Aaron, Nadine, Jon
We all wanted to play this, including Jon. We played with numbered boards, which I thought would be too hard based on two solo games with them, but the boards were fine. We didn’t use starter decks, but from the initial 8 cards allowed replacing of conservation cards and level 2 animals. Jon took the partner zoo I wanted, but I took the one that was on my other animal card. I made several mistakes, mainly placing buildings, including kiosks and pavilions, in such a way that later I couldn’t place a 4 building for a good animal, and then couldn’t even place a 3, though I got all my board benefits. I placed on 3 conservation cards, mostly for 2 points, and made 4 or 5 early donations. Aaron ended up filling his board for 17 appeal. He had a sponsor that let him take more sponsors, so he got a lot of benefits from them. I only played two sponsors. He played a lot of small animals, and had a full petting zoo, and got the Side Entrance early.
Jon complained the whole game about how he wasn’t doing well and having a hard time, but he passed us to be the first to reach both reward tile spots on the conservation track. He had the sponsor that let you use two cubes on conservation cards for any icon, with a whole plan to use one on a release card and was frustrated when he couldn’t. I can see forgetting that they’re only for base conservation cards, but I can’t see thinking that you can use them to change the animal level rather than to replace an icon. And it only would have made him play one lower, though that may not have been available. I ended the game right after the beginning of the last round which prevented the others from carrying out plans, especially Jon. So he didn’t want to play his last turn and took all his pieces off. I realized that I could have gone on a different conservation card instead of ending the game, and done the one I did later, but as Aaron pointed out it’s usually advantageous to end the game when you can.
The only end game points I got were from my brown card, 3 points, making my score 9 points. Aaron had a lot of end game bonuses, he hadn’t been close to crossing, but ended at zero for a positive score. Then after we cleaned up he realized that he hadn’t scored his end game brown card, which was points for small animals, and he didn’t know how many he had but small animals had been his strategy. We figured at least 6 for 6 points, possibly 8 for 9 points, which would tie me. He didn’t count petting zoo animals, but I thought they counted, I checked later and they do. So he either had 8 animals for 9 points, or 10 for 12 points. It’s very possible that he had 10, so he may have won, and he at least tied. Tiebreaker is most conservation projects supported, I had 3. Aaron had 2 cubes on one card due to a sponsor, so I don’t know how that would count, or how many he had done in total.
We had to look up a few things during the game, mostly sponsor card effects. And the game took a long time. Aaron and I enjoyed playing, Aaron said next time we should use one or two variants that shorten the game. Jon said he doesn’t like the game because you need to evaluate the board cards each turn. I don’t think you need to every turn, only if you might take cards, though there are card benefits where you also need to. I like that the game has a lot going on, though it can make turns long. I did better than usual, flipping 4 cards which helps.