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Subject: Zenergy: Creative Energy rss

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Gavin Kingsley
New Zealand
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Zenergy is a group party game in the same genre as Cranium and Pictionary. The objective is to collect four coloured pyramids, each representing a successfully completed display in the one of the four different topic categories: spiritual, nature, culture and human society. Displays are constructed as some kind of sculpture using the supplied wooden blocks.

The board consists of a coloured outside path encompassing the central display area. Movement is determined by the throw of two dice but the players are allowed to move in any direction from shape to adjoining shape along the path as long as no shape is visited more than once. In this way, teams have a lot of control over their final destination shape.

The colour of the end shape represents the category of the display that the team will attempt. The black "Z" spaces allow free choice of category. If the team is on a corner coloured space then the team is playing for a coloured pyramid. The categories are:
1. Spirituality (emotional, mythology, art)
2. Culture (politics, religion, commerce)
3. Human (family, society, events)
4. Nature (ecology, science)

Players in a team must take turns to construct the display. The chosen player takes a card, secretly determines the display topic from the correct category and then uses the different blocks to construct a display in the display area. The player may animate the display but may not add sound effects, nor communicate with their team except to answer yes or no questions.

Once the team has asked three questions without correctly guessing the word then all teams may ask questions. There is no time limit.

Zenergy uses the tagline of creative energy and that does seem to sum up this game very well. Somehow the use of blocks to build a sculpture, as unlikely as that may seem, acts as a good equaliser. While Pictionary claims that anyone can draw, ultimately some can draw better than others. In Zenergy players express themselves through the medium of wood and it really does seem as though that is about creativity rather than talent.

While a fun game, Zenergy does have several weaknesses.

Firstly, Zenergy shares that party game weakness of having rules that are open to exploitation. Teams are allowed to confer amongst themselves and the player making the sculpture must be careful not to interject with an answer to a question that was not addressed to them. Similarly they must answer every question that is asked in order to ensure all teams get a fair chance to guess the answer.

Secondly, there is no time limit for the first three questions. This can paralyse teams unwilling to give away their three question advantage but also uncertain of the meaning of the display being made.

Thirdly, there is wild variation in the difficulty of the cards. The nature category, for example, ranges from "giraffe" through to "extinction". The most difficult cards border on the impossible. I am still uncertain of a meaningful way to sculpt "pomp", for example.

Finally, the duration is highly variable. With unreasonable luck, a team could win in four consecutive moves without opponents getting a chance. Alternatively, games can be highly protracted.

Nevertheless, Zenergy is a great party game for a group of creative people. You are sure to amaze each other both with the displays created and the cogitative leaps made. Recommended.
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