New York Zoo

New York Zoo: A Board Game Guide to Strategies, Rules, and Tips


New York Zoo is a game about building your own zoo and filling it with animals and attractions. It’s a tile-based game that mixes strategy and puzzle elements. The game was designed by Uwe Rosenberg, who’s known for creating other popular games like Nova Luna and Patchwork, which I’ve written about previously. He’s got a knack for tile-based and engaging games, that’s for sure. New York Zoo came out in 2020, and it’s been a hit and garnered high reviews with people who enjoy family-friendly games that make you think a bit.

The goal of the game is to fill your zoo board with animal enclosures and attractions before your opponents do. You do this by picking tiles and placing them on your board. There are also cute wooden animal pieces that you’ll be collecting and placing in your enclosures. It’s a race to see who can manage their space and animals the best. The game ends when someone fills up their board, and the person with the most complete zoo wins!

Quick Tip for New York Zoo

Always keep an eye on your opponents’ zoos. If you see them going for a certain animal, maybe grab it first if you can use it well. It’s all about timing and a bit of friendly competition!

Rules for playing New York Zoo

Let’s dive into the rules of New York Zoo. The game is for 1 to 5 players, and it usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes to play. Each player gets a zoo board, which is like a grid where you’ll be placing your tiles. The main board is where you’ll be picking tiles from, and it has a track that you’ll move an elephant piece along to determine what actions you can take.

Here’s a breakdown of the rules:

  1. On your turn, you move the elephant along the track a certain number of spaces based on the number of players.
  2. When you land on an animal space, you take one of those animals and put it in an enclosure in your zoo.
  3. If you land on a tile space, you pick one of the available tiles and place it in your zoo.
  4. When you fill an enclosure with animals, you can clear it out and put those animals back. This gives you an attraction tile to place in your zoo.
  5. There are breeding phases in the game. If you have two or more animals of the same type in an enclosure, they might breed and give you an extra animal.
  6. The game keeps going until someone fills up their zoo board completely.

There are some extra rules about how to place tiles and what to do if you can’t fit anything on your board, but those are the basics. The official rulebook has all the details you need to play.

Equipment and Setup for New York Zoo

For New York Zoo, you need the game box, which comes with a bunch of stuff:

  • A main board with the track for the elephant
  • Zoo boards for each player
  • Wooden animal pieces and enclosure tiles
  • Attraction tiles
  • The elephant piece that moves along the track

Setting up the game is pretty easy:

  1. Each player gets a zoo board.
  2. Put the main board in the middle where everyone can reach it.
  3. Place all the animal pieces and tiles next to the main board.
  4. Put the elephant on the starting space of the track.

If you don’t have the game, you could try making your own version with paper and some small objects for the animals, but it’s a lot more fun with the real thing.

How to Play New York Zoo and Game Mechanics

Playing New York Zoo is all about making smart choices and planning ahead. Here’s how it goes:

Key Game Mechanics

You’ve got to balance picking up animals with grabbing the right tiles for your zoo. The breeding mechanic is also key because it gives you more animals without taking extra turns.


After you’ve set up the game like I mentioned before, decide who goes first. Some people like to pick the person who last went to a zoo in real life.


On your turn, you move the elephant and choose either animals or a tile. You’re trying to fill up your zoo board as efficiently as possible. Remember, you can only take actions based on where the elephant lands.

End of the Game

The game ends when someone fills up their board. Then you see who has the most complete zoo, and that person wins!

Here’s a list of gameplay phases:

  1. Moving the Elephant: Decide how many spaces to move based on your strategy.
  2. Collecting Animals/Tiles: Choose what you need more, animals or tiles, and add them to your zoo.
  3. Breeding Phase: If the elephant passes a breeding symbol, check if you have any animals that can breed.
  4. Placing Attractions: When you clear an enclosure, you get to place an attraction tile.
  5. End of Turn: Check if you’ve completed your zoo or if you need to adjust your strategy.

How to Win at New York Zoo

Winning at New York Zoo is about being efficient and a bit lucky. Here are some tips:

  1. Plan your moves ahead of time. Look at what tiles and animals are coming up and think about what you’ll need.
  2. Try to get enclosures with animals that can breed. This gives you more animals for free.
  3. Keep an eye on your opponents. If they’re close to completing their zoo, you might need to speed up your strategy.
  4. Don’t forget about the attractions. They can fill up spaces on your board quickly.

There’s a balance between grabbing animals and tiles. Sometimes you need to take a tile that’s not perfect just to keep your zoo moving along. And remember, the game can end suddenly if someone fills up their board, so always be ready to make your final moves.

Best Strategies for playing New York Zoo board game

Here are some strategies to help you win:

  • Focus on getting big enclosures filled early on. They’re harder to place later in the game.
  • Watch the breeding carefully. If you can set up multiple enclosures to breed at the same time, that’s a big advantage.
  • Don’t get too caught up in one part of the game. You need a good mix of animals, tiles, and attractions.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes the game won’t go the way you planned, and you need to be able to change your strategy quickly.

Sneaky tactics can also help. For example, if you notice an opponent needs a certain animal, you might take it even if it’s not the best move for you, just to block them. It’s all fair in love and board games!


Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a tough spot. Maybe you can’t fit any tiles on your board, or you’re missing one animal to complete an enclosure. Here’s what you can do:

  • If you’re stuck with tiles, try to clear out an enclosure to get an attraction. It might fit where a tile won’t.
  • If you need one more animal, consider moving the elephant further to get what you need, even if it means skipping over other good stuff.

And if you’re doing well, keep pushing your advantage. Fill up those enclosures and get attractions down to make it harder for your opponents to catch up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions and answers:

Q: What happens if I can’t place a tile or animal?
A: You have to pass your turn. It’s tough, but it happens sometimes.
Q: Can I move animals between enclosures?
A: No, once an animal is placed, it stays there until the enclosure is cleared.
Q: How many times can animals breed?
A: As long as you have at least two animals in an enclosure when the breeding phase comes around, they can breed. There’s no limit.
Q: Can I play New York Zoo solo?
A: Yes, there are rules for a solo version of the game. It’s a good way to practice!
Q: What’s the best number of players for New York Zoo?
A: The game works well with any number from 1 to 5 players. It’s just a different experience with more or fewer people.

For more information about New York Zoo, check out the publisher’s website or look for reviews and playthroughs on YouTube. Here’s a link to the official rulebook for all the details:

New York Zoo Rulebook

New York Zoo Board Game Review [Video]