I was approached a while back to review The Zarfling Conflict, a card game created by Travis Blair. This is currently a Kickstarter project, so creating prototype decks ended up being a lot more involved but I did recently get my version. There is a lot to like about this game, so let's review the game, Blair's background, and how you can be involved!
Note: All of the photos included here are from the Kickstarter page, as the prototype deck I received was black and white with no images. I was reviewing the game itself, not the images, which are pretty awesome as you will see here. (There are icons as well, for those who are color-blind.)
Gameplay-wise, The Zarfling Conflict is essentially a more strategic version of the classic card game, War. It can be played by two players or four in teams of two. Each deck comes with 54 cards - four seasons and 50 cards. How the game differs is that the Zarflings (creature cards) are broken up by "family" or suit, so it's not just about having the highest number.
Three things can happen with each turn or in the season.
First, you have the basic strategy of War: you play a higher card. In this case, the highest card wins and the winner adds both cards to his or her deck (if there's a tie, you continue as in War, with one card face down followed by another face up to break the tie and so on).
However, suits came into play in this game. Each card has rivals and allies. Rivals are cards from opposing families, while allies are cards in the same family. If your opponent plays a rival, you go with the highest number, but the cards aren't added to the deck. Instead they stay on the board to be used for another rivalry (the winning player now has both cards face up for that season).
However, if you have an allied card, you now take every card from that season, meaning you can recoup your loss from a rivalry. In addition, there are two Wild Cards, which ally with any card and are higher than any face card!
This is a simple game, but it's got enough strategy to require thinking and planning, as opposed to War, which kind of just depends on your deck. Because you are pulling cards, you have to plan which to use and how to use it and you can trick your opponent into making a massive error. I clearly lost, because I always lose when I play my husband in anything, but it was certainly fun!
What I liked about this game is that it would work for kids and families, as well as for more advanced gamers. You can really adapt it based on your own skill level. In addition, if playing with children, I think it would be a great way to communicate about emotions and reactions. For example, why are joy and sadness rivals? How does fear communicate as an emotion? And finally, why are the Wild Cards silly, and why does silly beat fear, anger, etc.? I love that kids get to play a game, while also exploring things that they deal with emotionally in a safe place. There's no pressure to talk about things, but it opens up dialogue in a fun way for parents and their children.
The art for the cards is going to be designed by a variety of indie comic artists, which is obviously awesome. The full list is available on the Kickstarter page. You can also look at the options for funding the project when there, which is $25 if you want to receive the game or $35 to receive the game and expansion packs. (Early subscribers also get dice, so why wait?)
Now what stood out most for me about the game is that it's not just a fun game and a great learning opportunity for kids, but also a passion project for someone who really does want to explore emotions, fun, and conflict. Travis Blair recently wrote about the role of silliness in overcoming the stress and experiences related to being a veteran. He originally started a website to be about comics to help himself after returning to the US from military service. It was meant to be a creative outlet and as Blair studied emotions and emotional responses in depth, he began to think about a way to present this that was accessible to everyone, did not feel too heavy, and could integrate his own passion for indie comic art and gaming. Thus, The Zarfling Conflict was born.
Overall, I feel this is a worthy investment, because the game is fun, playable by really any age because the text is minimal, engaging, and informative. When you roll in the fact that it's something that supports a veteran, and someone who is bringing indie gaming and art to more people, it's really an easy decision for me. There is a video on the Kickstarter page as well of game play and I encourage you to explore the site, to learn more about the game, and really to support the campaign if you can. Again, you can learn more about The Zarfling Conflict here. It has until April 1 to be funded, I believe, so hurry!
AND, if you are at SXSW, I believe The Zarfling Conflict will be there as well! Go say hello!