I think Zooloretto was the second Spiel des Jahres winner I added to my collection, with Settlers of Catan being the first; however, I didn’t know there was such a thing as the Spiel des Jahres until 2007, so Zooloretto counts as my first SdJ. Michael Schacht is one of my favorite designers because he is able to create interesting games that feature a relatively few amount of choices on a turn. Patrician is a great example of this as is Coloretto, from which came the essential mechanism of Zooloretto.
This clever drafting mechanism breaks a player’s turn down into basically two choices: Either add an animal to an available space in a holding area, or take all of the animals in one of the remaining holding areas. The goal is to collect only certain animals, but you never really get quite what you want.
Zooloretto was published by ABACUSSPIELE, although my copy was available domestically through Rio Grande Games. The game will accommodate from two to five players, but three or four is best in my opinion. You can usually finish a game in less than an hour, but it will be close. Zooloretto is a very family friendly game and is appropriate for ages 8 and up. Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone designed a game where there was a gap in the age recommendation? This game is appropriate for ages 8 – 14 and 23 and older. I swear I’m going to design a game that is not recommended for players who are between the ages of 24 and 31, just to be difficult. Take that hipsters!
Zooloretto comes with five player boards that feature four animal enclosures and a barn, as well as matching expansion boards if you decide you want an additional enclosure. You get a cloth bag in which to put your tiles, which are made up of 88 animal tiles, 12 vending stalls, and 12 coin tiles. There are eight kinds of animals you can have in your zoo: pandas, flamingos, zebras, leopards, kangaroos, elephants, chimpanzees, and camels. I usually remove the camels because they spit.
You also get five delivery trucks in which to place the tiles as they are drawn from the bag, and when I say trucks, I mean pieces of wood that have been cut in a way that you can fit up to three tiles on top of them. If you really want them to be trucks, you will need to add wheels and a cab. If you are going to go to that trouble, then you should also make them remote controlled so that you can drive them from the center of the table directly to the players.
The game comes with some wooden discs to use as coins and some animal offspring tiles. Yes, some of the animals will make babies, and those are marked with the male and female symbols. The unmarked animals do not make babies, maybe because they are afraid that it will impact their career, or perhaps they are concerned that they will no longer have the kind of free time needed to do the things that they enjoy. I’m sure it’s different for each animal, and I respect their life choices.
Your goal is to fill your zoo enclosures as best you can, with a single type of animal in each, while avoiding having too many kinds of animals in your barn. If you get too many animals in your barn then they will teach themselves to read and write and become communists. You will also lose victory points.
Instead of adding an animal to a truck, or choosing an available truck, you can take a money action. For a fee, you can do things like switch groups of animals and their enclosures or buy animals from the barns of other players. You can also pay to get rid of an animal in your barn. That animal simply disappears. I assume the player approaches the animal with a one way bus ticket, explaining that it would be better for them if they were to just start a new life elsewhere. Just walk away, Flamingo, and nobody gets hurt.
Once you decide to take a truck, you may not take any additional actions, including money actions. You will need to wait until everyone has taken a truck, and then a new round will begin with the person who took the last truck starting a new round. Play continues in this way until fifteen tiles remain, which will trigger the final round of the game.
Players score victory points according to the number of animals in a particular enclosure, modified by the types of vendor carts they’ve collected. Obviously, if your zoo has both popcorn and churros, then you deserve more points.
There are quite a few expansions for Zooloretto. I have a few of them, and I will toss them into the mix occasionally, but the game is good just as it is. Zooloretto is no longer in print, but it’s not too difficult to find a copy, even an unopened one. Zooloretto Mini is still available, and I consider Coloretto a must have for any collection. I believe there are also iOS versions available.
This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2007 winner, Zooloretto, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.