one side where all the players can access them and you are ready to begin

Have you Seen an Elephant Fly?

Well, you won't in this game, but the elephant does represent your helper on the action track bringing you certain things during the game. Players take it in turns to move the elephant between 1-4 or 1-3 spaces, dependant on the number of players. You are shown this in the top left of your player board. The space the elephant lands on determines the action that the player performs this turn. This will either be:

P-P-Pick Up a Penguin

Animal acquisition, acquire the identified 2 animals. You can also, if you don’t like the options, take a single animal of your choice. These are placed into an enclosure with the same animal type or one of your free houses. That’s a house with nothing in it rather than a pub. I’m sure zoo keepers frown on taking a penguin to the bar.

We Built This City Zoo

Take an enclosure piece, from the top of that spaces pile, and place it into your zoo. Enclosures can be placed anywhere on your board as long as the piece doesn’t overlap another or hang off the end of your play area. Once placed they cannot be moved. There is a further consideration. You can only play an enclosure onto your board if you can put an animal into it, so you will need one in 1 of your houses. Or you can move an animal from another enclosure, as long as you don’t empty that enclosure.

If a space runs out of enclosure tiles then it ceases to be a space and is not counted as part of further player movement.

Rules of Checking Attraction

Once you have performed either one of the above actions you then check to see if you have filled any of your enclosures. If your enclosure becomes full then you immediately remove all animals from it. You can keep one back to put in one of your houses, and pick up an attraction. Attractions are more regular-sized geometric shapes. These are useful for filling the inevitable gaps you will have in constructing your zoo.

I’ve Got Meerkats, They’re Multiplying

At certain points, on the player track, you have breeding lines. These affect all players that have enclosures with 2 or more of the identified animal type. When animals breed they will birth another of that animal. These are placed in the enclosure with their parents.

You can only breed in up to 2 enclosures within your zoo at a time and breeding happens simultaneously for all players. On successful breeding, you can also add a further animal from one of the houses, if you have one, to that enclosure.

Once the breeding is complete you will perform another check to see if your enclosures have been filled. If so you will immediately remove the animals and gain an attraction, as per the last stage.

Once a player has moved the elephant and performed the action, then checked for breeding play moves to the next player and so on.

Special Rule for 2-3 Player Variant

If there is ever a breeding in one, or more, of your enclosures. You get the opportunity to breed in another enclosure of your choice, regardless of animal type. A spring time bonus if you will. Where love transcends species.

How Do You Win, Wild Thing?

The win condition is simple and only requires you to completely fill your zoo with enclosures and attractions, the first player to do this wins. However, if the game ends after a breeding action there is a chance the game can end as a tie. If so then the player with the most animals in their zoo wins.

Fast Game for 2 Players

There is a faster game mode for 2 players

Remove the top enclosure from each space on the Action Track. Leaving only 2 in each pile. Then randomly allocate these to each of the players. These get placed onto the player board simultaneously using the normal rules for placing enclosures. Except you do not have to place any animals into these enclosures when placed. This game mode should last 20-30 minutes.

Solo Game

Take the 1 player, player board. Use the side of your choice. Set up the action strip like the 2 player fast game. The tiles removed from the top of the enclosure piles are then returned to the box, not placed on the player board. You then take the 5 range markers. These are marked thus 0, 1, 2, 3, 4+.

Taking it a turn at a time you use the range markers to determine how far you move. Once used the range markers are discarded until no more remain. You then receive all 5 back. However, you can also move the elephant to the next animal acquisition space without the use of a range marker.

The same rules apply for the core elements of enclosure placing and breeding as per the main game. This includes the special breeding rule of the 2-3 player variant.

You win if you completely fill your board with attractions and enclosures before the elephant crosses the starting space for the 2nd time. You also score 1 point for each space you are away from the starting space. If the elephant is on this, for the win, then you score zero. If you don’t manage to fill your New York Zoo then you score -1 point for each space that still has tiles in them, on the action track.