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Zestrea Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Zestrea

Designer: Horatiu Roman and Alex Patiu
Publisher: Laura Bularca
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 3–6
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

The village must survive. As their boyar (the area’s nobility), you have the responsibility of working to help the villagers. You must do your duty so that the village can thrive and nobody starves to death. What you really need to do is to increase the village’s zestrea, or dowry of the maidens. To accomplish this, you and the other boyar and boyaress must work together to help each other’s villages.

Maidens and Lads

Zestrea is a game of across-the-table negotiations. Over eight rounds, everyone works to grow their village’s wealth, land, and population. The only way you can do this is by cooperating, negotiating, and making deals with the other players. You can’t make it on your own because the lads and maidens must marry outside their home villages.
As everyone is working to accomplish the growth and stability of their village, you also have to deal with the trials and tribulations of living through the hard times. Only married couples produce zestre: wealth and land. But all the villagers eat. Even when fate seems to be going against you, keep planning and working with the other boyar to plan for the future.
Winning takes skill and luck to get the highest score from having the most zestre, land, and couples.

Each player starts with 1 married couple and 3 lands. All the lads and maidens have names, but at this point in the game, the names aren’t important.
Now, you want to create the Hard Times deck. Randomly draw out 5 of the 16 Hard Times cards and place them face down in the middle of the table. On top of the Hard Times cards, place the 3 Good Times cards. Every game starts with the same 3 Good Times, and they can be in any order. The rest of the Hard Times cards won’t be used for the game.
Shuffle the Fate cards and place them in the middle, along with the Villagers and Zestre Cards.

Some of the Hard Times

There are 8 rounds of play, which are governed by the created deck of Good Times and Hard Times. Each of the rounds has five steps.
The steps are played by everyone at the same time. There are no structured player turns that are done by a player, and then move to the next player. Once you get into this, it quickly becomes a game of constant talking, as everyone is looking for the next deal they need to make.
1.     Hard Times
This turn consists of turning over the top card of the deck and playing out what is on it.
2.     Production
Boyars roll 1 die for each married couple to see what the couple was able to produce.
3.     Auction
Reveal the next Fate card, and it goes up for auction to everyone.
4.     Weddings and negotiations
Negotiations between players happen. This can entail a number of different things. Part of the negotiations includes attempting marriages between unwed lads and maidens. This round continues until all boyars (players) agree they are done.
5.     Food
This is where you make sure your couples and single adults have enough food to survive. Each one consumes food from 1 piece of land, or is paid for by 1 Zestrea. If you don’t have enough Zestrea, you have to sell land to feed them. If you don’t have extra land to sell, they die.
When this step is done, you start the next round.
During all of this, you can also play the Fate Cards you hold. They can make changes to how well the weddings go, give specific people (a lad or maiden) roles that stay with them for the rest of the game, and move people around the board.

Some Fates

Theme and Mechanics
Playing a noble, taking care of a village by arranging marriages to allow for production, was a first for me and the rest of the players. This led to fun negotiations.
The open negotiations fit well with Zestrea. There is no structure to the negotiations, so some players can get overwhelmed. 

Artwork and Components
We played a prototype, and the components we used are still in development.

The Good
  • Cabin game, small compact package that can be easily taken with you.
  • Replay-ability. The additional cards available for creating the deck of Hard Times and negotiations change.

A couple with land and a role, an unmarried Maiden, and a young Lad

Final Thoughts
Most of the players had a good time playing Zestrea. One person expressed frustration because they didn’t care for the format of open negotiations with individual turns; they prefer games with a structured turn they could deal with, allowing them to see what the other players do on their turns. They liked the theme and other elements of the game, though—growing a village and dealing with the situations that arose the rest of the elements.
Play got a little louder when two people were trying to make separate deals with a third player. The pace even picks up when a player is trying to make a quick deal so someone else can’t jump into the negotiation.
Even though everyone is competing against each other for the best score, people have to figure out a way to work together. The competitive cooperation required was interesting and provided a good evening of entertainment.

Players Who Like
  • Social games, the open negotiations means people have to get involved.

Check out Zestrea on

On Kickstarter now. Campaign ends  November 21, 2019.

Daniel Yocom - Reviewer

Daniel Yocom does geeky things by night because his day job won’t let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He’s written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines along with stories, after extensive research. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join in the geeky fun at guildmastergaming@blogspot.com.

See Daniel's reviews HERE.
Zestrea Kickstarter Preview Zestrea Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Guild Master Gaming on October 28, 2019 Rating: 5

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