The board game for Zoo Tycoon mixes many mechanisms, should rank somewhere in the area between connoisseur and expert game. And: It focuses on a nature conservation aspect in zoological gardens as a fixed part of the game - without that it doesn't work. The title will be financed by crowdfunding. 

The Swiss publisher Treecer wants to make a board game out of the more than 20-year-old video game brand Zoo Tycoon - and it could actually succeed. Even the topic is one that you can call the evergreen of the games industry with a clear conscience. There are regular video games related to the development of animal parks, and in the board game segment, too, fans often come across zoos and animal care. Sometimes the themed games literally go through the roof: With Zooloretto, Michael Schacht secured his place in the author Olympus in 2007, recently it was Mathias Wigge and the publisher Feuerland Spiele who Nova Ark turned into a great success. 

Well dare Treecer with that Zoo Tycoon board game a push: You not only use a popular topic, but also a well-known brand. The combination could prove to be a hit. For board game fans in particular, however, the question arises: is there a need for a zoo tycoon when Arche Nova already exists? The Swiss give some insights into what they do and the upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Zoo Tycoon: The Board Game.

Zoo Tycoon: Struggling for the brand at Microsoft

Just make a board game about Zoo Tycoon - it's not that easy, because there's a license behind it. And it becomes even less easy because of all companies, the giant Microsoft, is the rights holder. Most recently, in 2017, Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection was a completely revamped version of the management game with 4K resolution, HDR and 60 FPS support for the Xbox One X. For the Swiss publisher Treecer, there is initially a process behind the idea.

Where did the idea come from? For Marc Dür and Samuel Luterbacher, Zoo Tycoon was “one of their favorite childhood games,” they reveal. “Breeding small pixel animals, creatively designing your own zoo et cetere, what’s not to like about it as a child?”. So it was obvious to ask Microsoft about the Zoo Tycoon brand when they started developing a zoo board game. Above all, one piece of information can be read from this: the game idea was there first, the brand came later as a candy on top. 

Many animal figures and bright colors, that smells suspiciously like a family game. But it's not, as the makers confirm: The level of difficulty of Zoo Tycoon: The Board Game is "between connoisseur and expert game". Treecer also has good news in terms of replayability. "High" it is - "you really have to play a lot before it becomes almost repetitive," says Marc Dür. The change in supply and demand in the zoo market is different every time, and other factors also bring variation into play, such as event and donor cards. “And since there are over 30 species of animals in the game to use in different strategies, there's a lot to explore,” says Marc.

zoo tycoon board game table

A lot will happen on the gaming table: figures, cards, game boards - and it will be as colorful as in the template. Image: Treecer

Anyway, you mix a lot for the Zoo Tycoon board game. The core mechanisms? "It's difficult to say, because there are so many mechanisms that come together here," explains Marc Dür. So there is no standard mechanic, instead there is a mix of tile placement, a very small amount of worker placement, and it has a market mechanic. "Set Collection is also available," says Dür.

The equipment is comprehensive, such as around 230 animal figures. The price for the Kickstarter campaign will probably still be in line with market practice: "A price of between 79 and 84 Swiss francs is currently planned," the author informs us. That's the equivalent of between 82 and 88 euros. As is known for crowdfunding projects, supporters will be able to choose: the game is available in its standard version or as a "premium version with printed animal meeples". 

In any case, Treecer wants to actively support the campaign, and fans can expect a “well-run campaign with reliable communication”. There should be bi-weekly updates – “as in all our past campaigns”, according to Marc Dür – answers to questions should be given within 24 hours. 

Zoo Tycoon with solo mode?

And how about the trend towards solo mechanics as a sidekick in Zoo Tycoon? That is uncertain, in any case it will not be able to come from the two authors themselves: "Since I and Samuel have never played a game solo, we have too little experience in this field to develop a solo mode ourselves," explains Marc Dür. Nevertheless, they have the alternative on the screen: they are in contact with “some developers who have more experience in this field”. It could therefore have a solo mode, but you don't want to guarantee that. "Mechanically, the game would definitely work solo."

If you look at Treecer's portfolio and do research on their website, you will see one thing above all: closeness to nature. It's about resources, the climate, nature, life, in Darwin's Choice it's ultimately about evolution. It is a focus of the publishing house: the two Swiss see the topics as “central to our publishing house” – this is “our niche and that is why all our products will always be close to nature”.

Basically it's simple. Marc Dür: "As a French fries shop makes fries, we make nature games". For the Swiss, sustainable production is also part of it. It's not that complicated and usually just a question of cost. According to Marc Dür, there are very few components for which there is no sustainable or renewable solution. “If you want as a publisher, you can, it's never a question of ability. For example, every major manufacturer offers FSC certification. Other publishers simply save here.”

zoo tycoon board game cards

Countless animals will be nurtured and cared for in Zoo Tycoon. Image: Treecer

Speaking of Darwin's Choice. A learning effect is inherent in the board game; the content conveyed has added value for the players. In the best-case scenario, knowledge is also to be imparted with the Zoo Tycoon board game. Which? "On the one hand, the way zoos work is shown and the challenges they encounter in everyday life, and then of course you learn a lot about the animal species in the game," explains Dür. Then it's about which biome the animals live in or whether they are loners or group animals. "The game is implemented very thematically, that means it's not an abstract game, you automatically learn more about the topic in question".

With the basic theme of the zoo, the Swiss dare to approach a setting that is familiar – and often controversial – from everyday life. Zoos are no longer understood as the ideal world of animals. It is hardly surprising that Marc Dür, of all people, is an author and an expert in the field: “During my student days, I worked as an intern at Zoo Zurich for six months at the zoo information desk and wrote my bachelor’s and master’s thesis on zoo topics”.

His scientific work revolved around a central question: do zoos have an educational effect? A quantitative survey of educational success using the example of Zurich Zoo was the subject of research. Marc Dür states that he has a “very real picture of zoos” and “not an embellished one”. He even sees himself as rather zoocritical. Dür: "In my opinion, well-managed, scientific zoos that not only offer entertainment can do good things, but many zoos are still a long way from that". In Zoo Tycoon you can find such an approach in a playful way.

The "optimal case", in which zoos not only bring entertainment, "but we demand in this game", says Dür. The zoo that wins has the highest value in terms of popularity and nature conservation. "So you can't just neglect conservation or you won't win the game," says the author. In addition, the minimum requirements for animal satisfaction are very good for all species, even at the lowest level, which means "you can't treat your animals badly in our game, that's not possible".

The two Swiss like to play themselves, albeit much less often than before due to their work on the board game. "We played a lot with our families at home," says Dür. The passion for board games comes from the parents. On the table, however, more classic things end up: Alhambra, Taboo, the settlers in the two-player version or chess. "Since we've been developing games ourselves, however, playing in our free time has been reduced," says Marc Dür. If you test or play your own games or those of others all day long, you need something different in your free time”.

The crowdfunding campaign too Zoo Tycoon: The Board Game is available on Kickstarter Expected to go live on October 25th. The board game is aimed at up to four players with a playing time of around 120 minutes. 

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Last updated on 1.12.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API