We Bought a Zoo

October 29, 2021 - 12:04pm

Ark Nova is a game where one to four players compete to create the most successful zoo. The measures of success for your zoo are Appeal and Conservation. These characteristics start at opposite ends of the same track, and advance toward each other. When one player's Appeal and Conservation enter the same scoring area on the track or pass each other, the end game is triggered. 

Each player receives a zoo map of hexagonal spaces. They can build tiles on their zoo, which represent enclosures of various sizes to hold animals, kiosks, or pavillions. Once a player has built an enclosure, they can play an animal card to put that animal into the enclosure at their zoo. Animals have requirements for what size enclosure they need, as well as whether that enclosure needs to be adjacent to rock and/or water spaces on the zoo map. Having animals at your zoo will increase your zoo's Appeal. Conservation primarily is advanced by completing public conservation projects. These are accomplished by having specific types of animals in your zoo (for example, three reptiles) or by releasing specific types of animals from your zoo back into the wild. 

Each turn, you take one of five actions:

  • Cards: gain cards into your hand. Cards can be Animals, Sponsors, or Conservation Projects
  • Build: place a tile onto your zoo map. Tiles can be enclosures of various sizes, kiosks, or pavillions. 
  • Animals: add an animal card to an empty enclosure. Animals have specific enclosure requirements and cost money.
  • Association: send a worker to the central Association action board to (1) increase the number of cards from the display you may choose from when gaining cards, (2) decrease the cost of playing animals from a certain continent, or (3) increase your maximum hand size.
  • Sponsor: play a Sponsor card, which provide one-time benefits, recurring effects, or end-game scoring, and could include special building tiles.

Each action is represented by a card, which can be upgraded. The action cards are arranged under your zoo map in spaces designated one through five. When you take an action, you move the selected action card to space number one and slide other cards to the right, so there is one card in each action space. The strength of your action is based on the action space the card is in when you select it, and the higher the better. This incentivizes players to be strategic in sequencing their actions from turn to turn, to get the most bang for their buck. 

Ark Nova debuted at Essen, published by Feuerland Spiele, and is published outside of Europe by Capstone Games. It is designed by Mathias Wigge, with art by Loïc BilliauDennis Lohausen, and Steffen Bieker. Capstone Games currently is accepting pre-orders for Ark Nova, which is expected to be available in Asia in November 2021, in Australia and New Zealand in December 2021, and in North America in February 2022.