ZiPANG is the first card game of “Engine-ID”, a team of creative designers and art directors. It’s a fast-paced micro game which is currently live and funded on Kickstarter. Keep in mind that the game was played with a pre-production copy so the production quality will be much better and anything can be subject to change if the company sees it fit.
ZiPANG can be learned within 5 minutes as the rules are simple and you only need to remember the various abilities of the cards which is an easy task. The game comes with 30 cards and 30 coins which are essentially the VP of the game. To win the game you must be the one with the most coins at the end of it.
To set up the game you may have to remove some cards according to the number of players. A full game may be played in several game rounds(campaigns) until the game’s end is triggered.
At the start of each campaign, each player gets five coins and two cards. The remaining cards form a deck from which a card is discarded face down, forming the discard pile. Then, each player has to put a coin to the center of the table, forming the center coin pile. After that, a coin from the center pile is taken out of the game. The coins of this pile are the reward for the winner of the given campaign.
On your turn, draw a card from the deck and then choose one to play out of your hand. When a card is played, it is put on the discard pile face up and its ability takes effect. All cards have a battle and honor value. The battle value is used when attacking or defending and honor helps you win the campaign.
A campaign ends when there is only one remaining player or when a player can`t draw a card from the deck on their turn. In the latter, all players still in play reveal their hands and combine their honor values. Whoever has the highest honor sum is the winner of the campaign! In both situations, the winner gains all the coins from the center pile, adding them to their own.
I talked about attacking and defending, let’s see how that works. Certain card effects let you initiate a battle, thus an attack, with that card’s battle value. When you do so, the defending player or players (as some let you battle against more than one player) must show you cards with an equal or higher total battle value than the one they battle against. If they manage to do so, they successfully defend themselves against this attack and the game continues normally. Otherwise, they are eliminated from the game, discarding their hand. Keep in mind that battle is the only way to get others eliminated or be eliminated, so it’s a useful and deadly ability.
Now let us take a look at the various abilities of the cards, to get a better understanding of the synergies. There are 14 unique abilities.
Bandit (BTL:2 HNR:1): Steal one coin from a player (even eliminated players). More points for you is always good.
Captain (BTL:3 HNR:1): Battle against another player with a battle value of 3. This is the weakest possible attack but still not an easy one to survive.
Commander (BTL:4 HNR:2): Battle against one or two players with a battle value of 4. Pretty powerful, especially when you take down two players together!
Warlord (BTL:5 HNR:3): Battle against another player with a battle value of 5. Can`t expect less from a Warlord, simply brutal.
Crazy one (BTL:2 HNR3): Choose one face up card from the discard pile and play it. This card keeps getting stronger as the game goes on and the choices are rising. Always helpful to have as it also has high stats.
Emperor (BTL:0 HNR:5): Initiate the end of campaign when played. That means you immediately compare honor sums as the campaign ended. It’s a card that can give you a quick win with the right cards and also keeps everyone on their toes as it is always a threat.
Merchant (BTL:1 HNR:0): All other players (and the eliminated ones) add one coin to the center pile. Hurts everyone but you! Even better if you win the campaign.
Monk (BTL:1 HNR:2): Cancel any effect played against you. A Monk card can even cancel attacks against you, so it’s reassuring to have one of those in your hand.
Ninja (BTL:2 HNR:0): Choose another player to discards their hand and draw two cards. A little take that element can be fun.
Nobleman (BTL:1 HNR:4): Look at another player’s hand and play a card from their hand. Nobleman hurts a lot, as you both see an opponent’s hand but also get to play whichever card you like, erasing that smile they had some seconds ago.
Peasant (BTL:1 HNR:0): Has no effect. But if you have two, you can play both (this is an exception) and battle against ALL other players with a battle value of 5. This one can grant you the win in one blow, “together we are strong”!
Princess (BTL:0 HNR:3): Steal half the coins (rounded down) from any other player or from the center pile. Princesses are so greedy and that’s good if she is on your side, better than good.
Shrine Maiden (BTL:0 HNR:4): All players reveal their hands for a certain amount of time. Essentially until you checked everyone’s hand. May be valuable information at certain points but an especially good card to keep in hand thanks to its high honor value.
Tea Master (BTL:1 HNR:3): Pick a random card from an opponent’s hand and play it. Not as good as a Nobleman but it still messes up with your opponent’s game.
The cards themselves don`t depict their abilities but have a flavor text instead which relates to their effect. There are reference cards to help you with the cards’ effects but after a couple of plays you will get the hang of it.
The whole game will ultimately end when after the end of a campaign there is at least one player without any coin at their disposal. Then, the SUPREME WINNER is crowned the one with the most coins! In a case of a tie either at the end of a campaign or at the end of the game, each tied player draws a card from the deck and the one that has the card with the highest honor value wins the tie.
This game resembles a lot Senji Kanai’s Love Letter and Lost legacy, but it has unique elements that makes it prevail in my opinion. The art is stunning and it really fits the game. There are enough abilities in order to make small combos and that is really satisfying.
When you have very few coins and all seems lost, you can get back in the game with the right cards, so this is not one of those games that staying behind prevents you from winning the game. Moreover, because there are cards that affect eliminated players, all must pay attention to the game even if they are out of the active campaign. The rule about taking a coin out of the game at the start of each campaign is there to make the game not last too long. Thus, the game is fast, fun and makes you want to play again and again.
Many games with a wide player count don`t actually play well with all these counts. When the number is higher you may have a better experience but it’s still interesting and challenging in different ways with low counts. To support that, certain cards stay out of the game for different player counts. So, cards like Commander, who can battle against two opponents, isn`t even available with 2-3 players.
Micro games usually have limited options in your round, pushing you to tactics. This one is not much different but the fact that you choose from three cards really makes a difference. That’s because each card has also an active role if it stays on your hand, both for defending future attacks and trying to claim victory at the end. In addition, the deduction element is there, an element I love, and can be a great ally in many situations.
In conclusion, this is a light and quick portable filler game that offers constant choices. The only drawback for me is the tie breaker. It is not so rare to have the same honor or the same amount of coins and just drawing cards to determine the winner is a little too random for my taste. So, if you like that genre this is one that I totally recommend and will feel fresh for sure!
THE RIGHT MOOD TO PLAY THE GAME
Already called it micro game and filler, so you get the idea. If you want a light card game with a fast-paced flow that will make you think but still feel relaxed, this is the one. The game has some take that elements, so keep that in mind, but there are in just the right portion to keep it fun and challenging. It’s stunning aesthetics of traditional Japanese art will surely add to the experience but music can always help bring the right spirit on the table.
Fast-paced, easy to learn and play
High replay value for its size
Remains interesting in all player counts
Tie breaker is random
With 2 players feels too quick