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During our time at UKGE this year, we focused on getting games that where more accessible, more family friendly. One stall really jumped out at us for this: Burley Games. A father and son operation showcasing some attractive games that wouldn’t look out of place in the quaint toy stores of films like Toy Soldiers.
We settled on covering Zambezi for now rather than asking to walk away with their back catalogue as we are sometimes wont to do. So lets dive right in.
Zambezi is all about exploring the, you guessed it, Zambezi River. Each player gets a steamboat, crew, and fuel as they make their way down the crocodile infested rapids. Beyond being the first to reach the basin, you are attempting to stop at the various outposts on the way to pick up gold, silver, diamonds, fuel, or replacement crew for those lost to the aforementioned crocodiles. Or shoot the best darn nature documentary you can, which is where the core gameplay comes in.
Zambezi is a roll and move except instead of dice, you draw from the deck and use the value of the card to determine how far you move. As far as tactical decisions go, you have the option to burn fuel to draw more cards and that’s about it. Each card has a numerical value and an animal on it. If you find the 1 of a certain type of animal, you can start a documentary. Finding the 1 of lions means you’ll want to start grabbing lion cards in ascending order and avoiding making large leaps as you can’t slot cards in later.
To build your documentary you’ll draw cards from the deck to move, keeping a hold of any you want to use. Or, you can take the face up cards in front of other players. However, any cards you don’t use will have to be placed face up for other players to steal on their turn. And this mechanic works well… when you have a documentary. It is entirely possible to go the whole game without seeing a 1, I know, I’ve done it. This is frustrating and begs for the home ruling of “start a documentary with whichever card you want”. I’ll start on a 2, just let me start!
Navigating the river is tricky in its own right as crashing into rocks will beach you until you meet their demands while crocodiles need often inordinate amounts of fuel to escape.
Like most roll and moves, it can be frustrating when the Bad Things™ happen. But as a family game, taking it as a bit of fun, Zambezi is an attractive game with a nice theme that you can use to teach your sprog about animals. And the steamboat player boards are fantastic, especially as you weave the narrative of the poor British explorer who fell overboard and has desperately clawed their way through the jungle to reach the outposts. The outposts that you often miss by a single space and a “jolly pip old bean, best run on to the next one before the leopards get you!”
Pick this up if the thought of cracking out Monopoly at Christmas makes you want to tear your own eyes out but you can’t quite get your family to stay still long enough for the more complex offerings from your local game store.
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