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Subject: Session Report rss

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Greg Schloesser
United States
Jefferson City
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With the hour growing late, I convinced the guys to ignore exhaustion and play one more 'light' game. Frank's Zoo was the choice. As per the rules, we played one hand individually and each subsequent round with partners. We cut the game short at 18 points due to the late hour and the mediocre response the game was generating.

Frank's Zoo is a trick taking game with, of course, some twists. Each card depicts an animal, along with a bubble depicting the animals which can 'best' that card. The lead player plays one or more cards depicting the SAME animal. The next player must then play cards of the same animal numbering EXACTLY one more than what was played. Or, he can play an equal number of cards which were played by the lead player, BUT these cards MUST be of an animal type which can best the animal depicted on the lead card.

An example is in order. Let's say Lenny plays two Seals. Tim now can play three Seals, or he can play either two Polar Bears or two Whales. If Tim opts to play two Polar Bears, then Jay must either play three Polar Bears, or two Whales, or two Elephants. This cycle continues until no one can 'best' the previous set played. That player then takes the trick.

There are a few 'kickers'. There is one 'wild card' (a chameleon) which can be played as any card. There is also the mosquito, which IF played with one or more elephant cards, becomes another elephant. Played alone or with other mosquito cards, they are simply mosquitos.

Unlike most trick taking games, one is not trying to collect tricks in the individual game. No, one is trying to be the first to run out of cards. A player earns more points if he depletes his cards quicker than his opponents. In a four player game, the player who plays all of his cards first receives 4 points. The player who goes out next gets 3 points, and so on.

After the first round is completed, players pair off in partnership. The game then takes on a few more twists. Players are still trying to deplete their hand of cards first, but collecting certain types of animal cards also earns more points. If a player manages to collect two or more lions in the tricks he takes, he gets 1 bonus point for each lion card collected. Plus, every player must collect at least one hedgehog (care to guess who the designer of the game is?) or lose 1 point.

The rules call for the game to continue until two players exceed 19 points, with the player with the highest total capturing the victory. In reality, you can stop at any time after a pre-determined number of hands.

I must say that my opinion of the game is sliding somewhat. I've played four times now and am finding the game growing stale already. There simply are SO many trick taking games out there, many (if not most) of which are better than this one, I don't see myself coming back to this one very often. It is reasonably easy to play and understand, so it may well become one which I haul to family gatherings.

In spite of finishing last in the first individual round, Tim exploded in the next round, thanks to having four lion cards in his hand. He proceeded to play these lion cards on the very first hand, knowing no one could top him. Thus, he collected all four lion cards, securing a four point bonus. We were never able to challenge him from that point on.

The finals:
Tim 18, Jay 13, Lenny 13, Greg 12
Ratings: Lenny 5, Tim 5, Greg 5, Jay 3

At this point, we all collapsed into our beds for some much needed rest in preparation for a full day of gaming on Saturday.
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