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$12,906 pledged of $20,000 goal
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By Chris Guenther
$12,906 pledged of $20,000 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

About

A computer malfunction at the Bedlam Zoo has short-circuited the gates for all the enclosures and the animals are slowly but surely escaping toward the zoo exit. Your goal is simple: work with your fellow zookeepers to get all the animals back in their enclosures and lock them in before too many exit the zoo.  

Sounds easy, right? But things get tricky because you need different tools to catch different types of animals. And some of the animals are dangerous! Can you acquire the necessary supplies, capture all the animals, and lock the cages before it’s too late?  

Box artwork by Thomas James.
Box artwork by Thomas James.

Zoo Break is a crisis-management game requ dynamic and cooperative problem-solving. You will spend your turn deciding how to use limited actions to move about the board, collect and trade supplies, capture animals, and lock cages. The animals’ movements are controlled by two decks of cards: the Escape deck and the Move deck. This ensures that every game of Zoo Break is delightfully different, full of new and challenging scenarios. It's complex and suspenseful enough to keep adults riveted, but also playful and inviting to ambitious, game-loving youngsters. All the zookeeper roles in the game are intentionally gender-neutral and each zookeeper brings a unique skill to the team.

2-5 players. 45 minutes. Ages 8+.

  • Board
  • Rulebook
  • 30 wooden animal tokens
  • 14 snake tokens
  • 5 wooden zookeeper pawns
  • 5 keeper mats
  • 1 action die
  • 93 cards (26 Escapes, 39 Moves, 24 Supplies, 4 reference)  

At the heart of the game are the high-quality wooden zoo animals. If you're like us, you'll love conducting them around the board in endless and challenging game scenarios. 

Each animal presents different challenges in the game, whether it's the risk of injury or unexpected behaviors that may strain your team's ability to stay in control of the crisis. 

Sneaky snakes escape their enclosures face-down. So, keepers can see where they are hiding, but don't know exactly what's lurking there until they turn over the token to find out.

Each keeper's turn is shaped by the number of available actions, which is determined by rolling the action die. This is a beautiful custom resin die, brightly colored so it's easy to pick out amid the pandemonium on the board, and with numerals instead of pips, so players (esp. kids) can quickly see the result and get busy with deciding how to spend their actions.

Keepers round up animals and lock cages using equipment and keys obtained from the Supply Shed and kept in their inventory. 

After each keeper's turn, the animals advance. First, an Escape card is drawn, showing which animal(s) escape next. 

Then a Move card is drawn, determining how far and how fast different animals move toward the exit, or triggering other events that influence the game.

We're longtime fans of intense strategy games and cooperative hits like Pandemic and Zombicide. Our two young boys love games too, but at their age, some of the dark themes and artwork of the best cooperative games make us reluctant to invite our kids to the table.

The inspiration for Zoo Break, then, was to create a cooperative strategy game with a more playful theme – something that adults would love playing on their own, but has less… you know, death and gore, for when the kids want to join in or play on their own. It's evolved considerably along the way, but always with this simple premise at its core.

We love playing on our own without the kids (note: especially fun if you turn it into a drinking game with friends), but when we do play with kids, we’ve been delighted by how the game helps teach abstract reasoning, problem-solving, and cooperative communication skills.

For everyone involved, the rush that comes from hanging on by the skin of your teeth and regaining control of the zoo is addicting. If you lose, you want to play again to prove you can win. And if you win, you want to play again to test your mettle against new combinations of animal mischief, and to relive the satisfaction of locking every last cage.

And this is just the beginning. We have a treasure trove of ideas for expansions and further editions, all with the potential to take the Zoo Break experience in new and hilarious directions. We hope you'll join us on this journey, and help us keep the Bedlam Zoo operating well into the future (despite the frequent escapes).

We've envisioned Zoo Break as a high-quality game from the very start – wooden pieces, nice finishes, etc. – and we've play-tested the bejesus out of it to make sure that all the mechanics are just so. But there are still a few bells and whistles we’d love to include if we have the resources.

The game begins with one of each type of animal (except the rhino) already on the first space outside its enclosure, ready to move toward the zoo exit.  

The first player begins by rolling the die and taking their turn. On your turn, you use actions earned from the roll to complete tasks such as moving around the zoo, capturing animals, and locking enclosures. Initially, keepers head to the Supply Shed to begin gathering equipment and keys to the enclosures.

Supplies are stored in each keeper's inventory and can be replaced and/or traded as the game progresses.

With supplies in hand, the keepers work together to complete tasks, including rounding up animals before they can exit the zoo. Major tasks and details for capturing each type of animal are summarized on the included player reference cards.

After each keeper's turn, one Escape card and one Move card are drawn. Escape cards determine the order and pace of further animal escapes. Every game is different, so keepers must stay alert and be prepared to act, especially if one or two kinds of animals prove more aggressive than others!

Move cards determine when and how different animals move toward the zoo exit, as well as trigger other events which may affect play. 

Standard movements always follow the shortest available path to the zoo exit. However, that path can change – for example, when keepers set up the barricade or as surprise events (i.e. those triggered by special Move cards) cause animals to deviate from their usual paths. Again, every game is different, so keepers must always be on their toes!

A particular challenge is that several of the animals (tigers, elephants, the rhino, and certain snakes) may injure keepers, while others pose additional risks that must be managed. 

An injured keeper moves immediately to the Medic Tent where they must spend their next turn recovering.

The keepers WIN when all the enclosures are locked and no animals remain loose inside the zoo.

But act fast because if any dangerous animal, or five or more animals total, escape the zoo, then the keepers LOSE

Click to download a copy of the complete rulebook.

We've worked hard to get our arms around the challenge of shipping worldwide at reasonable rates. In the end, we chose the method of covering a certain amount of the shipping cost at each reward level, and then you pay the difference. Here's how it breaks down for the core reward of one copy of Zoo Break.

Game creation and artwork are by Alexa Forrester and Chris Guenther, with ample creative input (and emotional investment) from our sons, Cameron and Eben. It's our first time at this rodeo, but we hope not the last. Keep up with us at sundayclubgames.com or on our Facebook page. 

Our box artwork is by the estimable Thomas James. Check out his multitudinous work at thomasjamesillustration.com.

The voice in our video is that of Tim McGraw. No, the other Tim McGraw. 

Finally, our sincerest thanks to our play-testers, as well as our friends, families, and many other interested parties who have helped us advance and shape this project.

Risks and challenges

We're first-time game creators and this is our first Kickstarter campaign to boot. Although we're capable people and we've done our homework, there's the inevitable risk that there are lessons about this process that we've yet to learn! We've tried to mitigate this by taking substantial time for due diligence, contingency planning, and triple-checking everything. But of course there could still be surprises.

The biggest liabilities, we believe, are (1) preproduction; (2) production timing; and (3) unforeseen costs. For the first, our artwork is ready and we've worked extensively with Panda Games to ensure we're ready to sign a contract the day the campaign ends. We've also spent weeks ensuring our files are already ready to feed directly into Panda's preproduction process and to get production prototypes, especially of the wooden pieces, underway.

Once everything's submitted and approved, overall production timing is somewhat out of our hands. We trust in Panda's abilities but have left additional time in the schedule, just in case there are setbacks.

For the last challenge, we've already agonized over every detail of production and logistics, but should something go wrong, we are prepared to act fast and be creative in order to deliver our rewards on time.

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    Friends of the Bedlam Zoo

    5 copies of Zoo Break and a specially-mounted set of our original Lego zoo animals (i.e. one tiger, elephant, panda, meerkat, and capuchin) built by our junior zookeepers, Cameron & Eben, and used for our early development and testing. Limited availability.

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    10 copies of Zoo Break with all components and stretch goals. Give a great gift to friends and family. Or donate to schools, libraries, etc. in your community.

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    Meerkat of the Month Club

    • 1 signed copy of Zoo Break
    • 12 personalized postcards – one sent to you each month for a year – each featuring the story of one of Bedlam Zoo's adorable and relentless meerkats
    • Everything from either the Friends of the Bedlam Zoo (5 games + commemorative animals) or Spread the Love (10 games) reward levels
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