Publisher: Trusty Lamp Games
Game Designer: Charlie Price
Artwork: Lina Cossette, David Forest
Ages: 10 and up
Playing Time: 5-10 minutes
Dice Flicking Frenzy
Kung Fu Zoo is the new dexterity game for 2-4 players from Trusty Lamp Games that is sure to be a big hit with fans of games like Flick ‘em Up, Crokinole, PitchCar or even Coconuts. It’s a lite, fast and fun game for all ages that can be played in just 5-10 minutes with a beautifully crafted board that looks amazing on the table.
While it fits the filler role due to its short length, Kung Fu Zoo becomes much more thanks to its highly addictive and deceptively challenging game play that keeps you coming back again and again. This has been a big hit on the table with families as well as at parties, bringing out the inner child in everyone who steps up to flick the dice off the rails!
Lions and Tigers and Bears
The premise is that after the keepers are gone and the lights go out at the local zoo, the animals get together nightly for their own impromptu fight club to see whose kung fu is best. You take on the role of one of the animals in Kung Fu Zoo and battle in two different styles of duels, cage battle or points match.
While the full game will support up to four players, each controlling their own animal, my prototype came with a zebra and gorilla for a two player setup. The animals had their own card and custom dice which are identical save for the art and colors to distinguish them, no special powers were included but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some added for the Kickstarter, to spice things up some.
In the cage battle, your goal is to either knock your opponents dice into any of the cages (corner pockets for the pool players out there) or for them to be laying stunned with their feet up. Each side of the custom die represents a different area of the animals body, head, sides, back, tail and feet and these all score different values in the points match but in the cage battle you’ll need to stay on your feet if you want to be the champion of Kung Fu Zoo!
Players alternate flicking their die into the arena from the marked midpoint of any rail and thanks to the lazy Susan design, everyone can access any angle they choose without leaving their seat. All caged die are out and cannot be used for the rest of the round, so be careful not to knock your own die into the cage or get overzealous and knock one out of the arena because it too will be ineligible!
When you cage an opposing die, you get to pick up any of your non-stunned die and flick them again from the rail. Head up die are a benefit here because they can be flicked from anywhere on the rail, not being tied to the midpoint spot which can come in really handy in setting up a great shot to cage a die. Winner of a best of three match gets to trot and preen around the arena, showing off that they are the champ and be the envy of the denizens of the zoo.
What makes the game deceptively challenging is the need to think through your shots and knowing when to have a heavier finger and at other times more finesse, much like playing pool. What looks like an easy flick, could spell disaster for you if you’re not mindful of that. Although on a smaller scale, I get the same satisfaction in successfully completing my shots in Kung Fu Zoo as I do when I get a great run down the track in PitchCar or taking out a bad guy with a long shot in Flick ’em Up.
The other way to play is a points match, which is simply a cage match with scoring. How the die lands, or ends up after being knocked about during the match is how it scores. If you cage a die, it is gone for the round and you can pick up any die and flick it from the rail with the same limitations as the cage match. While you can pick up a heads up die and flick it from any part of the rail, you’ll be risking the five points its worth in the scoring phase so it’s best to go with the feet up and tail die first since they’re worth only two points.
There are rules for three and four players which I was unable to try out but given how much fun I had with the two player I can see this being just as big of a hit with the benefit of allowing more people to join in on the fun.
Champion or Chump
I had high hopes at first glance for Kung Fu Zoo, just given the appearance of the board which is truly a work of art. It’s a fabulously crafted 11” x 11” little wooden treasure that is sure to spark conversation just sitting on the table and it never looks out of place. Those high hopes were not only matched but Kung Fu Zoo delivers a knockout thanks to the simple yet highly engaging play of knocking dice about with the flick of a finger coupled with its really sharp presentation.
Kung Fu Zoo transported me back to my youth when I played marbles and at the same time mixes the calculating challenges of pool, banking shots off the rail in hopes to score an opposing die in the corner pocket with a satisfying plunk!
Don’t be misled by the playing time, a 5-10 minute game doesn’t seem like much but you are engaged immediately and continuously throughout and it doesn’t let up until the game is over. What little downtime there is between your turns is usually spent hooting and hollering after successful shots, bringing in participation from everyone in the room as they cheer you on. A best two out of three match will still run you about 15-20 minutes overall and with how fast and fun this game is, you’ll be playing many, many matches before you know it.
Designer Charlie Price has done a great job in his freshman effort; delivering a beautiful game that is portable, simple enough to be all inclusive and highly entertaining to a wide audience. I’m really excited to see his next title Clankball Legends, which ups the stakes with a larger board and more involved, tactical play.
When Kung Fu Zoo hits Kickstarter soon, I definitely recommend backing this if you’re a fan of dexterity games. It will make a great addition to your game library that is as beautiful to look at as it is fun to play.
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Trusty-Lamp-Games-1499849166979863/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/trustylampgames
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.