Board Game Review: Zertz

Zertz (pardon not using the accented e, damn simple text editor) is an engaging 2 player strategy game. This is from Belgium, but an english version put out by the folks at Rio Grande Games is available. The board is a series of disks placed in a hexagonal pattern. Different sets of colored balls are kept aside in a common pool for each player. As the game progresses, players capture these balls. The first player that obtains one of the varying sets of balls wins the game.

Each turn a player has two choices:

They can capture a ball. This is done by placing a ball next to one on the board and ‘jumping’ the ball into an unoccupied space. The ball hopped over is captured. They can make repeated captures with the same placed ball if its new position allows it.

They can place a ball on the board. Taking a ball from the common pool, it can be placed on any unoccupied space. However when placing a ball, they have to remove one disk from the board. The removed disk must come from an edge and cannot ‘disturb’ other board pieces (i.e. you must be able to freely slide the piece away without moving its neighbors).

There are three colors of balls of varying numbers. A player wins by capturing either 4 white, 5 gray, 6 black, or 3 balls of every color. Simple rules.

It is an incredibly challenging and fun game to play. The aspect of removing pieces of the board means you are continually being forced to make more and more limited choices. Many times you have to give your opponent a capture, in order to score one for yourself, as victory conditions are dependant on the color of the balls captured to make a winning set.

The Good – The game has simple rules, but is a challenging strategic game. Additional disks are provided to expand the board if players are up for a more abstract challenge. The pieces are sturdy and elegant. I have to say this is a game with a wonderful look. It really captures the attention of a lot of people passing by.

The Bad – The game can be a little too cerebral. Everything is based on strategy, so veterans will likely have a huge leg up on new players. The game is also for two people (but playing up to 4 using partners with alternating turns could work).

The Verdict – This is a wonderful strategy game for two people. It is quick, easy to pick up, and very deep for such a simple, elegant game. The extra board pieces can add some replayability. I’d highly recommend this game if you want a fun, light strategy game.

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