Barnes on Games- Zimby Mojo in Review

Barnes on Games- Zimby Mojo in Review Hot

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Michael BarnesMichael Barnes   July 28, 2016  
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Jim Felli is Back.

Zimby Mojo.

Pause on those two words for a minute. Unless you already know about Jim Felli’s latest game, you’ve never seen those two words together before. And you’ve never played a game quite like Zimby Mojo before, either.

Last year, Mr. Felli put out one of the most interesting- avant garde, even- adventure games in recent memory with Shadows of Malice. It was a singular design full of weirdness and wonder, operating almost completely outside the routine that too many game authors fall into where various mechanics are used as if pulled from a toolbox to express a setting, concept or narrative. But it isn’t that Mr. Felli is creating completely unprecedented work, it’s that he’s using his influences to create something fresh.

Zimby Mojo’s one-in-million concept alone should be enough to interest game players looking for unique and unusual experiences. Each player represents the shaman of a “Zimby” tribe. These are a kind of pygmy cannibal with a nasty disposition but undying fealty to their leader. Each shaman is tasked with sending out their zimbies into the Cannibal King’s jungle compound with the goal of evading the ruler’s thugs and committing regicide. With the deed done, the Zimbies need to then return to their tribal area with the Cannibal Crown in hand. Good luck with that, because every other tribe wants to do accomplish the same goal.

Of course, this is not easy to do. For one thing, the King isn’t just laying about. He’ll move around his area, casting four different spells (which are different each game) that generally hit every player hard or make Zimby life miserable in some way. The resource metric is Mojo, and you only only four of these points per turn to spend on creating new Zimbies, making Zimbies into Zombies (more on that in a bit), casting various spells and moving stacks of the little bastards around the pathways leading up to the Cannibal King’s throne. Of course there are other ways to get Mojo, such as cannibalizing your Zimbies. But doing that means less of your Zimbies on theboard to do your bidding.

You also can’t do this alone. You’ve got to partner up with one or more players (by the way, this game supports a whopping eight players) in order to break these elemental seals that are protecting the king. To do so, you have to have a stack of Zimbies from one or more tribes. From there, your alliance of convenience can go either way- there is no joint victory condition. All bets are off once the Crown has been pried from the King’s lifeless head.

So a lot of the game is about stacking and moving these Zimbies and many rules surround this element. The more Zimbies in a stack, the more Mojo they take to move around. They are stronger in combat with the King’s Thugs or other Zimbies when stacked with multiple tribes, but control of the stack shifts to whoever’s turn it is that has a Zimby in the stack. And to jump in one of these piles, you have to have the permission of every tribe that is in it.

It’s quite brilliant that the first half of the game requires these kinds of very tenuous alliances, but then once the King is offedit turns into a free-for-all scrimmage for the crown with residual vendettas and grudges that a single winner needs to navigate through successfully. When you add in a huge deck of crazy Scroll cards, which include cards that require Zimbies to “chant” to maintain them and all sorts of nasty take-that aggro, the design feels something like a madcap descendant of Wiz-War.

Much like Tom Jolly’s classic design, there are elements such as on-board, destructible obstacles and conjurable monsters. In this case, you can turn Zimbies into Zombies. I love this little bit of the design because the Zombies are stupid, they do not care about your goals, and they introduce an often hilariously destructive and random element to the game. They attack anything they are next to, without concern for tribal loyalties or alliances. Your shaman can control them on your turn, but at the end of the round they have a Shamble phase where they move a random distance. So a couple of Zombies roaming around usually results in some unexpected consequences.

But there’s even more to it. There are magic portals for teleporting. The combat includes this crazy thing where you sort out wounds by dumping a Zimby stack into a bag and randomly drawing the difference in combat scores (which include a die roll, a Brutality rating and any cards played). The King’s four spells for the game have wildly different effects. And all of those Scroll cards inject a tremendous dose of both variety and unpredictability.

