Empires of Zidal is a deck building board game for 2 to 4 people. It provides much replay ability through deck variation and great strategy, and is lots of fun! A deck building game is one in which each player has their own deck of cards to draw and play from, separate from all other players. The game is set in the mythical land of Zidal and every player is the ruler of one of Zidal's empires. The deck each player builds throughout the game consists of people from within their own empire (each card is another person). There are 42 different kinds of people (usually referred to as workers) that a player can use to populate their empire (build their deck). Will a player decide to make a mostly military empire and populate their empire with generals, knights, and soldiers? Will the player take advantage of the market by training his people to be merchants, negotiators, and analysts? Or will the player populate their empire with magic, labor, or entertainment workers... or a combination of 2 or more employment branches? It's up to each player to decide. The objective of the game is to be the player with the most medals of valor when the game has concluded. Each of the 5 employment branches has a medal unique to them and all medals are equal in point value. The following sections detail the game components, the 6 different employment branches in the game, and how these branches differ from one another.
The game will come with over 300 tokens printed in full color on both sides. The tokens consist of game resources (gems and silver coins) and medals of valor. The resources are used to train workers, construct buildings, and play most worker abilities. Medals of valor are gained throughout the game by various means and whoever has the most of them when the game has concluded wins.
The resource branch workers comprise every player's starting deck. Extra cards from this branch cannot be gained during the game (except children)... you get what you start with and that's it! Shown here are 2 of the 5 starting gems workers: the sapphire digger and emerald dredger. These gem workers when played allow a player to gain 2 of the gems shown for free. These gems are represented by tokens that are kept by the player until used. Also shown is the silver worker, who provides 8 silver coins when played, and one child. Every turn a child is added to your deck (this represents your empires ever growing population). Players must balance training these children versus playing worker abilities. Train too few children and they'll begin to overrun your deck. Train too many and you might not have all the resources you need to do everything you want to do.
All employment branches have something unique to them that allows them to play differently than the other branches. The labor branch has several workers who have effects which persist through several rounds (known as being on "active duty"), more so than any other branch. The tanner (shown below), for instance, persists through 2 full rounds of play (unless altered by other workers) and gains in total 3 labor medals (recall gaining these medals is the objective of the game). The labor branch is also unique in that it is the only branch that has counter-attacks to the abilities of other players. Also shown below are the Woodsman and Mason who block opponent's attacks and potentially add to the building construction costs of other players. Each employment branch also has 3 buildings that can be constructed which give benefits to the workers in that branch. The farm, for example, gives players extra labor medals when multiple labor workers are on active duty.
The market branch has workers that are all about making money (silver coins) and providing additional things to do with that money. Shown here is the merchant who allows gems (game resources) to be sold to the price fluctuating, supply and demand driven, resource market for more money or to be purchased for less money. The exporter would then allow market medals to be purchased using that extra money. Also shown is the baron who allows 3 market medals to be gained for the cost of one blue gem and one green gem (all employment branches have a worker similar to this that allows medals to be gained at the cost of gems).
The workers of the magic branch would have to be considered the "wild card" characters of the game. These workers allow for specific game assets to be gained exactly when needed. The witch (shown below) allows for 2 of any kind of medal to be gained. The battle mage allows for 2 of any kind of gem to be gained. By using these magic workers, among others, a player is able to gain the specific asset he needs, when he needs it. Also shown is the alchemist who is able to turn already acquired medals into other kinds of medals. This is important when used in conjunction with specific buildings because some buildings (like the lair shown below) grant bonus points to players for acquiring specific medals. A player could thus use the alchemist to acquire specific sets for personal gain or ruin opponents sets of medals.
The workers in the military branch are ruthless and most involve detrimental effects to opponents. The vanguard and foot soldier (shown below) are good examples. The vanguard allows medals to be stolen from other players and the foot soldier allows gems to be stolen from other players. Players who decide to pursue a military deck must take no mercy when attacking other players. Also shown here is the general. Notice she has no abilities, but rather is worth 6 military medals at the end of the game (all branches have one worker similar to this who provides medals at the end of the game, but provides no abilities in game).
