by Patrick Korner and Jy Avery
We have two reports for this game.
First up this week was another of Rick’s recent acquisitions, ZooSim. This latest offering from Corne van Moorsel and publisher Cwali has players acting as zoo managers, competing against each other in the hopes of attracting the most visitors to their zoo. And best of all, it comes is a fat cardboard tube suitable for playing the bongos with…but not necessarily while playing the game. That would be disruptive. Feel free to release your inner rasta-man when alone, though.
The game plays out over five ‘seasons’, with each season comprising five rounds of bidding. Each round is for one of the five zoo tiles revealed at the start of the season. Bidding is blind (the ‘choose secretly and reveal simultaneously’ style), with the winner getting to claim the tile. Ties are broken in an innovative manner – whoever is wearing the ugliest tie wins. No, wait, that’s not right. Each player has a flag token on a cardboard flagpole – whoever’s flag is higher wins the tie-break, and then moves their flag down to the bottom.
Each player gets eight dollars (grey wooden disks) to bid with at the start of the game. Thereafter, each player gets replenishment dough based on the number of tiles making up their zoo at the end of each season, making money management from season to season more of an issue – you have limited funds, so bid carefully.
The tiles are like stylised domino tiles – each half has a different kind of animal on it. Each animal display has a value between 1 and 3, denoted by the number of stars shown on the tile. There are five kinds of animals, with colour coding to suit: Birds (Red), Mammals (Yellow), Reptiles (Grey), Monkeys (Orange), and Sea-Life (Blue). In addition, the tiles have pathways snaking around, and some also have trees on them. The paths aren’t symmetric, making each tile a unique combination of paths, trees, animal types, and animal values.
When a player wins a tile, he/she places it into their zoo, making sure that all pathways on the tiles match up. You can place different animal types next to each other with no problems, just be certain the paths leading to them aren’t broken. After each tile is placed, players check to see if the majority in any of the attraction types has changed hands and adjust visitors to suit.
The quality of each player’s animal exhibits is determined by adding up the relevant stars on the tiles. Only the LARGEST adjacent grouping is counted; the rest are worth nothing. Thus if a player has one area with two Bird tiles adjacent to each other that totals five stars, it doesn’t matter if they have another Bird tile somewhere else in their zoo worth three stars. For each animal type, the player with the best exhibit gets two visitors (placed onto the proper exhibit), the second-best gets one visitor. In the event of ties, whichever player played a tile most recently wins – in other words, placing a two-star Monkey tile next to your one-star Monkey would take first place away from the other player, assuming that three is the high number thus far. Whoever had first place gets to take second place away from someone else, too.
Of course, there are other ways to attract visitors to your zoo. Apparently, people like having trees around to rest under and enjoy shade. Having the greatest number of trees (over the entire zoo, not just on one tile!) is worth two visitors, with second again worth one. The final way to get visitors is to place tiles so as to make complete pathway loops. Each completed loop is worth one visitor who can’t be taken away, unlike the animal and tree visitors (apparently these guys can’t find the exit and are destined to stay in your zoo forever). Loops can cover any number of tiles, and can have open (non-tile) areas in their centres.
Scoring takes place at the end of each five-tile season, making for five scoring rounds in total. At the end of the each season, all players total up the number of visitors in their zoo. They then receive one point for each visitor multiplied by the season number. In other words, having four visitors after season one is worth four points, while having the same after season three is worth twelve. Whoever has the most points at the end of season five wins.
Anyway, Jy, Alan and myself (Patrick) decided to see if we had what it takes to be successful in the cut-throat world of zoo-keeping. Jy took to the game immediately, commenting that it would be a great game to introduce non-gamers into the hobby with. I have to concur, as the game pulls off its theme very well and has enough tension to make things interesting. Alan, alas, wargamer that he is, kept wondering when he was going to get to level our zoos with well-timed artillery. Non-violent game, Alan! Sorry!
