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Welcome to Ark Nova! In this game, you'll manage a modern zoo. In addition to building enclosures and putting popular and well-liked animals into them, you'll also gain sponsors and support conservation projects. You'll do this by taking one of five actions each turn, with each of them having strength related to their position in the line - the longer it's been since the last time you took that action, the more powerful it'll be. Your score is measured by both your Appeal (ticket icon) and Conservation (green shield icon), and when they cross each other on the scoring track, the endgame is triggered. After one more round the player with the most points, as measured by how far apart these two trackers are from each other, wins the game!

What To Do On Your Turn

When it's your turn, you'll choose one of the five action cards in front of you. This action has a strength associated with it, based on its position along the bottom of your board, ranging from 1 to 5. You'll be able to add to this value by spending X-tokens. After performing that action, it moves to the far left position, at strength 1, pushing all other action cards one space to the right.

Upon achieving certain conditions, you'll be able to upgrade these action cards as well by flipping them to the pink side, where they will remain for the rest of the game. These upgraded actions will allow you to use these actions more efficiently, but otherwise follow the same rules as their basic form.

The Build Action

The basic Build action allows you to build one new enclosure or special building 1 to 5 tiles in size. You need to build enclosures in order to place animals in your zoo. To do this, you'll pay 2 money per hex (for example, you would pay 6 money for a size 3 enclosure or for a Petting Zoo special building). All enclosures and buildings must be placed touching already-existing enclosures or buildings in your zoo. Enclosures and buildings cannot overlap, and no tiles can be placed on top of the rock or water spaces already printed on your zoo map.

Some spaces have a purple shovel and a "II" - these cannot be built upon until you upgrade your Build action.

Tiles with other icons on them are "placement bonuses" - upon building on these spaces, you gain the bonuses pictured on them.

At any point, you can see all the possible basic enclosure and building shapes in a tab by clicking the little shovel icon near the top right corner of your map.

Special buildings

A Kiosk is a dark gray building of size 1. A Kiosk gives you money each break during the income phase -- 1 money for each adjacent building or occupied enclosure.

A Pavilion is a pink building of size 1. Upon placing a Pavilion, you gain 1 appeal.

A Petting Zoo is a special enclosure of size 3. Some animals must be placed in a Petting Zoo, but multiple animals can coexist in the building. You can only build one Petting Zoo.

The Upgraded Build Action:
  1. Allows you to build multiple different enclosures and/or buildings with a total size no more than the action strength - for example at strength 5, you could build a size 3 enclosure, size 1 enclosure, and a kiosk all at once (but not a size 3 enclosure and two kiosks; they must all be different);
  2. Allows you to build on spaces requiring the upgraded Build action;
  3. Allows you to build a Reptile House and a Large Bird Aviary. Much like the Petting Zoo, these buildings can house multiple animals of a particular type. When you build a Reptile House or Large Bird Aviary, if you have an animal that could be housed in one of these special buildings, you may immediately move it to the building, freeing up that enclosure for another animal.

The Cards Action

The Cards action allows you to draw more cards. Depending on the strength of this action, you'll draw one or more cards from the top of the deck and possibly discard cards from your hand (possibly including ones you just drew). At strength 5, you may instead "snap" one card from the board directly to your hand. Keep in mind that the hand limit (3, or 5 if you've acquired the appropriate University) will be enforced during Breaks. Additionally note that using the Cards action moves the Break counter up by 2.

The Upgraded Cards Action

  1. Allows you to draw cards directly from the board within your reputation range (to the left of your reputation marker);
  2. Allows you to "snap" cards from the board at strength 3 or more;
  3. Allows your reputation range to reach levels higher than 9, with associated bonuses;
  4. Allows you to draw more cards overall at a given strength and discard fewer cards.

The Animals Action

The Animals action allows you to play animal cards into your zoo. Each animal has a money cost and also requires an enclosure of a specific size or higher. Some may also need to border the rocks/or water. Be sure to note any other prerequisites which are listed on the left side, such as having a particular icon (e.g. Australia, Predators, or Research) in your zoo. Prerequisites for playing the card will always be on its left edge.

When you play a new animal card, you gain the bonuses listed on the bottom edge of the card. The most common things this gives are

  1. Appeal points (ticket icon)
  2. Conservation points (green shield icon)
  3. Reputation points (black mortarboard cap icon)

Most animal cards will have at least one animal type - Reptiles, Birds, Bears, etc. - and a region - Americas, Africa, Europe, etc. (Petting Zoo animals do not have a region.) These icons are very important for deciding which Conservation Projects you can score later.

The Upgraded Animals Action

  1. Allows you to play multiple animal cards at a lower strength;
  2. Allows you to play animals from your reputation range (to the left of your reputation marker) and not just your hand;
  3. Allows you to play certain animals that list Animals (II) as a prerequisite on their left edge.

The Sponsors Action

The basic Sponsors action allows you to play a sponsor (blue) card from your hand. The minimum action strength required for each Sponsor card is listed at its top-left corner. These typically don't cost any money to play, but may have other requirements. Sponsor cards are color-coded to tell you whether they will give you benefits now, later, and/or at the end of the game:

  1. A yellow box lists what you get immediately when the card is played;
  2. A purple box lists what you get on each break;
  3. A blue box lists what you get upon another condition such as playing or getting certain icons;
  4. A brown box lists what you will get at the end of the game.

If you don't have any Sponsor cards you want to play, you can also use the Sponsors action to both gain money and move the Break up by an amount equal to the action's strength.

The Upgraded Sponsors Action

  1. Allows you to play sponsors from the board within reputation range (to the left of your reputation marker) instead of from your hand;
  2. Allows you to, instead of playing a Sponsor card, gain money equal to the twice the action's strength (and Break equal to the action's strength);
  3. Allows you to play sponsors that list Sponsors (II) as a requirement;
  4. Allows you to play multiple sponsors with a single action;
  5. Allows you to play sponsors of 1 greater strength than the strength of the action.

The Association Action

The Association action allows you to send your worker(s) to the association board to take actions there. You start with just one worker, but can gain more workers as the game progresses. Workers return to your supply only at Breaks. When you use the Association action, you may do one of four things depending on the strength of the action:

  • Strength 2: Gain 2 reputation (one of the most straightforward ways to get reputation);
  • Strength 3: Gain a partner zoo (handshake icon). Playing animals from that continent permanently costs 3 less money, and you gain an icon of that type. Place this on the right side of your board (starting at the bottom) -- you gain any bonus this covers up.
  • Strength 4: Gain a partner university (gray monument icon) -- these will give reputation, research icons, or an improved hand size limit;
  • Strength 5: You can support a conservation project (existing or from hand) -- these will typically be some milestone, for example requiring a number of Africa icons or Reptile icons.

Other players' workers do not affect your ability to place your workers; there is unlimited space on each section of the Association board. However, choosing the same Association action a second time before the Break will cost you two workers instead of one (for a total of three). All the partner zoo and university tiles will be replenished at each Break.

Conservation Projects

Typically conservation projects will give you all-important conservation points, and possibly other benefits. To score a conservation project, your Association action must be at 5 strength. When you take the action, take one of the cubes from the left side of your player board and place it on the conservation project. Whatever space the cube comes off is the benefit you'll get. If it comes from the yellow section, you'll get the benefit immediately but only once, and if it comes from the purple/yellow section, you get the bonus immediately and also at each Break. Note that you typically can't claim more than one level of a particular conservation project, so you'll have to judge when it's time to take the action vs waiting until you have more of the appropriate icons.

If a conservation project requires you to "release an animal", you'll be discarding a previously played animal, losing its appeal points and icons, as well as emptying its enclosure. However you'll still have the conservation points and can reuse the enclosure. Therefore, it can be beneficial to release animals with icons for which you've already scored the relevant conservation project.

