Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Zooloretto Mini


Most people are familiar with Zooloretto, the multi award-winning game by Michael Schacht from 2007. And it's not hard to see the appeal: a cute game where players manage their own zoo, collecting animals in different enclosures, and from time to time even rearing young.

So what would you get if Zooloretto had a baby? Zooloretto Mini of course! And that's exactly what happened in 2010. Zooloretto Mini is a smaller and simpler version of the grown-up game. And that means exactly what you'd expect: Less components. Shorter play-time. Simpler rules. But is it any good? I think it absolutely is, and I'll even say from the outset that I like it better than the big daddy Zooloretto! So let's go find out more about this miniature version of the popular game.



COMPONENTS

Box

The game box is noticeably smaller than regular Zooloretto, and occupies about half as much space. Think in terms of a Carcassonne sized box, only square shaped and a whole lot thinner. Another thing you'll notice immediately are the meerkats which feature dominantly on the front cover. That can only mean one thing: different animals!


Box cover

As for the back of the box, well this tells us that Zooloretto Mini is Zooloretto's little brother, with simpler rules, shorter game length, and fewer components.


Box back

Component list

So what do we get inside the box?

● 100 tiles (77 animals, 14 offspring, 9 landscapes)
● 1 storage bag
● 5 zoo boards
● 5 delivery trucks
● 1 panda miniature
● instructions


Everything you get inside the box

Zoo boards

Each player (the game caters from 2 to 5 players) gets their own Zoo board, which is made of three sections that are pieced together. Each such Zoo has three enclosures which can hold up to 6 tiles - those are the 3x2 empty spaces you see. There's also the barn at the lower right. A nice touch is that the scoring system is listed on each Zoo, and from here we learn that an enclosure with 6 animals of one type scores 12 points, 5 animals scores 8 points, 4 animals scores 4 points, etc.


Player zoo

Animal tiles

Now for the animal tiles. There are seven different animals, with 11 tiles of each (including two fertile males and two fertile females). None of these animals appear in the original Zooloretto, and if you really wanted you can even exchange tiles between the two games to play with your favourites. Featured in the Mini game are the Meerkat, Giraffe, Impala, Llama, Rhinoceros, Ostrich, and Wolf. Some of these are lesser known animals, admittedly, but I particularly like the addition of Giraffes and Rhinos, after all what zoo is complete without the legendary giraffe?!


New animals

Offspring tiles

Corresponding to all seven animal types are two babies of each, featuring cute artwork that children particularly like.


Baby animal tiles

Landscape tiles

There are three each of three types of landscape tiles: pond, shrub, and cliff. These function somewhat similar to the vending machines in the original game.


The three types of landscape tiles

Delivery trucks

There are five delivery trucks, enough for up to five players. These are double sided, and for two player games you'll use the reverse side which feature three delivery trucks of different sizes (1 box, 2 box and 3 box) which we'll show and explain later.


Five delivery trucks

Storage bag

To hold the tiles and ensure a random draw, we get a green cloth storage bag.


The storage bag for the tiles

Panda figure

But now here's a treat - a panda miniature! This doesn't have a big game function - it's simply to be placed on the 15 tiles that determine when the game ends! Still, it's a very cute touch, and that's what this game is all about!


Panda miniature for determining game end

Instructions

Instructions consist of three pages along with another two pages featuring strategy hints, an animal almanac, and an FAQ. The booklet is multi-lingual, so bundled together with the English rules you'll find rules in several other languages. The rules feature clear instructions and are well laid out, so you should have no problems with them at all.


Sample spread from the rulebook

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

Let's get started! We'll explain the two player game separately, since it has some special rules. First you remove some animal types depending on the number of players: With 5 players you use all the tiles, with 4 players you remove one animal type, and with 3 players you remove two animal types. The tiles are shuffled in the bag together with the landscape tiles, and a pile of 15 tiles is drawn face-down, with our cute panda figure on top. The offspring tiles don't go into the bag, but are placed to the side where they can be taken as needed. Each player gets their own zoo, and as many delivery trucks as players are placed in the table center. Let's go!