This game is wild, untamed territory. It’s bug-eyed and psychotic and it flies in the face of so much of what is regarded as “elegant” or “modern” game design. The luck averse should run screaming. But those who do not enjoy savagely cutthroat games dependent on table-talk and merciless backstabbing should run faster and scream louder. I would also issue a warning to those who are not willing to dive into this thing head first and accept its quirky idiosyncrasies. Much like Shadows of Malice, it’s not a game for those who value safe ideas and clockwork predictability over barely contained anarchy and unfair swings of fortune.

Zimby Mojo is, as I had hoped it would be after playtesting it and offering some feedback to Mr. Felli, one of the best games of 2016. There are some things that bothered me about the design when I first played it- in particular the length- but I think the finished product is right on the money. But I’ve got to issue two more warnings. It is still a longer game than players may want from such a swingy, chaotic design but a couple of setup twists can greatly accelerate it. The other admonition is that it is a pretty complex piece of work. There are a lot of rules, and a lot of minor and easily forgotten ones at that. So this is obviously a game that requires a degree of patience that more accessible designs generally do not. There is a good solo option available if you just can’t find others willing to participate in the mayhem, but having played up to six players I can tell you that this is definitely a more, the merrier kind of thing. Provided that everyone is aware that it is about 30 minutes per player.

It’s totally worth it all though, because there is nothing else like this game out there. The concept, the setting, the rules all come together to create a very rare one-of-a-kind experience. It’s also absolutely nothing like Shadows of Malice, which makes me even more interested in what Mr. Felli and Devious Weasel come up with next.

Posted: 29 Jul 2016 08:49 by charlest #231061
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Yes, I actually dig this more than Shadows of Malice, which says a lot.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 09:53 by san il defanso #231063
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I'm really excited about this. I'll be reviewing it on my blog when it's out in the wild.

Jim Felli is one of those designers like the original EON team. He's making his own rules.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 13:33 by SuperflyTNT #231085
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Everybody shit all over Dungeon Run for doing the same thing - co-opportunistic. Watch those same wankers praise this.

Also, THIS: boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/153905/warband-against-darkness
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 15:13 by hotseatgames #231097
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Fun fact. That font is called Lycanthrope and I used in my prototypes for City of Lycans.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 16:32 by xthexlo #231106
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Yep -- that's it! Well, almost... The Lycanthrope font designer (Chad Savage) is a really cool guy. When I decided to use Lycanthrope for the title, I contacted Chad and asked if I could adjust the space between the letters and drop the "i" and "j" lower than they currently were and add a dot atop them. He gave his permission to modify the font as desired. And voila! The Zimby Mojo title!

(Oh yeah... that picture is actually an old mock-up. Check out the BGG page for the final box cover.)
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 17:06 by Shellhead #231109
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Aside from the Betrayal at House on the Hill expansion, I wasn't planning on spending any more boardgames this year. But this review of Zimby Mojo has captured my interest.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 17:09 by Gary Sax #231110
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I'll plan on picking it up (just preordered, hope I got in early enough to get one of the early copies!). I don't play Shadows of Malice as much as I should but I when i get it out I enjoy it. It really is a unique take on the genre.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 17:23 by Shellhead #231112
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I just placed my pre-order. The last time that I bought a game on impulse like this was Camp Grizzly, and that turned out to be a winner. Should receive my copy by early September or sooner.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 17:34 by wadenels #231114
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I really dig Shadows and ordered this as soon as I realized it was available. If it's as good as what I've been reading then Devious Weasel is going to be right on top of my very short list of game companies to stalk.
Posted: 29 Jul 2016 18:02 by SuperflyTNT #231116
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Looks like it's pretty dope, based on what I've seen so far on the webz.

