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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

Funagain Games does not stock this edition of this title [], usually because it's out of print.

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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


Average Rating: 3.9 in 16 reviews

Fun, with strategy, humor, and partnership
July 15, 2004

Fun, with humor, interaction, partnership and strategy. Highly recommend playing with partners, although luck of draw has effect, plenty of strategic decisions to try to lay claim to lions or go out, should you help your partner or look out only for yourself. Very interesting, as much depth as needed in groups with strategists, and plenty of fun, humor, and the joy of seeing the wimpy card becoming the strongest.

Good Game For All Ages
April 06, 2003

I bought Frank's Zoo with the intention of finally having a fun game that more than 4 people could play, with a time limit that was not too lengthy. Frank's Zoo filled these requirements perfectly. As a junior in college, I find this game appropriate for all age levels, having played with children, teens, adults, and seniors.

Game play can be simplified and then added to in complexity based on if you use the points system. Even the base game without scoring is very fun!

The game focuses on getting rid of your cards that outrank the current cards played. If you can play a card or a set of cards that cannot be outranked, then you take the trick. The object is to be the first one out.

There is quite a bit of opportunity to stategize on when to play certain cards, and a player has the option to pass, and maybe save a card for later rather than play on the current hand.

The illustrations are cute, making the game visually appealing. The cards themselves are of a decent quality.

I recommend this game to anyone looking for a simple game that can entertain a group of people. My mother loves this game so much that she asks to play every time I visit. The only downside is you do need 4 players to start, and this is why I give it 4 stars.

Easy-to-Learn Family or Introductory Game
February 12, 2003

This is a trick-taking game of sorts. With its simple rules, team play and adorable artwork, this game is a real crowd pleaser. Non-gamers love it, and it can be played with children as well. Playing time is under an hour. It's true that strategic choices are somewhat limited, but there's plenty there, especially in deciding when it's time to hold back and when it's time to make your move.

Great family game!
February 05, 2003

This game takes a bit to explain the rules to younger kids, but once they play a few hands it's very simple to play. It's very fun because you never know if your hand is as good as you think or as bad. You may be saving that group of elephants with a misquito by their side, hoping to get take the big group of lions, when out from no where someone has a group of mice just waiting to foil your plan which starts the whole thing over again! One hint is, get rid of the fish when you can they stink to have in the end.

Even though it looks like a kid's game it's a lot of fun for adults too.

Barely any decision-making, but might be good for young'uns
December 08, 2002

This game is light. Real light. Someone mentioned Uno in another review, and FZ rates a half-step above that in complexity. The main decision you will make in this game is 'Do I have something in my hand to beat what the last player played?'. It's a very simple decision -- too simple for my taste. Because it will generally boil down to a yes or no answer, as opposed to 'which cards should I play', it's just not that interesting. I suppose I would play this with children as preparation for introducing them to more interesting games, but even with the partnership rules there just isn't much going on here.

Cool concept, great pictures, mediocre execution
March 25, 2002

I don't understand the reason for the hedgehog scoring rules. They are strange, somewhat convoluted, and dont fit with the theme. Whats more is that my girlfriend refuses to play because she says the game is too simple. Need I say more?

Well perhaps... She is an excellent Spades and Hearts player so perhaps this game seems trivial to her.

More fun than I could have imagined!
January 01, 2002

I played this game for the first time on New Year's Eve with 5 friends. We range in age from 26 to 44 and are all very highly educated. We had a blast with this silly little game. It is easy to learn and easy to play. It's hard to imagine that such a simple little card game could make us laugh so hard for hours. It's small, cheap, and great fun for up to 7 players.

Great family filler! "Non-gamers" love it!
June 23, 2001

When I purchased this game from Funagain, I was worried it would be too light and would never get played, but I really wanted to get a fun game that I could play with a bigger group. Now I wonder what I was so worried about. This game is ultra-lite, ultra-quick, and very fun. You can teach someone how to play it in 3 minutes, and it can be played with 3-7 players. (If you play with 5 or more, I HIGHLY recommend playing with the partnership rules which make the game even more fun.)

The artwork is cute and funny (thank you, Doris Matthäus--who also did fantasic art for Elfenland and Carcassonne), the theme is clever, and it is about 20 times more fun than Uno, but about as complicated as Uno, so nearly anyone could play and do well. Everyone who has played this so far likes it a lot. It is simple and fun.

