An Empires of Zidal Primer

It’s an undeniable (albeit hard to accept) truth, that the more complicated a game is, the higher the learning curve for it will be. Even if the rules to a game were transmitted via some sort of osmosis, it doesn’t immediately add the wisdom of all the nuances the game has to offer. Sometimes rules can be quirky, situational, or down right ambiguous. And that’s nothing to say of discovering all the possible strategies a game possesses. No, the harsh truth is that if the game takes more than a half hour to play, you’re going to have to play it a few times to truly get a grip on how it handles.

Given that Empires of Zidal is a deckbuilder, no one should expect to walk in and immediately assume they’re going to see all the different ways everything interacts on their first try. Even the most combo-loving Dominion / Ascension / Thunderstone player in your game group isn’t that good. Yet Empires of Zidal is also a market game, and anyone who has ever played Power Grid knows that it isn’t a genre of game you simply wing either.

The fact that Zidal isn’t more complicated than its current form is actually a testament to the game’s design. It could have been a behemoth to manage – or it could have simply not worked. Instead, Empires of Zidal is an approachable and enjoyable deckbuilder. It’s just going to take a couple playthroughs to fully grasp everything in depth. And that’s perfectly alright.

Still, we’re brought in some help to lighten the learning burden, straight from the source. What follows is a few informative tips on how to manage your first few games of Empires of Zidal – courtesy of the game’s designer, Lee Kress.


zidal coverThe first time through games can be a little daunting. One has to read the rules, explain them to others, set up game components, often have to refer back to the rules during gameplay, and try to develop strategies on the fly not knowing how the game will progress.

This article is written in the hopes that some of these issues will be alleviated, particularly developing strategies on the fly, for your first game of Empires of Zidal.

Empires of Zidal provides a mix of game mechanics that many gamers have never seen before. The most obvious is the combination of a deck building game with a supply-and-demand driven game resource market. This combination makes it a little more difficult than your average deck builder in that each player must carefully balance resources (which are always changing in value), Workers (cards used in decks), Buildings (cards with permanent benefits), and the constant stream of Children cards. The game may initially seem a bit overwhelming and I would argue there is some definite strategy involved, but your first game or two can possibly be made more enjoyable, streamlined, and rewarding by keeping a few things in mind:


Plan Linearly

Try to stick with one color of Worker. Zidal has been designed so that the same color Workers often synergize with each other. Often a great game strategy is simply to get as many of the same color Workers and Buildings as possible. Obviously there are subtleties and cards of different colors that can work well together, but for an initial game choosing one color and going for it is a great strategy.


Buy Early And Often

zidal lairYou’ll never get resources more quickly than you do at the very beginning of the game. Remember: every player’s initial deck of 10 cards consists of 7 resources workers, and these are the only resource workers you’ll ever get!

This means you have the opportunity to do a lot of buying right from the get-go. Buying a good group of cards initially can set the mood for a great deck and a great game. This is also a good chance to construct a Building that provides permanent benefits for the rest of the game.


Harness Economic Power

Use the resource market. Don’t be afraid to buy and sell like crazy to get the combination of gems and silver required to buy just the right Worker or Building. More times than not it’s better to manipulate the market to acquire specific gems and train a Worker that will function well in your deck than it is to simply use the gems you already have on a Worker that doesn’t synergize well with cards already in your deck.


Plan Ahead

zidal witchIn order to keep the game flowing, think about what you’ll be doing on your next turn during other people’s turns. The last step of every turn is to draw 5 new cards. This was done on purpose so that players have time to think about what they’re going to do.

Keep these 4 aspects in mind as you play your first few games of Empires of Zidal. Once you become more familiar with the strategies and synergies of the cards, it will be easier to deviate from these ideas. Remember, though, that a successful player often still uses these core principles to win the game!

If you’d like to have this primer handy for your games, you can get it in PDF form:

Download the Primer Guide