Zoo Tycoon - Board Game Review - Animal Happiness Simulator - cutlassboardgame.com

Zoo Tycoon – Board Game Review – Animal Happiness Simulator

The Broken Meeple
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Zoo Tycoon – Board Game Review – Animal Happiness Simulator

In Zoo Tycoon the board game, 1-4 players compete to build the most successful zoo. In this strategic and thematic board game, each player has the freedom to develop their own zoo with 35 species, food booths, zoo shops, etc. Each animal has its own care requirements focused on 3 key areas – popularity for visitors, educational value, and nature conservation. As with zoos in real life, players must find the right balance between popularity and conservation over the course of the game. In the end, the lower value between those two measurements will count as your final score.

Each game you play will be different, delivering high replay value. Thanks to a novel game mechanism, the animal market with supply and demand changes continuously. In addition, small events will shape the gameplay in every round.


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00:00 – Opening Promo
01:07 – Introduction
02:30 – Basic Overview & Game Comparisons
06:31 – The Good Stuff
13:43 – The Bad Things
24:18 – Summary, Verdict & Player Scaling
28:29 – Please Share and Support The Show

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  1. The "almost zero player interaction" part completely kills my interest, given the length of the game as well.

  2. You could probably leave our the worker board, event deck, and doner card. You could also just make offspring automatically (like most games) and get rid of the dice.
    That might help ro streamline the game without breaking it.

  3. While this game isn’t perfect, I think it does what it’s set out to do—-create a challenging zoo managing game with an emphasis on animal welfare.However, I often disagree with Luke from the Broken Meeple. His #1 game of all time is “Spirit Island” and I find that game horrific, and its ‘brilliance’ overstated. So I always take these reviews—-which are simply opinions from other gamers—with a giant grain of salt. There are reviewers out there who’s opinions more closely match mine; but I still like occasionally watch these from reviewers who’s taste varies from mine significantly. Knowing what you like and dislike helps you avoid spending money on things that won’t get played. Even still, and despite nearly 50 years in board games, I’ve bought some misses. Aside from the aforementioned Spirit Island, Oath comes to mind. With regards to this game, comparisons to Ark Nover are inevitable because of theme. Whereas Ark Nover is a mish-mash of familiar mechanisms (action selection card play like Civ: A New Dawn, tile placement like Feast for Odin, and card icon collection like Terraforming Mars)—-I’m surprised it wasn’t a Stonemeier game—-it has few unique qualities overall; but it is a good game. Zoo Tycoon has more unique mechanisms, like the animal exchange but also has more complexity and fiddliness, and even tile placement is different—-and that lack of ‘familiarity’ will hurt it with many players who crave ‘familiarity’. There most certainly is randomness to Ark Nover, such as in the card distribution, which can greatly affect your strategy—-Luke gives that a pass, as Ark Nover is in his Top-10 of all time, but ‘offspring’ randomness in this game is a strategy deal breaker? Ok. To me, they are equal in their rank. So I appreciate his reviews even if, after playing the same games, I disagree with his assessment in places.

  4. I didn't like Ark Nova, but I like Zoo Tycoon, in my opinion it is much more thematic. To me Ark Nova had nothing to do with managing a zoo.

  5. Played it yesterday and I share your criticism pretty much 1:1

  6. Thank you for your honest and upfront review. I'm waiting on my game and now know what to expect. Still looking forward to playing it, with the shortcomings in mind.

  7. We spent so long trying to figure out that the enclosure tiles don't actually go in the tuckbox which is disappointing and slightly annoying

  8. I'm surprised you said that you really like Ark Nova yet you have so many issues with this game. 🤔 I find Ark Nova not only "ugly" game considering art work and design, it is terribly unbalanced game that also takes a loong time and if you're not lucky on cards, it's harsh. From my point of view, I would not recommend Ark Nova to anyone. 😄 maybe Zoo Tycoon has the issues you mentioned but for me as a biologist the game makes sense and is not "just" a race for points.

  9. I wanted this so bad, but finally had to say no because of the high price point. Thank you for making me feel better that I passed on this one!

  10. the big cards are actually larger than tarot size (same as Dixit)

  11. Gotta say that this review nails the issues my wife and I have with this game. A revised, streamlined rulebook and reference cards is what I'd like to see, not a version 2.0 of the entire game. We just got the game, don't make it obsolete before we even get the game down!

  12. Excellent review Luke. Think I'll wait for the more streamlined 2nd edition.

  13. I dont mind randomness when it comes to animals reproducing…thats something that would feel random in real life. Cant guarantee 2 animals will produce offspring…
    May still try this out…

  14. Here's hoping they can do a revised version. Would love to have that game.

  15. Totally agree with you. Fun fact : I was opening my box of zoo tycoon on Saturday Night to play for the 1st time when I saw that you posted this video. Even before playing I had mixed feelings : beautiful games but had couldn't figure out where to put the enclosure tiles. When I read the set up part, I was upset there was no proper picture of the whole table, and no mention that one could choose any kind of enclosure. If you like nature and animal meeples I recommend two games from bad comets games : wild serengeti and life of the amazonia. Not perfectly balanced but really more fun.

  16. Yeah, I was one of the backers. I don't regret backing it and I do like to mess around with the game (I honestly really like the animal choices), although I definitely doubt I could play it with anyone.

    I believe there are a few options for "streamlining" the game listed in the actual rule book, although I wouldn't be surprised if people added more.

  17. I love this game. What I miss is player interaction when it comes to trade.

    The offspring being random makes loads of sense though. If you don’t get that, you don’t know how fertility works.

