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Zoo Break

The animals are escaping, and it’s up to you to keep them from leaving the zoo! Can you work together to get them all back in their cages and lock the doors?

In Zoo Break, players are zookeepers. You must carefully choose how to spend your action points to stop the ever increasing horde of animals from escaping. If too many escape or a dangerous one gets out, you lose the game!

Gameplay

In Zoo Break, each player takes a zookeeper meeple and places it at the zoo entrance. Each zookeeper has their own special ability. On your turn, you roll the die to determine how many action points you have (five to ten). You may then spend those points on various actions, some of which may cost one while others may cost two or three.

You can spend an action to move one space, two actions to travel between train stations, an action to draw a supply card when in the supply shed, an action to take a snack token (these can later be used to gain extra actions), an action to trade items with other players, and actions to use the supply cards you collect.

Supply cards include the necessary items you need to capture the animals (such as snake tongs, a net, or a leash). Depending on what animal you are catching with the item, more than one action may be required. When you capture an animal it is automatically returned to its enclosure — you must also be on the same space as the animal to capture it. You also need to find the keys for the enclosures in the supply deck and barricades, which can be placed to block routes through the zoo. Using the keys on an enclosure takes three actions, but you can only do this if all the animals that belong in that enclosure have been returned to it.

After you have used all your actions on your turn, you flip an escape card which says which animals will escape from their enclosures this turn (if an enclosure is locked, the animals cannot escape from it). Next you draw a move card, which says which animals will move and how much. Typically, animals will take the shortest path to the exit. Barricades can be used to make this path longer.

There are six species of animals, some of which are dangerous. If a dangerous animal moves onto your space, you are moved to the medic tent space (you must spend one full turn here, unless playing with the easier variant that allows you to move out at the start of your next turn). If any dangerous animals escape the zoo, or five non-dangerous animals, you lose the game. If all animals are returned to their enclosures and all the enclosures locked, you win.

Zoo Break Components

Review

Zoo Break is a deceptively difficult game. The components and theme are cute and colorful, so you might expect it to be a game intended only for kids, but in reality it’s a fairly challenging cooperative experience. There are suggested variants to make the game easier if you’re playing with younger children, however, which is a nice touch.

The gameplay itself is simple to learn and teach, but there are tough choices as you play through the game. There is an interesting escalation and subsequent de-escalation.  As more and more escape cards are drawn, it’s easy to quickly get overwhelmed by the animals, but as you slowly lock one enclosure after another, things become steadily more manageable.

It’s a little frustrating that so many of the important actions rely on having the exact supply cards to use them. There is only one supply shed, so there’s not really many options at the beginning of the game; however, as there are fewer escaped animals at the beginning as well, this does give players a little time to find some of what they need and start making plans. This also means that the trading action is very valuable.

The production quality is quite high. The animals are really nice (and adorable!) wooden meeples, and everything about the game is sturdy and well made. However, the artwork for the main board and player boards leaves something to be desired, with only flat and basic colors. We would love to see details in the animal cages that fit the environments for the different species, as well as more character in the player roles. One could argue, though, that the basic artwork allows the animal meeples to really stand out.

Zoo Break is a great family cooperative game that is good for kids, but adults can absolutely find it challenging and fun on their own. Together with the lovely components, it’s a fun, lighthearted game.

Pros: Good for families, high quality components, ability to adjust difficulty

Cons: Theme and look of the game may be a little too kid-friendly for some players, artwork could be improved

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.