Gameday First Play – The Great Zimbabwe

Every so often you come across one of those games that makes your head hurt…

This is one of them

The Great Zimbabwe is a logistico-economic game in which players are tribal leaders in Africa trying to please the gods by building monuments.

Buying technology, building craftsmen, gathering resources and worshipping a god are among the many decisions necessary to win in ‘The Great Zimbabwe’. But the main way of getting there is building and developing a network of monuments. The higher the monuments, the closer the players will be to victory, but players must balance many subtle aspects of the game. If they develop their economy, if they worship a powerful god or if they use a lot of technology, they will need to score more victory points.

First thing is to say I love the art in this game, especially the cards.

So you’re trying to get points by building new Monuments and using a brain melting resource system to improve your existing Monuments.

Each player has a plaque for their tribe, I was the red Kilwa Empire.

Kilwa Empire

Each players plaque on each turn will be laid out in or of most to least ‘VR’ (Victory Requirement,  more on this in a bit) and you bid for turn order by either dropping out and taking the lowest turn position remaining, or bidding by putting cattle on the plaques in order.

Turn order is KEY, especially in turn 1 and towards the end of the game. When everyone has dropped out you get the cattle on your plaque and turns can begin.

The Great Zimbabwe Rulesheet

In order order players can…

Take a God or Specialist

You can only have 1 God and as many specialists as you like but you can only take 1 per turn. There are a limited number available depending on the player count and each will give you an ability BUT will increase your VR.

I took Engal who gives you 2 Cattle (money) each turn but increases the number of Victory points you nee to win by 5. I bid all my money to go first on turn one to get this God and it proved to be a good move.

The Great Zimbabewe God

I didn’t like any of the Specialists, although they were good and useful I decided not to take one to keep my VR down.

Then you can then either…

Erect a New Monument

Put a counter on the board not adjacent to another monument. This is worth 1 point and can be improved for additional points in future turns.

Place Craftsmen

This involves paying the cost in cattle for a Craftsman and putting it on the board within 3 spaces of it’s requirement.

So the ‘Potter’ needs to be within 3 spaces of a square with Clay on that isn’t being used by anything else. A ‘Vessel Maker’ needs to be placed within 3 spaces of an unused Potter and 3 Spaces of an unused Clay Square. As you can guess, things go from being ‘unused’ to ‘used’ pretty quickly and it starts to get quite complex.

Each of these also increases your VR and the cool thing is you set the cost of using this technology. Too low and your opponents will get to use it cheaply, too high and you may prices yourself out of using it too!

The Great Zimbabwe TechnologyImprove Monument

This is where the maths comes in. Upgrading from Level 1 to level 2 requires one Technology, So if your monument is within 3 spaces of a technology you can pay to upgrade it by paying the owner of that tech, simple.

Upgrading to level 3 requires 2 DIFFERENT technologies, Level 4 needs 3 and Level 5 needs 4.

This is where the maths, the planning, the thought comes in. To upgrade to level 5 you need to make sure you can use 4 different technologies, you are in reach of all of them, all of their requirements are available and you can pay for all this process in cattle.

The Great Zimbawe Board


Once everyone has taken their actions you get an income phase. This is where you get all the Cattle placed on your cards (So when paying people for using their technologies they keep that money), income from Gods and Specialists and 1 for each level of your highest monument.


The last thing you do in each turn is check to see if a players total points is equal to or higher  than their VR. If it is they win now, if not you go back to bidding for turn order.

I don’t get to play many games like this and I really enjoyed this one.

The thinking and planning and counting on top of the great visuals and the break for KFC about 2 hours in made for a great game 🙂 (Yeah I won but I already decided I liked the game before then :-p)

A very nice game.

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