May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
All of my 'Light Reviews' aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them. I feel that other reviews can be sought if detailed game mechanics is what you are after.
Game Type - Dexterity Play Time : 15-30 minutes Number of Players: 2 Mechanics - Dexterity Gaming (Flicks, Angles, Position) Difficulty - Pick-up & Play Components - Very Good
Zopp is a dexterity game that is essentially a cross between air hockey and soccer. It is very cool to see those discs gliding along the playing surface (air hockey style), but with experience it really does feel like a 3 on 3 game of soccer (from a tactical viewpoint).
Zopp is played on a large self contained rectangular playing surface measuring 53cms by 81cms. The outer frame is solid wood that features beveled edges and it is painted a pleasant shade of yellow. The playing surface itself is made from what appears to be custom board or MDF (I'm no handyman) and is coloured blue, making for a nice contrast with the frame. The surface itself is slippery smooth.
Crisp white lines mark out the sidelines, penalty boxes and centre circle. In addition there are 4 dots on the field (two at each end). These dots are called ‘Out Positions’ and are used to replace any disc that leaves the field of play (see below).
Image Courtesy of droolster
The frame also has 2 sets of holes at either end that allow for 2 small bead frames (1 white, the other black) to be inserted. These serve as the goal trackers or scoring devices.
Inset into the wooden frame is a layer of what I would call insulation rubber. Discs that are flicked can and will rebound off of this rubber strip. The results are amazing to watch. The 4 corners of the field are cut at a 45 degree angle and these can be used to make some wicked plays.
Then there are the white and black discs of which there are 4 of each. These represent the players for each side, although only 3 are used in a game. Two red discs of smaller size are used to represent the ball but again 1 of these is a spare.
Four 10cm long wooden sticks are provided to flick the discs around the surface. They are aptly called Zopp Sticks.
Image Courtesy of droolster
The rules are somewhat confusing and it took me many reads and constant flicking back and forth to find clarifications. Thankfully a dexterity game such as this lends itself to 'getting it half right' in the early stages. We eventually ironed the rules out proper closer to our 9th and 10th plays.
Finally the game comes with a small bottle of fine powder.
Before the game is played a small amount of Zopp Powder should be applied to the playing surface. This helps to reduce friction and the effect is that the discs really glide across the surface, much like the effect produced on an air hockey table. There is no real art to applying the powder and the effects are pretty even most of the time. My only advice is a ‘don't do’ and that is don’t attempt to spread the powder with your fingers. The powder seems to react with the oils found in our skin and the effect is that the powder congeals or 'gluts' up. When this happens you need to wipe the surface completely down and reapply the powder again.
Each side then places their 3 discs (players) around the edge of the centre circle on their side of the field. The ball is placed on the centre dot in the centre circle and the game is ready for kick-off.
Total set-up time - No more than 1 minute.
The Game Play
Not surprisingly the aim of the game is to score the most goals. I usually play the first to 10 goals (the max that can be recorded using the bead score frame), although both players can certainly agree to a timed game or lesser total. To score a goal the red disc (ball) must be flicked into the opponent's goal. Ok nothing too taxing as yet. Let's look at the rules in brief -
General Play – On a player’s turn they can flick any of their discs (players) with their finger or a Zopp stick. I find that the sticks are a better option than using a finger as the curve of a person’s nail can produce inconsistent results.
Tactical Plays – However a flicked disc does not need to connect with the ball every time. A disc that does not connect with the ball is called a Tactical Play. These are very important for moving your players into strategic positions, usually in defence. Up to 3 Tactical Plays can be made in a single turn. However if any more than 3 are made then a Foul has been committed.
Playing the Ball – If a player is flicked and they connect with the ball then the player’s turn will end when the ball comes to a stop. The result will either be a goal or the ball will still be in play.
Image Courtesy of GeoMan
Fouls – There are many ways to get it wrong in Zopp. These plays are called Fouls. As mentioned in point 3, making more than 3 consecutive Tactical Plays will result in a Foul but this is not particularly common. If a player is flicked and connects with an opposing player directly (before hitting the ball or the rubber wall) the result is a foul. This is more common. In addition if a flicked disc hits an opponent's disc inside one of the penalty areas a foul will result, even if it has already touched a wall or other disc.
Interestingly, a Foul is only ever deemed to be committed if the opponent calls the offending player on the Foul. If they choose not to call it or do not see the foul then it is deemed to not have taken place. Mmm, hand of God anyone?
Free Kicks - A Foul results in a Free Kick for the opposition. The ball must be left in its current position and 3 free moves are awarded to your opponent. These moves can be used as Tactical Plays or to connect with the ball. If a goal hasn't been scored by the end of the Free Kick then play returns to normal with the opposition taking their turn. Skilled players can usually score a goal from a Free Kick, so they can be costly.
Red Cards - Fouls should be recorded by each side. If either side racks up 4 fouls they must remove a player from the field, simulating a red card. Losing 1 player is not too disastrous but losing a 2nd is pretty much the final curtain.
