The Mines of Zavandor is an excellent business sim boardgame. The premise is that the great and wise Dwarven king Zavandor is retiring and is looking for a successor. Zavandor is holding a contest via a procession from the mountaintop into the twisty caverns that lead to the Coronation Chamber, at the bottom depths. Along the procession, candidates must amass gems to hire laborers, buy wealth-building spells, and buy victory point-generating shrines. The contender with the most victory points when the procession reaches the Coronation Chamber will be crowned the next king.
The gameplay involves four phases: Income, Trade, Auction, and Upgrade. In the Income phase, you mine four different gems according to your mining capacity. The four different gems -- Ruby, Diamond, Emerald, and Sapphire -- are the game currencies. Since you need different gems to buy different things, you must have a diversified holdings of gems.
To ensure diversity, the Trade phase follows. The trade phase is a open-outcry, deal-making session. You can trade with anyone at anytime with any terms. However, since you can trade with the bank any two gems for one of any gem, the deals between players tend to be one-for-one deals.
Then comes the Auction phase where you buy labor and tool cards. The items being auctioned are based on the number of players and currency as well. Thus in, a three-player game, there are three items for bid, one item in the section for Diamonds, Emeralds, and lastly Sapphire. To increase tension and speed up the process as well, all players make one secret payment for the multiple auctions. You submit a stack of gem cards that include the necessary gems and then count gems of each kind to determine the winners. You must win the auction with at least three of a kind of gems or you get a victory point chip rather than the auctioned item.
Finally, in the Upgrade phase, you pay gems to improve your business and any gems that were used to bid but not win in the Auction phase are not available for paying for upgrades. You can improve your workers and tools to be more productive by paying the appropriate gems.
The Mines of Zavandor follows the classic Eurogame formula: buy/build things that make money, use money to make more money, then buy victory points. However it does it in uniquely elegant ways such as how the auctions are performed. Auctions are a great, realistic game mechanic for business sims but they can become repetitive and lengthen the game. Pfister solve this issue by resolving multiple auctions in one action. I have studied game auction mechanisms from many games and never ran into anything like Pfister 's auction before.
Another sign of elegance is the gem icons that show distribution of gems across different decks. The gem cards are divided into four different decks, each deck having two or three gem icons. For instance on the "log cart" gem deck, there are three icons from large to small: Sapphire, Emerald, and Diamond. This indicates that the deck is composed of mostly of Sapphires, has some emeralds, and has a few Diamond.
The game is so good that it is hard to believe The Mines of Zavandor is Pfister's second published game. I look forward to future masterpieces from Pfister.