Number of Players: 2 - 5
Length of Time: 25 min
Game Designer: Tove & Pablo Jomer
Zoomaka is a card game published by Worldshapers and is an active Kickstarter campaign at the time of this writing. You can check out Zoomaka by clicking this link: Zoomaka.
It should be noted that we were provided a print and play version of this game, so take that into consideration when viewing our photographs of the components.
Zoomaka is a two to five player card game which takes place over a series of turns between players. In Zoomaka, players take on the roles of a zoo owner, with each player competing to be the first to open their new zoo! At the start of the game, the entire deck is shuffled and then each player is dealt a starting hand of eight cards. The remaining deck is centrally placed between all players and constitutes the draw pile. Players will later draw cards from this deck on each of their turns. The deck itself is comprised of an assortment of Animal Cards, Direct Cards, Entrance Cards, Add-on Cards, Setting Cards, and Response Cards.
Animal Cards are exactly what they sound like, they are cards with the image and name of a specific animal on them. These cards also have a single colored border around them, along with a small icon in the upper right hand corner of the card. Both the icon and the border color are visual representations of the Park Section the animal can be placed in. It should be noted that there are also special Animal Cards which are multicolored, and can subsequently belong in more than one type of Park Section.
Then there are five types of action cards: Direct cards, Entrance cards, Add-on cards, Setting cards, and Response cards. Direct Cards are essentially one time use instant cards which effect the game by means of their individual text. An example of this would be the Delivery Card, which allows the player to “draw three cards.” Then there are Entrance Cards, which are also one time use cards which instantly take effect. The difference with these cards is they cards force an opponent(s) to pay a monetary ‘fee’ to the player; hence the term ‘Entrance Card’. Then there are Add-on Cards which can be played on one of your current Park Sections to provide an ongoing benefit. An example of this would be the Hot-dog Stand card, which says “view an opponent’s hand each time you charge a fee for this section.” These cards are also easily identified by the ‘plus’ symbol in the upper right hand corner of the card. Then there are Setting Cards which, when played, create an ongoing effect that affects all players. An example of this card would be the Quarantine card which states, “multicolored animals can’t be moved while this card is in play.” It should be noted that only one Setting Card can be active at a time, and so playing a Setting Card subsequently replaces the previously active Setting Card. These cards are easily identifiable by the ‘sun’ symbol in the upper right hand corner of the card. And lastly there are Response Cards. These cards are one time use instant cards which are played in response to an opponent playing one of the above mentioned action cards. An example of this would be the No Way card, which says “prevent an action’s effect for one player or negate a No Way.” These cards can be easily identifiable by the ‘exclamation mark’ symbol in the upper right hand corner of the card.
Now that you have a better grasp on the contents of the deck, lets dive into the gameplay. As your turn starts, if you have cards in your hand, you draw two cards from the draw deck. If you have no cards in your hand, you draw eight cards. Then, on your turn you have the ability to take up to three actions, which are referred to as “Labor.” Each time you Labor, you may choose to either:
Place an animal card in your zoo. If you place an animal card in your zoo, you will take one of the animal cards in your hand and simply play it face up in front of you, creating a Park Section for that animal type. If you already have animals of that type (color/symbol) in a Park Section of your zoo, you must place the new animal with the others. When a Park Section is full (noted by the number of symbols in the upper right corner of the animal card), then you may start a new Park Section. However, the goal of the game is to be the first to have four different Park Sections completely filled. So four sections of grey bordered cards won’t win you the game.
Sell one card from your hand, placing it in your bank. You may “sell” a card from your hand by placing it face down beside your zoo in your Bank pile. The card you subsequently sold is now worth as many Zoomas (the game currency) as is printed on the top left corner of the card. For example, the Elephant card has a value of four Zoomas and the Hot-dog Stand card has a value of three Zoomas. It is important to note that if you have to pay a Debt to an opponent, you must pay it with Zoomas or assets from your zoo (animals, add-ons, or full park sections). So there is a benefit in choosing to use one of your Labors to sell cards and have a decent sized bank balance. Otherwise you may find yourself paying off your Debt with animals from your zoo!
Play an action card. You may play an action card from your hand by simply placing it face up on the table in front of you and following its descriptive text.
Move a multicolored animal between sections of your zoo. You may move multicolored animals between different Park Sections in your zoo or start a new Park Section.
And that, my friends, is Zoomaka. Players continue to take turns back and forth until one player collects a total of four full Park Sections, each of which contains different colored/icon animals.
Now for the gameplay! Zoomaka is very easy to learn and to teach. We were honestly able to sit down and start playing within minutes, and had very few instances where we had to re-read the instructions. We subsequently feel confident that this is a game you can enjoy with children as well as with adults. The art is bright and colorful, and the card’s design is easy to read and to understand all of the card’s characteristics.
The game is advertised to last twenty-five minutes and we found that to be pretty accurate during our gameplay. Although we played it exclusively with two players, I don’t believe three or four player games will stray too far from that time frame. And although we played the print and play version of the game, backing Zoomaka will land you actual printed cards and a subsequent box as seen on their Kickstarter. They also advertise that the components will be printed in an Eco-Friendly manner to minimize their impact on the environment. The size of this game is also extremely compact, as it is just a deck of cards, making it very easy to travel with!
All in all we really enjoyed playing this game. It is a simple and straightforward set collection game with a little bit of take-that. We had fun collecting our animals and crafting our Park Sections around the animals we liked on a personal level, which made us enjoy it even more. The game plays relatively quick, so you can easily find the time to play a game of Zoomaka even if you don’t have a lot of time. This also lends itself to being a good game for newer gamers to help get them into gaming.
We hope this review of Zoomaka was helpful, and if what you’ve read peeks your interest, we recommend checking out Zoomaka’s campaign on the official Kickstarter website. There you’ll be able to see more game content and even pick up a copy for yourself.