Zapotec

Zapotec

RRP: £42.99
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RRP £42.99
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The Zapotec were a pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence reveal their culture going back at least 2,500 years. Remnants of the ancient city of Monte Alban in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs, and finely worked gold jewelry testify of this once great civilization. Monte Alban was one of the firs…
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Tags , , SKU ZSPG-BND0057 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Dice Tower

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Constant decision making
  • Wide variety of scoring mechanisms
  • Just five rounds to play
  • Pretty pyramids

Might Not Like

  • Constant decision making
  • Potential analysis paralysis
  • Only five rounds
  • Unable to achieve all your goals
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Description

The Zapotec were a pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence reveal their culture going back at least 2,500 years. Remnants of the ancient city of Monte Alban in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs, and finely worked gold jewelry testify of this once great civilization. Monte Alban was one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica and the center of the Zapotec state that dominated much of the territory that today belongs to the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

In a game of Zapotec, you build temples, cornfields and villages in the three valleys surrounding the capital to generate resources needed for building pyramids, making sacrifices to the gods, and performing rituals.

Each round, players simultaneously pick a card from their hand to determine their turn order and the resources they collect. Players then perform individual turns and spend resources to build new houses, gain access to special abilities, make sacrifices to the gods and build pyramids. The played action card determines three important aspects of each player's turn:

The resource printed at the top of the card determines the row or column to activate on the resource grid to collect income.
The icon in the middle of the card matches one of the nine properties of the building spaces on the map (one of three building types, one of three regions, or one of three terrain types). On their turn, players may build only on spaces that match that icon.
The number at the bottom of the card dictates the turn order for the round when the card is played.
At the end of the round, players draft new cards from the central offer, with the final undrafted card becoming the scoring bonus card for the following round.

After five rounds, players score points for pyramids, for their position on the sacrifice track, and for their ritual cards. The player with the most victory points wins.

The Zapotec people lived in what is now central Mexico from about 700 BC. They originated in three separate areas surrounding an open no-man’s land. This central area later became the site of their main city Monte Alban where their monuments were built. They may or may not have had a legendary Queen Zapitis (probably not!).

Zapotec, the game sees player compete via worker placement and resource management gaining VPs via these buildings, constructing central pyramids and performing “rituals” and “sacrifices”. It has similarities with Lost Ruins of Arnak with its different scoring tracks and with the Century : Spice Road series of games in trading resources.

Three’s A Crowd

The Mayans had counting systems based on 20 now I don’t know if the Zapotec civilisation had systems based on the number 3 but Zapotec the board game certainly does we have 3, 3×3 and 3 cubed rippling throughout the design as we shall see.

After a slow start where you can not do much on the first turn the game rapidly gains pace. You build Villages, Temples and Corn Fields which combine together in rows to provide ever increasing levels of resources. This engine building phase revolves around three groups of three types. You have 3 Regions each dedicated to a god : Etla has an Owl, Ocotlan the Rain Goddess and Mitla a bat but you can think of thesm as blue, gold and green. Each of these regions has 3 separate Terrain types : Plains, Hills and Forest. Each Terrain has spaces for 3 different building types : Village, Temple and Cornfield. These 9 sections each have space for 5 various buildings although with three or two players some of these spaces are not used.

The Buildings are built using the basic resources. The Resources also come in 3s : there’s Basic : Wood, Brick and Stone and advanced Corn, Gold and Priests. Each combination of 2 types of basic resource will build one of the 3 building types : Villages are built of Wood and Brick, Cornfields of Wood and Stone and Temples of Brick and Stone. These buildings will produce an advanced resource in a logical manner : Cornfields provide Corn, Villages Gold and the Temples Priests. These advanced resources will be used in various combinations to purchase trading tiles, build levels of pyramids in the central area, perform Rituals and make Sacrifices the last three of which will garner VPs.

Playing A Round

Zapotec is controlled by Action Cards and is played in rounds. After just five rounds Zapotec concludes and the VPs are tallied to determine the winner. Each Player has their own identical player board with a 3×3 (of course) grid which determines which resources they will get. 9 houses that they use to mark buildings they have built, 6 Pyramid pieces of 3 different sizes, a Palace token and 5 coloured discs to show their position on the scoring and Sacrifice Track plus which Rituals they have conducted.

