SNAP Review – KuZOOka
In Swahili, the word “Kuzuka” roughly means “breakout”. In KuZOOka, we are going to help the animals break out of the zoo!
This is a SNAP review for KuZOOka.
In KuZOOka, 2-6 players work together to help the whole team of animal companions escape. KuZOOka was designed by Leo Colovini and it’s published by Pegasus Spiele. It’s good for most ages, and a game should take 30-45 minutes.
There are 6 types of color cards, which are all distinct from each other and have matching symbols on the board. This is a chance to point out that the shapes correlating with the colors are great if you have color blind gamers in your gaming group.
Each player gets to take on the role of an animal, and gets wooden tokens in the shape of that animal’s head – plus a special ability card that shows the animal being active on one side and “asleep” on the back of the card (I love it!)
So, how do we play KuZOOka?
You’ll start by giving each player an animal card and the corresponding tokens. Then you’ll choose a difficulty level (easy, medium, or hard) and set the Experience cards down in a stack – in numerical order.
Place an unused animal token on the round tracker and you’re ready to start!
Deal out cards, as specified on the first Experience card: it’s going to be about 20 cards divided, starting with the first player. Most likely, not everyone will get the same amount of cards, and that’s OK!
Then the first player places an animal token somewhere on the first section of the path leading out of the zoo. They are “suggesting an escape plan“.
On your turn, you can either add to the escape plan, by placing a token further down the path (either in the current section or the next section), or you can “suspend the escape” and end the round.
Placing your token carefully lets you communicate to the rest of the players what kinds of cards you have in your hand, and what kind of “escape” you can support. Because you’re not supposed to be sharing what you have in your hand!
If the clues available don’t leave you comfortable going further down the path, you can instead suspend the escape, which ends the round.
When you do that, take a look at the last token on the path and note its color and number (in this case, something like a green 5). Everyone reveals their cards.
If the whole group has at least as many cards in the escape color as that last token on the path, you gain Experience stars! They’re shown in these small starred numbers next to the spot on the path.
If you hit the color card number EXACTLY on your escape attempt, you also add a “Universal Tool” card to the deck, which works as a wild card.
You can spend Experience to unlock new Experience levels, based on the difficulty level you chose at the beginning of the game. Each Experience level card specifies more and more color cards that are dealt to the group in future rounds – and even a few face-up color cards for everyone to see!
Whether you gained Experience or not, shuffle all the color cards together again, clear all the animal tokens from the board, and get ready for the next round. Deal out cards according to the Experience level, and try to get farther this time!
You have seven rounds to try to escape the zoo. To win the game, you’ll need to get all the way from the start zone at the beginning to the Escape zone at the end of the path – and have enough cards to support the escape!
Of course, every animal each has its own special power they can use once per round – we’ll talk a little about that in the Surprises.
[Anitra] I’m kind of burned out on zoo games, so I avoided KuZOOka for a while. I knew it was cooperative; the box says it’s playable down to about age 8. But there was nothing that grabbed me about the box or the description.
[Andrew] The box talked about a zoo escape, so I knew the general theme, but when I think Zoo escapes, I think of goofy animated movies – and this art definitely didn’t match that, it seemed more mature than that. Other than that, I didn’t really have anything I could relate it to. So I didn’t have any well-formed expectations.
I would say KuZOOka turned out to be pretty different than we were expecting. So let’s talk about the surprises.
To me, it felt a lot like Liar’s Dice, which is a game where you’re trying to guess what everyone has without busting… but KuZOOka does this in a cooperative way, and you’re trying to give the other players clues about what you have. I really liked that!
We also loved being able to choose from the ten different animal powers. Some of them really felt thematic – like the sloth, whose special power is to just do nothing on their turn. (They can pass.)
KuZOOka is the kind of game that gets a lot harder at higher player counts. You and I know each other well, so when it was just the two of us, we were able to escape, even at a moderate difficulty. But the more players there are, the harder it is to have confidence that there are enough cards in a particular color to keep going down the path.
But there are still ways to give clues – and the more players you have, the more animal abilities can be used!
[Andrew] There’s a video game genre called rogue-like. A rogue-like game is one where you’ll play and get as far as you can and eventually die. But when you play again, you have all the powers or skills you learned from the last time you played.
That’s exactly what you’re doing here in KuZOOka, and if you break the game down to its fundamentals, it really does feel like the board game version of a rogue-like. And I’ve never seen that in a board game and I think that’s really cool.
We enjoyed KuZOOka, but even though the box says ages 8+, we’d generally recommend it for older kids and adults who won’t get frustrated by how hard it is, and having to start over and over again. This is a pretty tough game.
We’re going to rate KuZOOka 3 escaped zoo animals out of 5.
The Family Gamers received a copy of KuZOOka from Pegasus Spiele for this review.
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SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Age Range: 8+ (we say older to minimize frustration)
Number of Players: 2-6
Playtime: 30-45 minutes