In Zoo King, 2-4 players compete to build the best zoos by acquiring animal, staff, and facility cards, with the long-term goal of winning awards that will be revealed over the course of play.
Before the game begins, each player purchases one of the staff or facility cards from their starting allotment of 1,000 money. Randomize the event and award cards into a single deck, with the cards being separated into groups based on the player count. On a turn, you reveal an event card from the deck, then perform two actions (whether the same or different) from these four:
- Purchase an animal, staff, or facility card from those available on the market, then add it to your zoo.
- Draw the top card from either the animal deck or the staff/facility deck, then either purchase it or discard it.
- Purchase the top card of either discard pile at a discount, albeit not a card you discarded this turn.
- Exchange an animal in your zoo for one of equal or lesser cost or star value in the market or on top of the discard pile.
After you acquire a pair of animals, you receive an immediate bonus of 100. You can also earn money from event cards, with staff and facility cards granting discounts and other benefits.
After a certain number of rounds, the first set of award cards will appear, with the awards being handed out one by one or returned to the bottom of the event deck in case of a tie. Sample awards include most felines, most money in hand, and highest total star value. As soon as a player has collected three awards — or four awards in a two-player game — that player immediately wins. If no one wins during the first award ceremony, then complete another round of events, after which more awards will be distributed.