Zestrea – Let’s make a Romanian Marriage

One of the benefits of games, is that they can introduce all of us to cultures and ideas from elsewhere in the world. That is what I experienced with a new game called Zestrea.

Created by a small team of only four people entitled ‘Valiant Game Studio’, Zestrea takes a look at Romanian culture in a game about marriage, negotiation and resource management. It is a game for 3 – 6 people, and should take anywhere between half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how many players there are, and how they play. It is a compact, card-based game that comes in a small box. It consists solely of cards, and a single D6.

Zestrea is played in turns, with each player acting at the same time during the turn steps. There are five steps in each turn:

  • Hard Times – Things start out well in the beginning with the Good times cards, but soon turn tough when the Hard Times cards are resolved. Face Bandits, Floods or worse in these cards.
  • Production – Couples and Lands generate Zestre and babies. Zestre is the resource that must be managed well to ensure victory.
  • Auction – A Fate card is revealed, and the players can bid on it to take it.
  • Weddings and Negotiations – In this step, players can negotiate with each other to marry off their single villagers to others, to create couples. Couples generate Zestre and so are sought after. Players must decide on terms to facilitate marriages. Fate cards are also traded between and played on other players. Fate cards can provide benefits for the user, or impede others.
  • Food – Villagers must be fed. Lands provide food for some, and Zestre must be spent to feed the rest. For those that cannot be fed, sacrifices must be made…

Zestrea has been designed with a stylistic representation of traditional Romanian culture and dress in mind. It is wonderfully simplistic with bold colours and straight lines. Everything is drawn without curves, there is not a curved line to be found, beyond a few basic round shapes dotted throughout. Somes games overcomplicate things with too much artwork. The artwork for Zestrea is simple, absolutely, but it also suits the feel of the game and portrays an element of the culture it is based around very accurately.

Lads and Maidens

As per normal, I cannot comment on the production quality of the game I played, as we were gifted with a pre-production copy. The only concern I may have is the non-standard card size. I like to sleeve my card games to ensure they are kept in good condition. This game has three different sizes of cards as well, making it more difficult.

Zestrea is a competitive game at its heart. Players, or Boyars as the game calls us, must work for their own goal. However, they cannot reach this goal alone. Boyars must work with each other to gather couples, lands and Zestre. Do you want to screw over your fellow Boyar with that Fate card this turn, when you may need to marry their Maiden to your Lad in the next turn? It is a careful give and take, and that is where the negotiation part of the game comes into play. So while it is a competitive game, it is also a very social game. You can’t sit there and play in your own little world like other games, you must interact with the other Boyars, you must wheel and deal, lest you dwindle down to the bottom.

There is currently a Kickstarter active for Zestrea. You can find the link below. It has already surpassed its goal, so will succeed. I definitely suggest going to the Kickstarter page and reading through it all. Zestrea is more than just the game, it’s the story behind it, the journey and the Romanian culture.

Kickstarter Page
Zestrea Website

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