A to Z Gaming: Mesozooic


We created whimsical dinosaur parks in Mesozooic, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Mesozooic
Players: 2-6
Time: 20 Minutes
Designers: Florian Fay, Alexandar Ortloff
Artists: Atha Kanaani
Publisher: Z-Man

In Mesozooic, players take on the role of a zoo director designing and constructing a dinosaur park. This is done by first drafting cards and then frantically arranging them in a real-time card-sliding-puzzle. The player who does the best job creating habitats, connecting monorails, arranging exhibits, and placing statues over three rounds wins.

The game is set up with the scoresheet and sand time placed on the table. Each each player chooses a park director and takes a reference card. All of the basic cards for each player are shuffled together along with either the neutral or advanced cards, depending on the complexity of the game you want to play.

The game is played in three rounds, with each round having three phases: choose, build, score.

During the choose phase, players are dealt 11 cards, which are drafted two at a time. Players choose two cards from their hand to keep in a pile face-down in front of them, and then pass the remaining cards to the next player (clockwise in rounds 1 and 3; counterclockwise in round 2).

At the start of the build phase, players take the 11 cards they drafted and shuffle them. Next, they lay the cards out face-up in a 4×3 grid (the lower-right card will be missing). Players then have 45 seconds to “build”, which consists of sliding cards up/down or right/left into the empty space. The ultimate goal is to match enclosures (top/bottom and left-right), connect up monorails, and get trucks next to attractions. (There are additional goals for the advanced cards.)

Next, players score their completed parks. The park director (who has a truck) is placed in the open space, and players total up points for completed enclosures, monorail connections, the number of trucks next to each attraction, and topiaries. The scores are recorded, cards collected and shuffled, and the next round begins.

The game ends after the third round is scored, and the player with the highest total score wins.

I picked this one up on a whim. I saw it at our local game store, and I have a thing for zoo-themed games, and dinosaurs!

This is a quick, light, fun game. I grew up playing sliding puzzles, so I love the real-time mechanic of Mesozooic. Sadly, it doesn’t get to the table very often … not sure why, we enjoy it when it does come out. It might just be too quick of a game for us? Since we tend to gravitate toward bigger, heavier games? But I do enjoy this when we take it out.

How is it as a 2-player game? Mesozooic works well as a 2-player game. The drafting is a bit uninteresting for just 2 players, since you can see what’s likely to come back into your hands each time. But, for me, the challenge of the game is the 45-second sliding puzzle, and that’s fun at any player count.

How about the art and component quality? The only components are a timer, score pad, and cards — all of which are fine. The real hero of the game is the art. The details on the different enclosures are adorable.

If I had one complaint, it’s that all of the female park directors are young, young women while all of the males are old men. While I applaud the abundance of women characters in the game, having all of the men characters be old reinforces other types of stereotypes.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. While it doesn’t hit the table often, I enjoy the frantic puzzle of it.

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