Zenteeko is an abstract strategy that, to me, is a cross between Nine Man Morris and Connect Four, that just happens to be made in a durable water resistant manner that I think makes it a great game for outdoor gaming.
My family likes to spend time outside. We take the kids to the beach, to splash pads, to local parks and we love having a picnic lunch or dinner. Due to this, I’m always really happy when I can find a board game that I can bring along to those outdoor events. Zenteeko is one of those games.
Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of Zenteeko. The publisher also agreed to let me host a giveaway. No other compensation was provided. Some links in this post are affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and we get a small commission when folks use these links.
Where did I learn about Zenteeko?
I was first contacted by Zenteeko, the company, on Instagram quite a few months back. They wrote to me about a new game they were about to launch in the US also called Zenteeko (I know, it’s confusing). I’m not sure how they found me exactly, but they asked if I would be interested in reviewing their new game.
The other thing that really caught my attention is that they offered to do a giveaway if I liked the game. I appreciated the part where they actually cared that I liked the game instead of just offering to do a giveaway right away.
I agreed and here we are.
I recorded a live unboxing video of Zenteeko
One of the first things I like to do with anything new I get to review is open up the package live on our twitch stream. I like doing this live because then people can get my initial first impressions as they happen. You get to see what I think of the game as I first see it for the first time myself. Once this is recorded I send it over to my podcast co-host Sean and he pretties it up and produces an evergreen YouTube version.
You can check out that unboxing video right here:
What is the board game Zenteeko all about.
Zenteeko was published in 2019 by a company also called Zenteeko. Neither the designer or artist are credited on their webpage or Board Game Geek.
The game comes in, or rather is, a synthetic leather rolled up case. That case is about ten inches long and a bit under two inches in diameter when rolled up. It’s snapped together by two straps. When the case is unsnapped and unrolled the game board and rules are revealed. Unrolled, Zenteeko is about thirteen inches long, not counting the straps. The board itself is about nine inches square and consists of a five by five grid of dots all connected by lines.
Playing tokens are found in a zippered compartment at the end of the roll. These are eighteen chips, in three colours, six each of red, black, and light blue.
The rules are printed right on the case next to the board and are very simple:
The goal is to get four of your tokens into position on the board so that they form a line or a square.
1) Players each get four markers (the game includes spares for each colour). In turn, each player places one marker on the board. Once all markers have been placed, if no one wins, you move on to step two. Note: You can win during set up, which is interesting.
2) In turn, each player moves one of their markers on the board from the spot it is in over to an empty spot following the lines on the board.
There is one advanced rule also included: you can swap part one, so that for set-up you are placing your opponent’s pieces instead of your own.
My thoughts on Zenteeko
The first thing that struck me right away about Zenteeko was the quality. You can see it clearly in the unboxing video. This is a well produced game. The case, which also serves at the board, is made of that nice synthetic leather, the same stuff my Quiver from Quiver Time is made out of. The snaps and zipper are solid and the actual playing chips are nice, thick, plastic. Everything rolls up into a small package that’s great for transporting.
The first time I played my copy of Zenteeko we were out in Amherstburg for Canada Day. Deanna and I were playing it while the kids were having fun in a splash pad. That’s when it struck me just how perfect this game was for playing outside. While it’s not completely waterproof, it is water resistant. I didn’t have to worry about my soaking wet kids splashing our game. Due to the fact that it’s all synthetic leather and plastic, that also means the game is easy to clean if it ends up falling in the mud or gets covered in sand.
As for the actual gameplay, it’s solid. This isn’t a great amazing new game, it’s not ground breaking, but it’s solid and enjoyable.
Zenteeko is a pretty simple abstract strategy game. It has a distinctly old school feel to it. It feels like I should be playing on a wooden board with stone playing pieces or on a wooden peg board with golf tees like one of those games left out on a table at a diner that keeps you busy while waiting for your early riser breakfast special to show up.
I found it interesting that you can lose during set up if you aren’t paying attention. One problem my wife and I did find is that this can be a very long game. If you have two players who know the game well and who are taking time actually planning out their moves and planning ahead you can get into a near stalemate situation. With two players, the game always comes down to who makes the first mistake. Deanna and I even joked that this could be the game that never ends if both players play cautiously enough.
Where the game really shines is with three players. Once you add in a third player the game changes both tactically and strategically. We found it was much easier to both predict what our opponents were doing as well as set up situations where you can force your foes to make a move or else they lose the game. There’s more thinking and we never once ran into a game that went on too long.
I did pass on my concerns about the two player game to Zenteeko and they suggested a couple of fixes. One was to make it so that once you make a move, your next move can’t be to move the same piece back to where it was. Another suggestion was to play to a set number of moves or a time limit and once that is reached call the game a draw. A final suggestion was to allow duplicate moves but use the chess threefold repetition rule, where a player can claim a draw if the same move is done three turns in a row. Personally, I just suggest you find a third player.
The game is decent, it’s simple enough my kids can play it, and its abstract nature makes it the type of game you can often get non-hobby gamers to play. While it’s not something I would bring to a game night, I’ve had fun playing it now and then. What I really love about Zenteeko is the durability and portable nature of the game. I honestly think this is a great game for bringing with you on a trip and for playing outdoors.
My copy now sits in the back of my van along with our ping pong paddles, and a frisbee.
Win a copy of Zenteeko
This contest is open World Wide! Enter via the form below. The contest will close on Wednesday, September 4th at 11:59pm EDT. At that point, I will reach out to the winner to get their shipping information. The winning copy of Zenteeko will be shipped by Zenteeko (not us at Tabletop Bellhop). We will be giving away one (1) copy of Zenteeko.
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