In O Zoo le Mio the players are competing zookeepers, trying to attract the biggest crowds to their zoo by virtue of having the best attractions.
Everyone begins with a zoo entrance – a small screen behind which they hide 8 coins. The game takes place over five ‘years’ with each round representing a single year. In each round five zoo tiles are flipped face-up and auctioned off one by one. Players choose how many coins to bid before everyone reveals their bid simultaneously. The winner pays the money to the bank and takes the tile, adding it to their zoo and making sure the paths on each tile aren’t broken.
The tiles show a number of different animal types on them with a number of stars that show how attractive the animals are to potential zoo-goers. Keeping an eye on the stars is important, as the player who attracts the most visitors will win the game.
After all tiles have been auctioned off and placed in the zoos (there is an easy-to-follow tie-breaker system on matching highest bids) the visitors come. The players with the most stars of a colour in their zoo will attract the matching colour of visitor – two to the winner in that category, and one to second place. The player with the most bushes will also get two trees and the second-placed player will get one tree. In addition, any time a player forms a circular path in their zoo, they get to place a park bench there.
Scoring couldn’t be easier: you simply add up all the stuff in your zoo (visitors, trees, benches) and multiply them by the round number – x1 for round one, x2 for round two and so on. This means it’s possible to come back from a shaky start to win rather convincingly if you have strong showings on rounds 4 and 5. And after the fifth year, the five rounds are totalled up and the player with the most points wins.
I think O Zoo le Mio is a little gem. It takes the tile-laying aspect of Carcassonne and neatly adds in the bidding element for each tile. The way the scoring works favours clusters of the same colour star (i.e. your five red stars clustered together will beat another players six red stars in two groups of three) which means placing your tiles is key: try and group the same stars together, or go for that circular path and get a bench to add to your zoo? The little wooden pieces add a tactile element that kids love, but the game is deep enough to engage adults too.
You can't steal from each other and there's no blind luck to be frustrated by. Fragile souls could potentially be frustrated by being outbid, but overall the game has a friendly feel to it.
Very minimal - everyone is making their bids at the same time, so the only small pauses will be if someone needs a moment to decide where best to add their tile to their zoo.
Low. The thing that tingles your brain is judging how much to bid, but as it's ultimately a mystery (usually, anyway) there's nothing too taxing here.
The tiles come out randomly, and the blind bidding system means you just can't know for sure what's coming next. Not a great game for two players, but very replayable with three or four.