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Should You Buy Ark Nova?

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Ark Nova is a board game where you run your own zoo and while you fill it with animals and try to keep your appeal high, you also take part into conservation projects. The game is competitive, but you don’t directly interact with other player’s zoos. Ark Nova also also comes with solo mode, by Automa Factory, and it can easily be adjusted for co-op play by simply playing the solo mode together (which is what we did! It works!).

How easy is it to learn and play Ark Nova?

Ark Nova may come with complicated looking rules, but it is really quick to learn and explain, mostly if you watch a tutorial on it. It takes about 15-20 minutes to setup once you know what the different elements are, thanks to the nice trays that the tokens (and tiles) come with. However the game could really benefit from a quick setup guide, as it can be extremely unclear for new players.

The Second Edition rules are significantly improved from the original rules, which are full of unclear terminology and poorly written rulings, so if you do buy Ark Nova, either make sure it’s the second edition or download the second edition rules from the Capstone Games website, as they’re one of the publishers of the English language version.

Ark Nova - Solo Board Setup
Ark Nova Setup for Solo Game (1 player). Yes, there is more to the sides.

The game time is long, could easily go over 4 hours, but if you enjoy the gameplay and the theme, that time will go by quick. The solo mode, however, will rarely run over 1 hours, as it has set turn timer.

It is important to note that if you don’t have a big table (dining table that can fit 6 people, or a gaming table) it might be challenging to fit Ark Nova’s big score board, side boards, and individual zoos.

How much does Ark Nova cost? Is it worth the price?

Ark Nova’s price is £56 (about $69), which is a little bit more expensive then the average board game. However, considering the number of pieces, and nice quality board and cards you get, including the component trays, the price is very reasonable. But when Zatu has it on discount it is defiantly worth grabbing.

What games are similar to Ark Nova? Who might enjoy it?

  • Ark Nova is a good pick for people who like strategy games, mostly tile placement, and drafting similar to Terraforming Mars.
  • The strategy around Ark Nova’s actions is very similar to Civilization: New Dawn, where they have strength based on the position of a track.
  • This game may appeal to Scythe players. As long as you don’t mind the zoo theme and the limited interactions with other opponents.
  • The solo mode is very good, and if you are a solo player who enjoys those mechanics, you will probably enjoy Ark Nova.
  • If you are a looking for an engine building game, like Wingspan, you might end up disappointed as while engine building is a possibility, it is not guaranteed you will be able to pull it off.
  • Ark Nova is a complex game with a lot of different possible actions right from turn one, and as such it is not recommended for young families and lovers of less overly-complex, more focused games. If you like that sort of thing – you’ll probably like Ark Nova.



Setup Time

10 minutes

Play Time

180+ minutes


14 +


Ark Nova is a zoo-themed tile placement game with some light worker-placement mechanics. Fans of Terraforming Mars, Scythe, and Civilization: New Dawn will find similarities, and fans of the zoo theme will enjoy the balancing act of conservation vs. tourism that is at the core of the game. That being said, the game is huge, time-consuming, and is extremely unforgiving and non-interactive as a competitive experience, with early-game luck regularly leading to a late-game snowball that cannot be stopped.


  • Quick setup
  • Component trays included
  • Solo Mode


  • Needs a lot of space
  • Overstays its welcome
  • Runaway winner
Game Setup
Gameplay and Enjoyment
Product Quality and Rules
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