Offside and Defensive Walls - If a player ends their turn in either penalty area, it is referred to as forming a defensive wall (own penalty area) or being offside (opponent’s penalty area). In either case this can be called by the opponent. If called, the player owning the disc must move it out on their next turn. This allows for strategic plays whereby a player can get a disc back in defense for 1 turn to block what could be an easy goal should their own play not go as planned.
He Shoots, He Scores! - A goal is given if the ball completely crosses the line. If the ball is half in the goal area and half on the pitch, the goal is not given. If the ball enters the goal area and rebounds out again it is a goal.
Restart - The ball is placed back on the kick-off dot in the center circle. All discs must remain where they are after the goal was scored. In this way the players must always pay careful attention to the positioning of their players. Scoring a goal is great, but if your opponent is set up for the counter attack goal and you have no defence, then little has really been gained.
Discs Leaving Play - Should any disc (ball or player) leave the field as a result of a flick, they are returned to one of the Out Position dots in the half of the field where the disc left play.
When Words Are Not Enough
As a reviewer the appeal of Zopp is difficult to capture in words. There is something enthralling about the way the discs glide effortlessly around the field with each flick of the Zopp stick. The energy that is transferred between disc and rubber wall is really cool and I admit that I can be happily entertained for hours just watching those discs zipp around the pitch.
There is also something extremely satisfying with making a tight shot at goal or getting your angles just right to make an amazing rebound flick. I am hoping to capture some amazing shots this holiday season with a video camera by slowing the frame rate!
On top of these points, Zopp actually simulates the game of Soccer really well. Considerations such as defence and the need for wide players to open up the angle to goal are all present. There is nothing more satisfying than having a player positioned just outside the penalty box and then making a flick that sees the ball rebound into that advanced disc and enter the corner of the goal.
My personal highlight is to commentate moments like these as I move my score marker up one and relive the wonderful header that just looped over my opponent’s defensive position. Call me a Geek but these moments are priceless.
But It Can Be Hard to Hug a Bear!
Despite these ticks in the ‘plus column’ Zopp is undoubtedly a game that I can see being difficult to love for many that try it..
This is a Game of Skill - Zopp requires plenty of it. Sometimes even the seemingly simple shots can be a challenge. Focus is required at all times. Disc positioning is paramount and even scoring a goal can simply be the precursor to a world of hurt if you are out of position. Subscribing to the 'hit and hope' method of playing pool or snooker is an invitation to disaster. I can't tell you how many times I have scored an own goal with a mindless flick of the wrist. Mind you they are great for the ‘groan factor’.
Not a Game for the Mismatch - Because of the skill factor required, it is fairly certain that a player with 10+ games under their belt will account for a first timer pretty easily. If the people you expect to play with don't develop a favourable first impression or don't have a high enough resilience to defeat, then they may not give the game the chance it needs to draw them in.
Getting Over the Hump - The skill factor therefore can cause a dilemma. In my experience it takes roughly 3-5 plays to start to 'get Zopp' and what is actually required of the game to be competitive. The initial oohs and ahhs will carry them through their first game, but I can see some owners of the game finding it difficult to get their friends to commit to enough play to see them over the 3-5 game hump.
I ams a Geek...Yahuuuuck! - As much as I love Zopp, I must admit I did feel pretty Geeky playing it the first few times. I had played Pitchcar before Zopp but that had a different feel. Flicking discs around a smaller board seemed odd and somehow non-masculine. It took several weeks (5-6 plays) to shake that feeling. I suspect that could count against the game with some people, non-gamers in particular who revere their social standing.
I'm not a Doomsayer...Honest (The Final Word)
I am happy to report that after 10+ plays, the game feels totally comfortable to me now.
I am still very much learning the intricacies of the game and each new play feels fresh and exciting. I bought the game based on its originality and the fact that I needed a game to suck gamers in from other genres (RPG'ers, tabletop gamers etc) as well as non-gaming family members and friends.
I am happy to report that Zopp has worked beautifully on both those fronts. I have already had it out at several family BBQ's with great success, sucking in Uncles and Cousins by the handful. Those non-board gamers at our club have also been drawn away from their books and bucket loads of dice to see what the cheers and groans were all about.
The question may be asked 'How does it compare to the Pitchcar/Carabande experience?' Well it really is quite different and I think that each game serves its own niche. Pitchcar is perfect for large groups and it really brings that social aspect to a gaming session or event.
Zopp is strictly a 2-player affair (I don't buy the 4 player team line) and it offers a more intense experience. Mistakes will be punished whilst great plays will live long in the memory bank and serve as the fuel for many a ‘Remember that goal…’.
Zopp will see regular play over many years in my house. If you are happy with the summary above then I suggest you consider giving it a look.
GREAT review! I picked up a copy Zopp today for $50! I was always too cheap to shell out $300 for a copy at Milsims. I kept hoping it would go on sale. It took a year but I got it!
Played a game with the wife and she loved it too. The rules were crap but if you've played similar dex games, they should be fairly common sense. All the decisions I made in the game were confimed after I read your review!
I'll play a game or 10 with you next time we meet!