Start of a three player game

Flow of Play

Players take turns, and on your turn, you choose one of two things:

a) Add a tile to a delivery truck: Draw a tile from the bag and place it face up onto one of the trucks in the middle of the table. Your turn is over, and it's the next player's turn.

b) OR: Take a delivery truck and add its tiles to your zoo: Take any of the trucks, and place the tiles on it into your zoo. Each enclosure can only have one type of animal (no mixing animal types, because we don't want any kind of mutation or cross breeding in our zoo!), but the landscape tiles can be placed in any enclosure. Since you only have three enclosures, you'll only be able to store up to three types of animals in your zoo, and any additional animals need to be placed in your barn where they'll cost you points at game end. Your turn is over, and it's the next player's turn.


Loading up trucks

There are a few special situations to know about:

Offspring: A fertile male and fertile female in the same enclosure will immediately produce a baby, so in this case take the matching offspring and add it to your zoo enclosure as well. That's usually a good thing, because you want a full zoo if possible!

Full enclosure: If you fill the last space in one of your enclosures, as a bonus action you may immediately choose to either discard a tile from your barn, or take over a tile from a neighbour's barn and place it in your zoo.


Zoo-making with meercats, rhinos, and giraffes

Scoring

A round ends when each player has taken a delivery truck, after which a new round begins with the empty delivery trucks returned to the middle of the table, and the player who last took a truck beginning a new round in the same way. The end of the game is triggered when the bag of tiles is empty, and tiles from the pile of 15 marked with the panda miniature are used. This indicates that the game is in the last round, which is completed as normal, after which the game ends and scoring happens.

Players earn points as follows:
● for how many animals they have in a particular enclosure, according to the chart on the zoo board (12 points for a full enclosure of 6 animals, 8 points for 5 animals, 4 points for 4 animals, 3 points for 3 animals, 2 points for 2 animals, and 1 point for 1 animal).
● for each type of landscape tile you have in your zoo you earn a bonus two points (i.e. a maximum of six points can be earned this way)
● for each type of animal and landscape tile in your barn, you lose two points.
And that's it - highest score is the winner!


A scoring example

Two player game

With the two player game, three animal types are removed from the game. The reverse side of the delivery trucks is used, so that players use the 1-box, 2-box and 3-box delivery trucks. A round ends when two delivery trucks have been taken, and tiles on the third truck are discarded and removed from the game. Aside from these changes the game remains the same.


Trucks used in a two player game

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Zooloretto appeal: Zooloretto Mini features the same appeal as the original Zooloretto: you're collecting cute animals and building a zoo. As such the appeal is very much the same, and the animals featured in this form of the game continue a formula that has already proven to be successful. I like some things about the components of Zooloretto Mini even like better than the original, such as the panda miniature, and the artwork of the delivery trucks.

Zooloretto-lite: This game is billed as a little brother of the original, and it certainly lives up to that. It's definitely easier to learn and quicker to play; one of the things I've found with the original game is that the rules about what you can do on your turn are a bit finicky, especially how money works. This dispenses completely with the use of money, and does so rather well. I'm in the camp of those who were slightly disappointed by the original Zooloretto, finding it just a bit too fiddly and long for what I'd hoped it would be. Zooloretto Mini on the other hand gets the length and complexity just right, and seems to me to do a better job of being the kind of game this should be. For me it takes everything that I liked about the original but gets rid of any unnecessary baggage. Naturally some gamers who like the greater flexibility and choices offered by the original Zooloretto and don't mind the slightly longer play time and depth will probably prefer the main game, but the simplified style of Zooloretto Mini has much to commend it, even if it's just as a filler. And there are still enough decisions to be made to ensure that it isn't just a random activity, and there's fun to be had in trying to push your luck in trying to get trucks that best suit the needs of your zoo, or for that matter to try to spoil your neighbour's zoo collection.

Multiple zoo-keepers: I've played with 2 through 5 players, and Zooloretto Mini works just fine with any number of players. The two player rules require minimal adjustment and also works well, although you're essentially playing with 4 animal types and 3 enclosures, meaning that there is just a single animal type you're trying to avoid.

Porta-zoo: Those of you who enjoy Zooloretto but like the idea of a travel version might also want to consider this form of the game in view of its portability. It's no small thing to carry around a zoo in a game box, but it works here!

Flexi-zoos: Do you like some of the animals from Zooloretto Mini more than the ones from Zooloretto, or vice versa? The shade of green is slightly different, but there's no reason you can't import one or two of your favourites from one game into the other. I also much prefer the trucks that come with Zooloretto Mini, and it's easy enough to borrow these for use in the original game as well. While the gameplay is in many ways the same, having both doesn't feel like duplication, because the mini game functions more as a filler or is suitable for children, while the original game has increased complexity and meets a different need. Mix and match the components as you wish!

