Tzaar Review

Tzarr Box

Foreword

This is a rules-light two-player abstract strategy game. I like rules-light 2 player abstract strategy games.

How to Play

Goal

The goal of the game is to eliminate all of a single type of your opponent’s pieces. (There are 3 types.) You do this by capturing their pieces and building stacks with your own. Stacks can only capture stacks of equal or lesser height.

You can also win by making it impossible for your opponent to capture a piece on their turn.

Set Up

You can either randomly set up the discs, use a predefined setup, or alternate placing discs on the board.

TzarrInProgress

Turn

  1. Capture
  2. Capture, Stack, or Pass (Skip this step for the first player’s first turn.)

Capture

Pick a stack of 1 or more disc(s) of your color. Move that stack along a straight line onto an opponent’s stack of equal or lesser height. Remove your opponent’s stack from the board.

Stack

Pick a stack of 1 or more disc(s) of your color. Move that stack along a straight line onto another one of your stacks; this combines the two stacks into one. For determining if you have a disc of a type, only the top disc of a stack counts.

Pass

Do nothing.

Conclusion

This game is simple, elegant, and excellent.

When I previewed this game, I characterized it as a hunting game, and I think that nails it. The ringed piece (Tzaar) is quickly hunted down to just 1 remaining for each side, since each player only starts with 6. To protect their last Tzaar piece, each player will put it on top of a stack. The first player to do that will always have the higher stack, if they stack it every turn. Due to this, that player can chase down their opponent’s stack(s) with impunity.

While this happens, the second player will generally need to shift into hunting their opponent’s second or third rarest pieces (the Tzarra and Tott respectively). So now, the first player is still trying to capture the last Tzaar piece, but they also need to protect their other pieces. The second player, on the other hand, needs to focus on evading the first player’s mega stack while chipping away at the more plentiful discs. This is frequently accomplished by having a few smaller stacks of 2 to 4 discs, as opposed to a big 4+ stack.

Throughout this process, each player can also set traps to ensnare their opponent. For example, player 1 leaves a 3 stack vulnerable. If player 2 captures that 3 stack they might be allowing their opponent to capture one of their stacks. Or, the capturing stack might be put into a position where it can no longer move, neutralizing it. Overall board awareness is critical to winning this game.

Another major decision point in this game is determining when to make a second capture and when to stack. In almost all games, you win the game by capturing your opponent’s pieces. So, capturing moves you directly toward victory. Stacking, on the other hand, is necessary to prevent you from losing; but, it does also give you an offensive edge for capturing. In general, big stacks are better for defense. Multiple small stacks are better for offense.

Everything I have discussed in my conclusion is emergent from the incredibly simple rules. The strategy is surprisingly deep and the better player will usually win. But, there is a lot to pay attention to, and if you neglect something, you can quickly lose. It is easy to focus on attacking and let yourself be eliminated. I really enjoy the back and forth of this game. If you enjoy abstract strategy games like Chess, The Duke, or Push Fight, I highly recommend this game.

4 thoughts on “Tzaar Review”

    1. I wasn’t able to find it for retail anywhere, but it looks like there are some copies available on Board Game Geek for sale or trade.

      I personally haven’t bought or traded for anything on board game geek, but they have guides on the website:
      https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Guide_to_Buying_Games_on_BGG#
      https://boardgamegeek.com/geekmarket/search?q=tzaar

      https://www.boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Guide_to_Trading#
      https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/31999/tzaar/trading?status=fortrade

      The €40.00 +shipping for the “very good” condition game seems to be the best sale price currently, but it is already about $10 above MSRP before shipping. The cheapest option would probably be a trade.

      There is also a public facebook group that sells and trades games https://www.facebook.com/groups/boardgameexchange/. I went through the listings and didn’t see any for Tzaar. You could make an ISO [In Search Of] post and see what happens. I have also not used this group, but I have a friend that has used it repeatedly.

      I did not see any information about a reprinting any time soon. I would love if they reprinted certain GIPF titles like this and YINSH though.

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