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Subject: Two-player experience with a non-gamer rss

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Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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This weekend I played this twice with my girlfriend who is a "non-gamer". Actually it was the first time introducing her to a board game being on the strategic side. Before that we only played games like "Die Insel", "Anno Domini" or "Cafe International". But as I really wanted to try Zepter of Zavandor and as the fantasy theme seemed appealing, I gave it a try.

Was it a good choice? Almost. We played two games so she was willing to give it another try after the first game. But I don't think that I can get her into another round if there are alternatives available. Which supposedly will always be the case.

Gameplay:
I consider the mechanisms to be pretty smooth. Once you have understood that in principle it all boils down to a choice of three alternatives in player turn (invest in gems / purchase artefacts or sentinels / buy knowledge) the game should run smoothly. To my mind that is.

The problem was that for my better half the actions became clear but she couldn't make heads or tails out of them. In the first game I had the druid and therefore the ruby strategy (I never heard of it before playing) was set for me. Once my girlfriend saw the big returns from the first rubies she copied that strategy. Hence, she was closely trailing me but was never able to catch up. In the second game we both shied away from rubies. While I followed a new strategy of all-emeralds she did a little bit of everything. It came to a runaway-leader syndrome which spoiled her game experience. The income collection (energy) at the start of each turn was a turnoff for her all the time. Also she complained about the playing time being too long (2hrs for our first game including rule explanation).

While a gamer might consider this a medium-weight game, a non-gamer can easily be overwhelmed by the possibilities. You must have a grip on Invest-for-return to like this game.

Rules:
It is easy to overlook important rules. This happened to me in three instances in the first game:

- Starting amount of dust: only written on the player tables and not in the rules. So we started without any dust.
- Limit of five rubies: just written in brackets. This made the ruby strategy even more powerful playing without this limit.
- Only one knowledge advance per turn: this was the most serious mistake. Thereby we advanced far too fast and in the middle of the game there was barely anything to be learned anymor.

Thanks to BGG files we had printed out an overview for the second game which helped a lot. Still, there seem to be too many rules for a non-gamer to really enjoy this.

Conclusion:
Zepter works completely fine with only two players. I hardly can imagine playing this with more then three or four players as downtime will grow too long. Although more players will add some fun to the auction elements in buying artefacts and sentinels.

But I would recommend it only to people with some interest/experience in strategic games or at least basic knowledge of economic principles.

My rating: 8/10


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Ben Foy
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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JoSch wrote:
Conclusion:
Zepter works completely fine with only two players. I hardly can imagine playing this with more then three or four players as downtime will grow too long. Although more players will add some fun to the auction elements in buying artefacts and sentinels.


A group can easily reduce the downtime by internalizing. The more players, the more interaction. But AP can really ruin this type of game. You need to play this with a group that is dedicated to playing it in a reasonable amount of time.
 
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