O Zoo Le Mio is a game that is a new version of the earlier released ZooSim. The major changes in this version is that instead of being packaged in a tube it is in a box, and the scoring pieces are identified much easier. The whole object of this game (as it was in ZooSim as well) is to build a zoo that will attract the most visitors to your park and therefore earn you the most points. It is a game for two to four players and has no similarity to the computer zoo simulation games. While it is different, the closest types I could compare this to is tile building games like Carcassonne. People that enjoy puzzle building and game playing I think will choose this as one of their favorite games in their collection.
There are 25 tile pieces in the game and these are what drives the game. Each round five of these pieces are auctioned off, one at a time in a blind auction. The order goes: everyone makes a blind bid on the piece up for auction; the winner pays for the auction; the winner places the piece in their zoo; a quick analysis is made to determine if visitors should be moved around the zoos. This continues for each of the five pieces in the round. Each round will have a new five pieces up for auction.
At the beginning of the game everyone starts with a certain number of coins. At the end of each round everyone earns “income” which is one coin for each tile in their zoo. Before going over the scoring, I will explain how pieces must be played. Your zoo is like a puzzle, you must connect the paths when adding pieces. Also it is to your extreme advantage if you try to keep all your animals that are the same together as this will maximize your zoo’s appeal. You will notice some pieces have trees on them and others have animals. You ultimate goal is to have more on a type of animal than your opponents do based on the star values on the tile. The higher the star value of your animals the more likely you are to attract visitors.
Visitors are the scoring mechanism of the game, but they are only scored at the end of every round. In the game there are 5 different colors which correlate with the 5 different animal attractions. There are also 3 bench pieces and three trees. After a piece is played, the zoos are compared. Anyone with the highest star level of an animal gets two visitors of that color and 2nd place gets 1 piece. Keep in mind these visitors can (and will!) change many times during the round and game. Whoever has the most number of trees gets two visitors marked with trees pieces, and second place gets one. Finally, the bench pieces are giving to a player anytime they complete a loop in their zoo, and benches are the only scoring pieces that can not switch zoos. While the scoring pieces can change zoos throughout the round, the scoring is not finalized until the end of each round. At the end of round 1 each scoring pieces is worth a point, then after round 2 they are worth 2 each, round 3 worth 3 points each, up to round 5 where each scoring piece is worth 5 points.
As you can see, having the scoring pieces at the end of each round is the key, and having them at the end of round five is especially important. The more tiles you have at the end of each round, the more money you get to start a new round, but remember players keep their money from round to round as well. This makes for some interesting decisions, with the auctions being blind auctions for the pieces.
Honestly, this is a great game, it has a nice theme to it, and has many improvements from the original ZooSim game. I think the new name also helps people realize it’s not a true simulation game. As I stated earlier, it’s a great game for people that like puzzles and games. Anyone that enjoys the Carcassonne series should give this game a chance. The only real negative is the cost, it will run you in the $25 range, which is slightly above what Carcassonne can be found for.