New-York-Zoo board game 2020 cover

New York Zoo board game preview

Is this one of the best upcoming family-strategy games?

New-York-Zoo board game 2020 cover
Release Date
August 5, 2020
Family, strategy, puzzle
60 min.
Min. age
Uwe Rosenberg
Feuerland Spiele & Capstone Games

Get ready to build your animal park! The elephant administrator will help you with that. Move that Elephant figure, and populate your park with Enclosures, new animals and attractions. From meerkats to penguins, be the first one to complete your animal park to be the winner.

New York Zoo board game – a great family board game, that is a puzzle, polyomino (Tetris like) game, where players each obtain an individual zoo tile and populate it with green, grass-like Enclosure tiles and animals onto them.

New York Zoo 2020 action-strip
New York Zoo (2020) – action strip.
Image credit: Capstone Games

Game overview

In New York Zoo, players each build their own animal parks. Each player is provided with a zoo board, and the goal is to populate the whole board with tiles.

New York Zoo (2020) – player’s zoo board.
Image credit: Capstone Games

And animals! There are 5 different animal types you can populate your board with: meerkats, flamingos, cangaroos, penguins and arctic foxes.

The goal of the game is to be the first player to fully populate your zoo board with tiles. There are two types of tiles you can obtain:

  1. Enclosure tiles. These are green tiles that are placed around the action strip. You can take such tiles once you place an elephant onto space with such tiles. You always pick up the top tile from the space and once you place it, you must also place an animal figure from your other tiles. The tricky part is that none of your tiles can be left without animals. So if you do not have a spare animal, you cannot place the Enclosure tile.
  2. Attraction tiles, these tiles symbolize attraction objects in your park, and they can be placed onto the board based on Animal Breeding. Basically, you need to populate each space of one Enclosure tile with animals of identical type. If you do this, animal breeding occurs, you clear the animals from the Enclosure tile and place the attraction tile onto the board.
New York Zoo (2020) – puzzle pieces.
Image credit: Capstone Games

To expand your park and place more tiles, you actually need to mane the animal count. Players are also able to do collect animals, as another action alternative. The actions to be taken are decided based on the space by the elephant figures is currently placed on (you can always move a varying number of spaces). Basically, there are 3 phases for each player’s turn:

  1. You move the elephant.
  2. The main action, which is either placing Enclosure tile or collecting animal figures (never both).
  3. Check the animal breeding conditions, in case you have any tiles that are fully populated with animals to obtain those Attraction tiles.

There are some basic rules on how you can place those tiles and pick animals. Tiles cannot overlap and be placed onto each other, to not being able to change their positions once they are already placed (such as tile rotation). Players also cannot collect more than 2 animals per their turn, and they are allowed to be placed not only onto tiles but also in the houses located at the top left corner of a zoo board. You also cannot collect mixed types of animals per tile. Only identical ones.

My first thoughts about how good is the game

I have to say that I am looking forward to the release of the board game, to get my hands on it. The reason for this is that I love family board games with decent strategic depth. Which this game definitely offers. You have to consider & plan numerous things ahead: from what action you need to prioritize, as well as trailing that elephant position, to retrieve top animal types per your needs, and of course figure out the puzzle onto your zoo board, as those tiles are different in size to snatch those that fit your board better.

Due to this, I suspect the game will be favored not only by families & children but also by more experienced board game players.

Another clearly good thing is the art of the game. The boards’ art, animal figures are just gorgeous. I really enjoy noticing that the components are colorblind-friendly. The Enclosure tokens are all green, but their types are differentiated by tile sizes, in addition to different green color tones.

Finally, there are 3 different game modes, that are used based on the count of players. There is a solo mode, a 2-3 player mode, and another version for 4-5 players. This provides a potential insight that not only the game is accessible with the different number of players, but that it also is more polished in terms of the balance & scaling. This is also supported by the fact that the zoo boards are number and have two sides, based on the number of players.

Final remark

So far I have carefully reviewed the game rule-book, looked at some video previews. I got to say this is going to be at least a pretty good board game. But I expect it to be great. The art & theme is beautiful & immersing. The strategy elements are well thought and adopted to scaling based on player count. Finally, the rules are clear & easy to understand, making this game even more attractive.

I will publish the full review on the game as soon as I get my hands on it. So far, the game release date is scheduled for the 5th of August, 2020.

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