Each player starts with 1 Wood, 1 Brick and 1 Stone and between 4 to 6 Action cards dependent on the number of players. The action Cards have 3 (naturally) sections. The top one shows which row or column on your grid you can chose to collect reources at the start of your turn. The middle section shows which of the 9 areas you can build in this turn and the bottom is an unique number from 1-27 (yes there are 3 cubed cards) which determines player order for the round.

Each player in turn takes resources according to the grid and then conducts Capital Actions : Buying Trade tiles, Building a Pyramid level, peforming a Ritual or making Sacrifice. These will all cost resources and bestow benefits. The more you concentrate on one area or another the greater the benefit will get. Finally you build one or more buildings according to the property type on your action card. Picking the tile off the board you place one of your houses there and then put the tile oin your resource grid where it will contribute extra resources in later rounds.

You score points at round end if you have buildings in the designated action area on the scoring card and then you replenish the Action card you used and reset the scoring card for the next round.

At the end of 5 rounds the game is over and you add the scores from your Pyramids, Rituals and Sacrifices to find the overall winner.

Three’s A Crowd But One’s Alright

There is a competent solo mode where you play against Cocijobot, the rain god, who has its’ own deck of 27 (there we go again) cards that determine its’ actions as you play normally.It will build, perform actions and finally score points according to the 3 full pages of specific rules. There is even a suggested way of adjusting the difficulty of solo mode either up or down.

Zappy Tech

I really like Zapotec. It’s got clever mechanisms that all neatly interlock together. It has a good table presence with attractive components and a reasonable thematic flavour. What sets it apart is the constant challenge it gives you to make the right decisions in deploying your resources to make powerful combination moves. If I do this then I can do that followed by that but I won’t be able to do this other thing! You must always weigh up the choices ahead of you to determine which will be the most productive in terms of VPs and being prepared to change your strategy if necessary.

It scales well from 2 to 4 players and the separate solo mode is suitably challenging.

It’s worth replaying again and again to try different strategies. You are not going to have enough time to do everything so do you focus on getting your pyramid built or pushing high up the sacrifice track to gain the glittering prizes of the upper echelons? Do you get there by many buildings in your regions or by astute dealing on the trading rows?

You decide and remember “It’s a jungle out there!”

Zapotec is played over just 5 rounds on a board representing 3 regions around a central area where pyramids can be built. There are also spaces for Trade Tiles and the Sacrifice Track. Victory Points (VPs) are recorded on a track around the perimeter. VPs are scored by constructing buildings in scoring zones, possibly amplified by Pyramids, matching targets in Rituals and by being far along the sacrifice Track.

Set Up

Each Region has 3 separate bands of Terrain : Plains, Hills and Forests. Each of these 9 sections has 5 spaces showing one of the 3 building types : Cornfields, Villages and Temples. If there are only 3 or 2 players then 1 or 2 of these spaces are not used. There will always be 1 of each building type in each section. Buildings of the appropriate type are set out on the spaces.

The Trade Tiles are sorted into 3 piles : I, II and III placed on their space on the board and the top 3 drawn and placed face up alongside their stack. These will enable the gathering of more resources or the swapping of types.

There are 9 scoring tiles : 1 for each Region, Terrain and Building Type. Randomly draw a number of these equal to the number of players plus 1 and place them on the board. These will be used when chosen to gain points from the Pyramid pieces that get built.

3 of the 10 Ritual Cards are drawn and placed on the board. The rest are not used. These will bestow bonus points at the end of the game if you have placed a token on them by performing a ritual.

Eah player has a player board with a Palace, 9 Houses, 6 Pyramid pieces – 1 large, 2 middle and 3 top, one each of the basic resources : Wood, Brick and Stone and 5 player discs : 1 to mark their VPs, 1 their progress on the Sacrifice Track and 3 to denote which Ritual they have performed.

Finally the Action Cards which determine what you can do each turn. The deck of 27 is shuffled and 1 is placed in the “Scoring Space” on the board. Then a number of cards equal to the number of players plus 1 are placed face up next to the board and a mini Action deck of 4 more cards face down alongside. Each player is then dealt a hand of between 4-6 cards depending on how many are playing.

Playing A Round

Each player plays an Action Card simultaneously. The one with the lowest Turn Order No. shown on the bottom of the card will go first followed by the others in ascending order.

