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Subject: Holy Cow! rss

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Floyd Sherrod
United States
Sharpsburg
Georgia
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Zoff in Buffalo (25 min)

Zoff is another area majority game that plays light and fast. In this one we are trying to place the most cows in ten different pastures. The pastures vary in the number of cows they can accommodate running from 6 to 28, and when filled, confer a cow bonus of 1, 2, or 3 cows to the players that have the most cows in that field; perhaps representing reproduction?

To start, each pasture is randomly seeded with one cow such that each player has a cow in two or three pastures depending on the number of players. Each player gets a pile of Chiclets representing cows and twenty cards. Ten of the cards represent the ten pastures and are used to indicate which pasture the player will try to place their cows. The other ten cards are numbered 5,5,4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2 and represent the number of cows the player will try to place (a total of 33 cows).

The game is played in five rounds in which each player marries two of their cow cards with two of their pasture cards face down in front of them. Once every player is done, the cards are flipped up and resolved from smallest pasture to largest pasture. In the case where two players are trying to play into the same pasture, there are tiebreaker rules as to who gets to play first (the one with cows there already for example). The cow cards, once used are discarded from the game. The pasture cards are returned to the player in case they want to try and put more cows in that pasture on a subsequent play.

Since each player has the opportunity to place the exact same number (33) of cows, the interesting wrinkle in this game comes from the placement tiebreakers (previously mentioned), the bonuses for filling a field, and the clear majority rule. Let’s talk bonuses first. Once a field is filled, it is immediately scored. The player with the most cows gets to place additional cows, and then the second, and in the larger fields, the third place player. These bonuses are run in reverse from majority so the majority player will generally get to place one extra cow, while the player with the next most may get to place two, and the third place three. So this serves as a balancing mechanism for the game.

However, the clear majority rule is the big factor in play throughout and the really clever part of this game. The rule says whenever cows are placed, that player cannot equal the number of cows in that pasture of any other player. So if placing my 4 card would have me equaling your cow count in a particular pasture, I can only place three instead. This rule and getting shutout on the placement tiebreakers when contesting for the same field make for some tough decisions and trying to outguess your opponents.

Zoff is a bit fiddly with all the tiny little tokens representing an aerial view of a cow in a field, and the constant counting. It doesn't quite make my want list but I have to say it was an interesting diversion, and I would certainly play again if asked.
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Joseph Cannon
England
Burgess Hill
West Sussex
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Thank you - a nice write up. I'm ashamed blush to say that this one has sat on my shelf for 12 years and hasn't made it to the table except for a solo play through. Your review will hopefully inspire me to get at least one game played!
 
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