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O Zoo le Mio
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O Zoo le Mio

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Family Strategy Game Nominee, 2005

Ages Play Time Players
9+ 45-60 minutes 2-4

Designer(s): Corne van Moorsel

Publisher(s): Rio Grande Games, Zoch, Gigamic

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Product Description

All players are zoo directors and try to attract the most visitors to their zoos. Success comes to the player who creates the largest attractions. Players will want to build spacious areas for the various kinds of animals and also attractive pathways for their visitors with park benches and lots of trees and bushes to appeal to botanical senses.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Strategy Game Nominee, 2005

Product Information


  • 4 starting tiles
  • 4 zoo entrances
  • 25 zoo tiles
  • 15 visitors in 5 colors
  • 15 park benches
  • 3 trees
  • 4 flags
  • 1 flagpole
  • 35 zoo coins
  • 1 score pad
  • 1 rule booklet
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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 9 reviews

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Get Your Zoo On
July 07, 2004

I purchased this game because the box looked neat. And I'd have to say, it's the best one in my collection right now.

The rules are easy to learn. The replay value is high. The game is light-weight so you won't spend forever playing it. The dynamics change dramatically when you have 2, 3 or 4 players. It's mostly skill but there is certainly some luck involved.

If you dig Carcassone and bidding games, you'll be happy with O Zoo le Mio.

My wife, in-laws, friends and enemies all enjoy the game. I mean, what could be better than building a zoo called 'Porky Park' with nothing but aquatic and bird exhibits!

My only problem with the game is you fold some of the cardboard pieces to build your zoo and some of my pieces are already wearing out. I guess I'll have to buy another copy someday!

Get Your Zoo On

Call it what it is: Zoo Tycoon dominoes
May 24, 2004

Looking at the rather garish cover art to O Zoo le Mio will either attract you to this game or repel you, but upon cracking open the box, you find a much more pleasant production from those fine Dutch folks at Cwali Games. They've had a couple small hits, and this seems to be a bit of a home run for them, which I am very happy to hear.

The game, in a way, is like dominoes, Carcassonne, and a bidding game, all wrapped together in a Zoo Tycoon theme. Players are all opening up new zoos trying to add attractions in such a way as to impress the zoo-going populace, scoring points for the number of visitors and for well landscaped parks.

The game is made up of five rounds in which players will be bidding on domino-like tiles which they then add (Carcassonne style) to their existing zoos. Each tile is rectangular, containing half one type of attraction, half another type of attraction, plus paths, and sometimes trees. The attraction types are ostensibly different types of animals, but they are color coded which makes the game relatively easily to follow. Like dominoes, matching halves are a good thing. So if you can put a domino with a blue attraction against another domino with the same, in such a way so that the two blue attractions touch, they are considered one large attraction. If you can get more blue attractions to touch, like a large chain (or like a large City in Carcassonne) then that attraction becomes increasingly attractive to guests. If two separated blue attractions exist within the same park, they are considered separate, and only one may score. Players attract visitors to their parks by having the best or second best attraction of each type. For example, best Blue attraction gets 2 Blue visitors, second best Blue attraction gets one Blue visitor. The same applies for the other attraction types (orange, grey, red, yellow). If a player expands an attracion and takes the lead from another player, he immediately takes the corresponding visitors.

Several twists make this game more entertaining. Firstly, each attraction is rated with between 1 and 4 stars. That means that having two Red 4 stars attractions (for a total of 8 stars) side by side is more valuable that a well planned chain of 5 adjacent Red attractions worth 1 star each (5 stars total). This makes bidding very tricky. Not only are you weighing which colors you need, but you all need to consider how many stars the two attractions have.

You also need to consider two more things when bidding for tiles: trees and roads.

Like Carcassonne, there are roads on the tiles. Unlike Carcassonne, all roads must be connected somehow (which fits the theme -- you can't have part of a path in a corner of your park unconnected to any other paths!) Anytime you lay tiles in such a way as to create a 'loop', you receive a park bench. Park benches count for points the same way visitors do, and the best part is that you can never lose a park bench to another player. So a good zoo owner is going to work hard to make a lot of loops in his park.

Lastly trees. Trees are depicted in some of the tiles. They don't count as an attraction, rather they are just depicted around other attractions. People love greenery, and the parks with the most and second most trees get 2 trees and 1 tree respectively, which score like park benches and visitors. So otherwise useless tiles can become a lot more valuable if they have a big clump of trees on them.

All I have described so far makes for a great game of careful planning and placement. Now to some of the things I don't like about the game.

