Zaberias is a game that Benny Goldstein has created over the last 15 years, and he kindly sent it to us to review. This game can be purchased at www.zaberias.com. Zaberias focuses on a war between tribes, with each player controlling one tribe.
The goal of Zaberias is to be the last tribe to survive, but the game has players choose when the game ends. During our gameplay, we decided to end the game based on a time limit and based on who has the most resources/defeated the most enemies, but this isn’t in the rulebook. The goal being open-ended is good for children playing (since ages 6 and up can play) but didn’t provide as much incentive for us as adults to meet goals since the parameters were more open. You can make the goal very strict, though, to add incentive.
There are four different Map Boards for the different tribes and the configuration depends on the player count. We thought this was brilliant because it transformed the game board in a very accessible way. Two players just have their boards across from one another but if you add a third player, a third board is added on the top-middle (lined up with the squares) and if you have all four players, it is aligned in a grid (power squares all touching in the middle). The maps are all different, vibrant colors – Red (Undead), Blue (Humans), Yellow (Orcs), and Green (Guardians), which make it easy to tell the tribes apart. In addition, all of the game boards have unique backgrounds/elements that add to the world building of Zaberias.
The second part of the setup has to do with your inventory. You’ll notice that each tribe has a cardboard with different elements you can pop out. These are made up of warriors, cities, and coins (all with slightly different designs for the individual tribes). To start the game, you’ll flip one coin to its gray side because you only start with five coins. You’ll also pull out the smallest city (it has one coin but is free to place and is made of wood) and place it in your corner city slot on the Map Board. This initial city allows you to place wood units on the board after purchasing them on your turn, spawning them on the city square. As you can guess, the other cities are upgrades, which allow you to gain more income/place stronger warrior units as the game goes on. However, you have to upgrade from wood to metal to gold for each city you place and pay the cost based on the amount of coins on the city building. Kids can practice counting by managing money this way and purchasing cities and units while physically flipping the coins over to show they are spent. It is beneficial to upgrade the cities, especially to unlock the gold tier units, which are immensely strong. For example, the Orcs have a gold unit Rhino Rider, who has 7 muscle, three die rolls, and can trample wood and metal units, which kills them. He costs five coins, though, which is a steep price when you can only have up to six coins in a turn, which is more balanced. In comparison, a wood unit like the Orc Copter flies over water and units but only has one dice and a muscle of two, but he only costs two coins.
A turn can go on for as long as the current player wants/is able and consists of many possible actions. The turn always starts with the player gaining income based on the gold coins on the current cities that are standing on their board and if they have a character standing on a gold mine square which awards an additional coin at the beginning of the turn. Income cannot exceed six coins. Coins are used to purchase city upgrades and new units. Early on in the game, it is good to get these upgrades started to build strength for your tribe. Units can move across the board according to the movement value listed on them (foot symbol) and movement has to be done all at once and they cannot move diagonally unless it follows a path. Certain characters have special movement abilities which allow them to go through units, go across water, or fly, but these are exceptions. Characters can also travel through the Portal squares to any other Portal on the board as long as it isn’t blocked.
Fighting is also a huge part of the game, both for tribes to destroy one another and their cities. Many characters can only attack those who are directly next to them, unless they are ranged. If a player attacks, they always use the muscle listed on that unit’s card and the dice value they roll based on the number of dice listed on the unit. This is one area where the game helps kids learn to count as they have to add muscle and dice roll values and see if they get a greater value than their opponent(s). The same is true for the defender. There are certain things that can boost this, like if any fellow tribesman are on power squares, that adds plus one muscle to the tribe’s total in a battle, or an ambush which utilizes multiple unit’s strength in a tribe. Attackers can flee if it is a tie or keep going, but whoever loses will lose all of the characters who engaged in the battle on the losing side. This was mostly one vs. one but it is possible for another tribe to get multiple characters invading your space for an attack pretty quickly. Attacking a city works similarly. The attacker can attack a city and/or an enemy that is standing at that city. If you win, the enemy and city are removed. To take over, you have to go into that vacant city square. It is a smooth move to attack just a city when you’re standing on its square to use less actions as you would be able to replace it right away upon winning. The attacker only loses their unit if they lose the battle against a city they are standing directly at or if they lose against another unit. Cities roll the number of dice and have no muscle to add to it. There are many battles in Zaberias so it is important to be strategic about city upgrades and unit upgrades throughout the game.
Language Barrier Playability: Almost impossible. Language is necessary for the rules, and from there it is mostly symbols and numbers except when it comes to the abilities which have a lot of individual text.
Replayability: Great. The four tribes have many different units that may not all be used in one game and each new game offers a chance to strategize slightly differently.
Artwork: Delightful. The artwork is so creative and we especially enjoyed how each tribe’s board, characters, and coins were different from one another but also cohesive to the overall game. This game has its own style that is very recognizable. We also loved how the dice and all the pieces are embedded in the boards.
Quality: Good. The pieces are made of thick cardboard, however with the way that you need to pull out each individual piece and put them back in the cardboard holder it presents opportunities for items to get lost or slightly damaged over time.
Strategy: Good. You can strategize with your upgrades and managing money. You can also strategize with movement in how you coordinate attacks either for one player vs one player or for ambushes. However, with the amount of time the game lasts being up to the players this can change the strategy.
Instruction Manual: Good. The instruction manual goes over examples and is short and there is also a longer Q&A Booklet for clarification.
Organization: There is no box with this game, which we thought would be beneficial. However the pieces organize well within their cardboard holders. A box would also prevent loose pieces from falling out so we recommend putting this in a container.