Friday, June 21, 2024

GenCon Report: Peace, Love, And Jellyfish At Z-Man Games

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Z-Man Games has been cranking out board game classics for years, making their mark on the gaming landscape with translations of European hits like Agricola and original games like the worldwide smash-hit PandemicThey’ve also been the publisher of Klaus-Jürgen Wrede’s masterpiece Carcassonne since 2012. Stopping by their booth is always something I try to GenCon, and I was lucky enough to get a look at their newest games!

Choose Your Own Adventure: War With The Evil Power Master

Retail Price: $24.99

The second in Z-Man’s adaptation of R.A Montgomery’s classic series (following last year’s House of Danger), War With The Evil Power Master takes place across a series of planets that each have their own choices for you to make. You’ll go from planet to planet, triangulating your signal as you try to find the Evil Power Master. You’ll never take the same route twice, and it’ll take a few games to even visit every planet. Like the original, the game is full of retro art work depicting the sci-fi craziness surrounding your characters.

War With The Evil Power Master is currently out of stock on Z-Man’s website, but keep an eye on it for their next shipment!

Love Letter

Retail Price: $11.99

Recently acquired from AEG, Love Letter has been a staple since its release in 2012. Z-Man’s new edition gives the game complete makeover with brand new art for all the cards, a nicer and more velvet-y bag, and chunky tokens screen printed to show the wax seal. They’ve also added two new cards to help you woo the princess: The Spy and the Chancellor. The Spy lets you gain an extra token in the round, while the Chancellor lets you essentially mulligan, drawing two new cards and picking one to keep. The new cards allow for the game to be played by up to six players rather than the previous limit of four.


Retail Price: $59.99


Hadara is Z-Man’s newest entry to their strategy titles, intended to act as a gateway game to civilization building games like 7 Wonders. Faster and a little easier than other games in the genre, Hadara emphasizes a more holistic approach to gameplay. Unlike 7 Wonders and similar, you can’t just go all-in on one type of tech or civ. Instead, you’re encouraged to spread yourself out and be more of a jack-of-all trades. Card drafting is done simultaneously, with your deck decided by the spinner in the middle. There’s three Epoch’s in the game, and you spend each one building up your civilization while also trying to keep your people from starving. There’s also islands you can colonize in order to plunder for resources or integrate into your civ, and special metals and statues you can acquire for bonus points at the end of the game.


Retail Price: 34.99

Z-Man’s big release in the spring and designed by Shem Phillips (Raiders of the North Sea), Noctiluca takes place in a peaceful jungle lagoon known as the Cerulean Pools. Your job as a player is to dive in and scoop up the titular Noctiluca, a very special kind of jellyfish that are highly valued by healers for their special powers. You’ll plan your trip around the lagoon strategically as you gather the right colors of Noctiluca for your arrangement.  You do this by picking a direction on the board from the beach and then a number, scooping up all the dice on the board with that number matching your colors. The deeper you go go, the more expensive the jars get to fill. It also has a solo mode, where you battle a tempest stirring up the Noctiluca. It’s similar to Carcasonne in that it’s a strategy game that you can play while you’re hanging out, having a beer, and don’t have hours to spend on strategy.


Pandemic:Fall of Rome

Retail Price: $49.99

Fall of Rome is Z-Man’s third game in the Pandemic: Survival line, each of which take place at the location of the Pandemic Survival World Championships: Iberia for the Spanish hosts of the first one, Rising Tide for the Dutch, and Fall of Rome for this year’s Italian location. Unlike the previous two, Fall of Rome completely overhauls the traditional Pandemic gameplay, with players not curing diseases but instead trying to defend Rome from the marauding barbarians of the north. Instead of the cures that you aim for in other Pandemic games, Fall of Rome instead has you trying to forge alliances with the barbarians. It retains the co-op play of traditional Pandemic, but adds in elements of wargames with the need to recruit armies, bolster fortresses, and defeat armies.

Pandemic: Rapid Response

Retail Price: 39.99

Another side-game in the Pandemic line, Rapid Response places players onboard a flying mobile command center, a cargo plane outfitted to travel to afflicted locations and deliver aid and assistance as quickly as possible. It’s still cooperative and retains the specialized roles of previous game, but in a smaller space and on a severe time crunch. When the timer at the end of the board runs out, you’re done for. You can flip it with time tokens, but they’re limited in quantity and only earned by helping a city. Once you help 12 cities, you win. The rapid speed means that it leaves less room for quarterbacking, encouraging genuine assistance rather than one player planning everything for the rest of the team. It’s a very neat concept and shows what still can be done with Pandemic over 10 years after its release.

Pandemic: Rapid Response is a Target exclusive


You can find these games, as well as the full catalog of Z-Man’s titles, on their website as well as at most major retailers and your FLGS. Keep an eye on The Fandomentals for coverage and reviews of Z-Man Games and the rest of the world of board games.


All images via Z-Man Games

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