Game Buzz: New York Zoo

Here in Colorado Springs, we have an amazing zoo. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is located on the side of Cheyenne Mountain (which is also famously the home of Norad). They have giraffes you can feed, they’re one of the only zoos in North America that is certified to have moose, and you can definitely get your exercise huffing up some of the hills. They just finished an Africa exhibit complete with penguins that will come right up to you and nip at your shoes, as well as hippos and warthogs. It’s a cool place, if you’re ever here, you should come visit. BUT, this game is not about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, it’s about the

image by BGG user nan3000

New York Zoo is the newest 1-5 player polyomino game from Uwe Rosenberg and Feuerland Spiele (Capstone Games will be publishing it in the US). It should be mentioned that there is not an actual New York Zoo – there’s a Bronx Zoo, a Central Park Zoo, a Queens Zoo, and a Prospect Park Zoo, but no New York Zoo. That’s neither here or there – all you need to know is that you’re building a zoo from polyomino enclosures, and populating it with little wooden animals.

Each player gets their own board, which has a different size based on player counts. Additionally, there’s a long action strip with 15 slots for the polyomino enclosures. There’s a distribution guide for how the pieces of into these slots, but what you should know is that there will end up being three enclosures per slots. Additionally, there are some attraction tiles that are sorted by size and set to the side.

image from capstone-games.com

There’s an elephant that will start on the board in an indicated space. On your turn, you will move that elephant a certain number of spaces (1-4 in 2 or 4 player games, 1-3 in 3 or 5 player games). In this case, spaces are the slots with enclosures, as well as blue spots showing pairs of animals. Brown spots with animals and empty enclosure spots can be skipped.

If you land on a spot with an enclosure, take it and place it on your board. Standard polyomino rules apply – you can rotate freely, you just can’t overlap pieces. After you have played the tile, you MUST place 1-2 animals of the same species on that enclosure tile. These animals must come from your board – in other words, they must be animals you already have in your possession. They can come from your barn area, or you must move them from another enclosure. Keep in mind that you can never empty an enclosure in this way – if you have to move an animal, you must always leave at least one in an enclosure.

The way you get animals is by landing on blue spaces. These will allow you to take two different animals, which can either be placed in your barn, or in enclosures. You can add an animal to an empty enclosure, or to an enclosure with the same species. The other way to get animals is through breeding. There are five breeding lines around the board, and if you cross one, you’ll trigger a breeding for everyone after you’ve taken your main action. For breeding, each enclosure that has at least two of the indicated species will add one more (no more than two enclosures total). In a 2-3 player game, you can also do a bonus breeding in one other enclosure (which could be the same species).

If, after you’ve taken your action and/or bred, you have enclosures that are completely full, you clear them out. One animal is placed in your barn, while the rest return to the supply. Then you may choose one attraction tile to place in your park. This is the main way to fill in those pesky little 1 and 2-square holes, but you can also get bigger ones to help fill in your zoo quicker.

When one player has completely covered their board with polyominoes, they win. It’s possible this will happen for several players after breeding, so in that case, the player with the most animals wins.

image from capstone-games.com

This game is cool simply because of all the little wooden animeeples you get in the box – 126 of them. That, plus all the polyominoes and other little bits, and I’m a little shocked this only costs $40. It seems like a pretty simple game that’s a variant on the same polyomino system Rosenberg has been exploring since Patchwork. It feels a little scripted in your selections – there’s a specific order for putting types of polyominoes in their slots, though each type is placed randomly. There’s also no variation in the order you can land on animal spots, so if you get animals immediately (which you have to because you can’t place an enclosure without placing an animal in it) which means the first player will always get a kangaroo and penguin, the second player will always get a kangaroo and meerkat, and so on. It’s not a big deal because there’s just no functional difference between them, I just wish there was some way to randomize animal spots because maybe I want to start with a flamingo. That’s nitpicky, however – I really do think the game looks pretty cool, and I think I would enjoy playing.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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