Whose Zodiac would win in a battle of wits?
|Designer(s)||Marc Di Stefano||Artist(s)||Marc Di Stefano
Zodiax is a neat little strategy game that has a lot in common with Checkers. The players will control pieces with the goal of making it to the other side of the board. It also has a little Chess as well since each piece behaves differently both in the way they move and attack. In addition to this, there are different variantsof the game that includes a different load out of these unique abilities.
Enough of all of that, let's take a little at this unique little strategy game.
This is a first for our reviews: a game that comes in a canvas drawstring bag with wooden pieces and paper instructions. I believe the only plastic was the baggie to hold the pieces together in shipping (may or may not be part of the typical product); so this game is environmentally friendly. The bag also double as the game board to it is very useful. On the front of the bag is your typical game information (player count, age, time, title, and publisher) and some illustrations of different animals. The two bags I received are identical except for the stamp in the upper right of the bag. I imagine this is a much cheaper option as they probably add the stamp on perhaps has orders are placed rather than having them all pre-stamped and potential left with excess bags for low selling versions.
Each version of the game comes with the following items:
- Two sets of 6 wooden tokens: These represent the animals (or figures) each player will control. Each have a number on them that represent their force and a word that represents a unique ability they can use in addition to the normal moves.
- Game Pouch that doubles as the game board: The game board that has 23 circle spaces on it. On two edges of the board are the players area with 3 unique spaces called the Spawn Circles (x2) and the Gate.
- Rules on a single sheet of paper
The wooden tokens are nice little wooden disks. It almost looks like the graphics on them are stamps that someone may have put on there directly and are easy to read. They are light weight and looks nice; there isn't much beyond that to say. I can't confirm this without asking the publisher, but these games may be finalized and packaged by hand, which is really neat. They really do have that looks which maybe them very unique if they are.
The overall mechanics feel a bit like Checkers with some unique abilities/moves sort of like chess or War Chest from Alderac Entertainment Group.
- Each player will select one of the sets of *6 tokens of a different color from each other.
- Place game bag so the board is face up and the Gates are in the front of each player.
*Note: Some token sets may include a 7th piece (such as the black Chinese set that includes the Cat , which was the 13th animal to arrive to the party); in those case, you will select one of the duplicate numbered pieces to use. The other will remain in the bag. Also, you can mix token sets from other versions of the game.
Select a first player and begin.
Each player may perform one of the following actions on their turn with any of their pieces:
- If at least one of a player's Spawn Circles are open, they may spawn one of their unspawned tokens to the board in that space.
- A piece may move into an empty, adjacent space.
- Jump over an opponent's piece into an open spot on the other side, flip the jumped token to the skull side, and return it to the owner (much like Checkers). To successfully slay an opponent, your token's force must be equal to or greater than the target.
- Additionally, you can jump over allies and an opponent in a line to slay as well. You will add the ally's force to your own allowing a weaker token to defeat stronger opponents.
- Use Ability
- This is the unique part of the game where 5 of the 6 pieces have abilities on them while the strongest piece (6) is pure power house. Within the rules is an explanation of each ability. I will describe them briefly here.
- All sets include Push, Grab, and Fire (present on the 2-4 Force Tokens)
- Push: Push a piece (or a line of pieces) one space in a direction placing your piece in their adjacent space. Can even move tokens off the board, but they remain alive and simply need respawned.
- Grab: Slay by jumping on the token (Super Mario style) instead of jump over it.
- Fire: Kill this token and an adjacent token turning both into ghost.
- Unique Abilities (present on the 1 and 5 Force Tokens)
- Leap: Slay two adjacent opponents in a single jump; basically slay + 1.
- Run: Move 2 spaces OR Move and then Slay (that order).
- Spawn: This piece becomes a spawn point; cannot move until the spawn token moves off of it.
- Warp: This piece can move off the left and right sides of the board and appear on the opposite (Pacman style), but only left and right (can't use to move to directly into opponents area from your side).
- Mimic: Use the ability of any adjacent token.
- Hop: May perform consecutive Slay actions assuming there is a new valid target after each Slay.
- Swap: Trade places with an adjacent token.
- Eat: After slaying a token, the piece is placed under this token instead of returning to the owner. This piece gains a +1 force for each token eaten.
Once a player is able to get any of their tokens into the opponents Gate spot, they win the game immediately. The game can also end if one player has had all of their animals defeated and are all ghost; the player with at least one animal token remaining is the winner.
The game comes in multiple variants; each game plays the same but each have a unique ability.
- Chinese: Includes the unique abilities: Leap and Run
- Celtic: Includes the unique abilities: Spawn and Warp
- Greek: Includes the unique abilities: Run and Spawn
- Native American: Includes the unique abilities: Hop and Swap
- Aussie: Includes the unique abilities: Hop and Warp
- Cephalopod: Includes the unique abilities: Eat and Mimic
- Panda: Includes the unique abilities: Mimic and Spawn
- Dinosaur: Includes the unique abilities: Swap and Eat
Here are a few samples of the other sets.
This is a separate mini-expansion that is available for purchase on their website (restock coming soon).
The game is very similar to the basic rules, but each player will receive a Monarch piece that can be thought sort of like the king in chess; if you lose this piece, you lose. The Monarch is no pushover though; it has a power of 4 and the mimic ability making it a fierce piece. It is essentially a glass cannon.
Setup is more less the same; they will take a Monarch of one of the colors and will select a token set that matches the color of the Monarch. Monarchs begin the game on the Gate space. Play continues as normal. If the Monarch is ever slain or pushed off the board, they lose. Also, the game can only be won by defeating the Monarch; capturing the gate is not an option in this mode.
Amanda really liked this game, which made me very happy since I like these types of strategy games. It took us a game or two to get the rules down, but it is overall very easy to learn. I really like the compact nature of the game and the wooden pieces. You could literally buy every version of the game and put them all into a single bag opening up a lot of variety in your game play options. I really like that the core game is based on the Chinese Zodiac, and I would love to see a version based on the astrological zodiac signs (e.g. Aquarius, Scorpio, Cancer, etc.). To be honest, I didn't realize there were so many Zodiacs; I am not entirely sure if all of the sets are based on actual zodiacs. If I were to want one thing included, it would be maybe a little page with each variant listing the source/inspiration for that set.
If you like simple to learn strategy games that also have a deceptive amount of strategy, check out Zodiax.
We received the product in order to write an honest review; all reviews reflect the honest opinions of the writer.