The Zooloretto publisher
In the US RioGrande Games is the publisher of Zooloretto and the other games of the Zooloreto family.
But originally all the games were published in Germany by Abacusspiele. They are located close to Frankfurt/Main airport. Since 20 years they release card and board games, especially for families. With winning the "Spiel des Jahres" award for Zooloretto a dream came true for the owners Pia and Joe Nikisch. The connection is strong with the designer because of the many projects they made together over the year.
Foto: The owners Pia and Joe Nikisch
Animal encyclopedia -
al animals from Zooloretto
Their most memorable feature are their crooked beaks,
used to filter food out of fresh water. This pink bird prefers
to stand on only one leg to minimize heat loss.
This inhabitant of the dry regions of Asia and North Africa
has developed several features that make it easier to
conserve water. It is said that a camel can drink 200 liters of
water in only 15 minutes.
Along with tremendous climbing ability, the leopard boasts
excellent hearing and especially good eyesight. They can
hear very high tones that are beyond a person's hearing
capacity and see five to six times better than us at night.
The state animal of multiple African countries and the
largest land animal in the world. They can live up to 70 years
and weigh the same as 75 grown men.
This beloved loner from China lives primarily off of bamboo.
Unlike other bears, they cannot stand on their hind legs very
well and therefore prefer to sit while eating.
The best-known on the African great apes develops
tremendous physical abilities over its life. They can be twice
as strong as a trained athlete.
This African steppes inhabitant belongs to the horse family.
The stripes apparently provide camouflage against predators
and tse tse files, whose compound eyes apparently can't
distinguish the pattern.
This Australian marsupial crosses bush and grassland with 12 meter long leaps at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour. Surprisingly, however, it cannot move backwards.
Animal encyclopedia -
all animals from Aquaretto
This herbivore is related to pigs. It is the second largest land animal and can achieve the amazing speed of approximately 30 mph despite its weight, which can reach 10000 pounds and a length of up to 14 feet.
This pleasant mammal is considered by many the most intelligent animal and is particularly noted for its acrobatic ability and its social behavior. The dolphin can dive up to 1500 feet deep for as long as 15 minutes before returning to the surface to breathe.
This large whale can be up to 25 feet long and 20000 pounds. They prefer Arctic and Antarctic waters. This remarkably successful hunter is the fastest well-known sea animal capable of speeds up to 90 mph.
These armored animals have been paddling around for about 200 million years, mostly in tropical and subtropical seas. They follow the currents and, thus, range across large areas. They leave the water to reproduce by
laying eggs in the land areas along their long sea routes.
They are found primarily in the cold regions of the Southern Hemisphere and are very well adapted to that life. They are excellent divers, but are not fast swimmers. However, they can maneuver well and at a high rate to evade predators. They can also leap up to 7 feet from the water.
This loner from the far north has a great sense of smell and is very important in the traditions of the Inuit, who call them "Nanuk". Despite its size and its weight, the polar bear can easily float on the sea for as far as 40 miles.
These very social animals form large colonies and can be seen basking at numerous rocky islands in the sea. They are not the fastest swimmers, but among the most acrobatic in the water.
These creatures can reach 20 feet in length and are direct descendants of the Archosaur of the Trias. They are perfectly camouflaged and spend the majority of their lives in the water, often only showing eyes and nostrils above the surface.
Making of part 1
A quick view - from the prototype to the final game.
The different steps of development of the board.
At first the typical simple prototype design.
Second: the finished graphics.
Third: the restructured finished graphics.
A vending stall as part of the prototype and in the final game.
The design of the animals from the very start to the final game.
The first waggon.
Making of part 2
What you rarely can see if you look at a released game are the basic thoughts the publisher and the author did before the launch.
Therefore it might be interesting to have a little insight in the development of Zooloretto.
The success of a game is often strongly linked to the choice of theme.
Some themes are too special (Science Fiction), some can‘t be translated to a board or card game in a good way (Sports) or got simply used too often (Pirates).
Some themes only reach specific groups of people: historical themes f. e. often exclude women. War games are also mostly something for "boys".
But the world of animals is something that is well accepted by all people.
So, it is possible to get many people, either young or old, to join a game.
Don‘t underestimate the importance of a striking name: easy to learn, good to remember and originally it should be.
Perhaps the name already tells a little bit about the game.
Therefore we made a name contest with the public at Essen fair 2006 where "Zooloretto" was the winner.
