New York Zoo: Finding a Way to Fit an Elephant Everywhere

June 28, 2021 | Sessions | 0 comments

Build a bustling zoo filled with attractions and enclosures to house meerkats, penguins, and more in New York Zoo.

Animals?! It’s a rarity when cute creatures don’t call out to me, which is why I simply had to scoop up New York Zoo as soon as I found a copy. This was an interesting mix because the animals were simply perfect, yet polyomino games don’t often work for me. Still, there was a new challenge ahead and a new ruleset to learn. Off to the world of animals!

Game Overview

Game Name: New York Zoo
Publication Year:
Uwe Rosenberg
Felix Wermke
Publisher: Capstone Games
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game

So many animals, indeed! The goal is to use tiles to fill in all the spaces within a zoo. Enclosures house animals and as spaces are landed on or passed, more of them appear. A completed enclosure allows an attraction tile to take shape, filling in more spaces. It’s a creature kind of party!

A Colorful Collection of Animal Meeples in New York Zoo

First Play

June 24, 2021



Latest Play

June 24, 2021



Setup Time

5 Minutes

Lifetime Plays


Play Time

20 Minutes


High Score



Game Area

32" x 18"


Low Score


Peering Out

The solo player board is double-sided, so I stuck with the smaller side to begin with a flamingo and meerkat.

How inquisitive they looked, particularly the latter! These houses could be used in certain ways, although it would be important to move the animals out and into enclosures.

My biggest gripe was the brochure-style rulebook I had to keep fumbling open to check a couple of details. Goodness!

Yet it was all rather intuitive and didn’t require too much thought. I had to choose carefully and fill in all the spaces in a relatively quick manner. There was a bit of a timer…

Filling the Starting Houses with Inquisitive Animals in New York Zoo

It’s an Elephant!

The temptation was too great, even though I desperately wanted to hide this fantastic elephant. Ha ha!

I later learned that I missed out on the special pre-order variety with screen-printed details. Well. My details are just so stealthy you can’t see them. So THERE!

Although the elephant wasn’t going to be in an enclosure, she marked the passage of turns on an unusual turn tracker board. It took me a moment to see the spaces.

It would all make sense as I started to play. Still, this arrangement seemed to have unnecessary cutouts.

A Majestic and Not-So-Stealthy Round Tracker in New York Zoo

Considering the Spaces

The elephant could move to spaces with blue backgrounds or enclosures. For the former, I could pick up the depicted animals or 1 of any type. Enclosures were simply added.

Well, maybe it wasn’t as simple as that! Enclosure tiles were all randomized and came in different shapes and sizes. They could bring in new animals, too.

All the while, the elephant could only move a certain number of steps. So I had to think things through.

It made sense, although I was seeing the limitations of the polyominoes. Still not exactly my jam, but that’s OK!

Planning Ahead to Move Around the Track in New York Zoo

Filling Up the Zoo

Not far in, I had a pretty nice setup! The enclosures fit together nicely, even though I had the option of spreading out at any time. And the animals! So many to see!

I wasn’t exactly in the best of spots, though, since any breeding spaces weren’t completely utilized. Each enclosure could only result in 1 new animal. No more.

My better strategy might have been to split up the groups into more enclosures to make the most of them all.

Regardless, though, I enjoyed working through the tiles and planning my moves several turns in advance.

Filling Up Many Different Enclosures in New York Zoo

A Tiny Masterpiece

Quite a successful zoo for my very first outing! I made the most of the enclosures and didn’t need too many of the attraction tiles to fill in the gaps. So many roller coasters!

This was a relaxing sort of time and a little more in-depth than some of the other games I could compare it to. Nice.

I realized I forgot about the bonus breeding action in the solo game, which would have helped a lot! No matter: I still ended before the elephant finished its second lap.

A game doesn’t have to be intricate to be enjoyable. This certainly wasn’t going to overload my brain, thankfully!

A Happy and Complete Zoo from New York Zoo

Welcome Home

So I played again, not doing as well as I would have liked, yet my zoo was still a successful little enterprise. It was just missing one thing. Not a roller coaster or carousel…

Alright. Was this a legal move? No, not at all. Ha ha! Yet after trudging around the round tracker for a long time, I decided to give all the empty enclosures to the elephant.

Perfect! She towered over everything, so I classified her as an attraction all her own. That’s an elephant for you!

Next time, I’ll likely want to try out the other side of the player board to see how that changes the game.

Giving the Elephant a Proper Home in New York Zoo

Session Overview

Play Number: 1 and 2
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Outcome: 3 and 0 (2 Losses)

I got better at animal breeding this time but fell apart a little bit in regards to the enclosures. My overall feeling was moderately positive, although I didn’t get as much out of it as I hoped for. Somehow, I thought this might remind me of SimPark, a golden video game from the late 90s. Not quite, although it was still a fun sort of time! Keep that idea in mind that polyomino games and I don’t quite mesh, and this was still surprisingly good. Plus… Animals!

Making All the Animals Feel at Home in New York Zoo


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • All of the components are bright and vibrant from the enclosures to the animals, which are easy to identify.
  • Finding the optimal route to a full player board takes careful planning that can involve multi-turn strategizing.
  • Although there is a definite challenge, the overall game experience is very relaxing and fun with the animals.
  • Limitations on the number of spaces to move call for important decisions about what to take or give up.
  • Some nuanced strategies exist in planning out who to add to enclosures and the best ways to get more animals.
  • The attraction tiles range from small food stalls to giant roller coasters, adding a bit of charm to every zoo.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • It might be a personal preference, but the brochure-style rulebook makes it annoying to look at some pages.
  • Although the tile bays make some sense, the cutout round tracker makes it a little hard to see the valid spaces.
  • Setup can be a bit tricky because the different enclosures aren’t easy to tell apart with the slight color variations.
  • There is little variety since this is an optimization puzzle, yet the mechanics aren’t gripping enough to play a lot.

More New York Zoo

Explore related posts about New York Zoo!

Victory Conditions

Score 5+ Points

  • Overall Goal Progress 0% 0%

Goals and Milestones


Score at least 5 points.

Continue the Conversation

Have you played New York Zoo? What are some of your favorite aspects of it? The wooden animal meeples are adorable and add a lot of character! Some enclosures can get downright crowded… Especially if you’re like me and put the elephant where it doesn’t belong. Ha ha! This may not be my favorite game, yet it ranks up there as a relaxing one.


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