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Zoo Break Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Alexa Forrester, Chris Guenther
Artists: Thomas James
Publisher: Sunday Club Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


The computer system at the zoo has malfunctioned and all the gates are short circuited! The animals are escaping and making a run for it through the zoo exit. Your goal is to work together with all players to get the animals back into their enclosures and lock the gate before they escape from the zoo.

Getting the Game:

When playing, cards will be flipped out to either move already escaped animals move toward the zoo exit, or add additional animals from their enclosures to the board. Your job is to use your actions appropriately to manage these animals by returning them back to their enclosures before they escape When all of the same type of animal are back inside their enclosure, you will need to lock the gate with the key located somewhere in the supply deck.

The game highlights the way you play very nicely right on the back of the box:

1. Roll the die to determine how many actions you'll have for your turn.
2. Use you actions to move, get supplies, catch animals, and lock enclosures.
3. Draw an escape card to determine the next animals to escape their enclosures.
4. Draw a move card to determine animal movements and other events affecting play.

Some animals are dangerous and can cause injuries, surprise events create new challenges, and the longer you wait to lock each enclosure, the sooner you could lose control of the whole situation.

Each player will choose a zookeeper board. Each has a special ability to use when playing the game. These abilities consists of  moving through shortcuts, moving faster, re-rolling the die to get more actions, dodging injury from animals, and capturing animals further away than normal.

Difficulty can be set by adjusting the number of PHEW! card in the escape deck.

Playing the Game:

1. Roll the action die. This will determine how many actions you get this turn.

2. You will now take that stated number of actions. Some actions cost a depicted number of actions to perform, while other easier actions only cost one action.

  • Moving on foot - 1 action per space
    • You cannot move diagonally, move through enclosures, barricades, hedges, the snack bar, nor the fountain.
  • Riding the train - 2 actions to move between each station
    • You will not be able to interact with anything along the route when riding the train.
  • Drawing a supply card - requires you to be in supply shed and costs 1 action per card
    • There are 4 spots on your player board allowed for supply cards. When you run out of spaces, you will choose one to discard before drawing a new one from the deck.
    • Many resources can be used repeatedly - the net, leash, snake tongs, tranq darts, stretcher, and antivenom. Cards that you will use once are used for placement on the board - barricade and enclosure keys.
  • Drawing a snack token - requires you to be on the space outside the snack bar and costs 1 action.
    • The token cannot be used on the same turn as when it was acquired. You can only keep 1 snack at any time.

  • Trading supplies or snacks - requires players to be on the same space with 1 action to give, receive, or trade.
  • Placing/ Removing Barricade - Must be adjacent to a path square and requires 1 action.
    • The barricade will block or re-route the path for the animals, but also impedes the route for all players and trains. 
    • The card is placed on the board when its used.
    • When removing the barricade, it can be adding to your inventory or placed in the supply stockpile.

  • Capturing loose animals - Some animals requires either 1 or 2 steps to capture them. They also cost 1-3 actions depending on what animal you are trying to capture. 
    • You will need to have the correct resource and the number of actions to send the animal back to their enclosure.  When doing this you will simply pick up the animal and put it back in their enclosure on the board. Keepers don't need to deliver them there. 
      • Meerkat - Needs a net with 1 action each
      • Capuchin - Needs a net with 2 actions each
      • Panda - Needs a leash with 2 actions each
      • Elephant - Needs a leash with 3 actions each
      • Tiger - Requires 2 steps
        • Sedate with tranq dart - 2 actions each
        • Capture with stretcher - 2 actions each
      • Rhino - No direct capture as it will run from one side of the board to the other. When it returns to its enclosure you will need to trap it in its enclosure requiring 3 actions.
      • Snakes - Requires 2 actions
        • Reveal by flipping the token over - 1 action
        • Capture with tongs - 1-3 actions depending on the number shown on the token.
  • Locking Animal Enclosures - Requires that you are directly outside the enclosure. This costs 3 actions.
    • Once all of the animals of that type besides the ones who have already escaped the zoo are all in the enclosure you can lock the enclosure. At this time, no more animals in that enclosure may escape when the cards say to do it. 

3. Draw 1 escape card - These cards will determine the order and rate of ongoing animal escapes. Animals will move to the first open space (space with nothing else in it) outside of their enclosure. 
  • Beware - A tiger or elephant can land or move on your space, you will become injured and move to the medic tent immediately. 
  • Sneaky Snakes - These come out from their enclosure face-down. Until the token is flipped, it will not be able to be captured or do any harm.
  • Rhino Charge - The rhino will never try to exit the zoo, instead it will charge straight to the opposite side of the zoo.  When another rhino charge card is drawn the rhino will charge back inside its enclosure. Rhino charges will destroy any barricades in its way. 

4. Draw 1 move card - Only the animals that have escaped from their enclosures will follow the directions on the move cards. They will always move in the shortest path toward the exit. If a barricades is placed, the animals will re-route and form a new path which is the shortest distance to the exit. There will be special cards in the move deck that will change things up and keep you on your toes, so when those are drawn, you will obey the special rules on the card. 

You all lose if a dangerous animal that includes a tiger, an elephant, or a dangerous snake exits the zoo before being captured or 5 or more of any harmless animals - capuchins, meerkats, pandas, or harmless snakes exit the zoo before being captured.
You all win when no loose animals remain in the zoo and all enclosures are locked. 

Artwork and Components:
The art is fun and simple. The art is definitely geared toward children making the game fit tightly into the family game category. My favorite piece of art is the box cover as I feel like it represents the game pretty well. The only thing I didn't really enjoy as far as the art is the board itself. I felt like it was too simple and could have added something more to enhance certain spaces. The components in this game are top notch, and they didn't skimp on anything. The box uses thicker cardboard than a lot of board games. The components include animal maples that are very fun to handle and use. They are wood and are painted on both sides. Player boards use hard cardboard instead of card-stock and the cards are standard thickness.

The Good:
The game is exactly what you would expect, no surprises. It's great to have a co-op game that can be played by the family including kids. The theme fits the category of game as well and kids love animals and the zoo. They think it's fun to see the animals trying to escape, and try to get them back. There are a variety of different actions you can make, which helps so you can do exactly what you want. The game isn't overly easy as you really need to make a plan and figure out how to get the animals back to their enclosures, so there will be times that you might not win.

The Bad:
The board seems plain and could benefit from more/better art. The game at times can lag due to not having the resources you need and wasting actions looking for supplies. You can only hold 4 supplies at a time, so when looking for something specific, you will be tossing resources solely looking for the thing you need. I'd like to see a way to trade 2 or 3 not needed resources to gain some type of benefit. The cards also seem very random which makes the game seem at times very easy, or very hard without knowing what you might get.

Final Thoughts: Zoo-demic is what I first thought when I was looking into this game. If you are familiar with Pandemic board game, Zoo break takes their mechanics, changes them a bit and puts a zoo theme on top of it. They did a pretty good job with changing it enough that its not the same type of game, but also keeping the fun mechanics that make those types of co-op games great. I would recommend this game more for the younger crowd that enjoy family or co-op games.

Check out Zoo Break on:


Brody Sheard - Reviewer

Brody Sheard played board games with his large family growing up. He continues with his love of games by teaching his family, local gaming guild, and friends about new and exciting games. Brody believes that board gaming keeps your mind healthy while also having fun interacting with others.

See Brody's reviews HERE.
Zoo Break Review Zoo Break Review Reviewed by Brody on May 30, 2019 Rating: 5

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