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Subject: New Game Idea - Zoo Builder rss

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Greggor Anthony
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Before I begin, I just want to say that I will give figures and numbers to explain the game that will most likely change so disregard those in your feedback for now. I am more focused on feedback for expanding the gameplay and strategy. I hope that the zoo theme will entice both kids and adults with the animals (and factbook for each animal in the game) and the game play/strategy keeps the adults interested. This game pulls quite a few elements from the online games such as dream zoo/zoo tycoon.

The basic premise of the game is to build your zoo using tiles on a board with animal exhibits, land bonuses, expansions, and attractions to make money. The first player to hit X amount of money wins the game. In this game you will need to balance spending money to buy improvements that payout more and saving money to win the game.

Keep in mind I am still playtesting the game so all these numbers are most likely going to change.

Each player gets a 7x7 grid board and starts the game with 10 zoo cash.

Animals: There are 6 habitats with 5 animal exhibits per habitat. The animals costs and payout every turn vary between them. You may pay for a animal mate (instant) and baby (takes 3 turns to be born and only 1 baby can be awaiting birth at a time). The habitats can not touch so you need to place paths/dividers between them in order to build them side by side.

Also, as the payout of the animal increases so does the likelihood of needed maintenance (cleaning/feeding) which costs 1 zoo cash each time you have to complete those tasks. It may make more sense with the table below:



At the moment I have the player rolling 2 d6 dice per exhibit to determine if you have to clean and/or feed those animals but this could get a little cumbersome with 20 exhibits on the board.
I thought about just 1 roll for all animals but would have to mix up the ranges (which shouldn't be too hard such as payout 2 animal = 1-2/3-4 for 1 habitat but 5-6/7-8 in another and so on) so its somewhat balanced.

In addition to the animals you can buy the these also help create the zoo and make money:


Expansions: are required to clear the space and build the foundation for a new animal exhibit, path, land decoration or attraction. These are essential to expanding your zoo.

Paths: as mentioned above, these are needed to separate habitats since they can not touch.

Land Decoration: are used to give all animals in a certain habitat a payout bonus. Each land decoration that is touching an animal add 1 zoo cash payout bonus per turn. So if you had a land decoration in the middle and all the animals surrounding it, they would each make you 1 extra zoo cash per turn.

Attractions: can also act as dividers for your habitats and really draw people to your zoo. Attractions would be things such as a snack shops, info booth, gift shop, restrooms, etc. For each attraction you have, it brings in 1 person token onto your zoo. Each person token pays out 10 zoo cash per turn, which is why the attractions are so expensive. I may expand this feature and have it where you can only have x amount of people tokens in the game so players steal people away from other players if they have more attractions than the other players.

To clarify, on your turn:
1) First, receive zoo cash from each animal, land deco bonuses, and attractions in your zoo.
2) Check on your zoo maintenance (This is when you will roll for cleaning and feeding and pay 1 zoo cash (1 for cleaning and or 1 for feeding) for each habitat that requires it.
3a) Buy animal exhibits or add mates & babies (only 1 baby can be waiting birth in your zoo) to your zoo.
3b) Buy land decorations for a particular habitat which gives 1 zoo cash payout bonus to each exhibit touching it
3c) Buy expansions will will allow new exhibits, paths, land decorations, or attractions to be built on it.
3d) Buy paths or attractions for your zoo

This is the core game at the moment. I may add an activities card pile where there may be certain disasters or special events that harm or help the player's zoo.

I apologize for the long post, and most likely, numerous spelling/grammar errors.

I would love any suggestions and feedback that you may have to add to the strategy of the game. Thank you for your time!
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Brook Gentlestream
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I think the idea of a strategic zoo game is awesome. I have no idea how it could be done, however. Here's some parts of the proposition above that I think could use more development:


1) What are the roles of other players? Rival zoo builders? How do you picture players interacting? Is it just a race to see who can get more money in a certain timeframe?

2) If all habitats must be separated by paths, shouldn't surrounding an exhibit with paths already be factored into its size and cost?

3) Do exhibits count as attractions?

4) Is there any reason to get more than one habitat? If someone wants to build Leo's Penguin Palace, does the game encourage or discourage this behavior? How so?

5) What is the most "awesome play" a player can make on their turn?

6) Is there anything to do on your turn besides buy stuff? Won't people's turns be skipped a few times if they are saving up for an exhibit? Doesn't this "shopping list" method of play lend itself to extreme AP problems? How many players do you suppose would be playing this at once?

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Greggor Anthony
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1) Yes, the other players are rival zoo builders. More interaction is one major thing I am looking how to implement. Attractions will steal people tokens from other players and having more animals than the other player(s) also offers a payout bonus each turn. Beyond that I haven't thought of anything else. One possibility is trading animals but I am not sure how that would benefit a two player game.
Yes at the moment it is just a race to making most money.

2) Every exhibit will be 1 grid space, each path/divider is 1 grid space. People may want to configure their habitats differently if they add land decorations, attractions etc. They will have to balance space and costs.

