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Mesozooic Review

Quick Look: Mesozooic

Designer: Florian Fay
Artist: Atha Kanaani
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 20 min.

From the publisher:

The age of the dinosaurs is back — this time safely behind glass! Build the best dino zoo and impress your guests in a frantic, real-time puzzle game.

Dinosaurs are back and the world is clamoring to see them! In Mesozooic, it's your job as the director to plan and construct a zoo that will surpass any others. Fill your zoo with a variety of crowd-pleasing features: wow your visitors with towering dinosaur enclosures, entertain them with prehistoric attractions, and let them travel around the zoo in style on a network of monorails.

Over the course of three rounds, players draft the most desirable features into their hand, piece their zoo together in real-time, and score each layout to see who has created the best zoo.

After drafting your favorite features, you’ll have to organize them in your zoo—but things won’t always go as planned! Race against time by frantically sliding the cards one at a time to match up features and optimize your zoo’s layout. Complete dinosaur enclosures, connect monorail tracks, and maintain your attractions to score points. The zoo with the best layout will score the most points!

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review: Mesozooic

Overview and Theme:
Are you ready to build a zoo full of dinosaurs, amazing exhibits, and even a speedy monorail? Step into the world of Mesozooic!

Mesozooic is a light family card game that combines card drafting with slide puzzles to create a unique gaming experience. The cartoon dinos make the theme fun and kid-friendly, but it's the mechanics behind the scenes that make this a game I will want to play over and over again.

Components and Setup:
Mesozooic is a card game that includes 6 different colored director cards, 6 colored sets of 11 basic cards, 12 neutral cards, and 20 advanced cards for an even meatier experience. In addition, the box includes 6 reference cards, a score pad, and a 45-second timer. All the components are the high quality that I've come to expect from Z-Man Games: linen-finish cards, a nice two-piece box, and a charming timer with orange sand.

Setup takes a few minutes, as building the deck depends on two things: the number of players and whether you want the advanced cards in your deck. Each player chooses a reference card and a colored director card to put in front of them, and the matching set of 11 basic cards will go into the deck--so 4 players start with a 44-card deck, and so on. In addition, you'll add the neutral cards for the normal game, or follow the chart in the back of the rules to add a certain number of advanced cards instead.

Once you have the deck built, you're ready to play.

Game Play and Mechanics:
Mesozooic is played over the course of three rounds, and each round has two phases: Choose and Build.

In the Choose phase, you'll deal each player a hand of 11 cards. Each player chooses 2 cards to save and passes the rest of the hand to the next player. In this way, you'll continue to draft until each player is passed just 1 card, which they will keep, bringing them back to a hand of 11 cards total.

There are some great decisions to be made in the Choose phase, since different types of cards will score differently. Enclosures only score when they are complete (a left half with a right, or a top half with a bottom). Monorails score for each place where the monorail on one card connects to the monorail on another. Attractions score for each truck they're next to, and Topiaries score 1 point no matter where they are. Pay attention to what you're picking up, since you don't want to wind up with a hand full of left-halves or a bunch of trucks but no attractions!

Next, prepare for the Build phase. Each player deals their 11 cards out onto the table in 3 rows of cards (4, 4, and 3 with an empty spot in the lower right corner).  Take a moment to look over your zoo, and then flip the timer to begin!

Maneuver your cards on the grid as if you were playing with an old-fashioned slide puzzle. You can only use one hand, you can only slide cards into the empty spot, and you can never lift or rotate a card.

You have 45 seconds to make the most of the cards you have drafted by completing enclosures, linking up monorails, and putting trucks near attractions. When the time is up, all players stop sliding their cards and add their Director into the spot that's empty.

The Build phase is busy, mind melting fun as you scurry to adjust things--do I have time to move this truck and still put my enclosure back together before the time runs out? Lots of great logic, dexterity, and decision-making skills put to the test here.

Time to score for the round--jot down scores on the score pad as you add them up.

Once the round has been scored, set the Directors aside, collect the rest of the cards back into the deck, and start a new round.

The game continues for 3 rounds, and at the end, you keep your two highest scores to find your total.  (Or, you can adjust for difficulty by having some players total their two lower scores--or play with their non-dominant hand, or take a five second penalty at the beginning of each Build phase.)

Families can make the game a little more difficult by adding in the advanced cards mentioned above, which include five new types of locations, each with their own way to score, or can make the game a little easier by skipping steps, reducing grid size, and/or doubling the time you have to build.  As a homeschooling mom who plays games with kids and adults of all ages and abilities, I really appreciate the effort of the designer and publisher to include these little tweaks that you can use to make the game experience just right for you.

The Good:
Mesozooic is polished, gorgeous, goofy, and fun. It is a solid game in a tight package. Combining the drafting mechanism (one of our favorites) with the slide puzzle is something we've never seen in a game before, so it definitely makes Mesozooic stand out from the crowd. As soon as we finished playing, we were clamoring to play again. The quick play time makes that easy to arrange, especially if you already have the deck set up from the first game. Having ways to make the game easier or harder makes it a great fit for groups of all types.

The Bad:
There's not much we don't like about Mesozooic! Our only caveat is that frequently, small box games are the ones we grab for on-the-go play, but because Mesozooic needs enough table space for each player to have a 3x4 grid of cards, it's not great for traveling or taking to restaurants or waiting rooms. As long as you have a big table handy, though, it's a great little game.

Players Who Like:
Players who like light drafting games like Sushi Go or Alienation, or who enjoy puzzle games like Mondo or Gearworks, will likely enjoy Mesozooic.

Final Thoughts:
Mesozooic was a big hit with our family!  A fun, family-friendly theme in a little box with gorgeous artwork and a completely unique mash up of mechanisms, Mesozooic has become an instant favorite and earns a place of pride on our most-played-games shelf.

Check out Mesozooic on:


About the Author:

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
Mesozooic Review Mesozooic Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on December 06, 2018 Rating: 5

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