    I agree with you on the rulebook and the explanation video. I couldn’t find the answers.

    So it’s house rule time for this video.

    It says in the rulebook that when you run out of meeples for one species you should use meeples for another species. We don’t do that. When we run out of meeples that’s it.

    I also think you should be able to put adult animals into the trade board and not just offspring.

    And if there are animals on the animal exchange, put there by someone else I personally think other players should be allowed to get those.

    The animal exchange symbolises organisations that help zoos trade animals with one another. I don’t believe that zoos trade animals with each other directly.

    Though I have to be honest. I’ve never been able to finish an entire game, because it just takes so long.

  18. Agree with what you say Luke and what every one has else has said about the rules and a bit of a complexity but too much luck based. The game on one try has been a big disappointment for me. But I want to give it another go later after having another re read of the rules. This game was never going to be like Ark Nova and is probably half as much closer to Zooloretto to be fair and even then it is not really anything like Zooloretto.

    I do not agree with the 2.0 comments. I think a bit of a upgrade, errata, new rules and those types of changes should be considered first. Potentially like previous games that the initial base game is not great but a decent expansion that fixed things makes it better. Not a 2.0.

    But on a personal note there is one thing I will give this game a massive tick, the Kickstarter game at least for me was just smooth. The developer pretty much followed through with every promise made, kept communication alive and even when posting questions replied. When he wasn't sure on something with us here in Oz regarding fulfilment he listened to suggestions, followed those suggestions and responded to keep us informed. I think it was his first KS project so he might not be so eager next time, but it just felt like this guy really wanted his game to work and made sure he was accessible through every step – sort of like having great customer service at a shop if you know what I mean. So that was a big plus.

  19. Will buy…. will wait for inevitable corrective rulebook and rationalising expansion….. with a better solo mode. I really like the reality of the complexity of running a zoo – even the random luck regarding babies! But will definitely need a clearer rule book and a good solo mode.

  20. I disagree with claim that Ark Nova have low amount of interaction. Claiming cards from card row, break mechanic and RACE is good amount of interactions which are key in game. Yes, it's not TI4 or Cosmic Encounter, but there is a lot to counter your opponents.
    Good review of Zoo Tycoon, we thought to buy it with GF, but after research is just not for us. (note that i love Lacerda games) This was just too much and should stay as video game.

  21. Thank you for the great review! You confirmed my suspicions, and made me feel better about the rules. I had the same feelings that I never quite got them right in the three play throughs that my wife and I tried. I totally agree that I would definitely take a second try at a version 2.0.

  22. 1.25-1.5 hours per player, perhaps?
    I can see how part of the sticker price is paying Microsoft.

  23. You get a like for the always fair review and the effort. I understand many of your cons, but I don't agree with the rating. I think the pros outweigh the cons. I like many things, but my favorite is how the animal wellness and happiness is such an unbelievably realistic take.

  24. Appreciate the always honest review! Luckily those negatives aren’t too bad for me solo, and I love your point about throwing this game a life line. I’m happy to house rule this up until it gets a rule revision as I agree the game underneath would be great with some streamlining.

  25. I was really excited for this, but ultimately didnt back it as i was concerned about all the things you outlined in your review. Also, first campaigns have to be exceptional for me to go in. I'm really happy it delivered and hope it gets a 2nd edition. Thanks for the review!

  26. My copy arrived yesterday. It looks great and everything feels High quality. I just haven't sat down with the rulebook yet. Being based on the computer game, hits the nostalgia button that got many of us to back. Planet Zoo is actually entirely different from a different company. It's Planet Coaster. Microsoft took Zoo Tycoon to the Xbox. I have the Gameboy Advance version still.
    I've already hearing mixed things about the rule book. And it sounds excessively complicated for the sake of it. I appreciate your perspective on it too.
    Good to know on the length of the game. After playing Mage Knight for a while, I'm probably not a good judge on game length for other games lol.

  27. Thanks for the review. So glad i didn't get this.

  28. Nice review Luke, I have to say I did back this one but then sold it once it arrived – Circumstances changed and I just didn't think I'd get something so long and heavy played regularly

    But was still curious how it would turn out!

  29. Tried this yesterday and had to check a review to see if was just me had had issues with the game.. Agree with all you mentioned here😅

    The random elements, especially the insane point swing with babies on lvl 3 animals killed it for me. The winner of the game won 100% on pure luck in a 4+ hour game….

  30. Not saying I could do any better as I have never designed a game, but the creation of exceptions to a rule is often a trap for new designers. When you start needing to write more rules to fix edge cases then it starts to indicate that the core machanism needs refinement. I am hoping that this game gets to settle for a bit and a 2nd edition gets made with some streamlining in a couple years or so

  31. Fantastic, in-depth revirew – thank you! You've just saved me a solid chunk of money, sir 😁🙏

  32. A nice video for people who already has an idea how this game plays. For me, not knowing anything about how It plays It's mostly a video full of confusion. It may help to explain the game a bit for context before jumping in comparisons etc … Lost interest after 5 mins.

  33. I have this but not played it yet, I'll be honest I was swayed by all of the beautiful animal meeples (which is prob not the best way to choose a game 😛 ) Honest reviews are always appreciated and I hope the publisher takes note of your feedback. On a side note am I the only one who found it odd Luke was pronouncing Zebras the America way? 😮

  34. The audio is not synchronized. Good review, yeah, I can see the problems and I will go for ARK NOVA for now.

  35. Knew this is gonna be a miss for me and glad I pulled out from ks last minute…

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