3) No, in essence the animal exhibit payouts DO represent incoming customers but the separate system for attractions were made to offer variety and link to the people tokens and stealing them from other players. Maybe i could scrap it but then I would need a different reason for attraction..possible a payout bonus to the WHOLE zoo and this would make the cost very high but great payout once your zoo was filled with exhibits.

4) You ccould only have 1 habitat and be saving more money than the rival in the beginning, but your overall payouts are eventually going to be slower than the rival who has 3+ habitats all paying out.

5) I wouldn't say that there are any OMG awesome!! plays but the satisfaction of building a full habitat with full families or finally getting an area cleared or attraction in place excited my kids.

The cheapest exhibit is 3 zoo cash and immediately pays 1 per turn. You start with 10 zoo cash. You will start making money pretty fast once a few exhibits are created. Again numbers will be tweaked so that the decision is what to buy and where to put it versus waiting a ton of turns to buy 1 thing.


I really appreciate the feedback! Makes the game better with truthful criticism and questions.
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Matt Riddle
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it has all been done before, so please do not let this be a deterrent cause I like teh idea, but a few of your base ideas are treading close to Zooloretto but more complex obviously. thats the problem with a unique theme is that when used again it feels derivitive wven though it is NOT!

with that said. i like it so far.
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Clive Lovett
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Check Zooloretto and O Zoo le Mio for zoo building games - these are lighter weight games. Yours sounds a little heavier. Good luck with your design.
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Brook Gentlestream
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Have you played Dominion? I think it may help to think of this game less like the video game that inspired it and more like a deck-building game. Why would a player pick one exhibit over another? Are they like kingdom cards where you are deciding each turn what kind of effects you need based on what you are lacking and problems you are facing?


Right now, your game feels to me like a game of Dominion with only treasure cards. You have a few coppers and can buy a few more, and eventually afford a silver. Next, you silver and a few coppers will let you buy a gold. After awhile you are stocking up on gold, until you can buy a platinum. Eventually you have one run-away leader that nobody could ever hope to catch up with and he'll eventually have all-platinum by the game's end.

In other words, you've got the beginning of a solid game engine, but no game that I can see yet. The actual fun part of the game (the kingdom cards, in the Dominion analogy) isn't in place yet.

But if you think it would be fun, that's what matters. I'm not as close to your work, and only have what I can deduce from vague description to go on. If you think its fun, by all means go for it. A strategic zoo game sounds fun to me and I'm sure the way I would approach it is different from the way you envision.

But I think what you you have described is a basic skeleton to start working with other mechanics like secret deployment, worker placement, auctions, hand management, and other neat things to make the game interesting and interactive. But I don't see any of it there yet.

I would, as quickly as I can, stop using the video game as a reference point. It's not a bad idea, and I think a lot of video games should be turned into board games -- but I think adhering to the way the video game works is holding you back. I can see something like Mission: Red Planet, where you have a scoring step that happens every so often based on the current popularity of your exhibits. I could see something like Nature of the Beast, where different exhibits have special abilities and can be activated by "spending" popularity. I can picture something Dominion where adding an exhibit to your tableu would trigger some special bonus. I can picture something like Puerto Rico, where you are managing several resources in hopes of turning those resources into money using a very limited market system before your opponent takes the market opportunity. I can picture something like Ticket to Ride where random families and activity groups have their own preferences for they'd like to see which determines whether they will go to your park and how long they will stay.

There are existing games like Zooleretto, Carson City, Vegas Showdown, and even Civilization that have their roots in a limited-space structure-building economic-engine like you are describing. It may help to play these games and identify what makes them different, and what makes them likeable.
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Ben Neumann
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I'd take a moment to study some other personal area-management games out there (see Vegas Showdown). If you're really looking to make it interesting though, see what you can do about players all working with the same zoo and create various victory conditions that they might work on separately (see Rex) or shared (see Troyes).

Look at ways to take what you like about the video game and encapsulate those pieces. Don't worry so much about the rest of the detail. Get the nugget of Good first.
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Daniel Devine
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Quote:

At the moment I have the player rolling 2 d6 dice per exhibit to determine if you have to clean and/or feed those animals but this could get a little cumbersome with 20 exhibits on the board.
I thought about just 1 roll for all animals but would have to mix up the ranges (which shouldn't be too hard such as payout 2 animal = 1-2/3-4 for 1 habitat but 5-6/7-8 in another and so on) so its somewhat balanced.


What if the different habitat tiles had numbers on them 1-6. Then on your turn you roll a d6 to see which habitats need food/cleaning. This could add a little strategy or push your luck aspect as well. If I have 4 habitats that have a number 3 on it, if I roll a 3 I would pay for all of them, but if I rolled a 1,2,4,5,or 6 I am all clear!

Or do something similar to Settlers of Catan, roll 2 d6 add the numbers and habitats with that number would have to pay for food and cleaning. You could make 7 (most common 2d6 roll) cost one to clean (maybe a smaller animals) where 2 or 12 would cost alot but would come up less often, these could be big ticket animals like Elephants.
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