We play all sorts of grim and gritty games at Gibberish Manor. Games about space exploration, colonial conquest, wizards and magic, monsters, haunted houses, and The Old Ones. That’s some heavy stuff, and every once in awhile we want to play something with a lighter theme.
Enter Zooleretto, a cute little board game for two to five players. The object of the game is to stock your zoo with one of several types of animals. The base game has elephants, zebras, kangaroos, cheetahs, pandas, flamingos, chimpanzees, and camels. Players earn additional points by completing sections of the zoo or placing concession carts in their zoo.
Each player has a zoo board that is split into three pens. The pens are different shapes and sizes, and players earn more points at the end of the game for larger pens. Each pen is broken up into squares, and each square holds a single animal. Most pens have one or more squares for concession carts.
The zoo board also contains a barn. Barns hold animals and carts that can’t fit into the pens. You lose points for items left in the barn at the end of the game. You lose two points for every cart, and two points for every type of animal in the barn. For example, if there are two zebras and a chimp in the barn, you’ll lose four points at the end of the game.
Gameplay is fairly straightfoward. Players must take one, and only one of three actions:
- Put a single tile from the stack on a truck.
- Do a money action, which means spending coins to buy animals from other player’s barns, move animals around, or buy an expansion to the zoo.
- Take a truck. Once a player takes a truck, that player’s turn is over. Play continues until all of the trucks are taken.
Animals, carts, and money come into a player’s possession by drafting a truck. There is one truck for every player. Every truck holds three tiles, which are selected one at a time at random during a player’s turn. Players may place a tile in any truck in any order. Trucks must have at least one tile on it before it can be taken.
There are eleven copies of each animal. Of those eleven, two are boy animals and two are girl animals. If you put a boy and a girl together in a pen, they make sweet sweet zoo animal love and immediately make a baby. Hopefully you have room for the new arrival, otherwise it goes in the barn. Or as my pal Bert puts it, it becomes a dumpster baby.
I’d consider Zooleretto to be a European style game, which means that it’s easy to learn but has varying levels of strategy to meet the age and gaming experience of the players. For example, Zooleretto has a suggested minimum age of eight. Kids this age might play at the most basic level, such as collecting animals and putting them in the zoo’s pens.
During the same game, older players may pick up on some of the other parts of the rules. They may go after all four vending carts, which gives a scoring bonus at the end of the game.
Still more experienced players may handle all of the mechanics and move on to gaming the gamers. Bloating trucks with animals other players don’t need, or trying to seed trucks towards their favor.
All that means that people of all ages and experience levels can play Zooloretto and have a nice time. After all, it’s a cute little game with a light hearted theme — perfect for playing right after conquering a solar system and blasting its inhabitants to cinders.
Strongly recommended if you have kids in the house, or if you like making absolutely obscene jokes about caged critters.