First of all, let me describe what you get. For $29.95 and $4 shipping, available online from Zillions Development, you get a CD-ROM for Windows-based computers that plays over 290 games and puzzles. There are 104 puzzles such as the 8 queens puzzle, many peg solitaire games, and the Towers of Hanoi. There are 58 chess-like games including famous chess brain teasers and international variants such as Chinese and Korean chess and Shogi. There are 46 X-in-a-Row games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Nine Men Morris and Go-Moku. And there are 102 other abstract board games such as Alquerque, Chinese Checkers, Halma, Reversi, and Tafl games such as Tablut and HnefaTafl.
What is most fascinating about Zillions is the fact that it is not just a game, it is a game toolbox, something that many abstract game players have been searching for for many years. Zillions is extensible, and new games such as Surakarta and Turkisk Draughts are added weekly to the Zillions free downloads page. For any one of the games, there is a corresponding "Zillions Rules File" or ZRF. Crack open the ASCII text file and you see a LISP-like language for describing the rules, the pieces, and the variants of the game. Non-technical people should not venture into these files, but many technically-competent people will find it easy to change the files to create new variants, change the color or graphics of the pieces, or change the sounds for various game events. Programmers, especially those who have programmed in LISP, will find it easy to create new games in the ZRF format. In fact, Jens Markmann has an excellent description of the ZRF language at his Art of Games web site. There should be no problem describing any of the abstract board games in say Sid Sackson's Gamut of Games or R.C. Bell's Board Games of Many Civilizations. I intend to wite a few and see how the game works.
Also, the ZRF file omits any notion of money or points scoring. Without money changing hands, it appears to limit this game engine from allowing Zillions implementations of Acquire, Monopoly or Yahtzee. Notably absent from the games list is Mancala and that family of related table games. Lastly, the game description, help, and strategies are too brief. These are coded directly into the ZRF files and appear in a simple dialog information box. I wish these were in seperable text files, perhaps in HTML format, so that the explanations could be longer and more easy to view. If I am being overly critical of a $30 game, I do not intend to be. Perhaps the open-endedness and the possibilites with this engine, just leave me salivating for more. Hopefully some of these improvements can be incorporated into future versions of the program.
Despite these weaknesses, I certainly feel I got my money's worth with this game.
Already it has taught me new games and variants, and
it provides me with a default opponent for gaming
when no one else is around.
I certainly have been enjoying exploring the games included
with the package, but I will also revisit the
web site and see what other games that people contribute.
The basic game engine provides many avenues for exploration.
I highly recommend this game.
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