You've probably played one of Zar's ancestors
Zar evolved from folk games like Crazy Eights, Slam Your Neighbor, Taki (Israel), Mau Mau (Germany) & others. Many Zar players recognize its roots in games they've played since they were young. Over time the rules have evolved to make the game move faster & have more twists. Zar is a good balance of luck & strategy. It certainly isn't deep like chess, but you do have more fun & win more hands when you think through your choices.
I first started playing Zar in 1976 with homemade cards that were made with a photocopy of the artwork which was hand-colored with felt-tipped pens and then sandwiched between a piece of plastic & adhesive plastic (Contact paper in the US). It took about 6 hours to make a deck. I gave many friends photo copies of the art & instructions for making cards. Over 30 decks were made this way. One guy even made cards on a plotter in the early 80s.
The artwork has evolved from a bunch of unrelated symbols to the current creatures & galactic symbols. There have been about 8 stages in the evolution of the card designs. They're a lot more fun to look at than colored numbers & boxes. You may have noticed that the Zar logo reads the same upside-down. Try it! Flip your monitor over or stand on your head!
Zar is currently in its 3rd printing. There have been over 17,000 decks of Zar produced. The first printing of 1,500 decks in 1981 had black backs.
The second printing of 10,750 decks in 1984 had light blue backs. All of the characters & symbols were redesigned, some a little, some a lot.
This 3rd & current printing of 5,000 decks in February 2003 has dark blue backs & very minor tweaks to the designs.
The 3rd printing is just about sold out, so I'm printing another 5,000 which should be available in about July of 2008. A minor change was made to the backs. I removed the white border. It caused 2 problems. If the room lighting was just so & someone held their cards just so, the white border of one card reflected the color of the card behind it. The second problem was that in trying to print & cut out the cards so that the white border was of consistent thickness, sometimes the borders on the faces of the cards weren't consistent. I wanted the printer to focus on the faces of the cards.
A Zar deck has 62 cards (plus 2 spares). This makes it more expensive to print, but this non-standard number of cards makes the game flow better than a standard 52 or 104 card deck.
Read some enthusiastic comments on the Buzz page.