Zoar is a weird nut. It wants to be a strategic euro, but the random elements may be too powerful. It wants to be a game of high interaction, but above all rewards patience. It requires planning until the gods strike you down.
And that wasn’t a metaphor. There’s like all this lightning and death and *pew boom crackle*
Zoar is a goal focused strategy game of army movement and management. It plays 2 to 4 players and I honestly have no idea the optimal number. I’m leaning towards four, but it is dependent on your play style. The game is simple enough to have a wide target audience but I think the hobby gamers will find the game wanting.
Players take on the role of faction leaders to be the first to reach one of two goals: retrieving their item of power from the opposite side of the map and returning it to their home tile, or destroying a set number of enemy strongholds. Players will move their armies, fight enemy forces, and gather resources in order to bolster their strength or spawn more units.
At the end of a player’s turn they roll the god die, a very pretty blue d12. The number rolled corresponds to a tile on the board. Lightning strikes, spawning resources in that spot. Enemy players on that tile also lose all their armies and forts, unless they build lightning rods using the resources they’ve gathered. Your armies, however, are blessed by divine favor and survive.
Oh, and you can sacrifice your animals to roll the die again, affecting another tile! Yeah, it’s random. Really, really… you know, let’s just move on to The Play.
Zoar is not a bad game, but it’s not for me. I’m not a fan of the pacing, as players sit around carefully watching for the opening that could be many turns away. I’m also really not a fan of god. Sitting up there throwing down lightning shaped blessings is a really jerk move.
Hit that PLAYER PERSPECTIVE button!
Zoar is a game of patient planning. Players take two steps forward and one step back. Caution is the name of the game, being able to forsee opponent moves is critical. You must wait for the right opening before jumping across the road.
Frogger is still relevant for referencing, right? I’m not that old…
Armies destroy each other on a 1:1 ratio with strongholds being worth one more strength. Players are limited in the army meeples they can have on the board and on the steel resources they can own. So, there is a cap on an army’s strength, but your stronghold doesn’t have legs. Which means a maxed army is not enough if your opponent is also maxed in their keep.
This give and take would create a lot of empty rounds if not for the food resource. Food let’s players make extra moves with their armies, allowing for surprise attacks and dives for the artifact.
And then there is God. Lightning breaks standstills through its random acts of destruction and surprise resource spawn. You could go grab those resources, but that might leave you vulnerable. Are you sure you planned for everything correctly? What will you do if the lightning attacks you, are ready for the random acts of God?
Zoar feels like Chess. Carefully calculated moves that rely on patience and guessing your opponents’ strategy. Each movement delicate as the fear of a misstep guides your hand.
Zoar’s god die, for all its strategic value, causes a huge rift in the audience it wants. The effect is completely random, and a strike can turn the tides severely. This was the dividing line between my players. Those that disliked the game saw it as a chaotic disruption to their plans. Those that liked it saw the die as the key mechanic that moved the game forward, preventing the standstill.
Overall, I’d say the game is good but flawed. It will have its audience, but that audience isn’t me. Maybe it’s you?