Thirteen Ark Nova Strategy Tips that I wish I knew when I began playing:
- Associated zoos count as a zoo icon for your card requirements. They also grant a -3 cost reduction for EACH icon on your animal card. This major effect can be easily overlooked when learning the game.
- Universities count as research icons!
- Don’t forget about kiosk spacing requirements! Page 10 of the Ark Nova Rule Book states: “A kiosk must always be at least three spaces from every other kiosk on your zoo map, meaning there must always be at least two spaces between two kiosks. The note below the partner zoo space on your zoo map serves as a reminder.” This is easy to forget when you are new to the game, and I have made this mistake several times.
- If your Association Action is upgraded to Side Two, you can split the power between two different worker placements. For example, a five-power Associate Action will let you place one worker on Power Two and Power Three. This feature is a major boost to action efficiency.
- Don’t hoard cards. Drawing a large volume of cards takes time, and you probably won’t be able to play everything you want to chase. Especially before you can increase your hand size from three to five. Furthermore, all it takes is someone pushing for a coffee break to decimate a large hand.
- Early game conservation points are weighted heavily by providing a lot of bonuses in the first 10 points. Being the first one to the bonus spaces is always better than being second or third, as bonuses are eliminated once selected by someone (excluding the five money). If possible, try to be as aggressive as you can be with scoring conservation points in the early game.
- Every used cube from your “income space” provides those resources during each coffee break! This makes early-game support of conservation projects fairly important by increasing the power of coffee breaks.
- It can be much more efficient and effective to focus on supporting the bottom tier of multiple Conservation Projects. It tends to be more difficult to support the top tier of a conservation project, especially across multiple projects. You will probably end up scoring more conservation points overall by supporting the bottom tier of several projects.
- Early game conservation points can upgrade your draw cards action, thereby letting you access higher reputation rewards; gaining even more bonuses.
- Don’t focus too heavily on future cards that may never show up. One trap that new players can fall into is waiting to draw into certain cards with certain icons. Often this boils down to holding onto that Eurasian Brown Bear (which requires another bear tag to be in play), hoping beyond hope that you see, can draw, then play another bear tag.
- Focus on as much early-game synergy as possible. Between your starting hand, the base conservation projects, and the display, try to focus on drawing and playing cards that all work together and have some unifying synergy. This will help you score points quickly and effectively.
- Effectively leverage X tokens. They are a great way to boost actions immediately instead of having to wait for multiple turns for your desired action to move up to stage five. Using a stage five action followed up by a boosted stage five action can create powerful surges in your points and resources.
- Ark Nova is a sprint, not a marathon. It all boils down to gaining appeal points and conservation points faster than anyone else. As a beginning player, it’s easy to become distracted by the multitude of options and animals at your disposal. Often it is best to “burst out” your available options as quickly as you can, establish a superior position on points, then work to end the game as quickly as you can.
Look out for more Ark Nova strategy tips in the future. We enjoy this game, and I’m certain we will have more to say as we get more plays under our belts.
If you’re interested in another game about animals, check out our Wingspan Review. Wingspan is an amazing game that is all about birds!