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Board Game Review: Zong Shi

2015 February 12

It’s time for another review…this time we go back to medieval China, with Zong Shi!

Zong Shi by Eagle Games

Zong Shi by Eagle Games

Designer: Kevin G. Nunn

Number of players: 3-5

Age: 13+

Time: 75 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

In a large town in medieval China, several talented artisans – Masters in their own right – aspire to become recognized as Zong Shi: the Grand Master craftsman. You are one of these master artisans and together with your apprentice, you are competing with the other Masters to attain this elevated status in the town. To succeed, you’ll have to impress the townspeople with your skills. How shall you do it? Will you acquire a specialist’s mastery over certain material, or will you enlarge your workshop? Will you create a large number of smaller projects or will you build fewer, but greater, masterworks? That is for you to decide.

Basic idea in my own words…

Zong Shi is a game that takes place in medieval China where it’s your goal to become the Zong Shi: the Grand Master Craftsman! The primary mechanism in Zong Shi is worker placement with only two workers, a master and an apprentice. Throughout the game, you are trying to play your workers more efficiently than your opponents. Depending on how you use your workers, your choices will modify the outcome of the game. Using the master gives you more opportunities at each location as well as let’s your begin projects. The apprentice can also help you throughout the game but is much weaker than the master.


  1. Lay down the main playing board within reach of all players; also give each player a workshop board
  2. Each player chooses a color and takes the respective master and apprentice tokens of that color, in addition, players will take the same colored visit tiles; also girl each player a turn summary card
  3. Each player places their workers in their workshop
  4. Someone must take the scroll cards, shuffle them and place them facedown in the temple
  5. Depending on the number of players, take the appropriate number of exchange tile and place them in the pawn shop
  6. Place all of the nice feeling boxes of material in the nice looking Chinese bag – randomly draw a number depending on the number of players and place on the small and large jars in the market
  7. In the respectful visits area, place a random first visit blue tile face down on each block in the respectful visits. Then, turn them all over and place the remaining one in the box – it will not be used.
  8. Take and shuffle the master project cards and place two on the empty spaces in the middle, top of the board – place the draw deck above them in the remaining empty spot
  9. Take the rest of the project cards and place them on their respective locations on the board – the amount will vary depending on the number of players
  10. Determine the start player and give them the starting player buddha marker
  11. Each player draws 3 scrolls and places them out in the open, face-up. Then beginning with the player to the right of the starting player and counter counter-clockwise, each player selects a box of material or their choice or scroll. This continues around the table until each player has 3 scrolls and 3 boxes of material; refill the boxes of material – you are ready to begin
Zong Shi Game Board

Zong Shi Game Board

How do you play?

On your turn you must make a choice – either use your master, or your apprentice. The master will give you greater flexibility in locations, but he will often be tied up working on a project, so you will be using your apprentice a lot, whom is weaker. When you decide to take an action, you place the appropriate worker on the respective location to perform the action, then play proceeds clockwise and the next player does the same. When the turn gets back to you, you can either play your other worker, or pass. One of the benefits of using the master is that when you use a master, you may play a scroll card.

On your turn…

  1. Begin a project – If you wish to begin a project, you must do so with your master. Hand in the matching boxes of material to the bag and take the card and place on the sand timer space in your workspace – this project has now begin.
    Projects in Zong Shi

    Projects in Zong Shi

    On the right side of the card is a number with the same timer. Place your apprentice on this number on the upper right of your workshop board. Until this project is completed, you cannot abandon the project in progress.

  2. Go to a location – You may use your master or apprentice on a space on the board. Each space has its own rules and nuances.
    1. Marketplace – 
      1. Master – If you place the master in the marketplace, you will have an opportunity to take as many boxes of material as you can, in an alternating fashion, with any other masters on a jar. The starting players master, or first in turn order chooses first. Then the next players get to choose one, and this continues clockwise until all material is gone, or players wish to not take anymore. There are two jars in the market place, a small and large – select one.
      2. Apprentice – if you put an apprentice in the marketplace, you may only take 1 box of material, after all master have chosen their initial tile of choice
    2. Temple –
      1. Master – When you place the master here, you may take the top scroll off of the deck, however, with the master, you may give up any number of boxes of material to take that many more scrolls
      2. Apprentice – The apprentice has no special actions here except for that he may take 1 scroll
    3. Pawn Shop –
      1. Master – In the pawn shop, you may take an exchange tile by giving up two of the colored boxes of material of the same tile and then placing the tile in the respective location in your workshop. The Master can take as many as he can afford.
      2. Apprentice – The apprentice can only take 1 exchange tile at a time
    4. Respectful Visits – 
      1. Master – By going to the respectful visits box, you can receive more points by placing down visit tiles on each respective box in the respectful visits area. The benefit of placing the master here is that if you are the first master to visit a box, you are awarded the bonus tile and can implement its effects. In addition, you can visit more townspeople, but you have to pay more. To successfully visit a townsperson, you choose a visit tile to place in the box and sacrifice the appropriate box of material. The more visits you have performed, the more points you’ll receive.
      2. Apprentice – The apprentice can only visit one townsperson at a time.
  3. Pass – If you do not wish to take an action or cannot, you are forced to pass

At the end of the player actions, take back your workers and move your master down one space on the project time track. If you reach 0, you receive your master back and you can place your completed project on an empty space on your workshop. You will also receive special benefits for each project completed. The points awarded of completing each project is on the left side of the card.

Game End: The game end trigger is when a player completed his 6th project. There is one final round after the round where a player completes his 6th project.


  • Each player receives points based off the number of townsfolk visited
  • You are awarded points for a incomplete project
  • You are awarded full points for completed projects
  • You receive points for each exchange tile you have
  • You also receive points for each 3 of scrolls and boxes of material (you can combine in any way you wish)

Whomever has the most points, wins!


Components: 5/5

The components of Zong Shi really is unparalleled. The components are top notch. You should see how thick the box is. The bag, buddha and boxes of material really shine!

Zong Shi First player marker

Zong Shi First player marker

Cloth bag for Zong Shi

Cloth bag for Zong Shi

Theme: 3/5

The theme is a general, “euro” type of theme. You’re building up an engine to help yourself throughout the game. The theme won’t be offensive to anyone and safe. Its not the most exciting theme, especially to me, I prefer medieval themes.

Luck Factor: 2/5

There’s a modest amount of luck in the game because of the random drawing of scrolls as well as boxes of material.

Strategy: 3/5

There’s a good amount of strategy in the game, more than there is luck. It has its moments of tough decisions but nothing too complex.

Overall Feelings: 3/5

I enjoyed Zong Shi. Its great quality, has some tough decisions and has a pretty decent theme. My opponents and I felt however that there wasn’t a lot to do in the game. This is because you only have two workers and much of the time, your master will be tied up working on projects. I almost felt like the apprentice was so weak that there was no point using him. There are scrolls however that can give your apprentice powers of the master, which is handy. The scrolls really provide an element of variety to the game. If you’re looking for a light-medium weight worker placement, you may want to check out Zong Shi, by Eagle-Gryphon Games.

Review copy kindly provided by Eagle Games.

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