MetaZoo is one of the wilder games I’ve covered, and given how much talk there is about it these days, is one I definitely wanted to take a look at. The name (and biggest draw) references the frequent breaking of the fourth wall, as the game really leans hard into things happening in the real world. Your water beasties are stronger when you play near bodies of water, one card can’t be contracted (cast) if you have pants on and another gets powered up based on how many lightbulbs are above your table.
If all that sounds wild and fun, you’re in the right mindset to enjoy MetaZoo. The game pulls no punches, and just goes for broke when it comes to wackiness, which I’m sure is part of what’s made it a smash hit. Let’s get into the gameplay.
MetaZoo is not a hard game to pick up if you’re a veteran TCGer (and even if you’re not) – the basic rules are fairly simple, though the cards of course add a lot of complexity on top of that. The terms are the first thing you want to learn, as they went for max flavor when naming game terms and actions. Here’s a quick glossary:
- Arena: The battlefield on which you play cards to.
- Aura: The resources you use to play cards (lands).
- Battleground: The entire play area (larger than the Arena).
- Beastie: Creature.
- Bookmark: Draw a card from your deck.
- Caster: Player.
- Chapter: Cards in hand.
- Contract: Playing a card to the arena by paying its cost.
- Fatigue: Tap a card.
- Page: Card.
- Spellbook: Deck.
As you can see, the terms are much more flavorful than what we are used to with games like Magic. It might take you a bit to get the hang of parsing cards as a result, but it definitely helps set the tone the game is looking for.
The goal is to reduce your opponent’s life points to zero, which you mainly will do by attacking with your beasties. Each player starts at 1000 life, which sounds like a lot, though beasties are proportionally large enough that it goes quickly enough.
To contract pages (play cards), you play Auras, and you can play one of these per turn. Auras come in different types, as do cards, and you need the right kind of Auras to play the corresponding cards. There are 10 different Aura types, which means that there are a lot of different combinations of cards and themes available. In fact, part of what’s interesting about the game is just how wide a range of cards and effects it contains – it’s got a ton going on. It’s a bit overwhelming, as every card has a lot of text and icons, but that also leads to some nice discovery moments as you read some pretty hilarious cards.
I mean, to play this you have to “phone home, however you define it.” That’s just not text I expect to see on a card, and the fact that MetaZoo boldly goes where no card game has gone before is a huge differentiator.
When playing MetaZoo, you really need to check your preconceived notions of how card games work and what they can do at the door. This game will continuously subvert your expectations, and not in a “Game of Thrones, we ruined everything” kind of way.
Back to the rules. You can contract one aura per turn, and each aura then gives you one resource with which to contract other cards. You pay the cost in the top right of the card, and it hits the arena.
Combat is fairly simple. On your turn, you can choose to attack with your Beasties, one at a time. When you attack, you fatigue your Beastie and choose whether to attack the opponent, one of their Beasties, or an artifact or equipment they have in play (these are other card types, and they have health totals just like Beasties do). The opponent can then choose to fatigue any number of defenders to block with.
The next part is key – the attacker deals damage first (assuming neither Beastie has first strike), and if it kills the defender, it doesn’t take damage back. Defenders only deal damage if they survive an attack, which gives the attacker a huge edge.
You can attack with as many Beasties as you have, and once you’re done attacking and playing cards, you end your turn. On the opponent’s turn, they do the same, and that’s most of the game right there. MetaZoo put out a How to Play video that summarizes this as well, which you can find here:
Getting back to the meta part, Beasties frequently get bonuses based on Terra, which is their environment. Unless otherwise specified, they get these bonuses when within five miles of the appropriate Terra, so get Google Maps ready. However, if you want to play a Forest deck but don’t live near one, all is not lost. You can play Terra cards in your deck as well, and they count as being near their respective areas for this purpose. Note that they count for your opponent as well, so don’t give your opponent a bigger bonus than you’re getting.
There are plenty more aspects of the game to learn once you dive in – different keywords, spell effects, card types like Artifacts or Traps and more, but this captures the basics of the game. I wanted to close by highlighting some of the sweet cards the game has to offer, as there are plenty.
MetaZoo is a wild ride from start to finish – I like that it’s expanded the range of what card games can do, and as long as you’re in for this experience, you’ll enjoy it. Good luck!
Let’s get some Boomer energy in here, as this rewards you for being quite a bit older (or younger, if you’re lucky) than your opponent.
Choo choo! Better brush up on those train sounds.
As long as you carry around some tinfoil, you should be good – nobody has radios anymore.
This promo card gives you an edge on your birthday, which seems like a great day to host some games…