Zooloretto Mini Review

So, you know how Zooloretto is waaaay too complicated?  (Just as a point of note, I've never had anyone actually agree with that.)  Well, lucky for you, they came out with Zooloretto Mini!  (And, just to be clear, this is a review of Zooloretto Mini, not a mini review of Zooloretto.)  Since I haven't gotten around to reviewing Zooloretto yet, I will not assume any knowledge of that game on your part, dear reader.  However, I will put in a quick section detailing the differences between the two games, for in case that is something you're looking for.

In Zooloretto Mini, your goal is to build a sweet little zoo that small children will want to come see.  However, you have a cramped space, and so you can only hold a few animals.  What's more, everyone knows that children don't like their animals to be mixed in different areas (when you're in the mood to see giraffes, you want to see giraffes!  Not zebras!), so you are not allowed to have animals share a single area.  To setup the game, you will have one truck per player.  These trucks bring new animals to your zoo.  Each turn, you have the option of drawing a random animal tile from the bag and putting it on the truck of your choice, or you can take one of the trucks.  Once you take one of the trucks, you must immediately place all of the animals (and landscaping items) in your zoo - and, since animals can't share areas, if you have a type of animal that you cannot place, then they must go in your barn.  At this point you check a couple of different things.  First, you check to see if your animals have made a baby - because, you know, they actually do that... and we need to teach this to our children... have fun with that.  The other thing that you check is to see if you have filled an area.  If you have filled an area, then you immediately get a bonus - you may either discard an animal tile from your barn, or you may take an animal tile from an opponent's barn.  Then (after taking a truck), you are done for the round.  Once everyone has selected a truck, the round is over, so you set all the trucks back and start over.  The game is played until the bag is empty (you pull some out at the beginning so that you don't use all the tiles each game).  At this point, you score points based on the number of animals you have in each area, and for each kind of landscape you have - then you lose points for everything that you have in your barn.

So, as promised, here are the main differences between Zooloretto and Zooloretto Mini:
The new enclosures
  • Zooloretto Mini does not have money actions of any kind.  Instead, you get a small bonus action when you fill an enclosure.
  • In Zooloretto Mini, you have three enclosures (since there's no money action, you can't gain a fourth), and they are all the same size (they also are not actually on the board; the board consists of three interconnecting pieces, and then you put the animals next to them.)
  • It is obviously smaller and more portable
  • The animals are different (and can be intermixed with Zooloretto's animals so that you can use whichever ones you prefer in either game)
  • You have "landscape tiles" instead of lemonade stands ("vending stalls")
  • The scoring is tweaked to work with the new style of enclosures
  • Zooloretto Mini is suited for a slightly younger audience than Zooloretto - they could probably handle this a year or two earlier than normal Zooloretto due to the simpler rules
Now, with that taken care of, it's time for the pros.  If you name no other pro for Zooloretto Mini, you must point out that it is kid friendly.  This entire series is probably the apex of my "kid friendly" label.  It is a simple game, and it has cool animals in it!!  What kid doesn't like animals?  For the same reason that your kids want to go to the zoo, they'll also want to play Zooloretto Mini!  However, there are lots of games that look cool and can draw a child's attention briefly.  I think that Zooloretto Mini has done a very good job of being simple enough to play (and quick enough to explain!) to keep a child's attention, and the game is engaging enough (it's their turn quickly enough) that they can enjoy it.  I have played Zooloretto Mini with a four year old.  He was able to play the game, but it was also pushing his attention span (it was also bedtime), and so I think the game is probably ideal for kids about 5-6 years old (or older).

The (kung fu) panda protects the end of game tiles
The second pro that I have about Zooloretto Mini is that the animals make babies (and that the game has strategy)!  Really, I think that it would be much more amusing if I could just take this around to play with my friends kids and explain the baby making part ambiguously enough to get them to start asking their parents where babies come from, and then sit back and chuckle as I watch them decide what to tell a young child about why two Rhinos make a small Rhino, but only when the Rhinos have different symbols on them (male and female).  However, game-wise, I think that it is nice that Zooloretto Mini has strategic choices that affect gameplay.  One of them relates to babies and deciding if you want to go after fertile animals. Another aspect of strategy in the game is determining which truck to place animals on - should you load up a truck with the animal you want and hope other players don't take it, or do you want to spread them out so that you'll hopefully be able to at least get one of the animals you want.  Also, when should you take the truck?  Should you take it as soon as it has one animal that you want (doing this often will get you less animals long-term than other players), or should you wait until they are full - thus hoping that it doesn't get something that will have to go in your barn.  This balance between having an engaging theme for children and having strategy I think combines for a good game to play with children.  (You can also read that as "a game to play with children that won't make you want to stab your eyes out after playing five times"  (ahem, not Uno).)

Honestly, no real cons jump to mind about Zooloretto Mini.  Yes, you may have to play it hundreds of times if your child falls in love with it, and yes, I think that you will hate it by the end of that, but does that count as a con?  I'm going with no.  Therefore, I have nothing to list in this section - feel free to add a con in the comments if you feel that there are some I've missed, because I'm sure it's not perfect.

Overall, I give Zooloretto Mini a 9.0/10 as a children's game.  I was going to give it a lower score (around 8), but then when I couldn't think of any cons, it made me realize that I was shortchanging it.  Sure, I'm not going to take it and play it repeatedly with my gaming group, but I think that it is a wonderful game to play with kids.

If you're looking for more kid's games, you might also check out Fastrack, Gubs, and duck! duck! Go!.

I would like to thank AbacusSpiele for providing me with a review copy of Zooloreto Mini via Eagle Games.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard a lot about this new version and am looking forward to building my little zoo.