Review: Zoodiak – space signs strategy

Zoodaik - packaging

What is actually shape of stars? Are they round or not? When you watch them with a telescope, you can see a small circular objects. But under the gaze of ordinary narrowed eyes, you can sometimes see a strange glow emitting to the sides. That means, that there is a Zodiac match just taking place in heaven..

Do you like Tic Tac Toe? And what about, if you had a chance to play them in the sky? Many of you will surely not refuse such an invitation. And so it was with us in our newsroom, when galaxy game from the author arrived here.

We recently had chance to test and review other game made by this author, when we played with wooden footbridge and prevailing stones in game Kippit (review). Also this time, Torsten Marold stayed true to small German label , compared with other game, Zoodiak is much younger and came on market in .

Zoodaik - game is ready

In that time, Franjos was still a small publishing house and it can be seen also in the packaging. Simple box with a blue lid without any graphics, has a paper line wrapped around it with game title and a picture of the Milky Way. You probably won’t read name of the game at first sight here, because it is decorated and written as game’s main theme – star signs.

Even inside, there is no wealth neither in quality nor in quantity of all components lying on the bottom. There is a black and white printed manual, bag of stones, some cards and game board. But not so quick, we’ll discuss everything once more and over again, because each of pieces of the puzzle called Zoodiac is worth a stop.

The first is game board made from specific cloth. It is as black as the night sky and in its lower right corner has name of the game. On its surface are thirty-two golden stars. At first glance, they are somewhat unevenly distributed, but it does not matter, because the player’s units will not stand against each other directly, they will be added later into this mixture.

Zoodaik - game in progress

Stones are colored in yellow and blue. Each color is intended for one of the opponents. But its not that easy, because they are in fact doublesided and doublecolored. It’s always a pair of discs glued together, one yellow and one blue. This makes each stone belong to both players at first. Altogether there are twenty such two-stones and is therefore not important, how are they distributed among both players. Reason for this solution lies in the course of the game.

Among more tokens, you will find two black stones indicating black holes. This will make playing area different at the start of every game, as two of thirty fields get covered and cannot hold glowing objects. But we should return quickly back to the cards. There is only a dozen of them in the deck, but it does not matter. You will use only two of them in each game, plus they will be openly on table in front of each player.

We start playing now with game preparation. Players draw one card from the signs deck and put its picture side up in front of themselves. You can easily locate the Latin name of the constellation on it, but above all the most important thing are stars and their layout. Cards vary, but all images are composed with help of exactly five stars of one color.

Zoodaik - game in progress

We told you a moment ago, that players equitably distribute twenty stones among themselves and turns them with their chosen color up. Two tokens of black holes must be put aside, until a starting player is determined. He has the privilege – he can mark two places in game’s univers, where stars can not exist. These are places, where black holes tokens will be located instead, adding a little difficulty to your stone placement.

Now we can move on with match itself. It initially consists simply of putting stones on the board. Perhaps you will not be surprised, that player’s task is to build their card sign. However, since opponent knows your card, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Now we come to remarkable similarity to Tic Tac Toe. This time its not all about creating a line of several same symbols. You will be making a more complex shape instead. However, game still reminds you in this first phase of the aforementioned classics.

Zoodaik - game in progress

But then supplementary rules come into play. The first one is taking enemy stones. And here comes the explanation, why there are bi-colored stones. As soon as someone gets enemy stone between his two, he captures immediately this surrounded stone and makes it his. He turns it the other face up and can place it in next rounds as if it were his own from the start.

Well, and what happens, if none of the players would succeed in getting his sign, and all sun stones are already places? Players begin jumping with their stones. They can always skip over other stones to first empty spot. No vacancies can be jumped over. Game ends when, at any moment, one of the visible tasks is fulfilled. This means, that player succeeds in creating a sign on the table using his stone color. The shape can also be mirrored and victory still is yours.

Zoodiak is another game built entirely around a simple principle of Tic Tac Toe. But this is not just about creating straight lines. Game retains tactical charge and voltage, which we know from favorite school sport made in classes under bench. Each match consists of watching your color and trying to make your way to victory with it, attacking and blocking your opponent.

Zoodaik - cards

The most important thing in game’s impression is, that players know each other tasks from the start. Without it, the game would be no fun. It will lack all the planning and everything would be ruled by accident. This way, however, it is an entirely tactical duel, without any hint of luck involved.

Like in Tic Tac Toe, players must also have their eyes everywhere. Shape can be hidden in every stone and combinations, and the more close to completing it your opponent is, the harder is to stop him from doing so. We would have made more of an alternate variant from capturing stones, because someone might like the game more without it.

The second phase, where players have all their stones already on board, is very different from the first one. You do not have such freedom and you have to be very careful, so you do not create a chance for your rival’s winning jump.

Zoodaik - game in progress

The game is often over really quickly. It is therefore appropriate to decide winner with more matches, for example three. This our view is confirmed also by text in the rules, which suggests the same thing. The games may in fact be really brisk, five minutes till the very end. But then there are some even matches lasting fifteen minutes and some can even end in a draw!

Zoodiak is a nice battle with stones for two players. If you love or have ever played Tic Tac Toe, then this game will surely delight you. Similarly, it would be a good challenge for all fans of puzzle games for two enemies, as its really brilliant with its simplicity. Its a little shame, that processing did not get a little more attention. Maybe in the future?

DesignerTorsten Marold
ArtistFranz-Josef Schulte
Publisherfranjos Spieleverlag
Year Published2005
# of Players2 - 2
User Suggested # of Players Best with 2 players
Recommended with players
(1 voters)
Playing Time10
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
User Suggested Ages8 and up
(1 voters)
CategoryAbstract Strategy
MechanicPattern Building
FamilyPlayers: Two Player Only Games
Primary NameZoodiak

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Zoodiak – space signs strategy
Final word
Zoodiak is a logical game, where two players encounter in a game of tic-tac-toe DELUXE. At least you could sum up this game into one sentence like that. In reality, you have a set goal from the start, to make some constellation on board out of your own colored tokens – stars. Players are putting stones, but can also capture opponent ones and even move with them, when match reached state, where all stars are placed. Not only black holes will stand in your way through their random placement in setup, but moreover your rival, who will try to spoil your plans. Because your intentions are clear at first sight given open cards with assignments, you can easily see, what other player is trying to do. And its only on your perception to stop him. Zoodiak will not get your attention with processing, but its still nice logical upgrade to classical tic-tac-toe game for new millenium..
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
balanced logical game for two players
basic in classical game of tic-tac-toe
player tasks are revealed from the start
two black holes make each game unique
enough constellations to keep game interesting
two sided, two colored tokens
Cons
simpler game board
not too pretty box
really abstract game
3
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