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Got it Backwards

For this year's Creative 12x12 Challenge we have to celebrate a holiday each month by playing a game. Turns out today is Backwards Day, which sounds like something I can get into. It's a celebration of my life, basically.

Years ago I played the print & play version of Mini Rogue backwards. That was very silly and not something I felt like doing ever again, but enough time has passed. And perhaps it was a problem with the type of game. I decided to have a go at New York Zoo this time, filling the board during set up, then playing as the Animal Liberation Front and taking all actions backwards during the game. I would have two rounds, just like in the normal solo game, but this time to empty all cages.

Set up of New York Zoo (backwards)
Set up (backwards)

During the first round I did everything backwards, including removing empty enclosures and attractions, but that got way too confusing. So I restored the buildings halfway my play and decided to go for a more thematic experience. Just freeing the animals would be an noble goal in itself, no need to wreck destruction.

But now I had a new problem: the backwards game became way too easy. According to the solo rules you can always just go to the next spot to gain new animals - which in my case meant release old animals. So I decided I had to use the normal tiles for movement (0 - 4+) as well each round. And I could not use spots for removing one animal of choice instead of the depicted ones.

Game state during second round
Nearly there, but I have to move 4 spots or more

So the emptier my zoo got, the more restricted the action fields became that I could pick. In the second round I really needed to use those movement tiles in the exact right order to free all animals. I managed though, so this first session showed that a lot of development is needed to turn this into a viable variant.

Empty zoo
They lived happily ever after

Thematically, playing New York Zoo backwards is a very satisfying experience. But gameplay is too easy, just like I discovered with Mini Rogue, so I can't recommend it. After playing two wildly different games now I think it's obvious not enough playtesting effort goes into doing things backwards. Perhaps it's time for the industry to take note.

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