Zoo Tycoon has been a management gaming mainstay for over two decades now, and quite frankly I’m shocked and appalled that it has taken this long for someone to be allowed to make a board game about it.
There are too many adaptations with monsters and plastic minis holding swords, and far too few for games where you just get to build nice things for cute animals, so it’s great seeing Treecer get the chance to do just that in an officially-licensed release.
Currently up on Kickstarter—where it’s already doubled its asking goal—Zoo Tycoon is a game for 2-4 players, where everyone is trying to “find the perfect balance between popularity and conservation”. Which means that as the person running the zoo you need to build attractions that will get people through the gates, but at the same time make sure you’re doing enough work on stuff like breeding programs and buying/selling animals on the market.
There’s also a fair amount of strategy involved in your construction work:
All main species (which are represented by the 22 different Animal Meeples) have different characteristics e.g. number of animals per enclosure tile, behavior of males, biome, tolerance towards other species etc. In addition, it is also important to always keep in mind the happiness level of each species, which is composed of the following needs: (1) experience, (2) free space, (3) number of retreats and (4) group size.
Despite the chill premise, this is actually a competitive game, with players finding the best compromise between the two key pillars ending up the winners. The goal is to “build the most recognized zoo in the city”, and I find it very funny to think about a city that has four zoos in it. That’s too many zoos!
Oh, and I hope you like meeples, because Zoo Tycoon ships with over 200 of them representing 34 different species, and the game’s fancier edition has these coloured and laser-etched, after which they look fantastic.
You can see more pics and videos of the game at its Kickstarter page.