Base conservation cards are drawn at the beginning of the game and known to every player. They involve collection species or habitat icons. There are additional conversation project cards in the cards deck that can be played from your hand when performing supporting a conservation project with the Association action.

The Upgraded Association Action:

  • Allows you to split the actions' strength between multiple actions;
  • Allows you to have more partner zoos;
  • Allows you to donate money directly to get conservation points! The first person who uses this pays only 2 money for a conservation point, but every person who uses it thereafter must pay more and more, to a maximum of 12 money for a conservation point;
  • Allows you to play conservation project cards from the board within reputation range (to the left of your reputation marker).

The X-Token action

If you can't or don't want to take any of the other actions, you may take one X-Token from the supply. Recall that you can spend X-tokens to increase the strength of any action by 1 (per token). After taking the X-token, move any action card to strength 1 of your board, pushing the other cards to the right. This is not usually an efficient choice, but can be a good way to gain X-tokens.

Upgrading Action cards

There are four ways to upgrade an action card. Since there are five actions cards, at least one will not be upgraded each game. The four ways to upgrade a card are:

  1. Advancing your conservation score to 2 (this gives the option of either upgrading a card or gaining an additional association worker);
  2. Advancing your reputation to 5;
  3. Playing a second university;
  4. Playing a second partner zoo.

Gaining additional Association workers

Recall that each association action requires an association worker, and if you have already taken that association action since the last break, it requires two association workers. Your association workers are returned to you when the Break occurs. You start the game with one worker, and can gain up to three more. Depending on which map you are using, there also may be a conservation point bonus for obtaining your fourth conservation worker.

The ways to obtain additional conservation workers are:

  1. Advancing your conservation score to 2 (this gives a choice between getting an association worker or upgrading a card);
  2. Advancing your reputation score to 8;
  3. If an association worker is one of the bonuses that may be chosen when you support a conservation project (except when using map 0, where instead a conservation worker may be obtained by covering a specific spot on your zoo map)
  4. Gaining a third partner zoo (this requires that the association action has been upgraded)
  5. Certain animals (usually bears) and sponsors have the Full-Throated ability, which gains you an association worker when played.


Break Track

Players continue taking actions, some of which generate Break, until the Break track meets or exceeds 15. The player who triggered the Break receives one X-token. Then, the following steps happen:

  1. All players discard down to their hand limit (starting hand limit is 3, but having the relevant University ups it to 5);
  2. Take any multiplier tokens off action cards, and any venom/constriction tokens off cards, if any exist;
  3. Return all Association workers to the players and replenish the partner zoos and partner universities;
  4. Discard the two leftmost cards of the card display, slide the remaining cards left, and replenishing the display;
  5. All players receive income from base zoo appeal, kiosks, sponsors, and possibly spaces on the left side of the board from which cubes have been removed to contribute to conservation projects.

Then the Break track marker resets and the next player can take their turn as normal.

Appeal Track and Conservation Track

To track how many Appeal points and Conservation points players have, you have two tokens that start from opposite ends of a long track. (On boardgamearena, you can click the appeal + conservation icon in the top right to see this.) Note that conservation points are more valuable than appeal (one conservation is roughly equal to three appeal), but also more difficult to gain.

Moving your marker further on the appeal (tickets icon) track increases the amount of income you get per turn.

Moving your marker to certain key points on the Conservation track (green shield icon) gives the effects in pentagons:

  • (At 2 points) You may either upgrade an action or gain an Association worker;
  • (At 5 and 8 points) You may gain a benefit chosen for that particular game, each shown in a yellow pentagon. (Everyone can get the 5 money bonus, but only one player can get each of the others);
  • (At 10 points) All players discard one of their bonus cards from the game start. (This only happens the first time this is reached.)

