Players: 2-5 Ages: 8+ Game Time: 15 mins
#Zuuli is a card drafting game by Unfringed that is currently live on Kickstarter (already doing well since going live; it is already fully funded and live until October 10 2021 9:00 PM). This visual treat comes to us neatly packaged ready for instant play. It's a quick to play game, lasting only three rounds (years), and has a drafting feature I believe is unique to Zuuli where you can tweak cards currently in play to peak efficiency, to score you the most points to hopefully bring you the win.
This game plays extremely well for a card drafting game, each player draws cards and simultaneously builds zoos based on the cards drawn and exchanged during the initial card drawing (dependant on number of players). Our playtest was between two players. For this player count, you draw nine cards for the first year. You then proceed to pick one card and place it face down until the other player has picked, you then each reveal the picked card and then pass the cards to the other player and so on until you have picked all your cards; simple enough right? This is where strategy comes in with #Zuuli, as you could deliberately pick cards that you think the other player needs, and inherently change the game dynamic.
Play then continues to the "Develop Zoo Phase", and you can now build new enclosures, place animals (following the enclosure rules) and install upgrades.
Enclosures have spaces for a set number of animals and habitats that indicate the types of animals that can be played in that habitat. Animals can take up more than one space in enclosures. Take great care to make sure that no Fierce animals end up in the same enclosure as a Friendly, as this cannot happen, especially when they are not of the same name.
Once you have setup your initial enclosures, you then go to the "End of Year" phase, where no more cards can be played or moved! You then need to do a little bit of maths by adding up the total value of Animals from the top right corner of the cards, remembering to check the Animal game text for any additions, and then multiply that total by the Enclosure multiplier. Make a note of the score. You have now played a full year, and there are three years of play in total. That's it, it is that simple. If at the end of the three years of play you have a tie for the highest combined score, you then go to who has the most Animals in the zoo.
Now the unique aspect of this game is that during the "Develop Zoo Phase" you can alter cards you have played, move around Animals to different enclosures as long as the placement rules are adhered to (capacity, enough space etc). This means you can fully optimise your scoring potential (as you could have drawn better habitats more suited to your animals). However, if you do not place all your animals in your enclosures during the build phase these do give you a negative score for having animals loose from the enclosures.
The card quality for this is fairly good, the cards have a linen finish which should bode well since this game is for anyone 8+ they should stand up to spillages. I for one would always sleeve up my cards, and will definitely do so since I can see Zuuli being a popular game in our household. The art work is what makes this game as the cutesy style will appeal and draw people in. The simplistic style is perfect for this game as I think photo realistic wouldn't be as effective. Overall a good choice from the game's designer.
It's highly replayable and quick to play or learn. I especially like the ability to move cards around that you have already played, as this can lead to a big swing in the score. In terms of other games like this (#SushiGo comes to mind) you do not have the flexibility to build and adapt between rounds which in my mind makes this a clear winner. The lightweight easy to understand rules make this very easy to teach, and also makes this a great game for children to improve their maths skills. Fun for the entire family.
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The minor negative point is very minor with this game (maybe resolved since this is a prototype) - the box. I am a card gamer and know that, no matter the quality of the card stock, they still get damaged and scratched with large amounts of play (I can see this happening). I will without a doubt want to sleeve up these cards and the box currently will not allow storage of the cards once sleeved. That's it, otherwise this is a perfect game. It is one definitely going to make it on a plane, train, or even my coffee table as its what we call here at #doalg an amuse bouche game!
Overall I feel Zuuli is an excellent game, hence me giving it our highest accolade by scoring it a six! A clear and present gateway card game that's easy for anyone to learn, with multiple levels of gameplay.
Your friendly founder