Game: Children of Zodiarcs
Genre: Role-Playing, Adventure, Strategy, Board Game
System: Nintendo Switch
Developers | Publishers: Cardboard Utopia | PID Publishing
Price: US $17.99 | UK £15.99| EU € 17,99
Age Rating: US Teen| EU 12+
Release Date: March 27, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to PID Publishing.
When I’m not playing visual novels, I am often grinding stats on my current RPG. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of deck builders and have reviewed a few of their digital counterparts for LadiesGamers in the past. However, one thing I don’t often get to play is dice games. They’re fun, but many of my friends don’t care for them. In addition, back when we used to play tabletop games in a local bookstore café every weekend, they proved to be quite noisy and disruptive. So I was excited to find a game that combines all of these elements in Children of Zodiarcs. Let’s dig in!
Story and Setting
You play primarily as a group of scrappy kids trying to survive in a fantasy world where they are tasked with retrieving valuable artefacts for a gang leader. Can they succeed? It depends on how good you are! The fantasy realm sort of reminds me of an alternate Egypt. I enjoy fantasy as a rule and it’s always lovely to find one that isn’t based on the same old Middle Ages tropes that get used over and over in gaming. Don’t get me wrong: I love those games too! But I appreciate the various games such as Children of Zodiarcs bring to the table.
This is a grid-based strategy game, one that’s very forgiving in letting you choose a space and action. Each turn is made up of three stages: move, action, and direction. After you select an action, you get to roll the dice which determines hit points and other benefits/disadvantages. As long as you change your mind before you roll, you can switch actions and even change where you move. This eliminates a lot of the “Dang! I meant to…” moments these games tend to spawn. Choosing the direction the character faces at the end of the turn allows you to try to avoid being stabbed in the back by an enemy. Direction counts in this game! Attacking from behind your enemy can cause more damage, but they can do the same to you.
In addition to the dice roll determining hit points, you can also earn bonus health points, and bonus card draws, among other things. After your initial roll, you can choose up to two dies to re-roll once. There is a lot of strategies involved here since if you roll high hit points, but don’t need that many points to knock out your opponent, you can strategically choose dice to re-roll and try for other benefits instead. But be careful! Some rolls will take away benefits if you roll the wrong side, and you may even knock one of the other dice by accident and screw up a roll you wanted to keep.
Dice Crafting & Deck Building
That brings me to another intriguing aspect of this game: dice crafting. In addition to unlocking new slots and dice to equip your characters with, you can customize sides on the dice you have equipped by using other dice as materials. This leads to even more strategy. Want to give a character with limited health regeneration ability a coveted health point space? Great! But you must choose which dice to part with in exchange.
In addition to the deckbuilding elements, you can earn new action cards as you level up, and the cards are automatically upgraded as well. As you develop your play style, you can create a deck to match. The combination of being able to develop your own deck, choose the dice you equip and customize the dice sides makes for an absolutely fantastic strategy-building combination. I have been spending hours on this game and it just does not get boring!
Music & Graphics
The music and graphics are appropriate. I love the character designs, and the maps are built very well. There are quite a few maps with multi-level elements, so make sure you rotate your view to see everything.
The music is appropriate. I haven’t found anything I particularly like about the music, but it also isn’t annoying. It’s suited to the background. I will fully admit to mostly playing this title with the volume turned down since there’s some grinding to do which lends itself to listening to podcasts while playing.
I don’t have any complaints. I supposed the symbols on the dice and text on the cards are going to be too small for some people in handheld mode, but I haven’t been reaching for my reading glasses. Just be aware that your mileage may vary.
Some of the themes may not suit everyone. There are class issues going on in this game, so if you’re looking to get away from all topics currently in the news you may want to consider a different title. It also has some discussion of cannibalism, which is a major squick for me and I’m sure for many others. That said, I got through that section with no problems. All these topics are mentioned in the official description on the eShop page. I am impressed they give us all this information upfront so that people can decide if this is the game for them!
Children of Zodiarcs is a strategy RPG with a clever system that I find endlessly entertaining. It’s challenging enough to involve some grinding and the story and characters are interesting, even though I’m not finding them to be very complex.
Instead, it’s the combination of dice customization and deck building systems that really makes Children of Zodiarcs stand out. I love upgrading my dice to increase the chances of a better roll. Frankly, I’ve barely touched the deck building aspect yet because I am so involved in managing the dice! I have spent hours in a single day (a rarity for me unless it’s Fire Emblem) grinding my characters to build their stats while listening to podcasts, and I can definitely say it’s been a blast.
Final Verdict: I Like It a Lot