Thursday, September 03, 2009

MIA #10: Panda, Gorilla & Co.: Das Spiel

Panda, Gorilla & Co.: Das Spiel
  • designer: Peter Wichmann
  • publisher: Schmidt Spiele
  • date: 2003
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.32
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $43.95 (
I'm a sucker for zoo games: I'm a huge fan of Michael Schacht's Zooloretto & Aquaretto (and I'm probably way too proud that Michael published a variant for Aquaretto created by my then-7-year-old son, Braeden on his website.) I think O Zoo le Mio is great fun (and actually works with kids, though they have real trouble with correctly judging the values of the various auctions.) Frank's Zoo is The Great Dalmuti on steroids (and, IMHO, a better game)... though I like the German name (Zoff im Zoo = "Trouble in the Zoo") better than the American one.

So Panda, Gorilla & Co. was a natural fit for me: a game about filling a zoo with animals with a mechanic based on the Carcassonne game system. But after I purchased it through an Ebay auction, I read the comments on BGG, which were, shall we say, not positive. So it was with great trepidation that I opened the box & got ready to play.

What I found was a game that we've had a lot of fun with as a family... though not a game that I'd likely pull out at a gathering of hardcore gamers. If you've played Carcassonne (draw & lay a tile; optionally place one marker/person on the board to attempt to claim victory points), this will seem very familiar.

Each player has three sets of "suggestion" markers: 3 large, 3 medium & 3 small. (Yes, it's beginning to sound like a odd triplets-oriented version of Goldilocks & the Three Bears.) After they place a tile into the zoo (matching roads & colors of grass), they may place one of those suggestions on the tile. When an area is completed (surrounded by pathways), animals are placed in the area based on the suggestions: large animals take up 6 squares & are worth 5 points; medium animals take up 4 squares & are worth 3 points; small animals take up 2 spaces & are worth 1 point. Suggestions are resolved in order of size - biggest to smallest.

Similar to Carcassonne, you can't place same-sized suggestions into an area - but you can place different-sized suggestions into the same area... and you can hook two areas together that both contain same-sized suggestions.

The game continues until the board is filled. Late in the game, it can become difficult to match tiles, so the flip side of each tile contains a lake that can be placed (and potentially covered over by later plays.)

Panda, Gorilla & Co. was originally published by the Polish game/puzzle company, Trefl, back in 2003... but only appeared in the German market in 2007. There have been some changes in the rules - but we haven't been able to figure out what those changes are/were. Anyone knowing how this information can be obtained, contact me!

My four year old likes the "choosing animals" part of the game - the tiles are nicely illustrated & there's a large variety of species. My 8 year old actually does pretty well at the game - there are less strategic decisions than Carcassonne but it still involves actual thinking & spatial skills.

Finally, while I haven't played The Kids of Carcassonne, I have read through the rules because both games are aimed at the "junior version of a classic" market. From that simple perusal, I'm happy with Panda, Gorilla & Co. There's just more interesting things going on in the zoo!

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