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Frank's Zoo
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Store:  Family Games, Card Games
Theme:  Zoo
Genre:  Trick-Taking
Format:  Card Games

Frank's Zoo

English language edition

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Product Awards:  
Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 2000

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 60 minutes 4-7

Designer(s): Frank Nestel

Publisher(s): Rio Grande Games, Doris and Frank

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Product Description

The two hedgehogs won! You ask, "How could that happen?" It all started with a stately lion, who was chased away by an elephant. The single elephant naturally yielded to the pair of elephants. Then two mice came along and scared the elephants away. Finally, the two hedgehogs came and bested the mice. A pair of foxes could have won, but they stayed away and left the victory to the hedgehogs. If you are not yet a believer, play and see for yourself!

Product Awards

Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 2000

Product Information

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Product Reviews

Stuart Dagger
October 31, 1999

This is another game of the "race to get rid of your cards" type. Where it differs from Career Poker, The Great Dalmuti and the folk game from which those two derive is that it is played purely for points and with a special deck, which, unlike the standard one, is not linearly ordered. The cards in this case depict animals and there are rankings based on who has reason to fear whom. So, for example, the sardine fears the perch, the seal, the crocodile and the whale, but it does not fear the polar bear, for whom it would be too small a meal to be of interest. The perch and the seal, however, do fear the polar bear. In general, little animals fear more creatures than do big animals--though the hedgehog, as you would expect in a game from Doris and Frank, is an heroic exception to this, fearing only the fox. At the top end, the whale fears nobody, the lion and the crocodile worry only about the elephant and the elephant, with a touching display of phobia, is only afraid of mice.

One player leads to the trick by laying down a number of cards of the same type. Thereafter you may either pass or lay down a 'better set'. A 'better set' is either the same type of animal but one more card or the same number of cards but of an animal that outranks the previous one. This continues until you reach a stage where the person to play finds that the set they played last time still rules the roost. The trick is then set aside and this player starts a new one. So for example, a trick could go one crocodile; two crocodiles; two elephants; two mice; two foxes; two polar bears; all pass. The person who played the polar bears would then start a new trick by laying down more cards from hand, maybe three sardines, hoping that nobody would have three of a kind of one of the sardine's predators.

The first person to get rid of their cards scores one point for each player in the game, the second to finish scores one less and so on down to the last player to get rid of their cards, who will score two. This leaves one person with cards still in their hand and they score zero. The game is to a pre-set points target, usually 19. For the second and subsequent hands the game offers you a choice of either playing the same way as you did in hand one or forming temporary partnerships based on the current score.

And that is it. The game is certainly not another , but it is entertaining and does offer some scope for tactics and planning. The cards are easy to use--pictures show which animals outrank the one just played--and wonderfully illustrated. Tell Doris that the assignment involves hedgehogs and the woman becomes inspired!

The game is also available from Rio Grande games under the changed title 'Frank's Zoo'. (The German title translates as 'Trouble in the Zoo', which seems like a better title to me, but I'm sure they had their reasons.)

Kevin Maroney
December 31, 2000

First, the 60 delightful animal cards in the deck are dealt and played to a series of tricks. Then, the opening player puts down one or more cards showing the same animal. Following players must (1) pass, (2) lay down more cards of the identical animal, or (3) lay down the same number of cards showing a more valuable creature. Table-turning is possible. The lowly mouse defeats the mighty elephant to bring things back to the bottom of the hierarchy. The trick continues until someone wins. The faster you get rid of your cards, the more you'll score when only one player has cards left and the round ends. In subsequent rounds, players form partnerships based on current scores. You share your partner's score, and can even request his assistance, but there's strategy involved: You'll still want to win bonus cards for yourself. The shifting partnerships make this charming game a menagerie of fun.

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