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Since its release, the Zooloretto board game has been a cult in many families and has won prizes at home and abroad. Rightly so? We have tested it!
Zooloretto was published more than 10 years ago, but it is still a hit with many players and especially families. In 2007, it was named Game of the Year in Germany and was also very successful abroad. Zooloretto was named Family Game and Children’s Game of the Year in the USA and received further awards in Japan, Brazil, Finland and other countries.
With so much advance praise, we were very curious and excited – the Zooloretto board game seems to be a classic that no family game cabinet should be without. Is it still worth buying after more than 10 years?
Note on transparency: We kindly received a review copy from the Abacusspiele publishing house. However, the review of Zooloretto is unpaid and reflects our independent opinion.
The aim of the game in Zooloretto is to attract as many visitors as possible to your zoo and thus lead your zoo to success.
Each player is the zoo owner and receives a zoo board at the beginning. This consists of 3 empty enclosures with different amounts of space for animals, a stable and 4 places for stalls. Later, an extension with another enclosure and 2 parking spaces can be purchased. With only 2 players, even 2 expansions per player are possible.
Now everyone tries to present as many animals as possible to the visitors in their zoo and to set up as many sales stalls as possible. The animals and stalls are represented by small tiles that are mixed well at the beginning of the game and placed in the centre in face-down stacks.
Depending on the number of players, 3 to 5 small transport trolleys made of plastic are also placed in the middle of the table, each with space for 3 tiles or stalls or animals. In addition, each player receives a certain amount of money coins.
On his turn, a player always has 3 choices:
When each player has driven a zoo wagon to his zoo and unloaded it, the round is over. The animals, stalls and coin tokens still parked on remaining transport carts in the centre of the table are used up and come out of the game.
A fertile feature: hidden among the tiles stacked face down are 2 pairs of sexually mature animals from each animal species, marked by the symbols for male and female. If two of these animals are found in the same enclosure and there is still at least one free space for another animal, they will have offspring. This means that the lucky zoo owner can take a baby animal token and place it on the free space in the enclosure of the parent animals.
Among the tokens there are also some with a coin motif that represent money – this is how financial supplies come into the players’ coffers. Even if an enclosure is full, a player receives coins as a reward.
When all the tokens have been used up, the game is evaluated and points are awarded depending on how many and which enclosures are full or almost full. The stalls also score points, although it is better if there are 2 different types of stall next to each other. For each type of animal and each type of stall in a player’s stable, on the other hand, there are minus points.
Whoever has the most points at the end is the winner!
As the rules are very simple and intuitive, we quickly got into the game. The first time we played the Zooloretto board game with two people, for which some of the rules are slightly modified.
Among other things, although there are 3 transport wagons in the middle (otherwise always the same number as players), one has 1 space / wagon blocked, and one even has 2 blocked. So it became strategically important to distribute drawn tiles on the wagons.
A tiger, for example, which was very valuable for player 1 was then tactically placed by player 2 on the transport wagon with only one free space. Player 1 was then faced with the difficult choice: either take only the tiger – a type of animal he collected – or take the wagon with 2 or 3 tiles that were less suited to his zoo.
In the end, it proved to be a successful strategy of the second player to target the mating animals. Almost every one of her enclosures had offspring and she was able to fill almost all of them thanks to the baby boom. I say yes, there was also luck involved! ?
Another time we played Zooloretto as a foursome with two children, which brought more variety and interaction into the game. Some of the money actions, such as buying an animal from another player’s stable, we hadn’t done at all when playing with two and now they suddenly became attractive and important on the way to the goal. The two kids (9 & 10 years) were enthusiastic about Zooloretto and rushed to get their favourite animals – so the strategy was subordinate if you can collect pandas. 🙂
Today we’re not going to the zoo, we’re each building our own zoo! Zooloretto is a family game through and through, with a theme that especially excites children. However, the game also has strategy and construction elements, and last but not least, chance is also involved. So it is also fun for adults to play the Zooloretto board game. However, we classify it as a family game, because in the long run it offers too few strategic options for a game purely for adults.
Especially when playing with two players, strategy becomes more important: since the remaining animals in the third wagon fly out of the game, you have to think and keep track of which animals are still in the game and how many. And above all, you must always keep in mind how many fertile females and males are still waiting! Because they are especially precious. If you draw a sexually mature female flamingo and make sure: the competing zoo owner has a waiting male flamingo ready for mating standing lovingly in his enclosure! it is certain: this animal has a very high value for the opponent and you should strategically place it in a wagon that is already filled with more animals that the opponent has to put in his stable with a sigh or in an empty wagon with only a few places in order to keep your own zoo well in business.
In Zooloretto, you have to think along with the animals, buy them wisely and place them cleverly in the enclosures – even if that means investing a coin and moving animals from one enclosure to another. You should also use the coins cleverly and invest in the renovation of the zoo at the right time. All this adds further strategic components to the game, without which you cannot be the most successful zoo owner.
It is very important to keep an overview and to look into the enclosures of the other players in order to tactic. If everyone only looks at their own zoo, there will be big eyes at the end over the full enclosures of the opponents – because younger children in particular find it difficult to keep an overview and not only pay attention to their own zoo. Here, practice probably makes perfect.
Zooloretto already brings a lot to the table on a child-friendly level that demanding strategy games require. It is a great introduction to the universe of board games for younger players and families and has the makings of a timeless classic.
Do you already know the collectible game Anchors Aweigh? There are regularly great family board games to discover on our leisure ideas portal. Not only that, we also give lots of creative ideas for gifts and activities with kids, partner and friends!
* In this article we use affiliate links, which means if you order a product through them, we receive a small commission.
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