Take an Animal-Filled Raft Ride With ‘Zoowaboo’

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'Zoowaboo' box cover

Ever wonder how many animals you could cram onto a raft? In Zoowaboo you can find out!

What Is Zoowaboo?

Zoowaboo is a kids game for 2-4 players, ages 5+, that plays in 20-30 minutes. The game mechanics include spacial estimation, timed puzzle-solving, and a little bit of push-your-luck. The designer is Carlo A. Rossi and the publisher is Pegasus Games (Pegasus Spiele).

Zoowaboo Components

Inside the box you will find:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 6 Cardboard rafts
  • 30 Wooden animal meeples (3 of each type)
  • 30 Animal cards (also 3 of each type)
  • 18 Cardboard winning point chips
  • 4 “Yes” cardboard chips
  • 4 “No” cardboard chips
  • 1 Hourglass timer

Like any quality kids game should be, the components are solidly made with thick cardboard and wooden pieces to endure handling by little hands. While the point chips and “Yes” / “No” chips are simple circular tokens, it is the raft tiles and animal meeples that are the real draw of the game. Each raft presents a unique shape cut out of its center, providing a new challenge each round and upping the replayability value. And I love the animal meeples, which come in different colors and clearly look like the animals they are trying to represent. Lastly, I really enjoyed the artwork style, which is cute and kid-friendly. There is even a little mouse sailor that appears throughout the game on the “Yes” / “No” chips, as well as doing various activities on the raft tiles.

'Zoowaboo' components. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas
‘Zoowaboo’ components are colorful and the animal artwork is wonderful. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas
Each raft provides a new shape to fit the meeples into. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas
Animal cards and meeples. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

How to Play Zoowaboo

Setup

Select one of the raft tiles and set it in the center of the table. Then shuffle and deal out ten animal cards, placing them face up around the raft. Put the corresponding meeple on each one. Lastly, give each player a “Yes” and “No” chip.

Game setup. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Player Turn

Zoowaboo is played over six rounds, using a new raft tile each round. At the beginning of the round, secretly, each player will decide whether they think that they can fit the revealed animals on the raft and will choose either their “Yes” or “No” chip. Then everyone will reveal their answers simultaneously. Depending on the responses, you will do the following:

  • Everyone said “Yes” – Reveal a new animal card and add it along with its corresponding meeple to the other animals waiting to board the raft.
  • Everyone said “No” – Replace one of the animal cards with a new card. If the group all responds “No” three times in a row, then start over with ten new animals.
  • Mixed – If some of the players said “Yes” and some said “No”, then the players who responded “Yes” work together to try and get all the revealed animals on the raft within the time limit, kept by the hourglass. This is approximately one minute.

There is one criterion when fitting the animals into the raft. The meeples must lay flat on their sides. They cannot be standing, leaning, or stacked.

Scoring

If the “Yes” players successfully fit all the animals on the raft, they receive points equal to the number of that round. For example, one point for round one, two for round two, and so on. Otherwise, the “No” players get the points. At the end of six rounds, you tally the points and the player with the most points wins.

All the animals fit! Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Why You Should Play Zoowaboo

There are many kid games available, but Zoowaboo is the first one I have played that introduces kids to the idea of spatial analysis. Trying to visually determine whether the animals shown will fit on the raft is a real challenge. In fact, when playing for the first time, there was definitely some trial and error to figure out how many animals could actually fit on the raft. In the first few rounds, we would end the “Yes” / “No” phase too soon and had no problem getting all the animals aboard with room to spare. The challenge of Zoowaboo is to identify where that point is between fitting the animals on the raft or being too full. That requires you to press your luck to the point where you can get your opponent to say yes, but not be able to make the puzzle fit, or hope that they say no and then you twist and turn those pieces just right to squeeze them all in there. As you play, you will start to realize how some of the animals fit better together in order to take up less space. I found the spatial analysis mechanic combined with the puzzle-solving piece to be a fresh game experience.

In fact, while Zoowaboo is meant to be a competitive game, it can also just be a fun solo or cooperative puzzle game. Instead of competing, you can just as easily sit down and see how many animals you can cram onto each raft. Can you get more by using different animal types or by rearranging them in a different pattern? In the end, even if playing competitively, I found that the scoring was unnecessary, especially while playing with younger kids. The fun came from trying to push each other to get more and more animals on the raft and then to see if the other person could actually do it.

In summary, I found Zoowaboo to be an enjoyable activity to do with my kids. We were able to quickly set up the game and run through all six rounds in under a half-hour. The unique animal meeples and cute animal artwork instantly drew them in while the variability from one raft tile to the next provided a new challenge every round. We did keep score, but in the end, our enjoyment was in the puzzle-solving aspect of the game and not who won. So if you are looking for a unique game to play with your children, give Zoowaboo a try and let me know what you think.

Give ‘Zoowaboo’ a try and see if it’s a thumbs-up or down for your family. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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