Money is tight. Real tight. Bids are chosen secretly then revealed simultaneously. Since money is so tight, and all the tiles have some value, ties happen all the time. There is a neqat resolution for that ensureing everyone gets tie breakers nearly evenly, but the frustration of watching tile after tile get away from you ina tie is frustrating. And if you bid too high you don't have money for anything else.

And money is tight. Players receive income based on how many tiles they have. If you ahve 5 tiles, you get 5 income; 2 tiles, 2 income. And that ends up leading, in more than half the playings I have had, to a rich get richer problem. Since there are so many ties, one player often gets left in the dust as inr rounds 1 and 2 he gets 1 tiles while everyone else has 3 or 4. And that gets ugly, because it allows them to get even more tiles and more income. And so on. Thbbt.

And scoring is 1 point per tree/visitor/park bench. At least, it is until the second round where they are worth 2 each; 3rd round 3 each, etc. to 5th round. Which magnifies the rich get richer problem. Not only will rich players buy more tiles, but the sheer size of their zoos usually means they gets trees and park benches and squeeze out poorer players.

I know, I know, that is part of the strategy. But I, an experienced player, who have won more than my shares of O Zoo le Mio, by bad luck of too many ties, still sometimes end up getting poor. It happens, even to experienced player.

The game can often end up being all about trying to make your zoo work, somehow, some way, to the exclusion of direct player competition. There can be defensive play, trying to deny good tiles to your opponents, but then you end up spending valuable income and (to you) less valuable tiles.

One last thing: this game is all about visual planning, which gives some people headaches. When you are bidding for a tile, it would be nice to pick it up and try and figure out where it could be useful for you. But you are not permitted to do that, so you have to visualize in your mind where you would be able to do that. I like those types of games (Streetcar and Metro come to mind) but not everyone does, so be forewarned.

This is a great idea for a game, and the theme is integrated very well. I just thing that the points and income need some tweaking. As it is, once the new game novelty has worn of, replayability is not nearly as high as I would have thought for a bidding game with tile placement. The ties get frustrating, and the income can flatten players (also very fitting with the theme, but not fun in a game.) Well worth trying out though. You may discover these things don't bother you quite as much as me. As for me, I still like the game, I've just found my enthusiasm for it tempered with additional playings. Maybe a tiny bit too much planning for a family game, but all in all a nice production, and worthy of purchase consideration

A great blind-bidding game!
May 02, 2004

My favorite computer games have always been simulations, such as Roller coaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon. I love having total control over something, and building it from the ground level up. Therefore, when I heard that a game called ZooSim (Cwali, 2002 - Corne van Moorsel) was available, I gladly picked it up -wondering how a computer simulation was translated to a board game.

Apparently I was slightly misinformed, as the game really didnt have anything to with a computer simulation, but was instead an auction game with some domino-like mechanics. Yet despite being one of the tightest auction games I have ever played, the beautiful components and very competitive game play have made ZooSim one of my favorite games. One of my biggest complaints about the game was a component problem, but the latest edition of the game, O Zoo Le Mio, fixed this problem, making the game a definite must-buy. The bidding in the game is extremely interesting, and combined with one of the variants, makes it one of the most strategic bidding games Ive ever played, but still with a light feel.

Each player (2-4) gets a zoo entrance that is folded up to become a player shield, as well as a starting tile for each player. Twenty-five zoo tiles (rectangular in shape) are shuffled, and placed in a face-down pile. Thirty-five coins and thirty-five visitors (meeples) are placed in the middle of the table, with each player taking eight coins and placing them behind their shield. A flagpole tile is placed on the table, and a flag for each player is randomly placed in order on the flagpole. There are five rounds for the game, and each round follows the exact same pattern.

First, the top five tiles are flipped over. Each tile has two different attractions on it, with a picture of the animal in that attraction, and a number of stars. The stars are color-coded to animal type (blue = sea animal, red = birds, orange = apes, yellow = other mammals, and gray = reptiles), and the amount of stars equals how popular the attraction is (from one to three). There are paths that cross each tile, and exit the tile at different points (out of eight possible). Finally, the tile may have a number of trees on it (from 1 to 3). The first tile in the row of face-up tiles is then auctioned off.