For me to give 4 stars to a filler game is quite something. In fact, for the price, I would say this game is nearly 5 stars, but since it is not a classic you would want play ALL the time, we'll stick with 4 stars. High praise indeed for such a little game. Families should love this one.

Play with the full partnership rules
January 15, 2001

Frank's Zoo is more than adequately described elsewhere, so I will not go into the details here, other than to say that the odd branching of relative card values makes this a hard game to analyze. Yeah, killer whales are great and have no predators, but how do they really rate, compared to a hedgehog?

A game can be played out where each player merely tries to score as highly as possible, or the game can be played with shifting partnerships. This latter option is by far the best choice, as players are rewarded by how well each partner does, and the lower-scoring partner can get some much-needed help by appealing to his senior partner. This helps the senior partner clear his hand out quickly, while allowing the junior partner a better chance of doing well.

Doris and Frank tend toward quirky game designs, and this one is no exception. It is definitely lighter fare, but a lot of fun with family or friends as a nice filler. Recommended.

It's Fun... and I ain't lion.
November 26, 2000

That's one of the bad puns you'll hear while playing this game, but I generally hate trick-taking games and this one had me wanting to play more. The changing partnerships are charming and learning the way the cards work together in the food chain makes strategy intriguing. You get such dilemmas as whether to play your elephants on the gators to try for the hedgehog or to save them to take the lions. Tough! Then again you could ask your partner for help...

Lions and Hedgehogs and Bears, Oh My!
July 11, 2000

There are 2 main reasons that I think this game is worthy of 4 stars that I don't believe have been stressed enough in the previous reviews. First, you will find NO numbers on any of the cards. Each card has a large picture of the animal that card represents plus 0-5 smaller pictures of animals that outrank that animal. In my experience, too many supposedly 'themed' cardgames have nice pictures on the card and then some big fat number, which makes the pretty picture nothing more than blatant chrome. In Frank's Zoo your hand truly consists of lions and hedgehogs and bears (oh my!). There are no numbers to eclipse this feel.

The second reason I enjoy this game is that it is 'non-linear'. I didn't quite know what this meant until I actually bought and played the game. Here is what it means: In linear card games if A outranks B and B outranks C, then it must follow that A also outranks C. In a non-linear systems this is not necessarily the case. Instead you get something like this: A outranks B, B outranks C, but A does NOT also outrank C. Instead D or E may outrank C, while C and A share no interaction at all (neither outranks the other). So, in Frank's Zoo, even though there are 12 different animals, each animal is outranked by only 0-5 other animals (the majority seemed to be outranked by about 4 other animals). So in my experience this and the fact that there are no numbers, make counting the cards and determining the value of the cards in my hand much easier. There are some other ramifications of playing in a non-linear system that make the game interesting, but I'll let you figure them out for yourselves... It's fun.

by Mark U
A blast, even for old folks
June 04, 2000

We played this game with 6 players during our vacation. Even the old folks joined in (and by old, I don't mean the 40 somethings, I mean the 60 somethings.) All I can say is, we all had a laughing good time. I generally prefer strategic board games over card games, but my older relatives do not. We both found things to like about this game. There was plenty of strategy to keep me interested, while the older folks enjoyed the social interaction provided by the round-to-round sparring whereby players would try to 'eat' (outrank) thier loved ones' previously played animals. It is difficult to pinpoint one optimal strategy because there isn't one. During some hands, lady luck was kind to the players who disposed of the most cards the earliest. During other hands, fate favored those who held the most cards for the longest period of time. It's fun trying to second guess your opponents. I enjoyed 'passing' early in the game, sitting out each round while watching the other players fight it out amongst themselves for small point cards. Then, when the high point lion cards came out, I was throwing my beasts out there like some kind of crazy gladiatorial arena master. Of course you may not choose to think of the card play in such gruesome terms (especially if you are from the Animal Humane Society). So you can tone it down to suit your preferences by saying the animals 'scare' each other away. Either way you do it, it's a blast!

Good game for gamers, great game for non-gamers
April 16, 2000

Frank's zoo is an interesting little game I'm still trying to get a beat on. Each animal (except the Orca) can be bested by one or more of the other animals in the deck. However, there's no clear 'best' card in the deck and no clear 'worst' card. Some of the animals are obviously better than others (Orca, Elephant), but the Orca can't best an Elephant or a Lion or a Hedgehog for that matter. Thus, you need to deal with some ambiguous hierarchies.

