Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Z-man Games: A Brief History

Z-man Games was launched in the mid 1990s to produce the  Shadowfist trading card game, one of the early TCGs and one that  drew upon themes from Chinese martial arts movies.  Z-man  then released what was for the store the much more successful line of B-Movie card games, starting with Grave Robbers from Outer Space, which parodied the horror films of the 1950s and 1980s and branching out into other genres such as the Western, fantasy,  pirate, blaxspolitation, Asian cinema and Christmas. Though not commonly seen in stores in recent years, a decade or so ago, the B-movie card games were a ubiquitous offering in game stores and I saw many a game of them played at gaming conventions throughout the Midwest.

Z-man Games biggest hits, releasing several years after the B-movie card games peaked, were Agricola and Pandemic, both posting respectably steady sales for several years until the advent of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop web series, which featured Pandemic in one episode, giving it the “Wheaton Bump”, quadrupling, at least for us, sales of the game and allowing Z-man to create a Catanesque line of expansion for Pandemic. The success of other games such as Tragedy Looper and The Walking Dead (based on the comics, not the television series. Cryptozoic has the rights to that and puts out its only line of TV series based games) likely attracted the attention of Quebec based game publisher/distributor Filosofia, which bought Z-man in 2011.  

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