Yet another case of "wish I had money" LOL
Posted: 30 Jul 2016 13:45 by hotseatgames #231141
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xthexlo wrote:
Yep -- that's it! Well, almost... The Lycanthrope font designer (Chad Savage) is a really cool guy. When I decided to use Lycanthrope for the title, I contacted Chad and asked if I could adjust the space between the letters and drop the "i" and "j" lower than they currently were and add a dot atop them. He gave his permission to modify the font as desired. And voila! The Zimby Mojo title!

That's cool, I had wondered about the letters that were different.

Edit- I've decided I need this game. How do I make that happen?
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 08:47 by xthexlo #231154
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hotseatgames wrote:
I've decided I need this game. How do I make that happen?
At the moment, you can either pre-order online through the publisher (and get some free promo cards at deviousweasel.com/buy-zm/), pre-order through your local FLGS or favorite online merchant, buy live at Gen Con next week (in person or through a friend), or wait until the game gets into general distribution (looks like September). Is that what you were asking?
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 09:49 by SuperflyTNT #231155
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Knowing Mark as I do, a link to the publisher's preorder site would be ideal.

He's kind of a lazy bugger.
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 10:30 by hotseatgames #231158
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Yes don't be shy! Link that shit :)
Sadly I will be missing Gen Con this year.
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 10:39 by xthexlo #231159
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I added a link to the post as suggested. I didn't originally because I didn't think it was appropriate since I'm the publisher.
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 10:48 by hotseatgames #231160
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Thanks! My pre-order is now placed. And I can understand why you'd feel a bit odd about linking it, so here's my own link. deviousweasel.com/buy-zm/

How many promo cards are there?

edit- Also the whole reason I was befuddled at all was that I was originally reading your site on an iPad, and the 'buy zm' link is in a javascript menu that either didn't open up or I didn't tap on it at all. So the page simply appears as info about the game with no actual link to purchase. I would consider adding a link directly in the page content.
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 11:08 by xthexlo #231163
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hotseatgames wrote:
How many promo cards are there?

There are 10 playable promo cards. I'll post them on BGG in the next couple of days. I'll post here to let you know when that happens.

hotseatgames wrote:
I would consider adding a link directly in the page content.

Great suggestion! I'll work on that as well.
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 12:15 by Mantidman #231165
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Ordered my copy.
Looks like a game that will go over well with the sons and nephews this holiday season.
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 15:06 by SuperflyTNT #231170
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At risk of sounding like a shitheel, which isn't my intent, I'd really like to know how this is different than Dungeon Run.

In that game, players basically help(ish) one another to beat the big baddie, fighting through minions and whatnot, until a player does so, at which point he gains the super power that the big baddie had, and then he runs to the exit ASAP while the remaining players attack.

I get that each faction has a bunch of Zimbies rather than one avatar, which seems to be a main differentiator. Is there a gameplay video or something?

I love Dungeon Run (I may be one of five people on the planet that would say so, I suspect) so this is right up my alley, but I'd like some more detail.

Thx!
Posted: 31 Jul 2016 22:01 by xthexlo #231179
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SuperflyTNT wrote:
I'd really like to know how this is different than Dungeon Run.

I wish I could answer this, but I have never before heard of Dungeon Run. Perhaps Charlie or Michael can answer this question.

SuperflyTNT wrote:
Is there a gameplay video or something?

The best I can offer at the moment is some animated PowerPoint videos posted on the Zimby Mojo page on BGG, in the videos section.
Posted: 01 Aug 2016 02:15 by Dan Thurot #231181
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Pete, even though I haven't played Dungeon Run in a couple years, I can try to answer that.

There are certainly some similarities. In both Dungeon Run and Zimby Mojo, everyone is cooperating for the first act, and upon slaying the big bad it gets all heist-gone-greedy and everyone's out for themselves. Both contain lots of dice-chucking, both revel in the tension of the impending betrayal, and both offer plenty of ways to screw with allies and enemies alike.

