Zoon is a two player filler card game from a company I’ve never heard from before I bought this game (LéZéditions du Yéti). It’s available in several sets that feature two tribes (pre-build decks).
In this game two tribes of mutants are fighting out a battle. The tribes are supposed to be both mean and silly, but are in fact only silly. Consider for example the shamanistic porcupine-humanoid Boarix and the viking-like walrus-humanoid Warus. I think you don’t even need to see the game to get the point.
So is this game as silly as it sounds?
Well, it is one of the most silly war games I have ever played. On the other hand it does remind me a bit of the classic Stratego. I’ll explain that comparison after the rule summary, the components and the strategy part.
Each player takes his 12 units and lays them face down in 2 rows of 6 cards.
Two empty rows separate both players.
On your turn you must move one of your units or play one of your 3 “trump cards”
Move your unit as indicated on the bottom of the unit card. Many units can only move a single step. Some units can only move forward or sideward.
If one of your units ends its movement on an enemy unit a battle starts. Both players spin their unit around and the opponent chooses a corner. Turn both cards up. Compare the numbers written on the chosen corners. The lowest number is defeated and removed from the board.
Two sample units. The left unit can only move one step straight forward or diagonally forward. The right unit can move diagonally forward or hop over the first space straight forward and land on the second
Trump cards can only be played once in most cases, and either affect movement (tactical trump or protection trump) or cause a battle between the trump and an enemy unit (missile trump)
Two sample trumps: The left one is a missile trump and the right one a protection trump.
Winning the game:
You win the game if you win a battle with your opponents’ emblem or if your opponent can’t make a move on his turn.
Two sample emblems: Each tribe only has one emblem. Most emblems can't move.
The cards are high quality. They’re about the same size as normal playing cards, but slightly thicker and sturdier. The only card that shows signs of intensive use so far is a description card with the backstory of one of the tribes.
The card fronts are well drawn and funny. The card lay-out is well done. All the needed information is easily recognizable.
The rules of this game are easy to understand and so short that they have been written on one of the cards.
Like in stratego, strategy in this game comes down to protecting your emblem (flag in stratego) as best as you can and locating your opponents emblem before he locates yours. That’s also where the similarity ends.
Not being able to move almost never happens in this game and is not really a consideration.
Protecting your emblem:
The problem is that you only have two rows to place units, so your emblem is going to be near the front of your army no matter where you place it. Make sure you have some reasonably strong units in the vicinity of your emblem and position these units in such a way that they can reach any square adjacent to your emblem.
Locating your opponents emblem:
In general it’s safer to slowly move a few units forward in a group than rushing a single unit forward. Since every battle is a lucky shot, you might lose a single strong unit to your opponent’s much weaker unit. A small group of units have a better chance of punching through your opponent’s defense if you did not attack the spot where the enemy emblem is located.
Be careful with your units that can only move forwards. They can easily be drawn out from a defensive position and are stuck if they ever reach the opposing end of the board in an offensive.
Comparison to stratego
I usually think of this game as a shortened, rethemed card version of the classic stratego, but that’s a bit of an oversimplification.
This game does not have bombs. It does have unit specific movement and lots of luck.
The comparison comes mostly from the way the game feels. The anxiety caused by unknown units slowly moving towards your side of the board is exactly the same as in stratego. The way you need to protect a single point in the battlefield (or bluff attention away from it) is also very like stratego.
This is where the comparison ends. Zoon is not a game of big strategically build up strong points. It’s a quick game where you build your tiny defense as good as possible and hope that luck doesn’t screw you over.
If you’re a stratego fan you will probably not like this game.
Will I like this?
You will not like this if you’re looking for a serious game. This is a game where luck outweighs strategy. Even the strongest units in the game have a chance of losing a battle to the opponents emblem.
You might like this game if you’re willing to go for a wacky filler and accept chaos and fun over long term strategy.
I rate this a 5 at this moment. I like to play it occasionally, but really don’t want to play this more than twice in a row.
John "Omega" Williams
The Boarix are Porcine (and one cervine) not Porcupine... heh
Porcine are the ones you make ham from...
Porcupine are the ones you get free accupunture sessions from...