Meeple Mountain

In the world of competitive sports, flicking and dexterity games are an untapped market. “This should not be so!” said Osprey Games and designer Duncan Molloy, and thus was born Zoo Ball. Equal parts Redwall and traditional American football, Zoo Ball is a chaotic, zany, flicking extravaganza that you can learn in minutes, and play in a quarter of an hour. Does that catch your attention? Then read our review of Zoo Ball for details and pics!

The teams face off

The first thing you’ll notice when picking up Zoo Ball is that the box is well designed, with that distinct “open a book” style that Osprey Games are known for. The second thing you’ll notice is the weight…it’s light. That’s because there’s not much in the box. Therein lies one of the strengths of the game. All you’ll find inside is a thin slippery mat, and 16 wooden discs in red, navy, blue, and white. The discs come plain, but the game includes a sheet of stickers with some really great animal illustrations.

Animal illustrations

Each “team” will get 3 white stickers and one yellow sticker. The sticker colors indicate that piece’s position during your games. Pieces with white stickers are “blockers”, while the pieces with yellow stickers are scoring markers.

Setup is easy, simply unfold the mat, and have each player select a set of 4 matching colored pieces. In a 2 player game turn the play mat so that the sides with the circle goals are facing each player. In a 3 or 4 player game each player will station themselves at the corner matching their color.

Read team is lined up

The red team is lined up for a four player game.

The goal of the game is to be the first to hit the scoring limit. It really be whatever you like. Want a longer game go for 7, while shorter games can be first to 3.

The read team animals

There’s honestly not much more to say about the gameplay than that, so let’s include a video example of the flicking, then I’ll get to my thoughts about the game.

Zoo Ball isn’t a deep game, in fact it’s about as shallow as you can get. You flick some discs and you laugh. Rinse, and repeat until you’re bored. But that’s the genius of Zoo Ball. It doesn’t try to be something that it’s not, nor does it try to overstay its welcome. Play light-hearted games with your kids and you’ll be laughing out loud within minutes. Play fiercely competitive games with your adult friends and chase the discs all over the room because you’re taking it so seriously. Zoo Ball doesn’t care, Zoo Ball just loves you regardless.

I’ve played two player games, and four player games, and I’d say that the two player games are a little more strategic and fun, whereas the four player games are just fun mass chaos. Play subtly and sneak in goals while your more competitive teammates are going head to head.

Two player setup

The red team lined up for a two player game.

That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have some issues. The mat is close to 3ft square so it has to be folded. The fabric it’s made from doesn’t tolerate folding well so there are peaks and valleys when it’s laid on the table. Interestingly enough rhese minor blemishes actually offer strategic challenges and benefits. Jump over other pieces, or use the landscape to your advantage.

The main issue is one of color; the pieces are relatively thin, about ¼ inch tall. And because none of the animals match, it can be sometimes hard to determine which piece is yours, especially since Osprey went with navy blue and black. Those two colors can be almost indistinguishable in anything other than great lighting conditions. Solutions could have been to make the pieces taller so that colors were easier to determine from the side, or picking another color besides blue/black. Yellow, green, and orange would be great contrasty options. Another potential change would be to use the same animal for each team…all lions, all crocodiles, etc. Then you’d just need to look for your animal.

Never fear though, the gameplay more than makes up for any small issues with color. Pick up Zoo Ball for a fun time, you won’t regret it.

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Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor of MeepleMountain.com, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.

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