Game Review: The Gnomes of Zavandor

GnomesOfZavandorThe Gnomes of Zavandor
Z-Man Games, 2011

First of all, you should know that I’m partial to gnomes. Love the little guys. I like playing them in RPGs. I like them in my flowerbed. So any game about gnomes is likely to grab my attention. I got this one on sale at my FLGS. It’s got gnomes, it’s on sale. Where is the bad? Happily we didn’t find it. I don’t have a great track record with this. My hubby can pick up a game because he liked the art on the front cover, and we’ll love it. Not so much with me.

The Gnomes of Zavandor is a market game about gnomes and gems and wondrous machines. In the game you mine for gems, and buy and sell them, claim mining rights, artifacts, jewelry and machines. The market for gems bounces around like a crazed super ball, invariably ending up at sky high prices, and money is scarce, so there is quite a bit of strategy to manipulate the market and get the best deal.

The game is played in a series of rounds. Each round consists of an action round and a mining round. In the action round, each player in turn does one action, until each player has had three actions. Then play moves to the mining round where players use their mining rights to obtain gemstones. After the mining round, the start player moves clockwise and another round begins. The game ends when one player reaches a number of victory points (determined by the number of players, example, 16 victory points for 4 players). Gems are used to purchase more mining rights and cards.

The board consists of the town of Diamantia (center) and 5 mining districts around the sides. Each district and the town have 4 mining rights tiles (face down). The cost of the tiles are located on the board. A small gnome figurine which moves clockwise each round shows which district is active that round. Players may only purchase mining right tiles from the active district. Players may spend 1 gold piece (start with 23) to peek at a tile. A purchased tile will be set in front of you to give you victory points, and will supply you with the gem types on the tile during your mining round.

There are a lot of different actions available, so you must choose your 3 actions carefully. You may: Buy gems, Sell gems, Draw 2 cards from face down jewelry or artifact piles (keeping one), Buy mining rights, Buy a face up jewelry or artifact, or one from your hand, Take or exchange a trader gnome card (which allows you to trade one type of gem for another), or Take 4 gold.

Buying and selling gems, buying a mining rights tile, and buying items all cause the target price of gemstones in the market to change either up or down. At the end of the mining phase, the price of the gem will move to the new target price, setting the prices for the next round. The market prices fluctuate between 1-15 gold.

We really enjoyed this game. There is a lot going on, and you really have to pay attention to which actions cause the market to fluctuate. Getting the right mining rights, manipulating the market and being able to convert them to what you need gives this game a lot of strategic play. There are many ways to win, and we found the game well balanced and fun. The quality of the game pieces and the nice artwork are good. Recommended.