Z-G Figures and Game

SPECIAL NOTE - this is my review of the new Z-G game.  I've passed along the figures and cards to a friend of mine who is right in the target market range - he's a young man, very much into Magic and other card games, who is a very bright 11 year old.  He and two of his friends are going to give the game some serious play time over the next week or so, and I'll have a follow up guest review from them.  That way you can hear it right from the horse's mouth!

There's a new game in town, and it's a combination of action figures and role playing card games.  The company is called Atomoton, and the new game is Z-G.  It is one of the most imaginative and unique ideas I've seen in quite awhile, and it will be very interesting to see how it catches on with the gaming crowd.

My review will cover both the action figures, in my standard format, and the game itself.  Since the game is quite unusual in it's combination of figures and play, let's start with the game concept itself.

There are three action figures currently available - Cestus, a merc, Armada, an ensign, and Vanguard, a trooper.  They are similar in style to many japanese robot figures, and each comes with eight pieces of armor or weapons.  The armor snaps on, and the weapons are held or attach to the outside of the arms.  I'll do a complete review on the figures below, along with lots of pictures.

Each figure also comes with a deck of ten cards.  These cards detail the abilities of each of the standard eight weapons, along with one character card, and one 'ulster', an overall information card.  This card is important, as losing it will be one way you can lose the game.

If you've played other role playing card games like Magic, Vampire, etc. etc. etc., they you have the general idea.  But this combines the actual play with the figures, using them to make moves and strikes.

First, the players pick a terrain.  You can set up any sort of table top or outdoor area, giving the figures room to move around.  Some obstacles would be good of course, adding to the flavor of the play.

Players select where their characters start, and play begins.  For each players turn, there are two main steps.  Each player selects three of their ten cards for their first action cards.  Using any one of these cards, they select the number they can move.  If the card says '4', they lay four cards end to end, and move their character that far.

Ulster card for Vanguard

Once they have physically moved, they can attack if they are in range.  The range is on the attack card, and if it is a zero, your action figure must be able to touch the other figure.  Each attack card has colored 'dots' and your attack card is matched up against one of your opponents cards, randomly chosen.  If the two colors match, you have a 'match', allowing a strike to occur.  That's not the end of the attack though - depending on the symbols on the card (armor, armor piercing, etc.) depends on whether the match itself results in damage.  Do enough damage, and your opponent loses the card.

Your turn continues by using your next two cards the same way - first move, then attack.  Once you've used your three cards, the play goes to the next player.  

New character card from booster pack

Once all players have been through their first three cards, a new turn starts by getting three new cards from the deck.

A player is eliminated from the game if they lose their Ulster card, or if they are reduced to less than three cards and can no longer continue.  The last man standing is the winner.

Yep, it's a little complicated to start, but overall the game play seems quick and pretty straight forward once you've done it a couple times.  Clearly, they are going for a pre-teen audience here, and I think that the basic rules are understandable by their target audience.  On top of that, I suspect that many adults will enjoy the inclusion of the figures.

The game doesn't end there though.  You can buy booster packs of ten cards each, which allow you to create new characters, new weapons and armor, and new abilities.  There are chase cards and rare cards of course, and building a large deck of great variety will obviously help you win consistently.  But using your head is still necessary.

When you go beyond the basic game, you'll find some fascinating possibilities.  The rules allow for  taking cover and terrain differences that can effect your attacks, tactics like a sneak attack, jumps, or dashing, and the ability to vary the outcome of an attack based on how you have posed your action figure.  There are even Arena cards which describe how to set up boxes, mats or other play areas to complicate the game.

The instructions say to start with the basic rules, and once mastered, add in Exceptions, Tactics and finally Modes.  By giving a set of good basic rules and then building on them, the game will continue to interest kids as they gain more experience and understanding. Now on to the figures themselves!

Packaging - **1/2
The packaging is pretty basic, and although the back of the card gives some idea what it's all about, it doesn't really get the full game potential across.  It's a problem for them I'm sure - it's hard to explain such a complex and intricate game on such a small cardback.

But since the packaging isn't really the center piece here, and the utilitarian nature of the cards is pretty understandable.

Sculpting - ***
The head sculpts on all three characters are pretty basic, and very simplistic.  The sculpting on the accessories and bodies though is better, and the level of sculpting seems to match the play emphasis.

Accessories - ****
As I mentioned, each character comes with 8 pieces of 'zGear', which includes armor and weapons.  The armor fits well, and the figures hold the weapons perfectly.

Each character has a pair of boots, a chest plate, helmet and some sort of backpack.  There are also two hand weapons, and at least one weapon that attaches to the outside of the figure's arm.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint ops on the bodies and accessories are great.  The only negative here is on the faces.  The paint work there is both simplistic, and a bit rough on the figures I have.  But overall the ops were very good.

Articulation - ***1/2
These figures stand about 5" high, and have great articulation for that scale.

All figures have neck, ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, elbows, ball jointed hips, knees, and cut joint thighs.  The joints are tight, and the figures can hold a ton of poses extremely well.

Since the stance you place the character in can effect they game play, this articulation was crucial, and they've done a great job here.

Value - ***
I haven't found these at a retailer yet - they are hot off the press.  But the price of the figures directly from the site is $14.95 each.  I'm betting that they'll be a couple bucks cheaper than that at retail stores, and considering the figure and game together, you're getting a pretty good deal.

Figure Overall - ***
The figures are nice, with great articulation, and excellent design.  The price is a little high for just the figure though, so if you're not interested in the game, you'll find better deals out there.

Game and Figure Overall - ***1/2
While the figures are pretty good, it's really in conjunction with the game that the whole package shines.

If you are a Magic player, and are looking for a way to get your kids or younger siblings interested in that type of mental challenge, I think Z-G is an excellent idea.

And while you're at it, you just may want to try it yourself - you might be surprised how much fun you'll have playing with toys again.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford

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