Despite those similarities, however, they don't feel very alike at all. To me, there are two major differences:

1) In Dungeon Run, you're leveling up a single hero by gaining abilities and equipment. You know, traditional dungeon-diving stuff. In Zimby Mojo, you're in control of an entire tribe of cannibals, which means you can have a pack of guys cooperating with another shaman's cannibals — by stacking them together — while somewhere else you have a couple guys patrolling around some portals, and elsewhere you've transformed a couple cannibals into zombies, which are slower and dumber (so dumb that they might pursue your own people if you don't store some mojo to tell them off) but really tough to kill. Your guys also represent the bulk of your resources, so you're managing an entire tribe of guys as they chase down the king's crown, play defense, act as currency back at home, and do everything from casting spells, cannibalizing your other guys, and chanting to create bonuses. When every player has two to four groups running around, the map is bonkers.

2) In Zimby Mojo, the second act is way meatier. Most of my plays of Dungeon Run were at least 75% exploring, leveling up, and then beating the big bad, with the backstabbing conclusion usually playing out pretty briskly. Zimby Mojo, by contrast, was usually the other way around. Getting to the king, killing him off, and seeing someone pick up the crown is just the first step in what quickly becomes a bloody six-way game of rugby. It takes genuine trickery, brute force, a silver tongue, and a not-insignificant quantity of luck to make off with that crown.

There are other differences, but those are the main ones that spring to mind. For what it's worth, I enjoyed Dungeon Run well enough, but Zimby Mojo is one of the funniest games I've played in a very long time. I wrote up a review over on my site, but it seems tacky to post a link.
Posted: 01 Aug 2016 08:20 by Gary Sax #231190
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I read your review, enjoyed it.
Posted: 01 Aug 2016 08:58 by SuperflyTNT #231195
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Holy shit, Dan. That was one hell of a review.
Posted: 01 Aug 2016 12:29 by Dan Thurot #231205
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SuperflyTNT wrote:
Holy shit, Dan. That was one hell of a review.
Thanks, man. The funny thing about that review was that I was really happy with it, but the whole time I was writing I kept telling myself, "Remember to talk about the Bag o' Fate!" It's where you put a mixed-team stack of zimbies when you take wounds in order to randomly assign who gets killed. It's fun stuff, and gets the whole table leaning forward to see who's taking the fall for your latest ill-advised attack.

Then one week after I finished the review, I realized I'd forgotten to include anything about that dang bag.
Posted: 01 Aug 2016 16:05 by metalface13 #231226
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xthexlo wrote:
Yep -- that's it! Well, almost... The Lycanthrope font designer (Chad Savage) is a really cool guy. When I decided to use Lycanthrope for the title, I contacted Chad and asked if I could adjust the space between the letters and drop the "i" and "j" lower than they currently were and add a dot atop them. He gave his permission to modify the font as desired. And voila! The Zimby Mojo title!

(Oh yeah... that picture is actually an old mock-up. Check out the BGG page for the final box cover.)

Yeah if you've purchased the license for a font you can do whatever you want with it as long as you aren't modifying it and trying to sell it as your own font.
Posted: 01 Aug 2016 16:07 by xthexlo #231227
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metalface13 wrote:
Yeah if you've purchased the license for a font you can do whatever you want with it as long as you aren't modifying it and trying to sell it as your own font.

True. The sweet thing is that Chad lets you use his fonts for free.
Posted: 11 Aug 2016 11:37 by hotseatgames #231821
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Just got my ship notice. I should be checking out the solo mode on Saturday. :)
Posted: 11 Aug 2016 12:56 by Gary Sax #231832
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Me too!
Posted: 11 Aug 2016 13:15 by Shellhead #231835
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They are shipping from Indy. Unless they are based there, this means that they are very literally keeping their word about shipping any unsold copies from GenCon, and with 2-day priority. While I'm delighted to get my copy so soon, I would have also been happy to hear that they sold out their first run at GenCon.
Posted: 11 Aug 2016 13:21 by Shellhead #231837
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I have already been working on a two-disc Zimby Mojo soundtrack. It will be insane.

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