Z-Man Games

Z-Man Games have been churning out fantastic boardgames for several years now, games that cover the gamut from hardcore Euro strategy games to Amertitrash-style themefests. Here’s a personal look at a batch of Z-Man games I’ve just received that I’m really looking forward to getting onto the gaming table!

Earth Reborn really takes me back to the 1980s and those halycon days of getting the latest big box Games Workshop game home, ripping off the shrink rap and pouring over the goodies inside. It’s chock-full of stuff (the box lid is literally bursting off the box!), both in components and gaming variety, and the official Earth Reborn website is busily creating new scenarios and variants as we speak. This isn’t just a game, it’s a modular sandbox system that is sure to see expansions in the future and will give the dedicated post-apocalyptic skirmish combat gamer many, many hours of gaming pleasure.

Earth Reborn doesn’t throw you in the deep end with a whole lot of complex rules however; it leads you through the rules in a series of nine linked scenarios, ranging from the basics of movement and close combat all the way through to assigning combined orders to your characters. Unlike typical skirmish games, there’s an interesting system of order tiles which players can assign to characters, and using command point markers, assign command points to various actions on the tiles.

The terrain your characters fight and complete missions over is a wide range of fully-illustrated modular board sections that can be combined in near-infinite ways depending on the scenario. Apart from the usual combat options, characters have a whole lot of interactions they can perform with the tiles—activating command consoles for example, or opening sliding doors with magnetic cards, or perhaps turning a cadaver into a zombie in the cryogenic chamber! There’s also an impressive selection of technological items and equipment to use: a deadly virus, a magnetic disruptor, smoke grenades, and a chainsaw—to name just a few.

One of the most impressive inclusions in the game is the set of 12 resin figures, including a huge robot miniature. They’re very nicely detailed and I’m really looking foward to getting them to the painting table to add the finishing touch to the game (look out for my results in a future article).

RattusFor something completely different, the role-selection game Rattus is a compact and beautifully designed little game set during the spread of the Black Death in Europe, 1347! For some reason this theme really appeals to me, but then I’m a history buff. Lovely illustrations and colours really set this game apart, but the gameplay is also a lot of fun, especially when combined with the extra options of the Pied Piper expansion (coming soon to the store hopefully—or ask us to get it in).

Each player chooses a class card each turn, but you can have more than one, and use the special abilities of all your cards. You can also take your class card from another player! Then you place cubes of your colour in regions on the map of Europe, and then move the Plague piece to a region neighbouring its current location. If there are already rat tokens in this new region, the rats spread to neighbouring regions. Then rat tokens are revealed in the region with the Plague piece, and the player’s cubes can be ravaged by the plague! At the end of the game when the rat tokens are depleted, the player with the most cubes still on the map is the winner.

Of course this is just the basics, and the class cards add all kinds of tricky variations to the basic rules, moving cubes and rat tokens, keeping cubes safe in the King’s palace, and adding more cubes to the board. It’s a game that Tom Vasel of the highly regarded Dice Tower reviews calls “a lot of fun” and ‘highly recommended”, and I can hardly wait to introduce it to some friends who enjoy less ‘heavy’ games.

Merchants and MaraudersFrom sc-ifi, to medieval Europe, to everyone’s favourite, pirates! Merchants & Marauders seems to have come closer than any other game so far to the ‘perfect’ pirate game that everyone seems obssessd with. Again, it’s a beautifully produced game—I can see those lovely plastic pirate ships being reused in any number of pirate games—with a stunning mapboard of the Caribbean, lots of cards, tokens and even 3D constructable chests in which to keep your secret stash of gold!

Merchants & Marauders is a true pirate adventure game wth many, many options to explore; you can choose to concentrate on merchant activities, buying and selling goods across the Caribbean, or you can raid other merchant ships and build up your Glory points and a reputation as the most ruthless pirate on the high seas—the choice is yours. Be careful however, as nations will be putting bounties on your head, and other players will be pursuing the glory of defeating you to collect them! Modify your ship—or buy a more powerful one—add special weapons like grappling hooks and chain-shot, follow rumours and react to events and non-player enemies. Curses, rum running, governor’s daughters, hurricanes—anyone who’s ever said ”argggghhh” and squinted through one eye is going to love this game!

Finally, there’s a lot of crazy irreverent fun to be had with Road Kill Rally, and if you’re a big fan of road rage games like me, you’ve probably been missing this chance to combine car racing, high calibre weapons and the fun of running over pedestrians to score points! Road Kill Rally uses modular board tiles to build a track of endless variety, and a card-and-dice-based system to cover everything from hitting the nitrous oxide to re-rolling a bad roll thanks to the luck of your fuzzy dice! Each player has a custom dashboard on which to record their speed, kills and damage, and the unique dice—big red splats on two sides—make it easy to see when you’ve scored a hit. I can see this game being a lot of fun and laughs—go on, who hasn’t ever wanted to whip out an orbital death laser when another car cut you off?

Even this short look at a few of the most recent Z-Man Games reveals the kind of variety in style and theme that the company is renowned for. Any one of these games will bring you endless hours of gaming fun—so grab one and get gaming!