Dale Yu: New York Zoo in 36 hours (First Impressions, Unboxing, etc)

New York Zoo

  • Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
  • Publisher: Capstone Games/Feuerland
  • Players: 1-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Played on review copy provided by Capstone Games


So, SPIEL week is always an exciting time – so many new games to see and learn about. Often times during the fair, a new game opportunity would come up, and we’d be thrilled to get an unexpected copy/prototype of a game and then rush back to the hotel to play it at night.    While we were playing games as part of our SPIEL.digital@home plans on Friday, I got an email from Clay over at Capstone Games.  He had just gotten a shipment in, and he wanted to know if we were interested in New York Zoo.  

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll likely know that I’m a huge fan of Uwe Rosenberg, most recently taken with Hallertau, and I was quick to say that I was excited to try another one out.  He said that he’d get to the warehouse and have one shipped to me.  That was around 10 in the morning…  We’re actually pretty close geographically; maybe only 15 miles apart.

While it might have been easier for one of us to drive, modern shipping does make things a bit easier (and we were playing games all day!) – luckily, UPS can get me the game the next day as we have a local hub here in the city, and it could go out pretty much as soon as it got there.

So, an hour after starting our conversation, the game is on the way, and it is supposed to be here tomorrow (well, that’s now today).  At the end of our night, we got home and we printed up the rules to the game and Mark was kind enough to read them to prepare to teach…


Well, the box arrived at 2:50pm.

And, though I am personally not a fan of unboxings – (well, I guess I am not the sort of person who sees what other people see in them) – here are a few pictures taken as the box arrived in the basement and as we tore it open

So, I guess you can zoom in and look at those bits, or you can just keep reading on and see how the game really plays!


To start the game, each player gets a zoo board – you get specific ones based on player count.  Each player gets 2 animals shown at the top of the columns on their board.  The action strip is placed on the table and the Elephant is on the start space.  The attractions and enclosures are arranged.  Then, the action strip is seeded with animal tiles – this is a four step procedure, which takes an entire page in the rules to explain, and is actually quite easy when you follow the pictures.

The goal of the game is to completely fill in the brown area (the construction area) with Enclosures and Attractions – the first player to do this will win the game.   The turns will be had in clockwise order, each with 3 phases – move the Elephant, Main Action, Breeding

1] Move the Elephant – move the elephant clockwise, the number of spaces determined by what is written on the top of your player board – 1 to 4 spaces in a 4p game – spaces being blue Animal Acquisition spaces and any slot with an Enclosure tile.   You skip over empty spaces and Animal Breeding lines.

2] Main Action – depending on where the Elephant ends up, you with take an Enclosure tile or gather animals.  If you take an Enclosure tile, you must take the top one in the space.  Then you have to fill it immediately with 1-2 of your own animals, they must be of the same species.  They can come from your houses or other enclosures, though you can never empty out an Enclosure from where you take an animal from.  If you cannot move an animal into the new Enclosure, you are not allowed to take this action, and instead you must gather animals.  If you choose to gather animals, you will receive the 2 animals shown on that space OR you can choose any animal that you like.  These new animals are immediately added to your zoo board – they go into empty houses, into Enclosures of the same species, and into empty Enclosures.  As you place the new animals onto your board, you can also add exactly one more of said species from your house.  If you manage to fully fill an enclosure (that is one animal per space), you score it immediately, returning all to the supply with the exception that one can go into your houses if you have space.  Then you choose 1 Attraction which you immediately place on your board.

3] Animal Breeding – if you cross one of the five breeding lines while you moved the Elephant, Breeding happens this turn. The species on the crossed line breeds, and ALL players who have at least 2 animals of that species together in an enclosure will get an additional animal of that species to be placed in the same Enclosure.  For each breeding, you can add up to 1 animal in each of 2 enclosures. (There is apparently some sort of zoo birth control in effect).

My First Impressions of the game

[Well, this is something new, I’ve written this dictating through my phone into the WordPress app, adding pictures in on the fly.  This is as true a “first impression” as you’ll ever get as I’m literally writing this as I play.]

From the rules, it sounds like it is going to be a mix of Barenpark and Patchwork.  From the initial pics on BGG, this also led me to this conclusion:

From the rules read, I must admit that things feel like they are in the wrong order. I continually was reading explanations for things that weren’t yet introduced in the rules.  The first part of the game explanation tells me about how to manipulate the puzzle pieces, yet I don’t see how to get the puzzles for another 2-3 pages later.  The rules for animal breeding are on page 7, but the explanation for how this is triggered is at the bottom of page 5.  In any event, everything is there – but man, you may have to read through a few times to synthesize everything.  


We make it through the setup without any problems. That full page illustration is quite helpful and make the process easy as pie. The starting boards are slightly asymmetrical, so it appears that some balance was needed to balance player order. The player boards are double sided and they are set up for the correct bonuses for each player in turn order for all player counts. It’s a nice system.

it took us maybe 5 minutes to get started, the trickiest thing was figuring out which puzzle piece goes in which slot because they use green squares in for shades of green and for slightly different sizes of squares, but again the illustration in the rules helps.

playing the game

Playing the puzzle pieces is a very enjoyable experience for me. I have always liked the whole Tetris puzzle bit and that is the main game here. Being more efficient in your enclosure placement will be beneficial because you’ll need fewer enclosures. Remember, in order to get an attraction, you need to finish an entire enclosure. That’s a lot of work for possibly a 1×1 attraction.

There is also a nice balance of both picking up pieces as well as picking up animals. It is interesting because each time that you place a puzzle piece, you need to have a free animal. So you’re constantly getting each to make sure you can do both. You will also sometimes have to get animals early, in order to take advantage of the breeding, as it’s nice to get free animals. I also found it was nice to have a lot of enclosures open on my board, because then each time that I collect animals, I have somewhere to put them.

We did find that there is an interesting early race because the largest attraction is a 4×2 roller-coaster, and 8 spaces is bigger than any single enclosure piece!

It might be good to have a small child at your table, the pieces get very cramped. I hope this isn’t Anne tabletopia, because I can’t even imagine how hard it would be the place these pieces on these little squares without them falling over with realistic physics. We surprisingly didn’t have too many toppling issues, but you do have to be careful when you place and remove wooden animals.

Our game took about 40 minutes for our first try. It was an enjoyable experience, we seem to have a good time solving the Tetris puzzle, and it came down to a race of filling in enclosures at the end to get the final 1×1 attractions.

So that’s our first impression. Total time from UPS delivery to game completion was 55 minutes, and then we went straight to publishing out first impressions, 75 minutes from arrival at the door!

Thanks to Capstone game’s for providing us with a copy of the game and helping us experience Spiel.digital at home!

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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