Another interesting twist lies with the wrap-around effect. Even though an Elephant is a pretty powerful animal and can best a lot of other animals, he can be bested by a wimpy Mouse. When this happens, it effectively 'resets' the deck to a low card and play can continue.

Then there's the partner swapping and those annoying Mosquitos.

Even though the game has some similarities to The Great Dalmuti (trying to get rid of all your cards as fast as possible) it has a lot of differences that make the game different (in my mind).

As I mentioned before, I'm still trying to figure out the hierarchies and get a beat on this game. I found some of my other gaming friends experiencing similar difficulties. Meanwhile, my wife seems to have picked it up quite quickly and really enjoys the game. Even though I haven't fully figured the game out, I still have a good time playing it.

You've Got to Visit This Zoo
March 16, 2000

I, of course, immediately saw the similarity of this game to The Great Dalmuti, and was relieved to find the game different and fun. I find Dalmuti to be tedious and a little too predictable, so I was delighted at the non-linear aspects of this game which works on several different strategic levels.

Doris's illustrations are priceless, and the game itself is a clever little variation on getting rid of your cards and winning tricks. Each card represents an animal who is then 'trumped' by its own series of animals, creating a web of relationships that is easy to pick up on after a few hands. The scoring system is simple and logical, and the repeat play value is high.

While Dalmuti is supposed to draw its appeal from physically moving about and verbally humilating your underlings, this game accomplishes the same play feel without the prerequisite energy level. I highly reccomend this game for families or anyone who wants a little fun without getting up out of their chair.

Takes a few plays to see the depth
December 28, 1999

This is a fun trick taking game apparently based on the same ancient Chinese card game that Career Poker (KarrierePoker) and The Great Dalmuti were based on.

The deck of cards is composed of various humorously illustrated animals, with each animal fitting into a set ranking designated on the cards. Each player in turn plays a set of cards that have to outrank the previously played set either in quantity or rank. For example, if someone plays 2 elephants, the next person must play 3 elephants (an increase in quantity), or 2 mice (an increase in rank), or the player may pass. Play continues until everyone passes. Once everyone passes, the person who played the highest ranking set takes all the cards played that round. The sooner you get rid of all your cards, the more points you score for the round. However, that's not all there is to the game. This urge to get rid of all your cards as fast as possible is balanced by the additional points to be gained for each lion card captured (assuming you capture more than 2) and by the points to be lost if you don't capture a hedgehog. With these additional scoring mechanisms, it is often more benefitial to pass on playing a powerful set of cards to take a stack of cards that contain nothing valuable. Figuring out when to hold out for more trick taking points or when to empty your hand for the highest 'going out' points is where much of the strategy comes into play. Also, since the animal rankings are not linear, but instead branch and even loop (e.g. mouse beats elephant, fox beats mouse, elephant beats fox), it is not possible to hold onto a highest ranked animal that can beat anything. Because of this, you often have to do some additional thinking about which cards to hold on to for later in the round.

I must admit, until I played a few games and got a feel for the balance and the various ways of scoring, the initial games tended to lack substance. However, once I got used to the system, much more strategic play developed. If I had only played this game once or twice, I would have only ranked it one or two stars. Now having played it several times, I'm beginning to appreciate the greater depth the game truly offers.

If you like trick taking card games, this is definitely a fun game at a very great price.

by Tash
a complete rip off
December 25, 1999

This game is a rip off of the Great Dalmuti... but without half the fun of Dalmuti. In the lead up to releasing this game the designers refused to release details/rules about this game, so it was the impressive/cute artwork that sold it (for me anyway)... I think this must have been intended. There are a couple of superficial differences between Dalmuti and Zoo which involve being able to use the mosquito to add to a run of elepants. Also at the end of a round ie when all players are rid of their cards, they score according to how many players are left at the time they leave the round; if you leave first out of a five player game, you get five points, second you get four etc etc. Whoopy Doo. Dalmuti creates ranks and leads to switching hats and chairs (and involves raucous laughter). In Zoo you can also ask for help of a partner: these partnerships are formed around who left at what time last round; so what? The only thing F's Zoo has going for it over Dalmuti is the fact that you can play with 3 players whereas Dalmuti's minimum is 4 players. And possibly the artwork (though its a question of taste). Needless to say I am unimpressed and feel somewhat duped. I would only recommend this game for families with kids around the age of 11 or below. Otherwise get the Great Dalmuti.

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