Hey! We’ve reached Z in the ABCs of Gaming! Z is for…
Zooloretto was first published in 2007, designed by Michael Schacht. ABACUSSPIELE published it in the original German, and Rio Grande released it in the US. This Spiel des Jahres winner (2-5 players aged 8 and up, 45 minutes to play) is based on the system Schacht created for his 2003 card game Coloretto. The theme is that you’re trying to fill your zoo with as many animals as possible, but you don’t want too many different types – you’re trying to specialize. Zooloretto won the poll with 42.2% of the vote – that’s streets ahead of second place ZÈRTZ, which only had 13.4%.
The game comes with 5 zoo boards, 5 expansion boards, 5 delivery trucks, 30 coils, a round purple disc, 5 summary cards, 16 round offspring tiles and 112 square tiles (including 88 animal tiles, 12 vending stalls, and 12 coin tiles). At the beginning of the game, you’ll remove some animal types depending on the number of players, then shuffle all the remaining square tiles into stacks and separate 15 as an end-of-game stack. Each player gets a zoo board and two coins, and as many trucks as there are players are set in the middle of the table.
Zooloretto is played over a series of rounds. Each round lasts as long as it takes for all trucks to be claimed. On a player’s turn, a player may either add a tile to a truck OR take a delivery truck OR carry out one money action.
ADD A TILE TO A DELIVERY TRUCK: Draw a tile and put it on any unclaimed truck. Each truck has room for three tiles, and if all trucks are full, you can’t take this action.
TAKE A DELIVERY TRUCK: Take any truck with at least one tile on it, adding the tiles to your zoo. You are then out of the round, and can’t play again until after all trucks have been claimed.
There are three types of tiles you could get on a truck. Animal tiles can either go in one of your three enclosures on your zoo board, or in the barn. Each enclosure can only hold one type of animal. If an animal has no legal placement, it must go in the barn. Vending stalls can either go in an empty stall space or the barn. Coin tiles are added to your coin stack. You can also get coins by filling the last space of an enclosure.
If a male and female animal ever share the same enclosure, they will add a baby to the enclosure (a round offspring tile). This can only happen once per enclosure. If there’s no room for the baby, it goes to the barn.
CARRY OUT A MONEY ACTION: Here, you can choose to remodel, purchase a tile from an opponent’s barn, discard a tile from your barn, or expand your zoo. To remodel, you pay one coin, and then can either move a single animal into a legal enclosure or exchange one type of animal in your barn with one type of animal in your zoo. To purchase a tile from an opponent’s barn, pay that opponent one coin and the bank one coin. The animal of your choice goes to your zoo, and your opponent cannot refuse the purchase. To discard, pay two coins and remove one animal or vending stall out of your barn from the game. To expand your zoo, pay three coins and add the expansion board to the side of your zoo board (effectively adding one enclosure).
Once all trucks have been taken, the round is over. Emptied trucks are returned to the center, and a new round begins with the player who took the last truck. The endgame is triggered when no tiles can be drawn, except from the special end-of-game stack. When the round where that stack is used ends, the game is over. Enclosures score a certain amount of points if they are full, slightly less if there is only one space empty, and nothing if two or more spaces are empty (though you can get one point per animal if a vending stall is next to the enclosure). For each vending stall type you have on the board, you get two points. You lose two points for each vending stall type and each animal type left in your barn. The player with the most points wins.
As a Spiel des Jahres winner, Zooloretto has a pretty good pedigree. And it’s earned its reputation – it’s simple to play, pretty to look at, and a good game. I love the Coloretto mechanism of claiming cards and specialization in only a few things. I also like the Zooloretto theme of running a zoo, though it doesn’t really make too much sense…why WOULDN’T you want as many different types of animals as possible? Nevertheless, the animals are cute and it does make the game a little more engaging for a wider range of people.
Overall, I think Zooloretto is a very good game, and it was my choice to win the Zs. I think I prefer its sequel/standalone expansion Aquaretto because it’s a little more flexible in making enclosures, and I’d rather play Coloretto than either of them, but I still think it’s a good choice. Here are the other contenders:
- ZÈRTZ (2000/Kris Burm/13.4%): The third game in the GIPF project, and the only one I’ve actually played. It’s a beautiful abstract game with marbles and discs. I like it a lot.
- Other (10.1%): Nominees include Zitternix, Zoff in Buffalo, Zombies!!!, Zombinion, and Zorndorf. Of those, I’ve only played Zombies!!!, which is fun for a little while, but eventually becomes too chaotic and drawn out for me (and I like chaotic games). Zombicide probably would have been nominated had it been out when this list was put together.
- Zendo (1997/Kory Heath/8.3%): A logic game that uses Looney Pyramids (formerly Icehouse pieces/formerly Treehouse pieces). I haven’t played, but it seems interesting.
- Zombie Dice (2010/Steve Jackson/7.2%): A dice rolling push-your-luck game. I’ve played several times – it’s great for what it is, which is just a dumb little filler.
- Zombie Fluxx (2007/Andrew Looney/5.8%) and Zombie in my Pocket (2007/Jeremiah Lee/5.8%): Zombie Fluxx is Fluxx with zombies. ZIMP is a solitaire print and play game (later reprinted by Cambridge Games Factory as a multiplayer game). A tie vote for two very different zombie games.
- Zulus on the Ramparts (2009/Joseph Miranda/3.3%): A solitaire wargame where you are trying to defend your troops against attacking Zulu warriors.
- Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Undead (2010/John Werner/2.8%): A zombie game that deals with the global ramifications of the zombie apocalypse, as you try to eliminate the undead threat from your territory. Sounds like an interesting concept.
- Zero! (2001/Dan Verssen/0.7%): A World War II aviation game in the Down in Flames series.
- Zombie Plague (2001/Skott Kilander and Brian S. Roe/0.3%): This print and play game is yet another humans vs. zombies experience. What can I say, zombies are popular.
The ABCs are over! But there’s one more post in the series – see you in two weeks for the number one number game. Thanks for reading!