Designer: Paul Starr
Artist: Katerina Poliakova
Year Published: 2021
No. of Players: 2–4
Playing Time: 60 Minutes
Main mechanic / Theme: Combo-Plays, Moving board / Astrology, Mythology
The stars look alive in the night sky, and there is electricity in the air.
In Zodiac War, the astrological signs compete to gain the favor of faith in their abilities. To accomplish their goals, the powers behind the signs are working to align their stars with their associated planet and element. The goal is to become the brightest constellation in the night sky by acquiring star crystals through the faith of the people of Earth
Zodiac War utilizes a moving board and cards with multiple possibilities. This range of possibilities creates a unique strategy combination that made our two games differ from each other. The game was easy to learn, but the variations of play to create combinations and other strategic moves had us double-checking our moves.
Gameplay and mechanics
Setting up Zodiac War is as simple as having each player choosing the zodiac sign they want to represent (each has a special power), setting the board, and dealing each player five cards from the Tarot Deck. The player whose birthday is coming up next starts. The board is set to the alignment of the player’s zodiac sign to the starting player’s right—this is done by rotating the planet and element rings until they match.
A player’s turn is broken into four Phases.
Play Top Zodiac Card
A smaller deck of Zodiac Cards alters the gameboard and can provide benefits and disadvantages to all players. The card can shift both the planet and element rings. There is a bonus for the player taking their turn and an area showing possible additional effects to all players.
Play Tarot Cards
The player now plays a spread of Tarot Cards from the hand they are holding. The spread is three or four cards (fewer if there the player is not holding enough cards). The spread is placed in a specific order because the position within the spread determines what the individual card does.
The fourth card in the spread is optional and must by a Major Arcana card from the Tarot Deck. These cards have specific actions. The fourth position is revealed first. The rest of the spread is revealed in order and each card is resolved before revealing the next card.
The other three positions of the spread can be Major or Minor Arcana cards. This is the main focus of developing your strategy. Each Minor Arcana card has a different action depending on which position it’s played in. The goal is to create alignments with the planets and elements that are important to your zodiac sign.
Collect Faith or Buy Star Crystals
You can collect Faith from the alignment you’ve been able to create at this time. If you have been able to create a Perfect Alignment of planet, sign, and element you can purchase Star Crystals instead of collecting Faith. Star Crystals cost Faith and when a third Star Crystal is collected by a player, the game ends.
Buy Tarot Cards
If the game is continuing, you have the option of buying additional Tarot Cards with your Faith. There is a hand limit of seven cards.
The next player now takes their turn.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration
I am working from a prototype of Zodiac War, but the artwork on the cards is impressive. There is a lot of detail in the pictures and the layout on the cards makes them easy to read and follow the actions to take.
The astrological theme is carried throughout all elements of the game and the design. This added fun to the game of creating alignments by spinning the rings.
The Tarot Cards have different actions depending on the playing position. This creates a strategy of planning your moves to create a desired alignment. The random movement created by the Zodiac Cards creates changes with each player’s turn. Each turn is a matter of solving the puzzle you are given to the best of your ability.
Zodiac War, with the moving rings of the gameboard provided a different strategy challenge we enjoyed. There is also a little feel of programming your moves because you have to determine which cards are played in what order and they are revealed in order. We didn’t feel like the revealing in order was as important if they were all Minor Arcana Cards, but the playing of a Major Arcana Card in the order could really change things up.
I recommend Zodiac War to players who like a lighter strategy game. Some things happen when it isn’t your turn, but the majority of your focus is needed when your turn starts.
About the Author
Daniel Yocom does geeky things at night because his day job won't let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He's written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research along with short stories. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join him at guildmastergaming.com.