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Have a Second Go at Building China, Racing Elephants, Ruling England, and Choosing the Right Number

by W. Eric Martin

• In Q4 2023, Hungarian publisher Sorry We Are French will release Zhanguo: The First Empire, a new edition of Marco Canetta and Stefania Niccolini‘s 2014 game ZhanGuo from What’s Your Game?

Here’s an overview of the setting in this 1-4 player game:

In 221 B.C., all the so-called Warring States are brought together. This is the birth of the vast Chinese empire, ruled by Qin Shi Huangdi. A skilled and determined strategist, but also a shrewd governor, he undertakes actions aimed at standardizing all the elements at the basis of Chinese society and culture; he imposes a single script and a single currency, then he establishes a new system of laws equal for all. He also builds palaces, installs local governors, and above all, starts the works for the construction of the greatest building in the history of mankind: the Great Wall.

A single life cannot suffice for such a vast empire. He sends ships to distant lands in search of the legendary elixir of life, and he builds a huge mausoleum containing the scale reconstruction of his empire. In defense of it for eternity, he deploys an impressive terracotta army…

In Zhanguo: The First Empire, you go along with the Emperor’s plans to offer your family a place in the terracotta army. To help you in this challenging task, six cards will be at your disposal every round. They will give you permanent support during the rest of the game or will obtain the Emperor’s approval for your actions.

At the end of the game, the player who made the greatest contribution to the Emperor’s cause by scoring the most points wins!

How does this title differ from the 2014 design? For one thing, it contains solo rules, whereas the previous game was for 2-4 players. As for other differences, Niccolini teased on Facebook: “You’ll discover them soon; by the way the ship and terracotta army on the box should already be a clue.”

• Another 2014 title making it back to the market in 2023 is Formula E, which Brazilian publisher Conclave Editora will release as Elephant Rally.

This design from Bruno Faidutti, Sérgio Halaban, and André Zatz has 3-6 players racing their elephant through a village, over mountains, and across a desert:

Every year, villagers gather from far and wide for the harvest festival. They bring fine carpets to the market and share delicious mango juice while praying men honor the holy cows, and the children tease mischievous monkeys and gasp at the snake charmers. But the main event of the festival is the elephant race. Young men and women of the region spend days painting joyous and reverent decorations on their elephant partners for this one moment when they can surge through the crowds of festive villagers, push and shove their way past other racing pachyderms, and brave the tiger-filled forests to win honor for themselves and their proud elephant friends. The bell rings, the elephants trumpet their excitement, and the race begins!

The primary game mechanism in Elephant Rally is hand management as players use their hand of cards to advance their elephants through the course. Elephants move in a unique manner – they push elephants in front of them until those elephants hit an obstacle, then the active elephant pushes sideways until a path is clear for it to move forward again. Certain move-adjusting cards and tactical-screwage cards can be played to trigger events like diagonal movement, obstacle movement, and nasty little screw-your-opponents effects. Elephant racing is not necessarily a sport of honor!

• What else do we have in the way of re-issues? Polish publisher PHALANX has revealed a work-in-progress cover for a new edition of Charles Vasey‘s Unhappy King Charles!, which debuted from GMT Games in 2008.

Non-final cover

PHALANX developer Jaro Andruszkiewicz notes that only the art is changing — nothing about the design — with the intent being to release this edition in the latter months of 2023. Here’s an overview of this two-player game:

Unhappy King Charles! allows two players to decide whether Commons or Cavalier shall rule in England. Both seek to establish control over the country and of its economic structures. They seek not only to defeat their opponents in battle but also to seize control of the local government of England and Wales.

The game is based on We the People, Mark Herman’s ingenious game on a later rebellion. As the organization of armies and states was often desultory, the cards do not provide a wide range of choices (as in Paths of Glory). The players in Unhappy King Charles! must make do with what they have. The three decks of cards — Early (1642-1643), Middle (1644) and Late (1645) — have been developed to give the correct feel for the early, middle and late war, based on storyboarding techniques. As befits a Civil War, there is treachery, bravery and stupidity in the events on the cards.

• In April 2020, I wrote about Suzie-Q, a double-blind, bluffing/guessing game of sorts for 2-5 players from Hisashi Hayashi of OKAZU Brand, and Belgian publisher Repos Production has apparently picked up the design for release as The Number.

Repos hasn’t announced anything officially, but Hayashi tweeted the following in December 2022:


Translated caption: “I received a Christmas present from Repos Production, the publisher of ‘The NUMBER’, the overseas version of ‘Suzie-Q’. thank you.” What’s more, this edition will apparently be released in at least ten languages:


So how do you play? Here’s the overview from my earlier post:

In each of the five rounds of Suzie-Q, players choose and write a three-digit number on their secret sheet, hoping to score points based on the numbers that other players have written.

At the start of each round, you write a three-digit number using the digits 0-9, repeating numbers as you wish, but not using any number that you’ve Xed in a previous round. Everyone reveals their number at the same time, then you arrange them in order from high to low.

Starting with the highest number, you check to see whether any of the digits in that three-digit number appear in any three-digit number of lower value. If they do, then that player takes back their board and scores nothing; if not, then the player scores points equal to the first digit in that number and places an X through each digit used in their three-digit number. For example, if the highest number were 882, and no one else had included an 8 or a 2 in their number, then the player would score 8 points and X out the 2 and 8 on their board. This player also circles the bonus number for that round, a bonus given only to the player with the highest number who successfully scored points.

Player boards in the OKAZU Brand edition

You then look at the next highest number, and so on, with the lowest number automatically scoring points equal to its first digit and Xing all of its digits. In the fifth round, players double their score.

After five rounds, players sum the points they earned over the five rounds. To this sum, they add the quantity of digits that they Xed out. Whoever has the highest score wins!

Suzie-Q includes a variant in which numbers are evaluated starting with the smallest number. Whoever has the smallest number automatically scores, then for the player with the next lowest number, they score only if one or more of the digits in their number is used by the player with the smallest number, etc.

The originals


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