Zooloretto is a family friendly board game that brings a trip to the zoo into your own home. Each player is in charge of their own zoo, competing against everyone else to gain the most points and demonstrating that you know how to run the best zoo! The main challenge is managing your animals so you don’t run out of space to keep them, after all, I don’t think your guests would appreciate visiting your zoo if there are loose zebras running around! So, let’s get going as a delivery truck is on its way and you never know, it may have your favourite animal onboard (and maybe a baby one too!)
Zooloretto’s set up is really quick which is great as it means you can start playing within 10 minutes of bringing it to the table. The only minor frustration is that you have to sort through the tile bag to to separate the baby animals and to remove different types of animals. The rest of the set up involves stacking 15 tiles face down and placing a red marker on top, providing each player with a zoo board (including a face down extender), placing delivery trucks in the centre of the table and giving each player two coins. There you go, that’s it! You now have everything you need to become the next best zoo owner.
The gameplay is straight forward and is a simple choice of three options on each players turn. You can either draw a tile from the bag to add to a delivery truck, claim a delivery truck and transfer the chosen tiles to your player board or spend your coins.
Option 1: Drawing a tile.
If you select this option then you draw a tile, this could have a regular animal, a fertile animal (a male and a female present in an enclosure will create a baby), a vending stall or a coin depicted on it. You then decide which delivery truck to add the tile to and your turn is then over.
Option 2: Claim a delivery truck.
The delivery trucks are a general resource in the centre of the table and each truck has space for three tiles. You can claim a truck at any time which would mean that any tiles on the truck become yours. You would then be out of the round until everyone has claimed a truck.
Option 3: Spend your coins.
There are several different options that you can spend your coins on.
The different actions are;
- Move an animal from your barn to an enclosure (1 coin)
- Swap the location of two current enclosures (1 coin)
- Purchase an animal or stall from another player's barn (1 coin to bank, 1 to the player)
- Discard an animal from your barn (2 coins)
- Expand your zoo which flips over the extension tile and provides you with one more enclosure (3 coins).
How To Make Your Zoo A Success
Your zoo is scored at the end of the game based on how well you have filled your enclosures (maximum points if they are completely full) and the different types of vending stalls that are present on your board. You get negative points for each type of animal and each type of vending stall that are in your barn. So, this is how you win but what other elements are there to consider? The first tactic you could consider is that the fertile animals are a great way of getting an extra animal tile into your enclosure but be aware that a baby tile will come into play whether there is space for it or not so it could end up in your barn. This will then give the other players a chance of purchasing a desirable species which means you could be helping their gameplay and not gaining the benefit of the collection of the two fertile animals. The second tactic to consider is how you organise your enclosures, if for example, you notice that all the other players are collecting elephants then you might want to consider collecting a less popular species as they will be less sought after. If you then happened to gain an elephant tile, then you would be better off putting it into your smallest enclosure as it would be unlikely that you would gain enough to fill the larger one (only one species per enclosure is allowed). Finally, another strategic move to consider is that coins are not easy to come by. Claiming coin tokens from the trucks or taking a useless tile for yourself but placing it in your barn (in the hope that other players will spend their coins on purchasing) can be really helpful as moving animals around your zoo by spending money is a really effective way of making the most of all the space available.
So is this a game worth playing? The quick answer is yes! It is a good game for different ages and the simple gameplay means that it is really suitable for family groups, players who find a lot of rules overwhelming or as a gateway into the world of board gaming. Zooloretto is also really easy to teach and you can literally be set up and playing within 10 minutes which is something that is always well received! The components are good quality and the artwork is attractive, although personally the coins don’t look or feel like a currency but that is just a minor quibble. The box design is striking however the insert would certainly be better if they had sections to store pieces in, instead it is just a ‘throw it in’ type of box. The theme is really likeable and appeals to a lot of players however, I do find that all the animals hold the same value so if you filled your entire zoo with just zebras then it would be worth the same as someone who has put variety and more exciting species in their enclosures. I definitely think it would benefit from having animals that were considered more attractive to visitors / worth more points. This would make players compete for the better species whereas currently you would just avoid the species completely if there were several players collecting them as there would be no reason to need to collect them too. There is also tactics that you can explore but there is a limited amount of strategy involved and it is often more dependent on the luck of the draw in which you are just hoping the right tile appears. This is just a minor downside of what is actually a great game and one that has been in my personal collection for a long time and will continue to be. It is definitely a game worth exploring so grab your coat as we are off to the zoo!