While many of the most popular boardgames have been around for literally decades, and in many cases even centuries, there are always innovative new games being developed and published too.
Zertz is one such game. Zertz is one of six boardgames created under the GIPF Project by Kris Burm. The games, others will be reviewed here in future weeks, have a similarity in feel as Burm looked to create a range of abstract strategy games which would please seasoned gamers, as well as potentially attract new people as well.
Zertz was released in 2000, officially the second of the six games in the GIPF Project. It is a game which has familiar elements of checkers and Chinese checkers, yet offers some tantalizingly innovative mechanics which help set this game apart from its predecessors which share a root in the world of checkers.
To begin with the board is made up of component pieces, 38 in total. As the game develops pieces are removed from the outer edge of the board, creating an ever smaller board, which in turn creates its own game dynamics. It is a mechanism while not widely used in board games, works very effectively here to give Zertz a fresh feel.
The playing pieces for Zertz are simply marbles, provided in three colours. However, the individual players – this is a two-player game – are not assigned a particular colour of marble. Instead all the marbles – five white, seven gray and nine black – are in a common pool.
On each players turn he has two possible actions, the first being to select a marble of any colour and place it on the board, at which time he removes a board piece as discussed earlier.
The other option is to capture a piece, which like in checkers, is mandatory if available. Pieces are captures as in Chinese checkers, one marble hopping over another to an empty spot.
The objective of the game is to be the first to capture three white marbles, or four gray, or five black. An fourth win option is to capture two of each colour of marble.
Having players drawing from a common piece pool, instead of the more traditional mechanic of having one's own pieces, also adds a freshness here.
Strategically a player must plan how he will capture the marbles to win, which includes where best to place a marble on their turn, and where to take board pieces from, while watching to defence what the other player is up too. The multiple layers of strategy are a great element here, yet the basic concepts are easy to grasp, in part due to the connection to checkers.
There's a lot to like here, and enough depth to keep players working on best strategies to victory theories through a lot of fun play throughs.
This is a game that is really great all around, and usually leaves you wanting to play 'just one more game'. Yes it's sort of addictive, so be forewarned.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 30, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada