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Subject: ChiZo Rising rss

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Ava Jarvis
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Chizo Rising

Summary

Be the first to score 12 points by capturing tiles---your own or your opponents'---using the unique characteristics of the Chinese Zodiac animals. Strategic tile-laying, battles, as well as the appropriate play of special action tiles, are the keys to winning this game.

Collectible in nature, fortunately for the non-collectors out there Temple Games will soon sell four starter sets with labeled starter types, unlike the previously unmarked starters. Each starter "stack" (e.g. deck) is balanced against the others and features subtly different demonstrations of tactics and how the animals can work together. The base set is difficult to collect, given the number of Zodiac animal "suits", but fortunately the thick and sturdy tiles can be easily proxied. The commons are most useful, with the uncommons filling in support roles, and the rares the very occasional surprise.

The most German-like of the collectible games, with the uniqueness of the importance of long-term proximity as an important game factor, could make this game a favorite of the serious strategy gamer. The illustrations and theme are also non-violent, another German-game characteristic, and also unusual for a collectible game, which tend to be American with a confrontational style. The starters are more than sufficient for many hours of gaming, and the features of the advanced game---the items and obstacles---are extra touches, but not necessary.

Mechanics in Depth

The Tile-Laying

Very few collectible games feature tile-laying as an important part of the rules. And unlike many modern tile-laying games (such as the famous Carcassonne series), Chizo Rising gives you a hand of tiles and thus choices each turn. You might say that Chizo Rising resembles domino games in this nature, but there is much more flexibility than in the more limited and strict domino suits.

Set Collection

Compatibility

The different Zodiac animals each feature their own characteristics when it comes to the other types of animals that they are compatible with. Compatibility is what leads to the most common and point-efficient form of set collection in the game: rectangles of adjacent, compatible animals.

But since every turn only features two actions, without thought you could create compatible formations that can be completed by your opponent, who would then capture all the animals---both your own and theirs. Likewise, a capture also leaves an open space that your opponent could then fill in on the next turn as "counter-attack" captures. Clearly it is important to plan your tile-laying and your actions with a mind towards both blocking your opponent and making sure that you can complete rectangles in your own time. The concepts of Go's "sente" (being at leisure to make your own moves) and "gote" (being forced to make certain moves) come into play with this mechanic.

Each Zodiacal animal also features different levels of compatibility, in addition to the different partners they can associate with. For instance, the Horse is often a great blocker, because it is compatible with few other animals. The Ram (or Sheep) and Rabbit are of great use to threaten to capture opponent tiles, though they are also liabilities because of their high compatibility factors. In any particular stack, you will want both blockers and compatible animals.

The Tiger is the least compatible animal, being uniquely incompatible with itself---thus making it nearly impossible to form a square involving multiple Tigers. This limits the Tiger's compatibility but increases its ability to block. Tigers also have another unique characteristic, which leads to the second method of tile capture....

Battles

Animals have two characteristics: strength (red) and wisdom/intellect (blue). Animals can challenge each other (this takes an action), but in order to win the final count of strength and wisdom/intellect must both be higher than the opponents'; otherwise the result is a draw. Each Zodiac animal has different strength/wisdom ratios, some being strong in one area but weak in another, and some being only average in both. A balance must be struck in any particular stack between these areas, or else a counter-strategy towards battle is needed.

The Tiger is again unique in this area, since it is strong in both areas to make up for its lack of compatibility. Tigers make ideal blockers and attackers.

Battles are another area where proximity and positioning are important, since any animal on the offensive or defensive can call upon adjacent (non-diagonal, but directly adjacent to the defender or attacker) animals for additional strength/wisdom. There is actually a bit of majority control in this game as you consider which animals to group together. Involving certain animals in a battle also allows you toplay particular action tiles to help increase your possibilities of winning, or even to avoid or bring battles to an alternate resolution. If you lose the battle, however, the assisting animals are also captured, so you would do well to not up the stakes too much.

Special Action Tiles

What would a collectible game be without special action cards/tiles that can be used to turn the tide, or reinforce your strategies? The special action tiles in ChiZo Rising are not simply icing on the cake; they make it more possible to complement your strategies based on animal selection.

Each Zodiac suit features a pool of different types of special tiles to select, and all require the appropriate animal in play in order to operate. There are some basic tiles common to all suits (in particular, global boosting of certain animal characteristics, or the ability to move tiles---an important part of ChiZo Rising), but the more species-specific tiles give flavor for each animal. Rats, for example, feature cunning tiles that help them turn the tide of battle in unexpected ways, including creature removal. Monkeys are much the same way, but feature more avoidance. Tigers and Snakes are all about offense, with Tigers being straightforward bloodfests and Snakes being much more subtle with their attack boosts and removal methods. Rams are good at discard, and Horses are good at denial.

Neutral tiles are also included for extra flexibility, and give generic and usually weaker effects.

Thoughts

I like ChiZo Rising as a thoughtful filler game, on a par with the best of the Kosmos two-player series---and in addition, ChiZo Rising can be played with up to four other players. The tile-laying in particular gives this game a satisfying extra dimension that is lacking in many other CCGs that don't focus as much on location.

My only complaint against the game is that it's difficult to collect. Perhaps I'm just spoiled, but these days I consider that not being able to getmost tiles using one booster box is difficult to collect. A different way ofstratifying the boosters would be appreciated, although I understand that thisis a difficult process. Perhaps specific boosters that feature two to three animals (or even just one) would solve the problem (if you consider this to be a problem).

I don't view ChiZo Rising as falling much into the realm of collectible games like MtG; there is a particular element to the game that I think would make it much more popular with German gamers, who as a whole don't go for the collectible thing. The collectible nature of the game makes it difficult for these gamers to explore the depth of the system, which would ultimately make the game short-lived, although one could play around a little bit with constructing new stacks from a collection of starters and their accompanying boosters.

The Drawing Room Score

(Translated to the BGG ratings scale.)

March 2006:
(Very good game. I like to play. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game.)

More Information

* http://www.chizorising.com/ - Official ChiZo Rising Site
* http://www.chizorising.com/static/learn - Official Tutorial
* http://www.chizorising.com/images/elements/ChiZo-PlayersHand... - Complete Rules
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/19040 - ChiZo Rising at BoardGameGeek
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Re: The Games You Don't Know About: ChiZo Rising
I literally got this game yesterday. 2 starters and 6 boosters to play with my wife. Haven't yet openeed it, but it really is sounding promising.
 
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Kevin Bender
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Re: The Games You Don't Know About: ChiZo Rising
Paul,

My wife and I both enjoy Chizo and I hope you enjoy it as well.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them here or on the official Chizo Rising forums at www.chizorising.com and either myself or one of the other Noble Heroes will be happy to assist you.
 
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Sebastian Blanco
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If you're interested in some different ways to build a Chizo "deck" (called a stack), then I suggest you check out the top six stacks in a stack building contest that is being posted this week. There are some cool decks there, and you can vote on the ones you like the best. I have three stacks in the contest, and would love if anyone could vote for me, but I'm mostly interested in promoting the ideas these different stacks represent. Please go check them out at http://forums.templegames.com/showthread.php?t=189
and if you like, give someone a vote. Thanks!
 
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Sebastian Blanco
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There's also a Frappr map with other Chizo players on it. Not too many right now, but it's a growing community. Check it out, sign up and find players in your area.
http://www.frappr.com/chizorising
 
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