After our quick overview of the story behind Zhanguo and the missions entrusted to your family by the Emperor, we’re now at the heart of the game! How does a game of Zhanguo: The First Empire unfold?
5 rounds to make history
A game of Zhanguo lasts 5 rounds, in each of which you play 6 cards from your hand, for a total of 6 actions. You receive 2 cards for each Unification of China project, i.e. 2 Currency cards, 2 Laws cards and 2 Writing cards.
Unify the country and act in the Emperor’s Court
To play a card, you have two options:
- Unify a region
- Perform an action at the Emperor’s Court
Unify a region
This action consists of placing one of your cards in hand in one of your regions. By doing so, you bring changes to the country, raising the population’s discontent (which could block you at times). However, it’s through this Unification that you can build up a game engine and collect precious Unification tokens! Each region can only contain 3 cards, so you’ll need to optimize your personal board as much as possible.
Performing an action at the Emperor’s Court
By playing your card on this board, you can perform one of the Emperor’s 6 actions:
- Recruit an official: the General is essential for recruiting workers, the Architect helps you build Palaces and Walls, and the Alchemist helps you progress in your search for the Elixir of Immortality.
- Searching for the Elixir: you move your ship across the seas to collect various bonuses, whether it’s placing an Alchemy card in a region, improving your end-game score or unlocking terracotta soldiers for the Mausoleum.
- Install a Governor: this action requires you to discard one official of each kind in the targeted region. In return, the Governor reduces discontent in the region, gives you access to an immediate bonus and allows you to progress in your objectives!
- Hire two workers: workers are essential for building palaces and walls. But beware: they bring discontent and are always discarded when building.
- Building a palace in a region: requires an Architect and workers. Palaces are a significant source of points, as well as providing you with a high-quality Unification token and helping you to complete Mausoleum objectives.
- Building a wall: only requires workers in different regions. Walls offer specific point multipliers, the strength of which depends on the number of workers used in construction.
The Twist behind the Emperor’s Court
One of the major features of Zhanguo: The First Empire is this board. Depending on the value of the card played in the court AND the value of the previous card in the Emperor’s court, you can activate or not the bonus abilities of the cards placed in your regions!
For example, if I recruit an official and the card played at the Emperor’s court is of lower value than the previous one, I can activate all the bonuses linked to the « recruit an official » action on my personal board. And if I can’t activate any bonuses, I can always move an official from one region to another.
So you need to choose the right moment to play at the Emperor’s Court, in order to activate your bonuses wisely. Beware, however: if a region is in uprising (maximum unrest), you can’t activate the bonuses of the cards in that region.
Attracting the Emperor’s Favor
At the end of each round, players can win some very tempting bonuses… although it’s important to be favorably placed in the race for Unification tokens! The player with the most Unification tokens of each kind (Money, Laws, Writing) decides if he wants to claim the associated bonus.
Reclaiming such a bonus, however, means sacrificing all Unification tokens of the same type. The more rounds you play, the more powerful the bonuses become!
You can always use your Unification tokens to unlock terracotta soldiers, crucial for securing the Mausoleum’s objectives.
The many ways to score Points
There are several ways to improve your score in Zhanguo: The First Empire.
- Terracotta Army: complete Mausoleum objectives faster than other players, and try to score bonus points by completing rows and columns. Remaining terracotta soldiers at the entrance to the Mausoleum give you additional VPs.
- Governors: the majority player in each Region scores points, the others none. This is a very important source of VPs!
- Palaces and Walls: Palaces give you immediate VPs, while Walls score points at the end of the game.
- Elixir of Immortality: depending on your progress on the track and the number of Alchemy cards placed in your regions.
- Over the course of the game, specific cards can be a source of VP.
For a few more games…
Zhanguo: The First Empire is a fascinating Eurogame. Each game is different, thanks to many elements specific to this edition:
- The game contains a variety of tiles (Wall, Region, Mausoleum, etc.) which also change position with each session.
- The double-sided board can be played solo, with 2 players or with 3-4 players to suit different configurations.
- The presence of 3 different Emperor’s Favors boards enhances replayability.
- An Automa for single-player mode with 4 difficulty levels lets you test your own limits!
Zhanguo : The First Empire with Gaming Rules!
To find out more, we recommend the Zhanguo Playthrough by GamingRules!