Letters From the Home Front: A Zidal Q, A, and Giveaway

As part of our January Spotlight on Empires of Zidal, we strive to inform the readers of little extra tidbits surrounding the game. It helps to highlight what the game is about, where it came from, or possibly where it’s going. Games are made by people, and one of those tidbits we enjoy is learning a little bit more about the people behind them. In the case of Empires of Zidal, today we have that in the form of creator Lee Kress.

He was more than eager to share some of his thoughts about the journey that is creating and producing Empires of Zidal. And rightfully so. It’s difficult taking an idea and turning into to something real. Creativity is a word that manages to oddly cause some eye rolls out there because it’s deemed overused or is marginalized because of fringe examples, and that’s a real shame. Such things should be encouraged rather than dismissed, and it would appear that many people out there agree. With the rise of sites like Etsy and Kickstarter, people can bring their ideas to the masses. And that’s pretty cool.

And oh, look, it’s a game that managed to get made through that very process, due to backer support and a lot of late nights. So let’s take a ride out to the kingdom of Zidal and see what they’re up to!

Round One Questions

CR: What was your Gateway Game?

zidal childSettlers of Catan definitely got me back into board games after a long hiatus from the days of my childhood.


CR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Empires of Zidal)?

I’m a big fan of Agricola. We’ve had it for a few years now but it’s still one of my favorites. I also really enjoy the simplicity and elegance of Love Letter.


CR: How big is your game collection?

I just counted about 67 games. On the whole I’d say a decent collection compared to the general public, but quite a small collection compared to some I’ve met.


CR: What is your favorite type of game to play?

Currently my favorite would probably be simple Eurogames and deckbuilders: Agricola, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, etc. When games start to get too complicated with too many rules I start to lose interest. My wife, Zula, has really been enjoying Terra Mystica lately and while I do enjoy it, that’s getting close to a board game that has “too much going on” for me.


CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?

Hmm. Good question. Monopoly was my favorite game as a child and I would have to say I still enjoy playing it. I think it can be a fairly quick/fun game if everyone is willing to make trades, even ones that aren’t that great, for monopolies. If everyone is out to win at all costs and so only waits for the best trades then the game can take forever and is no fun for anyone. You just have to go into this one knowing it’s mostly luck based.


On Empires of Zidal

ketchup-or-catsupCR: OK, first of all, the pronunciation: Zee-dal, Zeye-doll, or Zih-doll? We’ve been going with the long ‘i’, but we’ve heard it pronounced differently elsewhere.

I’ve always pronounced it Zih-doll. Why that pronunciation? I don’t know; that’s just how I thought it should be pronounced.


CR: And on that note, where did the name Zidal come from?

The name is actually an acronym of the five people who I regularly had game nights with when I was designing this game: Zula, Ivy, Dani, Andy, and Lee (myself). These 5 people, especially my wife Zula, helped me with a lot of the initial conception and balancing, and I wanted to give them a little recognition for their contributions. On the last page of the instruction manual, under playtesters, I purposely listed these 5 people first in this order (mostly to see if anyone would put two and two together).


CR: Empires of Zidal uses a market mechanic. What was the inspiration behind adding that to the game beyond the deckbuilding aspect?

You’ve hit exactly on how the idea for this game originated. I had played a few deckbuilding games and had played games that used a market mechanic. I thought both of these mechanics were great, and I wanted to make a game that combined them as I didn’t think it had been done previously and thought it would make for a really fun game! That simple concept of combining these two mechanics was how the game was born, and it just naturally grew from there.


CR: Do you have a particular faction you favor when playing Empires of Zidal?

I kind of enjoy them all…except perhaps the labor workers. I’m not sure why, but I don’t have as much fun when I make a deck based on them. If I had to pick one that’s my favorite though, it would probably have to be the market workers.  I love manipulating the market to get a ton of money and then buy whatever it is I need, be it signets (victory points), additional workers, or buildings.

Too bad the merchants don't get a lair...

Too bad the merchants don’t get a lair…


CR: This was your first Kickstarter. Looking back on the campaign, what would you say was the biggest challenge you faced for it? Would you have done anything else differently? 

I guess my biggest challenge was probably just meeting the expectations of my Kickstarter backers during the actual campaign. I was new to Kickstarter and didn’t realize all the things that most Kickstarter backers expect – like a BGG game page, third party reviews, KS exclusive stuff, game play videos, etc. I spent a lot of time during the month the KS project was active simply creating these things that most of the backers expected, but that I hadn’t yet delivered. Overall though I think it went pretty smoothly for my first KS. The one thing I would have done differently was research shipping costs more. I foolishly put free domestic shipping and $20 international shipping. In the end I lost quite a bit of money simply shipping all of the product out.


CR: You were  insistent on not doing Kickstarter-exclusive cards for the game. Was this just a feeling regarding your own game? What are your thoughts on other games that go the exclusive content route?

There's some give and take. And take.

There’s some give and take. And take.

I’m not strictly against exclusive content. In fact, the last week of the Zidal campaign I did add five KS exclusive cards as a stretch goal (which was met). I was just initially against it because the game had been designed and I felt complete without any additional exclusive cards. I hated the idea of trying to force new things into a game that I felt was already finished.

Ultimately what I ended up doing was creating five additional cards that could occasionally be used in place of existing cards to spice the game up a little bit. By doing it this way I was still able to provide everyone with my completed game as I imagined it, but also provide a little something extra in case players wanted to try out new cards.


CR: Lastly, is there anything in store for the future of Zidal, or are there other plans in the works instead?

The game was designed for a future 5 to 6 player expansion possibility, if I felt there was demand for it. Currently though, I’ve moved on from Zidal and am working on creating other games and pursuing other hobbies.

Does the idea of a deckbuilder with a market sound interesting to you. How about getting a job in the Empires of Zidal and finding out?!? You can do that by entering for your chance at a free copy of the game! Check it out here.


empires of zidal spread



Photo Credits: Artwork by Dog Breath Games.