The Entertainment workers are all about speed and getting more cards to go through your deck more quickly and getting more worker abilities played per turn. The jester is a good example as he allows a player to draw 2 or 3 more cards in a single turn. This ability would work well with the theatre and would then allow the jester to draw 3 or 4 cards instead of 2 or 3. These extra cards come in handy with an actor who allows players to discard worker cards for additional entertainment medals. Also shown is a minstrel who allows players to gain 2 entertainment medals at the cost of one purple gem (similar to how the baron in the market branch works).
In addition to being able to back this game I am also providing an option to get the T-Shirt I was wearing in the video above. The shirt in the video was a simple iron on transfer, but the final production of the shirt will be professionally screen printed. The front of the shirt will have the Dog Breath Games logo on the left chest and the back will have an image of six characters from the game along with the Empires of Zidal logo. The shirts that are ordered for this kickstarter project will be the first and last time this shirt is professionally produced... so get it while you can! (shirts are available from size small to 4XL).
Tim Norris at GreyElephant Gaming received my only prototype game on March 16th for the purposes of reviewing. I'm happy to say he and his wife Carmen really like the game and posted their thoughts about it in a game review video for his site. He will also be posting a quick play through and video instructions on how to play the game, so check them all out!
The CardBoard Republic also did a game preview of Empires of Zidal (note this is not a review, but a preview):
A few people have requested different shapes for all 5 gems (currently there are only 3 shapes). If we hit the $10,000 we will have two more gems shapes created for the emerald and topaz gems. The emerald gem will be a trillion cut gem and the topaz gem will be a round cut gem. This will help distinguish the gems more during play (note: the artwork has not yet been commissioned for these gems).
If the $12,000 mark is reached all backers who ordered a game will receive 5 additional bonus cards available only through this kickstarter campaign! These cards (one for each employment branch) are more powerful than any of the other cards! These bonus cards don't have to be used in every game and will be denoted as special by use of the asterisk in the upper right corner. When used these cards will replace one of the other cards in the available worker pile and can be used to spice up a game from time to time. Currently the artwork for these characters does not exist so if this stretch goal is reached I'll be adding an additional reward with a limit of 5 to be able to name one of these 5 additional characters and describe how he/she looks for the artist to draw! (Names and descriptions are subject to my approval). (Note: the abilities of these worker cards are preliminary and subject to change).
Several people have asked to see the game in action, so I've spent some and recorded two videos. In the first video I go through in detail one player's turn. In the second video I show the first few rounds of a 4 player game and give brief descriptions about what each player is doing. In the third video I show a turn around the table during the middle of a game, once everyone has their strategy more established. Enjoy!
I took Empires of Zidal to a board game club that meets at Purdue University on Wednesday March 6th and 13th and a few people got to play through an entire game. Below are a few emails I received about the gameplay experience:
"Empires of Zidal is a refreshing change to the deckbuilding formula. The variety of gems combined with the gem market give many more options for strategy than it may seem at first glance. There are several viable strategies based on the buildings and guild types you choose to go for, and whether you go for medals or for high-valued workers. The play and variance in Empires of Zidal is different from your normal deckbuilder and that makes it interesting and high on my want list." ~ Brian
"This is a really good deck building game and the added element of the resource market makes things pretty interesting. All in all, the game is well balanced and well thought out!" ~ Chloe
"Thank you so much for taking the time to demo your game! It is a very interesting and fun implementation of a deck builder." ~ Kevin
"It was great to play your game last night and I am very keen on playing it again. There seems to be a load of different strategies and it's very easy to jump in and have fun. I love the artwork and the shifting resource market really takes the game play to a new level." ~ Isaac
A few have requested to see additional character art. Shown below is the art for all characters in the game. Notice how all military workers have red accents in the clothing, market workers have blue, etc. This file has also been uploaded to board game geek:
Also uploaded is a draft of the first 8 pages of the rulebook.
Risks and challenges
As the game mechanics and artwork have been designed and completed the only real challenge left is to successfully have the games physically produced. I have been shopping around for manufacturers and have received several quotes and I am confident that if $8000 is raised I will be able to provide a quality game. I have had several manufacturers send me samples of their product and have even purchased games produced by these manufacturers to ensure they will be able to provide a game that is up to the quality level that I expect.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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