Child friendly: Yes the original Zooloretto is a family friendly game, and even suitable for non-gamers. Or is it? I have played with folks who still managed to play it wrong, or were a little overwhelmed by the rules and choices. This is no time for being condescending about selected non-gamers, but the reality is that some people can only handle a very easy rule-set, and certainly that's true of most younger children. For playing with these people, Zooloretto Mini is a perfect fit.


A final score of 28 points

Recommendation

Sometimes successful games turn into a kind of a franchise, with one mediocre game after another being churned out merely on the strength of the brand name of an original hit. That's not the case here, because Zooloretto Mini can be considered a welcome addition to the Zooloretto family. It fills a slightly different need, and while some people will prefer the additional range of choices and complexity of Zooloretto, there will also be others (like me) who prefer the shorter and sweeter form of the game as it appears here. As good as Zooloretto is, I can see Zooloretto Mini getting more play in my family simply because it's easier to bring to the table, and easier to explain to new players. Sometimes less is more! And who can resist baby meerkats and baby giraffes?! Recommended.


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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Robin
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Great review!

I'm a fan of the series and I've tried the original game and Aquaretto with my kids who are 7 and 8. They enjoyed it but we had to over help at some points.

After reading,

EndersGame wrote:

Child friendly: Yes the original Zooloretto is a family friendly game, and even suitable for non-gamers. Or is it? I have played with folks who still managed to play it wrong, or were a little overwhelmed by the rules and choices. This is no time for being condescending about selected non-gamers, but the reality is that some people can only handle a very easy rule-set, and certainly that's true of most younger children. For playing with these people, Zooloretto Mini is a perfect fit.


I look forward to playing this game with my boys.
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Mark M
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Nice review Ender. I have been checking this game out - not sure it has been released in US as of yet. Great to see you back doing reviews - think it has been awhile since the last one.
 
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Roger Fawcett
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Great review. I enjoy playing these games, but might need convincing about the 2-player viability. Knizia did okay with Medici vs Strozzi but how will this play?
 
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Tom
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This is a great game for kids. My daughter started playing last year when she was six, and cottoned to the 'poisoning the trucks' right away (adding items I don't want to the trucks that were starting to look pretty good for my zoo). This is now her favorite game.

Several OGS have it, and I actually saw it on the shelves at a FLGS.
 
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PO
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Thanks for the review.
I've seen this on offer & have wondered whether to get the main game or this. More often, whichever game I get will be hitting the table with my kids. This may very well be the game for me.
 
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Craig Blumer
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Thanks for the review.

It's been a while, but this sounds a lot like the original Coloretto with cuter components rather than cards. Colorreto doesn't have the landscape concept any other ways Coloretto and Mini are different?
 
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Roger Fawcett
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wyldeoak wrote:
Thanks for the review.

It's been a while, but this sounds a lot like the original Coloretto with cuter components rather than cards. Colorreto doesn't have the landscape concept any other ways Coloretto and Mini are different?


The landscape element very much reminds me of O Zoo le Mio but, of course, you are bidding for the tiles in that. O Zoo le Mio does have nifty park benches though.
 
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Lance Coffee
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Can Zooloretto Mini rules be played with the Zooloretto game? I know the big brother doesn't have the same 3x2 location setup, but I'm still curious. Thanks in advance.
 
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Ender Wiggins
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lcoffee wrote:
Can Zooloretto Mini rules be played with the Zooloretto game? I know the big brother doesn't have the same 3x2 location setup, but I'm still curious. Thanks in advance.

Yes I suppose you could try the Mini rules with Zooloretto components, if you found a way for players to have three enclosures consisting of six tiles each. All you'd need to do is substitute the landscape tiles with an appropriate amount of vending machine tiles, and ensure you have the correct number of animal types depending on how many players there are.

But who can resist baby giraffes?!
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Ed Lovell
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Tracy
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Great review. I was considering getting the regular Zooloretto, but will probably pick this up first. Thanks!
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Lynette
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Quote:
Sometimes less is more! And who can resist baby meerkats and baby giraffes?!


Certainly not me!!
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MAURICIO FLORES
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Great Review. Great pictures and very detailed.
 
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