A to Z Gaming: O Zoo le Mio

We built up our zoos to bring in visitors and make the most attractive parks in O Zoo le Mio, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: O Zoo le Mio
Players: 2-4
Time: 45-60 Minutes
Designers: Corné van Moorsel
Artists: Czarnè
Publisher: Gigamic

In O Zoo le Mio, players build up their zoos from nothing over five years (rounds). Each round they bid on animal enclosures and place them in their parks to create the largest regions of similar animals. The player who best attracts visitors, connects up path loops, and collects greenery will win.

The game is set up with each player taking a zoo entrance and starting tile. Each player receives eight coins, which they stash behind their zoo entrance. The tiles are shuffled and placed near the play area. The flags for the different zoos are shuffled and randomly placed on the flagpole tile.

The game is played over five rounds. Each round, the top five tiles are laid out. Then one-by-one, the tiles go up for auction. Players secretly place any number of their coins in their closed hand. Then, everyone reveals their hands simultaneously. The player who bids the most takes the tile. If there’s a tie, the tied player whose flag is closest to the top of the flag pole wins the tie, and then their flag is moved to the bottom.

As soon as a player wins a tile, they place it in their zoo. The newly-placed tile must extend one of their existing paths and paths can not dead-end in grass. At this time, if the newly-placed tile completes a path loop, the player places a bench in the loop.

They also check to see if they’ve increased any of their enclosures — each tile has two types (colors), and any adjacent tiles of the same color are considered to be the same enclosure. Players tally up the number of stars in each color of enclosure. The player with the most of each color gets two visitors of that color; the player with the second-most get one visitor. (If only one player has an enclosure of a given color, they only get one visitor.)

Similarly, players check the number of bushes, and the player with the most gets the two tree token; and the one with the second most get one tree. In all cases, if players tie with the number of bushes or size of their enclosures, the newest exhibits gets the extra visitor or tree.

Then the next tile is auctioned off. After all five have been auctioned, players score their park for that round. To do this, they count up the number of “things” in their park — visitors, benches and trees – and they multiply that number by the number of the round, and mark it one the score pad.

At the end of the fifth round, players tally up all their points from all the rounds, and the player with the most points wins.

I don’t remember when or why we picked up O Zoo le Mio — it was one of the early additions to our game collection, so it’s been around for well over a decade. I suspect we picked it up because it is zoo-themed (one of my favorite themes).

Ironically, I probably would not have picked it up today because I am not a huge fan of auction mechanisms in games. But here I’m okay with it, and I’m not entirely sure why. The money is fairly tight in this game, so if you aren’t able to buy the first tile you want, you almost certainly can still pick one up later in the round. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to lay out my paths to close them while still connecting up similar enclosures to get points from the visitors. I also love how the parks look at the end of the game with the 3D entrances, park benches strewn throughout the park, and various visitors and trees.

How is it as a 2-player game? O Zoo le Mio works fairly well as a 2-player game. It feels different with just 2 players because with more players it’s a much tighter game — there are always just 25 tiles available through the entire game no matter how many players. But it’s still a fun game with any player count.

How about the art and component quality? The components are decent quality (I mean, they’ve lasted for more than a decade!). I love the different zoo entrances that fold out into shields. The coin tokens are a bit too big, though — I would prefer something smaller. I do like the art, and I love that some of the animals represented in the game are not ones you see in many games.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes. Besides having one of my favorite themes, I love the puzzle of this game and will happily get it to the table.

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