Reputation Track

The Reputation track is largely used for drawing and playing cards from within reputation range. By playing directly from the display, players can more efficiently play animals, sponsors, and conservation projects. Note that playing directly from reputation range has an additional cost equal to the card's location in the display -- playing an animal at the 6th folder would cost 6 additional money.

As with the conservation track, there are bonus effects when crossing certain levels on the Reputation track, most of which are near the end of the track. Keep in mind players will need the upgraded Cards action to gain more than 9 reputation.

Game End

If at the end of your turn or during a break your Conservation counter and Appeal counter are ever in the same scoring area, or if they have passed one another, the end of the game is triggered. If a player triggers the break during their turn, all other players will take one more turn. If the end of the game is triggered during a Break, all players will take one more turn.

At the end of the game, you still get conservation points or appeal from your Final Scoring card(s), as well as from all your cards with end-of-game scoring (generally the brown section on Sponsors cards).


Scoring is different to the original game: All conservation point spaces feature a small number. To determine your score, you must add your appeal to the number of the space with your conservation point marker on it. No more calculating the distance between your 2 markers. The numbers are calculated in such a way that having your 2 markers reach each other will score you exactly 100 points. If your markers cross, your score will be above 100; if they don't, it will be below. Therefore, 100 is the point threshold to end the game. In case of a tie, the tied player who supported the most Conservation Projects wins the game.


Map 1 (Observation Tower): The enclosure must be adjacent to the space with the tower, not merely to any one of the other 3 rock spaces. The platform has no effect on special enclosures. If you release an animal into the wild (and thus flip an occupied enclosure back to the empty side) and then accommodate a new animal in this enclosure, you gain the 2 appeal again. The Observation Tower itself does not count as a building (e. g. for kiosks).

Map 2 (Outdoor Areas): The enclosure must be adjacent to the space with the Outdoor Area, not merely to any one of the other 4 water spaces. The Outdoor Area has no effect on special enclosures. Treat any standard enclosure adjacent to the Outdoor Areas as if it were 2 spaces larger (after it is placed there). The Outdoor Area itself is not considered a building (e. g. for kiosks). Example: If you have built a standard 1-space enclosure adjacent to the Outdoor Area, you may accommodate an animal there that requires an enclosure of 1, 2, or 3 spaces.

Map 4 (Commercial Harbor): The Commercial Harbor is considered to be connected as soon as you have placed a building on the adjacent building space. You may build your first building directly adjacent to the Commercial Harbor, but you do not have to. You may use the ability at any time during your turn, before, after, or during an action. However, you may only discard 1 card with the Commercial Harbor per turn. You may not use the ability during a break or someone else’s turn. The Commercial Harbor itself does not count as a building (e. g. for kiosks).

Map 5 (Park Restaurant): During the break, you gain income of 1 money for each space adjacent to the Park Restaurant with a building on it. It does not matter if these are single buildings or if several spaces belong to the same building. It also doesn’t matter what kind of buildings you build there and whether enclosures are occupied or not. The Park Restaurant itself does not count as a building.

Map 6 (Research Institute): The Research Institute is considered connected as soon as you have placed a building on the adjacent building space. You may build your first building directly adjacent to the Research Institute, but you do not have to. Once active, you can play Animal cards even when you are 1 condition short; you must still fulfill all other conditions. You cannot ignore rock or water requirements.

Map 7 (Ice Cream Parlors): If you have covered all bonus spots granting kiosks, you gain 1 additional money for each kiosk on your zoo map as income during the break. It does not matter if these kiosks were built as placement bonuses or by other means. It also does not matter if they generate income without this bonus or not.

Map 8 (Hollywood Hills): Spaces with an 'H' may be covered like any other space. This is similar to a placement bonus, but does not count as one (e. g. for card 221). Every time you place a building on an H, reveal cards from the deck one by one until you reveal a Sponsor card. Add this card to your hand and put all other revealed cards onto the discard pile. Once you have covered all 3 spaces, the level of each Sponsor card you play is 1 lower.