So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Publisher Profile: Z-man Games

Some of the other publishers I have highlighted have distinct characteristics such as producing games with sky-high Awesomeness, or concentrating on family games.  Then we have Z-man games, who are the buffet line of games.  When I say this, I am not suggesting they produce lower quality games for the masses (Hasbro can keep that crown), but rather that they produce a variety of games for different tastes.  Perhaps there's a better analogy, but the makers of games like Wasabi! and Wok Star need a restaurant reference.

Z-man got it's start publishing card games, particularly those related to B-movie horror themes.  They still continue to produce many card games, and some of their most highly rated games feature a lot of card play tied to a board.  1960: The Making of a President and Campaign Manager 2008 come to mind.  Both are games based in American politics and are also share game designers. 

One of the most popular and highly rated family games, Pandemic, is a Z-man publication.  This game also features a lot of card play, but is a cooperative game rather than a competitive one.  Since I have previously reviewed it, I won't go into a lot of detail here.  Suffice it to say that it is a good representative game for the company, with strong game play, reasonable play times, and quality European style pieces, all packed in a very sturdy box.  That sounds blasé, but the level of game play is the key.  Pandemic is within my top five games of all time, and I have played it 19 times so far this year -- exactly half the number of times I have played it. Nearly all of my plays have been in our gaming group, so it isn't just me.

Image by Benjamin Pachner
There are other great games produced by Z-man also:  Tales of the Arabian Nights, Fairy Tale and more.  The most notable is Agricola, which spent quite a while as the Number 1 ranked game on BoardGameGeek.  This is where the cautionary word to the casual gamer comes in; Agricola is not a casual or family game.  This is particularly true for families with pre-teeanage children.  This leads us back to one of the defining characteristics of Z-man -- their lack of defining characteristics.  Z-man produces good games, and the man behind it all, Zev Shlasinger, is less concerned about the genre.  To finish my cautionary thought: the Z-man label is a harbinger of an excellent game, but not necessarily of a good family or casual game.  Many of their games are targeted at the hobby gamer.  Ask at your local game store to make sure the game you are considering is a good match.

Image by Tim Fowers
As for Wasabi! and Wok Star, I don't own them but really want to play them.  Both are about preparing Asian food, but one is competitive and one is cooperative.  I think they might appeal to my wife, who loves to cook.  (I love to eat; it's a good match!)  I can't personally say how good these two games are for families, but that seems to be the consensus on BoardGameGeek.  Wok Star is currently out of print, and is supposed to be reprinted.  I hope so, since the asking price for a used copy seems to be around $100.00 USD!

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