- 2 players ages 12 and up
So simple, so elegant.
Part of the attraction for me in any game is how it looks: if the bits and pieces are interesting, if there's nice art, if, in part, it has a nice theme, and, correspondingly, if that theme is more than surface deep.
Abstract games have the advantage here. The theme is no-theme: it's all about the gameplay. However, the bits and pieces can still be beautiful.
And the gameplay, the other part of the attraction of any game, is there in spades.
There's thought required to play a game like ZERTZ
, the third installment of Project GIPF
Now, I'm no great strategian ~ in fact, I've got a history of being a mediocre chess player at best, and, although my eldest son says I'd always win, I tend to see myself as fairly challenged even at a game of checkers ~ but I really enjoy the times I can see my way through a series of possibilities and correctly determine the way to get things to flow in my favor.
The game of ZERTZ
isn't lacking in the looks department. There's no real board, per se, for the hexagonal playing area is constructed out of a series of convex (or, if you played them as we did in the first game, concave...) rings made of a heavyweight plastic ~ good quality feel about them ~ and marbles. The marbles are largish ~ shooter sized, I guess ~ and are beautifully speckled, with white, gray, and black base colors. The marbles have a lot of weight, enough so you might be led to believe that the marbles could, in fact, be made from marble.
To play the game, you have two possible moves you can make: the first is to place a marble from the pool of marbles (or, later in the game, from your own collection of trophies) on to an unoccupied ring and to remove one unoccupied ring from the edge of the board; the second possible move is to jump a marble over one or more marbles on the board, thus capturing the marble(s) you leap over.
Capturing works much like checkers, you can leap in a straight line over any single marble, and, if you can string a bunch together, over any other marbles in the series. If two or more initial jumps in different directions are possible, you have the option of deciding which way to jump. However, the choice to jump is out of your hands: if the move is available, you must take it. One of the strategies that is possible is to force your opponent to make certain captures, thus setting you up in a desired position.
Their are several goals to the game and the first player to achieve one of those goals wins. You need to capture three of each of the three colors of marbles, or capture four out of the five white marbles, or five out of the seven gray, or six out of the nine black marbles.
The first game I played, with Justin, seemed to easy, and it led to an easy strategy, and I rapidly collected all four of the white marbles. The game seemed a bit too easy, and too controllable, and a wee bit shallow of strategy. We reviewed the rules and discovered that ~ oops! ~ we goofed, misread some rules, and were both placing and capturing on the same turn. Of course, this makes for an entirely different game than designed, and, while it does allow some strategic thinking, it pretty much flattens it into a simplistic race without any depth whatsoever.
The second game I played, with Rachel, followed the real, actual rules. Now, as a disclaimer, Rachel can't stand games like this. She likes the ones with the themes well enough, but abstract games in general, and the ones she's played in this series in particular (GIPF
itself, and the now-demoted TAMSK
) did not entertain her, so it was under some duress, and much puppy dog eyes on my part, as well as providing her the choice of playing ZERTZ
, that I got her to agree to play along.
I almost came to regret that, as I spent most of the game playing catch up, two or three captures behind her, and, seemingly, always setting her up for a capture on her next turn. I had fairly well resigned myself to losing, especially after she managed to succeed on a move I had failed on ~ to isolate a marble on a ring by removing the last ring linking it to the rest of the board.
This method of capturing marbles comes into play not through leaping, but when placing marbles and taking rings from the board. When you take away the rings, you can only remove rings that can be slid away without disturbing any other rings. If you manage to leave an island of one or more marbles, without any open rings, and have it fully separated from the rest of the board, you can claim that marble (and the ring, although that doesn't provide you with any advantage except providing a place to store your captive).
I think Rachel managed to do this twice.
The board was seriously shrinking, and we were already going into our own stock of captures to be able to play, and there weren't many open spots left. On my last move, with Rachel having 5 black marbles (one from winning on that goal), 4 gray marbles (one away on that goal as well), and two white marbles (one away from getting three of each, and two away from winning on the four white marbles), and with me having 4 black, 2 grey, and 2 white, I had to play one of my captives, thus taking me further from the goal.
Luckily, I saw my chance, placed one of the grey down as the point of a three-marble V with another grey and a white, and took the last ring separating them from the rest of the board to complete my move. By doing so, I captured all three marbles, and that provided me with the three-of-each needed to win the game.
The gameplay, when you actually follow the rules, was much more satisfying, and both Rachel and I greatly enjoyed the game.
While it might be a while before I can convince her to play a different abstract game, this might have made that easier, and I'm fairly sure she'll play this one again some time.
I also think I'll need to practice, because I'm not sure I'll stand a chance against her next time...
In the overall scope of the Project, it looks like the edition of the game that I have ~ a few years old, and it has changed publishers since ~ includes some of the ZERTZ
potentials to play in a game of GIPF
. I still haven't experimented with adding any additional potentials. These pieces provide special moves within GIPF
, and can be used to link the other games in the Project together. The reason the pieces are called potentials is because their special move only occurs if the piece reaches the center of the GIPF
board, and, even then, the opposing player can challenge you to the game corresponding to the potential, and if the opposing player wins the special move is cancelled...
This greatly expands the possibilities of gameplay, and can also make for a day (or evening) of gaming, all centering around one game of GIPF
Potentials for both ZERTZ
and game #4 of the series, DVONN
, can be found in Expansion Set #2
Here's a video explaining the game ~ although note the requirements to win specify one less marble of each type; this is the "blitz" variant of the rules: