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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 20-30 minutes 2

Designer(s): Kris Burm

Publisher(s): Rio Grande Games, Smart

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Product Description

Kris Burm released PÜNCT at Spiel 05, apparently finishing Project GIPF, his series of six abstract games that rank head and shoulders over almost all others -- but as it turns out, there's been a change of plans. One game has been removed from the series, and a new game will appear in its place.

TAMSK, the second game in the series, includes sandtimers for pieces, and the real time aspect of the game -- with pieces "dying" when they run out of sand -- has always stood out from the other games in the series. TAMSK is getting the boot and will reappear as a standalone game with a new look and new name sometime in 2008 from Belgian publisher Smart, which took over from Don & Co. for Project GIPF in 2006.

TZAAR is a game about making choices. Both players have 30 pieces, divided in three types: 6 Tzaars, 9 Tzarras and 15 Totts. The 3 types of pieces form a trinity: They cannot exist without each other. The aim is either to make the opponent run out of one of the three types of pieces or to put him in a position in which he cannot capture anymore.

The tricky question the players will have to ask themselves on each of their turns is: "Shall I make myself stronger or my opponent weaker?" Meaning: will you capture an opponent's piece and make him weaker, or will you jump on top of one of your own pieces and make yourself stronger? If you choose to jump on top of your own pieces too often, you will probably leave your opponent with too many pieces on the board. On the other hand, if you capture too often, you may end up with pieces that are not strong enough at the end of the game. What to do? It's up to you to decide!

Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Game of the Year, 2009
Spiel des Jahres
Recommended, 2008
International Gamers Awards
Two-Player Nominee, 2008

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Kris Burm

  • Publisher(s): Rio Grande Games, Smart

  • Year: 2008

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 20 - 30 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Est. time to learn: 10-20 minutes

  • Weight: 916 grams

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 5 in 1 review

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by Arthur Reilly
Head Spinning Fun!
May 09, 2008

Head spinning fun!

It's was a long wait between when Tzaar was announced and when it recently became available, so was the wait worth it? Absolutely!

The game is played on a hexagonal board, the type Kris Burm has become famous for. Each side has 30 pieces, that are like the "Gipf" pieces. Of the 30 pieces, 15 are blank, 9 have a dot and 6 have a dot and a circle surrounding it.

There are several ways one can choose to set-up the board.

  1. Place all pieces randomly on the board.
  2. Use the set-up shown in the instructions.
  3. Each player takes turns playing a piece on the board until it's filled.

No matter which set-up you choose, white always plays first and makes a capture move and then it becomes Black's turn.

Then after, each player must first make a capture move on the first part of their turn and then have a choice of 3 options for the 2nd part of their turn.

  1. Capture again
  2. Stack pieces
  3. Pass

Each of the 3 options above are explained below:


Pieces may only move in a straight line and may not cross the center section of the board. Pieces may move over one or more vacant spaces, until it reaches an opponent's piece. The opponents captured piece(s), are removed from the board and the capturing piece(s) now sit in the same spot the captured pieces had been on.

Stacking takes place as capturing does, except you're reaching a piece or stack of your own color and placing the moving stack on top of the 2nd piece(s).

Passing just means it becomes your opponent's turn


There are two ways of winning the game:

  1. Your opponent can't make a capture on the first part of their turn.
  2. Your opponent no longer has each type of piece showing on the board. Only the pieces on top of stacks count and not the pieces within the stacks.


At first, with a total of 60 pieces on the board, there's a lot to take in. With repeated plays, you'll feel more comfortable with the huge amount of initial choices you have. Quickly, with capturing and stacking being done, the board begins to empty out and seeing ahead becomes a bit easier.


As with games such as "Dvonn" there doesn't seem to be any one strategy that works best. "Tzaar" seems to lend itself to many possible strategies, depending on the situation on the board. Exploring and finding these strategies is what makes this game so much fun.


The board is quite similar to the "Gipf" board. Unfortunately, I must admit I was somewhat disappointed with the pieces themselves. The dots and circles on the pieces are painted on and I had hoped they would have found a better way to distinguish the different pieces. In addition, each piece must be right side up, in order to tell which piece it is. Maybe in another edition we'll see a fix for this..


For fans of the "Gipf" series, this is a must have game that may well turn out to be the best in the series. Personally, I still haven't decided whether "Tzaar" or "Dvonn" is my favorite. Perhaps after a few more plays, I'll be able to decide.

If your a lover of Abstract Strategy Board Games, you can do no better than "Tzaar". If only we could get them to redesign the pieces, this game would be pure perfection.

Other Resources for TZAAR:

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