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Subject: Zounds! Zonked out on Zertz rss

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kat costa
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A report of seven games of Zertz between kataclysm and Dazeysan, two players who were both new to the game. (Note: Although our set was played with primary-colored meeples instead of marbles, I will refer to meeples as "marbles" and the colors as black, white, and gray for the sake of clarity.)

I read about Zertz on a geeklist by a fellow girl-gamer and was intrigued by the description. I tossed together a makeshift set from poker chips and meeples and had it waiting on the kitchen table when Dazeysan came home. After familiarizing ourselves with an online copy of the rules and overcoming our initial perplexity about its interruption in the Order of Things ("What? You have to jump?" "What? Why would anybody want to make the board smaller?"), we jumped in.

Our first game was the most hectic. Because the idea of a shrinking board was such an unfamiliar concept to us, we continually forgot to take away tiles at turn-end and had to backtrack to set things straight. Because we were comparing the captured marbles to captured checkers, which accumulate points for the taker in a strictly linear fashion, we were jealous of marbles of all colors, and generally our only strategy was to place the marbles such that the other player would not be able to capture any. The action came when we could no longer space them out. We had no choice, at this point, but to jump. Turn after bouncy turn netted us each marbles that we had not sought, and Dazeysan won, more or less by accident, with two of each color.

Game 2 was a milder version of the first, with the accidental victory falling to me this time with four gray. Our tile removals were perfunctory and random when we remembered to do it at all. Dazeysan's spatial thinking skills being what they are, he caught on to the movement idea more quickly than me, and won the next three games--not without help from blundering moves on my part.

By the third game, we were both removing tiles without fail. Dazeysan had become comfortable with the multiple-move possibilities inherent in a game with a hexagonal layout and diagonal jumping, while I continued to gasp in surprise when he didn't go for the "only option" with which I tried to skewer him. We each gradually came to understand that the tile removed can work to one's advantage by removing a jumping alternative for the other player. This game was also one that I lost, with my two gray marbles to Dazeysan’s three white.

Game four was a bit different.

The most difficult hurdle to Zertz for me was my own selfish greed. I was used to playing games in which my actions served to benefit me, or to set up a situation that would pay off after several moves--for me and me alone. In San Juan, you take that Trader job because you know that you have six points worth of Coffee and Tobacco to sell, while your opponent has one measly Indigo plant. That's capitalism, or at least the breaks.

But to prosper at Zertz, you must heap riches upon your opponent. By the fourth game, I had finally taken this idea to heart--or so I thought. The trick, I reasoned, is to foist the cheap black marbles on your buddy while raking in the precious white for yourself. This worked at first--I was successfully able to get a few marbles I wanted. But my methods were inefficient and I ended up engineering another win for Dazeysan with five black. Defeat, yes, but I could feel a sense of purpose to my play that was incomparable to games 1 and 2.

In game 5, I was two gray marbles away from winning, but the only moves I could think of for capturing the remaining gray marbles involved lucrative double-jumps for my opponent. I stalled for time, and Dazeysan won by forcing me to jump a gray and a black, which set him up to capture the last marble needed for a complete set of two of each color.

Incidentally, although I was outperformed and befuddled, but none of these defeats made the game less fun. When your Carcassonne opponents get tiles on draw after lucky draw that just happen to bulk up their cities and complete their many cloisters, it’s no barrel of monkeys to get stuck with a series of boring curvy roads. Even with chess, there are moves players will make simply to pave the way for their other pieces, and at these times the players are essentially working independently, cut off from one another’s worlds. But with Zertz, the mandatory interaction keeps you engaged, and the ass-whoopings are so darned interesting that you just don’t mind.

During a break for supper preparation, I had time to walk my fingers along the board and set up simple scenarios. And I discovered a surprising thing: If a marble is placed at the edge of the board, say, a gray one, then you can place the marble that you desire--say, white--exactly four spaces away. If a third marble--black, say--is placed between them such that the white one has to jump over the black, then the white marble you want will end up at the feet of the gray marble at the edge, and on the next turn you can capture it!

With this in mind, I entered the ring with a fighting spirit in game 6. I had two white marbles, so I used my trick to force Dazeysan into capturing a gray, which set me up to capture the last needed white on the very next turn. Unfortunately, I had neglected to watch my opponent’s hand, and that gray marble added to Dazeysan’s existing three and ended the game. I could have made that same move with either of the other colors and won the game.

Since Dazeysan had claimed the last victory only one move ahead of me, I knew that game 7 would be all mine. My primitive four-spaces trick was the newest thing at the table, and this time I was careful to plan ahead with the colors I forced on my opponent. I captured another two whites through my own will, and Dazeysan in his efforts to collect gray set up a move that allowed me to capture the final white on the next turn. Lo, the seventh game was the charm for this hapless and now-devoted Zertz player.

Slumped with exhaustion, we called it a night.

But if you were to walk into our home tomorrow night, you could win money betting on what game you’d find set out on the kitchen table.
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Jim Temple
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Thanks for posting this. I'm a big fan of GIPF, DVONN, and YINSH (and I even like TAMSK), so this was a great look at what ZERTZ is like.
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kat costa
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You're welcome, Basiliv! This was my first session report, so I wasn't sure how well it would be received, but I thought I'd give it a shot. :)
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David Molnar
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kataclysm wrote:
I could have made that same move with either of the other colors and won the game.

d'oh!

Hey, this is very nicely done... describing the action over several games gives good insights into the stages in learning the game. After another dozen games you'll probably want to start playing the "tournament" rules (48 discs, need four white, five grey, six black, or three of each) - you get into some more complicated swaps.
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Michael "Tie-Dyed-Eyes"
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Anyone care to confirm this for me? A friend taught me this game the other night. We played only 3 games. We played with the smaller board, but he said the win conditions were 4 White/ 5 Grey /6 Black, or 2 of each. After reading this, it sounds like he taught me a blend of the big and small game. So my impression that the proper rules must be:

Standard game: 37 spaces,
win with 3 white, 4 grey, 5 black or 2 of each.

Tournament game: 48 spaces (Hex with sides of length 4-5-4-5-4-5?)
win with 4 white, 5 grey, 6 black or 3 of each.

Do I have it correctly?
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kat costa
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revtiedye wrote:
Standard game: 37 spaces,
win with 3 white, 4 grey, 5 black or 2 of each.

Tournament game: 48 spaces (Hex with sides of length 4-5-4-5-4-5?)
win with 4 white, 5 grey, 6 black or 3 of each.

Do I have it correctly?


That's right.
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Michael "Tie-Dyed-Eyes"
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kataclysm wrote:
revtiedye wrote:
Standard game: 37 spaces,
win with 3 white, 4 grey, 5 black or 2 of each.

Tournament game: 48 spaces (Hex with sides of length 4-5-4-5-4-5?)
win with 4 white, 5 grey, 6 black or 3 of each.

Do I have it correctly?


That's right.


Hey thanks! And as for responding to an old thread, I didn't even own the game when I asked this question. Later acquired the game, and have been playing it wrong for most of this time, most recently last week!

Michael;
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kat costa
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revtiedye wrote:
Hey, thanks! And as for responding to an old thread, I didn't even own the game when I asked this question. Later acquired the game, and have been playing it wrong for most of this time, most recently last week!

Michael;


Playing wrong is more fun than playing not at all!
 
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