Sometimes you sense the purpose of something, you grasp the motive behind the work in front of you. Normally you’re presented with the final product and the best form of what something should be. On occasion the end result is so bright, so glittering that you end up slightly closing your eyes, almost squinting in order to see past the glitz and glamour to more stripped down version underneath. On occasion you wish the brightness had been toned down, that maybe that last fleck of gold had been left on the table and that last piece of glitter had been left in the bottle, as what you had was already good enough. You didn’t need the ostrich feather to show everyone you had made something special.
There was a lasting peace between the Humans, Undead, Guardians and Orcs, that was shattered when someone decided they needed to make a kid friendly skirmish type board game. After a campaign of theft, apple stealing, stink bombs and threats of terrible Dad jokes, the four peaceful factions have vowed to not only wipe each other out, but try to maintain the highly lucrative construction industry that provides many of the jobs in Zaberias. It is your job as one of the heads of the factions to build, attack, defend and potentially let down the tyres of your rivals until you stand victorious over the land. (Some of this may not be true)
Zaberias lands at the table with a mixture of battle and building, where you’ll be tasked of wiping out the units of the opposing teams. On your turn you’ll be able to use coins to upgrade buildings that you have, starting from wood and working your way up to gold. Upgraded buildings give you the opportunities to field more powerful characters that you can take into battle with most of the characters having a special skill that can be used as you fight. You can team up if you are looking to increase your attack strength, or support units when they come under attack by providing extra power. It helps to open up a bigger variety of potential strategies as you play as opposed to constantly playing a one on one game between characters. You’ll be laying siege to unprotected buildings to remove them from play, controlling square to give you more coin, or even using the teleport squares to zip around the board to help spread yourself across the land. Zaberias brings a lot of variable player powers to the table as you start to bring on the more expensive units and with such a diversity on offer it opens up the potential for replayability, though getting to grips with every character is definitely a steep learning curve.
Wipe everyone else out on the board including units and buildings and you’ll win the game. With all of the various character designs, I was kind of surprised that there aren’t other win modes available, though there is nothing to stop you from making something up if ultimate destruction isn’t always your cup of tea.
Set up for Zaberias is never going to take too long due the to modular board system, and like most games aimed at kids timing isn’t always going to be the decider on how long games will last. A slow relaxed game with three or four players might easily hit over the hour mark. Two player is going to be much shorter depending on how aggressively you decide to go after the other player. You’ll need to set aside more time for your first couple of playthroughs especially of players are trying new character sets for the first time. So keep that in mind.
Zaberias is like an over seasoned soup, where the main premise has been added to again and again to the point where the strength of the core game is diluted and unnecessarily over complicated. The game contains so many additional extras it comes to the detriment of a solid and entertaining experience. It is like someone has presented you with a most excellent meal but is insisting that your drink the soup through a garlic and chilli breadstick straw, and that you can only start eating the main course once the chef has danced around cascading flower petals over your steak and triple cooked chips, while reciting an appetite chant. There’s a lot of things to like though. The upgrading of the buildings to allow more advance units reminds me of a cool tower defence game, and the ability to assist other units in battle to either attack or defend is fun and inspired. The overall production in terms of the art is bright and colourful and it’s perfect for the market that is trying to be captured here. At the same time though, I wish they would have just went for dull and boring for some of the production choices. Zaberias could do with a box to keep the components and game board in, and yes, I’m banging the online rulebook drum again, but in an age where I play board games to keep my kids away from screens as much as possible, I want a paper copy rulebook to flick through especially since there seems to be quite a few differences between the factions when it comes to learning. Additions that would have helped to make the game easier to play have been sacrificed for the sake of modular boards that will be dumped after several plays. There’s a good kid friendly game here, but the over production is rampant in an attempt to make it stand out that ultimately hurts what it could be.
While it’s tempting to dash off and explore in those first few turns, it actually makes sense to try to upgrade your main city as quickly as possible while spending some money on some smaller cheaper units to defend.
You can find out more about the game by visiting https://www.zaberias.com/
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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