Miller Zoo – Beginner Zookeepers

Miller Zoo

What does a zookeeper do all day?

When our family visits the zoo, I wonder what it would be like to work there. Zookeepers do a lot of work to keep their animals happy and healthy, doing maintenance on enclosures, and bringing in new animals that have their own needs.

Now you can get a taste of that work by playing Miller Zoo, a cooperative game for 1-6 players by Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance and based on a real zoo in Frampton, Quebec.

The game of Miller Zoo is published by Randolph, and distributed in the USA by Hachette.

Miller Zoo

How to Play

Every player chooses a zoo employee character, also known as a “teammate”. Gather all the associated pawns on the “canteen” space. Shuffle and set out decks for Resources, Needs, and Animals. Then flip four animals face-up onto the “reception” spaces marked on the board. You’re ready to start your first day!

A “day” has four parts in Miller Zoo: Dawn, Morning, Afternoon, and Night.

1. Dawn

The teammates wake up! Each player draws four resource cards and lays them face up in front of themselves.

Resource cards

2. Morning

The animals are up too… and they’re not all happy! Each player draws a Needs card, then places the indicated problem token(s) on every animal in the zoo habitats with the matching Needs icon. Some animals may end up with multiple tokens. Thankfully, the animals in reception aren’t affected.

3. Afternoon

It’s time to get to work! Every player on the team may play cards in any order they wish – the whole team is playing at the same time. You may play a card to move to a new location (the four reception spaces and three habitats), fix a problem (remove a matching problem token from your location for each icon on the card), or contribute resources towards the cost to receive an animal.

When an animal’s reception cost has been met, the whole team should imitate that animal’s noise (silly!), then transfer the animal to the appropriate habitat area. Teammates who are on that animal’s reception space may move with the animal to its habitat for free! Then discard the resource cards in that reception space and draw a new animal if any are available.

4. Night

When resource cards run out, teammates return to the “canteen”. There’s room to store up to three leftover cards to use the next day. In addition, any cards played on animals in reception stay on those animals overnight.

Then the whole team checks for a crisis. If any animals in the habitats still have a problem token, those still need to be removed! Discard cards from the deck, one at a time, until you find a card matching each remaining problem token.

Flipping Resource cards to solve a Crisis.
We kept flipping cards off the Resource deck until we found a medical kit to remove this last token.

Once you’ve resolved any crises, it’s time to check the resource deck and the animals.

If all the animals have been “received” (moved to habitats), you’ve won the game! But if you’ve run out of resource cards in the deck and there are still animals to receive, the game ends and you have lost.

Otherwise, start another day!

An Evolving Game: New Challenges

Miller Zoo has more to discover. In the box are six labeled envelopes. After you’ve won your first game, it’s time to start adding new abilities and challenges! Complete the six mandatory challenges to open new envelopes with more tools, abilities, and animals. As you finish these, you’ll continue down the path indicated on the back of the game board.

The nineteen optional challenges let you test your team’s skills and reward you with more stickers.


At its heart, Miller Zoo is a pretty basic cooperative game, with art that reminds me of wildlife magazines like Ranger Rick and Zoobooks.

Unlike many cooperative games, there’s no “enemy” and the consequences for failing your daily goals are minor. Both the theme and the rules are kid-friendly: it’s all about helping animals. The depiction of zookeeper duties are also sanitized; no one will feel grossed-out.

Open New Challenges

The stickers and sealed envelopes were the most interesting factor for our family. Miller Zoo is a “legacy game“, in which you change the game permanently over time. Our kids loved this in Zombie Kidz Evolution (from Scorpion Masqué). While Miller Zoo is from a different publishing imprint and development team, these games have many “legacy” elements in common.

Completing the mandatory challenges revealed new animal decks and slight rule changes. There’s not really a story here, but the challenges do have a progression – allowing you to do more as you unlock new abilities for the six zookeeper characters.

We especially liked adding stickers to the character cards and the back of the board.

Not for Gamer Families?

But our kids weren’t impressed by Miller Zoo. Maybe they expected something fast-paced, or maybe it was the zookeeper theme.

But I think it’s something more fundamental – our kids are gamers. I’ve been writing family-oriented board game reviews since 2016 and they’ve played a wide variety of games with me since then.

Miller Zoo is just not intended for families like ours. The game starts out very simply, and the legacy aspects feel like an extended tutorial to get to the “classic” game, finally introduced in the fifth envelope.

For us, it just felt too easy. We played six times before we ever lost a game. That’s when we discovered an additional element, tools, unlocked only when you lose. But we never needed them.

First Loss - Oops! All is not lost. You've found the toolbox!

Best for Any Number of Beginner Zookeepers

I think Miller Zoo is best for families who haven’t tried this style of game. It plays well with any number of people, and it’s still intriguing to beat the game and open a new envelope to find out what’s inside.

Adding more players doesn’t change the game much. Each player adds more resource cards the team can use during a “day”, but also another problem to solve, and fewer “days” before the game ends. Two characters (1-2 players) was my least favorite. With a pool of only eight resource cards, you might not be able to match the animal “needs” at all, and the only way to get more is to wait until the next day.

It’s going to be very hard to fix a “damaged habitat” without any matching resource cards.

But at three or more players, Miller Zoo is a great introduction to cooperative resource-management games and legacy games. The challenges will encourage players to try new strategies, while tempting them with more stickers to show their progress.

If you’re ready to introduce your family to this friendly cooperative game, find it on Amazon or ask for it at your local game store.

The Family Gamers received a copy of Miller Zoo from Randolph for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Miller Zoo
  • 9/10
    Art - 9/10
  • 8.5/10
    Mechanics - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Family Fun - 8/10


Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 1-6
Playtime: about 30 minutes