The graphical design
Besides the technical outlines, trends and personal taste are important points that make the graphical design a complicated exercise.
In the filled shelves of the shops it is hard to be seen, good to have a clear and flashy motive on the box top. Also the basic colours are important. Accordingly to the colour psychology some colours are sympathic, agressive or defensive, a red box is more visible than a brown one. A too dark design can look like less fun.
For the game material it is often hard to get a good balance between good playability and optical atractivity.
To reach people that don‘t play often or even never you need besides an attractive theme and look also simple and short rules.
"Intuitive" is the key word because only that leads to a fast start and a harmonical game experience.
For the fun and anger factor you need "interaction": f. e. snatch someone the best cards away or spoil someones plans.
The real "complexity factor" of a game is always hard to define because all of the development team already know the game too good. Here only testing with people that don‘t know the game already helps. And it is always suprising how fast you overburden someone.
At game fairs and conventions the nearly completed games often get tested for the last times with the "game scene". That gives an impression how the group of the "hardcore" players accept the game or not.
So, development work and endless testing with different types of test groups are standard for publishers and designers, to fulfill the outlines and to optimize the game in all ways.
Because mostly the prototypes that get offered by designers to publishers are not ready to be published.
The exception proves the rule
Although most of the before mentioned points are correct a few games, that break these rules, have a good feedback or even because of that fact.
F. e. although "Starfarers of Catan" has a science fiction theme it is successful. And also "Space Dealer" is liked by people that play a lot because of the unique translation of the theme.
Making of part 3 - Aquaretto
Now it is finished, the first "real" expansion for Zooloretto. Time to breathe deeply :-)
A retrospect: There already existed a lot of mini expansions and the question was how the first big expansion should look like. There were mainly three ideas which got followed.
In one concept the zoo got expanded with additional animals, here also other zoos would take a special part (comment: this lead later to Zooloretto XXL).
Another concept demanded more than a typical expansion: It should be a stand-alone game as well. That was the thing the publisher and the designer interested most. But that was also the most ambitious.
The first box layout
The theme was found rapidly: water animals. Previously there were a lot of inquiries from zooloretto friends in that direction. And so fortunaltely this was fitting to our personal idea.
With the game system it was more complicate: In Zooloretto timing is very important, with simple addition everything gets out of balance. In combination both game should harmonize on the same level.
Although Zooloretto offers some tactical options the often players like to have more complexity. An interesting point if the final result wouldn‘t make the rules too complex.
But the biggest challenge was to find a simular "language": A Zooloretto player knows all the number of animals, the species, the value of a coin or of a specific tile. That should have been the same in the new game.
So, the bar was high. But finally all expectances got fulfilled: A stand-alone game and an expansion at the same time. The game system stays interesting for the normal player but offers also a clear plus for those who want more.
It can be rewarding to take the occasional risk. For example, choosing not to take
a partially-filled truck that is only attractive for yourself and revealing another tile
instead in the hopes that another useful tile will come of it.
Taking animals that you don't have room for in your enclosures at the moment isn't
the end of the world - especially if you still have the option of expanding your zoo.
However, you should try to have as few animal types as possible in your barn.
The money actions offer additional possibilities:
You can sometimes choose to take an 'undesirable' tile of an animal type you don't
want when you know that another player wants it. If that player buys it from your barn,
not only will you have fewer minus points, you'll also have made a coin in the process.
Above all, don't underestimate the advantages of 'remodeling'. You can, for example,
use timely exchanges to make money multiple times.
Variant for 2-5 players:
For 3 coins (2 coins for the bank, 1 coin for the player) you can purchase an animal from an opponents’ enclosure or a vending stall from an opponents’ zoo.
Important: the bought tile has to be put in the players’ barn!
Variant for 2 players:
More types of animals
Preparation: remove instead of 3 types just two types of animals.
Game play: Use the normal rules for Zooloretto for 2 players.
Brings more chaos to the game.
This variant shouldn't be combined with other expansions.
Variant for 2 players:
More expansion boards
Preparation: remove instead of 3 types just two types of animals. Place all 5 expansion boards in the middle.
Game play: Use the normal rules for Zooloretto for 2 players, except as described below:
Each expansion board from the middle can be bought for 3 coins. Theoretically a player can get all 5 boards.
The expansion boards are important and that leads often to a little race.
This variant shouldn't be combined with other expansions.