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Zaberias Works for Two Players, but Will Probably Play Better with Four

Zaberias is a tactical combat tabletop game with a fantasy setting that targets family-friendly gameplay.

Zaberias includes four races for players to control.

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Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.

Whether you like Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons, or Fire Emblem, there’s a lineage that can be traced back to classic war games. Players would set up armies of troops with different modes of attack, movement capabilities, and firing ranges and face off against each other. I’ve never been interested in a game that asked me to use a ruler to check distances between units, but modern video game descendants of that lineage are some of my favorite games.

When I saw Zaberias it immediately looked to me like a fantasy version of Advance Wars turned into a tabletop game, and I was excited to check it out. Unfortunately, the game didn’t click with my wife so it won’t be something I play often, but I’m hoping it’ll be a big hit with my nephews next time I can play a game with them.

Unique Packaging

The production value on the "boards" for zaberias is outstanding.

Receiving Zaberias was odd. I was already sold on the super high production value of the game thanks to the delightful tutorial videos hosted by one of the creator's kids. Each of the game's four factions has a  board that holds all of their units, cities, currency, and even dice. Then there’s a map that drops in on top of that board to sort of close the whole thing up. It’s a really a very cool design, even if the map section doesn’t really “lock” into place.

The odd thing is that the whole package came in, well, a package. There doesn’t seem to be a box for Zaberias. Once I unwrapped all of the boards, they ended up just kind of sitting in a pile, and even then an uneven one because of the dice slots. I’m not sure if this comes with a box at retail, but I don’t like the idea of shoving all the boards into a giant padded envelope and sticking it in my games closet.

There also wasn’t an instruction manual included. Again, this didn’t bother me much, since I’d already gotten a pretty good grasp of the game from the aforementioned videos. The digital manual that can be downloaded as a PDF from the game's website is okay, but it’s a little oddly laid out. Specifically, it’s clearly designed to be printed. It seems like opting to not include a physical manual means you should design for readability on a phone or tablet. I’m nitpicking, because the info you need to play the game is there, but the lack of a physical manual is weird, especially when the digital manual seems to be designed to be a physical one.

Factions and Actions

Each faction has similar units, but with some unique abilities.

Once everything was unboxed, my wife and I each chose a faction to play as. She opted for the blue “Human” faction based on the cover character being cute, while I opted for the yellow “Orc” faction based on the cover character being ugly. Each army in the game is similar, but with a few unique abilities here and there. Regardless of which faction you choose, you start out with 1 level 1 city, which generates one gold per turn. On your turn you spend gold to recruit units and build or upgrade cities, then move your units in an effort to attack opponents and destroy their cities.

Each player in zaberias starts on their own map, and tries to encroach on enemy territory to win.

Each player can only ever have a maximum of six coins, and each unit can only move and attack once per turn. This means that each turn moves pretty quickly, although this being a strategy game means that some turns require more thought to pull off a clever play.

Combined Combat

My orc beastmaster was doing well until he got surrounded.

Combat makes up the bulk of Zaberias, and there are a few cool concepts that make fighting interesting. Each character's attack capabilities are determined by their strength, represented in the corner of their marker. You attack by rolling the number of dice shown and adding their base strength, then the defending unit does the same. Whichever unit loses that roll is immediately removed from the board, which means this game is very lethal. There’s no HP to track, which again leads to this game being snappy.

Of course, not having HP means that one beefy enemy is basically invulnerable to weak attacks. The compensation for this comes from the game's ambush system. By moving multiple units into range before attacking, you can combine all of their attacks into one, allowing multiple smaller units to take down one larger enemy.

Final Thoughts

Each of these zaberias units have similar abilities to control enemy units, but they all function just slightly differently.

I think I like Zaberias, but I don’t love it as a 2-player game. The armies and maps are similar enough that when playing head to head it sort of feels like you just upgrade your cities and march your armies straight forward. I haven't had a chance to play it with three or four players, but I imagine that the expanded map will make a much more interesting strategic game. So, if you are a tactics fan who is looking for a way to bring the feel of Fire Emblem to a tabletop with a few friends, this might be a better fit for you than it was for me.

Geek to Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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