This is a family boardgame for 2-8 players. The game is a mad, chaotic, adventure along the great Zambezi River in Africa. The game has been designed by Peter Burley and his son Jonathan (Burley Games) for Ages 12+ (though children aged around 9 who play boardgames regularly will be able to understand, play and enjoy it with little or no assistance required). Zambezi is a fun board game that is ideal for the family play but which also has sufficient strategy and competitive edge to appeal and amuse more experienced gamers who are looking for a light entertaining "English" style boardgame.
The Players are on expeditions down the Zambezi River where they are hoping to take many photographs of the amazing wildlife that congregate along the river banks and which can be seen peacefully grazing (or perhaps even hunting) on the plains and in the long grass either side of the fast moving swirling waters. To traverse the oft ferocious waters, the players are required to manage their limited and valuable resources, particularly fuel, which is in fairly short supply and cannot be wasted. As the Zambezi River is a hazardous, windy trail you will need to use fuel sparingly and occasionally take risks as you navigate around the many hazards in and on the river. Your crew are also to be considered as resources as you cannot run your boat without them. It is not unusual for crew members to go missing overboard if you use rocks or other player's boats as buffers during your journey. The hazards on the river are plentiful and include Rocks, Crocs and Docks. Landing on any of these causes you to burn various amounts of valuable fuel on your next turn to allow you to escape from them. The good thing is that you can see them coming up and try to plan accordingly.
The game includes the following components:
One Gameboard designed as a Map of the River Zambezi
A Deck of 110 cards, separated into 9 animal 'suits' as follows: Lions (13 cards) Giraffes (13 cards) Hippos (13 cards) Cheetahs (6 "Jokers") Gorillas (13 cards) Zebras (13 cards) Snakes (13 cards) Hornbills (13 cards) Flamingos (13 cards)
Eight tugboats, in player colours (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, black and white) Tugboat Control Boards: These are where you put your crew members and fuel units.
Crew Members: For each tugboat, five crew members matching the colour of the tugboat.
Fuel 128 black octagonal tokens representing the fuel that the tugboats will use.
Treasure: 8 octagonal 'silver' tokens 8 octagonal 'gold' tokens 8 octagonal 'diamond' tokens
'Zambezi' Drawstring Bag A black felt bag (with 'Zambezi' printed on it in white) for holding the Zambezi treasure.
Treasures and extra fuel are placed on all the docks at the start of the game according to the number of players involved. Players can maneuver their boats to land alongside these Jetties and thus collect one of the treasures available before moving on. Treasures, Documentaries and Fuel are of value at the end of the game when the final countdown is made.
The game is card driven, with the animal cards having number values from 2-7 for each of the 8 animal types. The ninth animal is the Cheetah, and true to the sound of its name this card is different from the others - it being a Joker or "Wild" card.
The numbers on the cards are for movement but they are also for collecting purposes. The animals have an hierarchy based on dominance, thus the Lion is at the top of the totem and the Flamingo way down the greasy pole.
The game mechanic is simple but clever and effective. Cards can be played singly or in pairs and they can be bought from the deck by spending fuel. To move at risk you turn over a single card and move your boat the exact number of spaces according to the number drawn. If you think you may need extra movement then you must decide this prior to drawing the top card and spend fuel at the rate of one fuel = 1 additional card. The fun thing is that drawing extra cards doesn't necessarily mean you will get extra movement it just gives you more choice, possibly allowing you to dodge a hazard or land at a jetty. You must move your boat the exact value of one of the cards drawn, it's just that if you draw more than one you have that option. Drawing duplicate numbers does allow for extra movement, though the value of each card has to be moved first and any hazard thus encountered dealt with.
Every Round begins with the boat in the lead going first and then the others in Boat order on the River, not clockwise - something it may take English family games players a while to get their heads around. The game ends when all Boats have travelled from Victoria Falls to Lake Kariba, collecting treasures on the way while carefully trying to keep as many of your crew safe as possible; if you lose all your crew you lose the race: you are out of the game! Note that the Crew have several chances to "fall" overboard or be eaten by the Crocodiles that line the route just waiting for a tasty morsel. Along the Zambezi River live numerous wonderful animals that you can "photograph" for the Documentaries (scores) you are making.
ZAMBEZI: The Expedition Game is an "English" style game but it is not a "typical" English style game. There are spaces to move on round the board, there are hazards on those spaces that need to be dealt with, both very English ideas, but then the movement by card and the variation of movement instead of the roll-a-die-and-move action makes the game suitable to be deemed as a European game. There is luck, of course, and there are tactics or strategies, and there are cleverly thought through and fine working mechanics. All of this is played out against the brilliantly drawn Zambezi River map and the superb still art illustrations that embellish the cards. ZAMBEZI: The Expedition Game is a resource management full of good fun that families and "gamers" will enjoy, especially when they aren't feeling up to a heavy board game session or are bored with the television. It is also a satisfying game in as much as the game play and mechanics don't raise complicated problems and the endgame is neat and sensible, sometimes tinged with either a small amount of extra luck or a good portion of thoughtful management.
The rules were updated in 2015 due to a minor error at the printers and they are now in a full colour glossy 12 page brochure, half of which is in English and the other half in German. The rules are easy to follow and understand and are augmented with coloured illustrations. The beautiful artwork for the animal cards and for the Zambezi Map Board is by the very talented Vicki Dalton.