The turn will consist of taking income i.e. resources. The player mat has a 3×3 grid with each row and column being headed by one of the 3 basic resources : Wood, Brick and Stone. When a player builds a building its tile is put in one of these 9 spaces. The Action Card has a Resource type at its head. You choose to draw resources from the row or column headed by this type. You receive the header resource plus any more displayed on your buildings in that row or column. For the first round this will just be the header resource as no buildings have been built yet.

Let’s See Actions

The second part of the turn consists of taking Actions and then Construction. Any number of Actions can be completed as long as you have the Resources to complete them. Also completeing some Actions may enable others. All Actions must be complete before you construct any Buildings. The Actions are :-

Buy Trade Tiles. You spend 1,2 or 3 gold to buy a tile from Row I, II or III. You can buy a maximum of 1 tile from each row on a turn. Type I tiles are single-shot that provide Resources immediately, Type II give a special ability that can be used once per turn and Type III are more powerful special abilities with varied effects.

Build Pyramid. With 1 Brick, 1 Wood, 1 Stone and a Priest you can build 1 level of a Pyramid either on an empty Pyramid space or a smaller piece on an already laid bigger piece. You can lay pieces on top of other players pieces. The maximum height is 3. If you lay the base piece you can choose from the available scoring tiles which one will be associated with it. At game end you will score VPs for every building you have of the corresponding type times the number of pieces you have in that Pyramid. Plus you get a bonus of 5 VPs per piece if the Pyramid is complete.

Perform a Ritual. If you have already built at least 1 Pyramid piece you can perform a ritual. To do this spend a priest token and mark the ritual with one of your player discs. At game end you will score bonus VPs if you have met the criteria on the Ritual card. You can place discs on all 3 Rituals if you wish but you must have laid at least 1 Pyramid piece for each Ritual. It will cost a Priest each time plus 1 gold for every other player who already has their disc there.

Make a Sacrifice. Spend a Priest and between 1-5 Corn and move your player disc up the Sacrifice Track 1 step per Corn. You collect all the bonuses you pass through which can be: VPs, Resources or reduced costs of other Actions. At game end the top 3 players furthest up the Sacrifice Track will receive 9, 6 and 3 VPs respectively.

Build It Up

You can now construct buildings as long as there is still a building token on its square and your Action Card depicts the same type of Building, Region or Terrain type. You pay the building cost in Resources, put one of your Houses on the Building square, take the Building token and place it on an empty square on your player board where it will provide Resources in future turns.

The 3 types of Building, their Resource cost and that which they provide are :-

Cost Provide

  • Village 1 Brick + 1 Wood 1 Stone + 1 Gold
  • Temple 1 Brick + 1 Stone 1 Brick + 1 Priest
  • Cornfield 1 Wood + 1 Stone 1 Wood + 1 Corn

In addition one time only you can build your Palace. This costs 1 Wood, 1 Brick and 1 Stone and will not provide any future resources but it does count as 2 houses for all scoring purposes.

You now get to score for this round. 2 VPs for each House you have on a space that matches the Scoring card on the board.

You next pick one of the face-up Action cards off the table to replenish your hand.

Keep It Tidy

After all the players have played, the remaining face-up Action card becomes the new Scoring card for the next round so if you are last to go you will effectively decide which buildings will score in the next round! The 3 Action Cards that were played this Round are laid out along with the top card off the mini Action deck to be the Offer for the next Round.

Start the next Round and continue until 5 rounds have been played (Note the mini Action deck will be exhausted)

The Final Countdown

As well as the VPs players have gained in the Rounds there are many additional points to be gained in Zapotec.

  • Sacrifice Track: The top 3 players get 9, 6 and 3 Vps respectively
  • Rituals: VPs for Rituals with met conditions for each player with their disc on it.
  • Pyramids: 1 VP for each House that matches the scoring tile of a Pyramid times the number of Pyramid pieces the player has in that Pyramid. A Palace will count as 2 Houses. If the Pyramid is complete each Pyramid piece awrds an extra 5 VPs.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Constant decision making
  • Wide variety of scoring mechanisms
  • Just five rounds to play
  • Pretty pyramids

Might not like

  • Constant decision making
  • Potential analysis paralysis
  • Only five rounds
  • Unable to achieve all your goals