In an auction, players simultaneously put forth a number of coins in their fist, secretly - and the highest bidder wins the tile. In case of a tie, the player in the tie whose flag is higher gets the tile, with their flag subsequently removed to the lowest position. The winning player then places the tile in their zoo. Tiles are placed next to each other, in domino style, but the paths on them must connect - so if one tile has no path at an end, and the other does, they cannot connect. After the tiles are connected, the player checks to see if their zoo attracts any visitors. If they currently have the most or second most stars of a certain color, they get visitors. Only stars in adjacent tiles are counted, however, and only the largest group. The player who has the most places gets two visitors on that attraction (unless they are the only one with that type of animal, in which case they place only one), with the second most player getting one visitor. Also, if the player has the most trees (total) they put two visitors there, with the second most trees getting one visitor. Finally, if the player forms a complete loop with paths, they place a visitor in the center of this loop. Unlike the other guests (who can be lost if someone builds a bigger attraction), these guests cannot be lost.

After all five tiles have been auctioned off, each player gets more coins - one for each tile in their zoo. Points are also totaled (on a separate score sheet). After the first season, each player gets one point per visitor in their zoo. After the second season - two points, third season - three points, etc. After the fifth season, whichever player has the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The Cwali version of the game is in a round tubular container - and while this is pretty cool looking, its a pain to fit on my shelf, and Im kind of glad that I only have one such game. (Dont get me wrong, if someone offered me another, Id take it!) However, when I saw the components for O Zoo le Mio, I was slightly annoyed, as not only was the box better for the shelf, but the components were better. One of the biggest problems we had with the game was remembering who had the most stars of each color, and we were often counting them up again. The reason for this was that all the visitors were black, making it sometimes hard to distinguish what they stood for. I fixed this problem by painting three meeples in each color (green for trees), and the game works pretty well now. But the new version already has them colored, and even has little wooden trees for the trees, and park benches for the loops. Ah, well. But the tiles for both games are absolutely gorgeous. If someone told me that a game was going to be a mix of dominoes and auctions, I wouldnt really be interested. Throw down these beautiful tiles, though, and impressions will change. The flagpole and flags are also a nice addition, as are the wooden coins - which are far superior to cardboard chits. Even with the colored meeple problem, I really love the components for this game - they really lend well to the theme.

2.) Rules: The rules are simple and short, with a page that shows a game halfway through, explaining how scoring works, and how the game should be set up. This was extremely helpful, and better than a FAQ would have been. I found that the game was very easy to teach to people, but that it usually took a turn or two before some people realized the value of the tiles.

3.) Auctions: The auctions in this game are very tight. It is almost imperative that a player win at least one auction per turn, and they must know which tile to do it with. Its very disheartening to wait until the last tile of a round, bid a large amount, and then only tie - and lose to someone whos higher on the flagpole. And the rich get slightly richer in this game, since people with no tiles will get no additional income. Seeing how the tile best fits your zoo is also important. Sometimes the path layout fits your zoo perfectly, but the colors wont help you. Other times the colors are exactly what you want, but the paths are in the most unhelpful of places. The amount of trees is nothing to be scoffed at, either - so every tile is important, and this weighs heavily on the minds of the players as they go to auction each time. Blind bidding is always a risky thing, because if a player bids too much, they can pay too much for a worthless tile (and no one else pays anything). However, after a few rounds, players get more experience, and the blind bidding becomes a cagey match.

4.) Theme and Fun Factor: The game fits the zoo theme perfectly. Now, you certainly dont control a zoo in the same way as the Zoo Tycoon computer game, but it does look like you have a zoo by the time the game is over. The bidding and tiles really help contribute to this idea, and the game is more fun because of this, I think. I really like blind bidding, so this game was naturally fun for me. I can imagine that people who hate blind bidding wouldnt like this game, but I think this is perhaps the best in its genre. I find Fist of Dragonstones a little more fun, but ZooSim is perhaps the better game.

5.) Variants: There are several variants in the rules, and even more proposed on the internet. One that I tried was to give each player a set amount of coins each turn, rather than one per tile. This worked okay, but changed the dynamics of the game in a way that didnt really improve it. Showing every tile face up at the beginning of the game - allowing players a chance for long-term strategy - was, on the other hand, a variant that was fascinating and fun. I enjoyed all the variants I tried, but still found myself coming back to the basic game.

So is ZooSim worth your time? The answer is a resounding yes! Its an excellent, quick bidding game, but one where the bidding can be very tense and fun. If the game was longer, it could get monotonous, but the bright theme and the quick game play help expedite things; and there is really no downtime for the players. People who like blind bidding, dominoes, or zoos should probably get a kick out of this game. Those who like all three will be in Heaven! I was very impressed with the game play, and have come to respect Corne van Moorsel as a great designer. Try this game out - I doubt youll be disappointed.

Tom Vasel

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