Zestrea has a birthday party at Clujotronic 2019

We are busy working on the Kickstarter campaign and ramping up the launch. Meanwhile we managed to find the time to share with you the expo we have done on Clujotronic festival in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, on 27-29 September 2019, one year after Zestrea was conceived at the same festival in 2018.

The Evil Eye… (-2 wedding chance) feat. Bossgard
The first 3 panels are not visible in the image, they were hung to the left.

Here are the 5 panels we have prepared, to show the progression of the game, with a paragraph for each panel describing a bit about the process. The paragraphs were also visible at the location, and people could explore and read them, while on the next table, they could play the latest version of Zestrea.

We split the story into Acts, to make it more artsy. The descriptions are exactly as seen at Clujotronic. Enjoy!


Act 1 – What is Heritage? The Game Jam version of Zestrea.

What is Heritage? The Game Jam version of Zestrea.
Lifespan: 24h
28 September 2018 – 29 September 2018

Clujotronic Game Jam 2018 started Friday eve, 28 September, and lasted 24 hours. The theme was “Heritage”. We brainstormed. Romanian heritage could mean Zestre (dowry), and we thought – wouldn’t it be funny to try to make a game where you paid Zestre to roll dice, to marry your children? But what’s the gameplay? A survival game for 2 players (Alex and Horațiu), where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, where players have to avoid hunger and survive with their families as long as possible, while catastrophes hit them constantly.

This is the story of the evolution of Zestrea
a game designed by Horațiu Roman and Alex Pațiu


Act 2 – A Sudden Rush of Inspiration.

A Sudden Rush of Inspiration.
Lifespan: 3 days
29 September 2018 – 2 October 2018

We wrote names on the scraps of paper at midnight, as the last thing before heading home. In our tired brains, this was hilarious. The game jam presentations were moved to Sunday morning, so we convinced Sergiu-Octavian Fediuc, the graphic designer of Clujotronic, to help us for a few hours in the night/morning, and make the prototype art. We printed the cards at the last minute.

The Clujotronic public loved playing “Zestrea Boierului”, our crazy jam game, so much that we split the cards into two packs to let more people play on the last day. We started developing the game for replayability, so we can continue to play it with our friends.


Act 3 – The Boyarians Wedding Gift, Christmas Edition Deluxe.

The Boyarians Wedding Gift, Christmas Edition Deluxe.
Lifespan: 2 months
2 November 2018 – 21 December 2018

Our plans for Zestrea were growing. Sergiu delivered the second set of graphics, and Alex made the new Fate cards, used strategically for interactive effects, and a community of players started forming in Cluj. Mechanics were constantly changing, while the player’s skill was increasing. It was a different game every playtest, followed thirstily by Horațiu from Copenhagen.

We were invited to BGCon, “Zilele Jocurilor” boardgame festival in Târgu Mureș, to show our game. We received good feedback and we made lots of friends. We had a plan to make 3 finished versions, before Christmas 2018, but this didn’t work out as Sergiu had to focus on other plans. We started on the pixel version in the winter holiday, and looked for a new artist.


Act 4 – Zestrea around the World.

Zestrea around the World.
Lifespan: 6 months
3 January 2019 – 2 June 2019

We worked on the Pixel version as a 2-man-non-graphic-artist-team, in between winter holidays and obligatory parties, just in time to play the game with Maria Surducan, who joined us after New Years as illustrator and made us very happy. Laura Bularca joined as publisher, after playing Zestrea in Malmö, Sweden.

Horațiu played Zestrea in English in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Iceland with a diverse audience. We received good feedback, regarding sensitive topics such as sexism and heteronormativity. This helped us tweak the game and its message, to create a more positive experience for players from all backgrounds. As a bonus, paying attention to the cultural aspects in Zestrea actually helped us balance and streamline the game. Totally recommended.


Act 5 – Zestrea has a Birthday Party at Clujotronic.

Zestrea has a Birthday Party at Clujotronic.
Lifespan: ♾
2 June 2019 – ???

This is Zestrea as seen today, with Art by Maria Surducan. After exactly one year since inception, we have come this far, and we are ready to launch the game on Kickstarter. The game went through rigorous testing at this point, we created an instructions book and ran a few blind playtests. We reached a version we can be proud to show off to the world, and you can play it right here, at Clujotronic! Enjoy!

If you want to follow us, or support us on Kickstarter, check out our website and social media pages. Thank you!



Thanks for reading!

Zestrea Team
Horațiu, Maria, Alex and Laura

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