Zapotec Review

03 September 2022
Pyramids, priests and plenty of options

Among the ever-growing series of other Mesoamerican Eurogames, Zapotec has an immediate advantage: it has an easily pronounceable name. It also has another advantage, although this one is less obvious: for a Eurogame that comes with all the trappings expected of the genre, Zapotec is a fast-flowing game.

Zapotec is roughly divided into three strands of gameplay. There is the main board, where players compete in light area control by constructing buildings in various areas of the board and picking up tiles that will assist them with setting up their resource production engine. That happens on the individual player boards, where the tile is added to one of the spaces on the three-by-three grid. During their turn, players can select certain lines of that grid earning all the resources from the tiles activated this way. Finally, there is resource management. There is lots to build and everything costs a specific combination of resources. The most exciting constructions are the pyramids (which is the only real contribution of the otherwise immediately forgettable theme). Composed of several stackable pieces, the same pyramid can be built by different players resulting in aesthetically pleasing multi-coloured construction. As you would expect, there are multiple ways to earn victory points during the game including in-between round scoring, progressing along the Sacrifice track, completing objectives (here known as Ritual cards) and earning points for various constructions.

There is a lot going on and it is easy to wonder how a single game of Zapotec can consist of only five rounds and cover all its aspects. Perhaps, the game could have been convoluted if not for the addition of its final element: the action cards.

Action cards have multiple purposes. Firstly, they set the initiative order for that round. Secondly, they instruct players which rows can be activated on their production grid. Finally, they show in which area or which type of building a player can build that round. There is an overwhelming number of choices to be made throughout the game, however action cards neatly package combinations of those choices focusing players’ attention and challenging them to come up with the best move within set constraints. Players still have choices and opportunities to plan and adjust, however this ensures that the game is going at a brisk pace. A larger number of players, of course, will slow the game down and players will still suffer from downtime as everyone else takes a turn around the board, but action cards still greatly help to alleviate analysis-paralysis and waiting time.

As Zapotec nears its final round, it is likely that you haven’t managed to climb to the top of the Sacrifice track or completed every objective on the Ritual cards. Perhaps, your pyramid isn’t quite finished yet. But Zapotec is not about completing everything on offer (and that may feel unsatisfying to some!). It is about making the best decision within the constraints of the circumstance, which when done right feels immensely gratifying. Zapotec maintains a lot of traditional staples of Eurogames, some good (resource management) and some distinctly average (the artwork), but by allowing for fast-paced decision making it gives the whole gameplay a sense of freshness.



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If you are keen to immerse yourself into ancient Mesoamerica, than Zapotec offers just enough strategy and resource management, without overwhelming or outstaying its welcome. 

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Designer: Fabio Lopiano

Publisher: Board&Dice

Time: 25-40 minutes

Players: 2-4

Ages: 8+

Price: £45

What’s in the box?

  • Main board
  • 4 Player board
  • 45 Building tiles
  • 4 Palace tiles
  • 36 Trade tiles
  • 9 Scoring tiles
  • 90 Resource tiles
  • 27 Action cards
  • 27 Cocijobot cards
  • 4 Reference cards
  • 36 Houses
  • 20 Discs
  • 12 Small pyramid pieces
  • 8 Medium pyramid pieces
  • 4 Large pyramid pieces

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