I managed to take an early lead, and was able to keep it going until the second round. Jy and Alan beat me up pretty good in season three, with me unable to put up much of a defence – I’d spent a lot of cash earlier. Jy in particular made some nice moves, denying me majority in a couple of animals just before scoring season three. Season four saw all three of us closing in on each other, but I was able to keep my number-one tiebreaker status until quite late, using it to deny Jy a crucial tile. Taking it for myself guaranteed me first in Mammals and gave me a loop besides, which helped put me over the top. Jy took the last tile and used it to steal first in Monkeys away from Alan.
Season 1 2 3 4 5 Total
*Patrick* 6 18 15 36 60 135
Jy 2 12 24 28 45 111
Alan 4 6 24 32 35 101
Taking that last visitor from Alan with the Monkeys ended up giving Jy the honour of coming in second behind my awe-inspiring managerial prowess. Okay, I made that up.
Ratings: 9 for Jy, 8 for me and 7 for Alan. I don’t think Alan was thoroughly enamoured with the game, but still found it reasonably enjoyable. My first impressions were that this is a great opener. It’s simple to play, plays quickly, but has enough thought and tension to make for a good game. I particularly like the guessing and double-guessing that goes on when trying to decide what to bid – you can sometimes get a tile for one less by virtue of winning the flagpole tiebreak, but it’s highly annoying to lose out when you get a little too aggressive. Hopefully we’ll be seeing ZooSim at the table again soon.
This cute little game by Cwali had caught my eye on the internet, and, lo and behold, Rick brought it to TCG. Easy pick for me, and I managed to wrangle in Alan and Patrick. The promise of a 45 minute game with short rules seemed good to us.
The game is quite simple: part dominoes, part Carcassonne, players are bidding on a total of 25 rectangular land tiles, that they add to their zoo. Certain combinations of tiles will bring visitors, and visitors bring victory points!
Tile placement is pretty simple. Each tile has one half of one color and half another (5 colors, for 5 animal types, ex. yellow mammals, blue marine animals, etc.) Like dominoes, players do well to match up sets. In this game, an example of that would be putting a yellow mammal half up against another mammal half, thus creating a larger mammal section of your zoo. Each half has stars on it as well, telling you it's value, so that a yellow 3 adjacent to a yellow 1 is worth 4 pots towards the lead in yellow. (Separate yellow sections in your zoo do not both count, only the larger.) With careful planning, large sections can be made.
It wouldn't be too hard -- if it weren't for those dang roads! You see, the tiles can be placed however you want (unlike dominoes) with one exception: like Carcassonne, paths cannot run into fields, they must either be open, or connected to other paths -- which makes tiles placement very tricky. But it becomes important when scoring, as paths can get you visitors.
Which brings me to scoring: Whoever has the most valuable section of each color gets 2 visitors, and second most valuable of each color gets 1 visitor, with visitors switching zoos as often as players change the values of their sections. On some of the tiles there are also trees, and all the trees in your zoo count towards the 2-for-first, 1-for-second, scoring. Lastly, paths that form a complete circle earn one visitor that will never leave your park (unlike colors and trees which change as often as players expand their zoos. At the end of the round, each section of your zoo gets you $1 of income as well.
I had a blast playing this, because while your trying to build a great zoo, you are blind bidding against other players for the best tiles. Trying to steal, or maintain leads in certain colors became very important, with the added strategy of try to build paths in loops. Twice I had to choose between adding to a section or forming a new loop: a section was a temporary 2 points, a loop was a guarantees 1 point...
At the end of the round, you count visitors up, 1 point for visitor. But each round you multiply the visitors by the round number i.e., 8 visitors in round 3 is worth 24 points.
Alan had the quip of the night. Coming from a wargaming background and being new to our group, about halfway through the game, he sort of sat back and said, "You know, I am used to blowing things up or hunting people down. But now I'm building a zoo for little animals." (He was quite serious.
Alan and I played well, but Patrick just kept grabbing leads in colors each round, especially in the last round when points are maxed and took the game by 20 points.
I gave the game an 8, Patrick, the same, I think, and Alan thought it was only "okay."