Starting this month we’ll be expanding our games coverage with regular board game reviews. As part of Zombie Week, board game aficionado Charlie Hall looks at two recent zombie-themed board games.
The recent rise of the undead has given me, an avid board gamer, the opportunity to introduce the hobby to friends and family who may have never been interested before. People are hungry for the apocalypse, and I am happy to sate that hunger with delicious zombie-themed board games. Two titles in particular have come across my desk and I wanted to use them to kick-off this semi-regular column in shambling style.
The result of a wildly successful Kickstarter effort in May, Zombicide is published by CoolMiniOrNot and designed by Guillotine Games. It was one of those crazy Kickstarter campaigns that just takes off like a rocket, before long pulling in people left and right from clear across the internet. The way they did it was by offering a veritable treasure trove of beautiful miniatures.
Along the top you’ve got teenager Josh, Wanda the drive-in waitress, Doug the office worker, Phil the sheriff, Amy the goth girl, and Ned the crazed survivalist. Below are your undead. The minis are stunning, with deeply cut details. They are just begging to be painted.
When you break out the box the roles players can inhabit are immediately clear. After a long day at work you are already half-way into Doug’s shoes, in all his rage-filled glory from Falling Down. You can’t wait to occupy the pasty purple shell that is Amy, whose goth-inspired shitkicker boots require references to NCIS and smart ass comments to be properly enjoyed. Each character has their own skill set as well, with sheriff Phil being the only one to start with a firearm and homeless Ned being great at scavenging useful kit from even the dingiest of corners.
Each player’s turn is divided into actions, and the number of actions you can take increases with the more zombies you kill. A counter keeps track of your tally at the top of your character card. Actions can include searching buildings for weapons, starting and driving an abandoned car, or attacking the undead with an exotic mixture of melee and ranged weapons. Good times were had during several of my play sessions when a chainsaw was let loose indoors. Each weapons card tells you how many dice to roll, and the number you have to beat to hit. The fun comes in mixing and matching survivors and their inventory items at the time to create streak-like runs across the map, or fight your way out of a deadly corner.
Eight zombie sculpts give the teaming hordes some character as well. Zombies include business men, waitresses, and even a guy in a wifebeater that looks vaguely like Michelangelo’s David. Runners, fast zombies that move at twice the rate of others, are yuppie joggers doomed to spend the afterlife in those stupid shorts and hoodies, their iDevices still on their withered hip. The giant boss figure is really just a hapless tourist, whose hulking undead frame has grown around his camera strap. Unable to fit through doorways in search of food, the terrifying creature has walked through plate glass windows and still has razor sharp hunks of glass protruding from its back.
But before you have time to make sense of the destruction on every inch of the three foot square board the zombies are on top of you. This cooperative game is fast, and things will go pear shaped quickly when massive waves of the undead come cascading down the street. Often the best solution is to steal a car and drive directly into their midst.
Phil was amazed how well Wanda could drive with the roller skates on. But not nearly as amazed with how much blood was on the windshield.
This cooperative game can make old friends out of new acquaintances in just the few hours it takes to play. Set up is quick, and the rules are easy to explain. You actually gain powers the more zombies you kill. What’s not to like?
Rating: 9.4 Fun, addictive game play makes this a winner. At $90 retail however it’s a bit steep for the average board game, but for this many miniatures it’s actually a wonderful deal.
All Things Zombie
All Things Zombie, designed by Ed Teixeira and developed by Mark H. Walker’s Lock ’n Load Publishing, will look weird to those inexperienced with this genre of board games. Instead of loads of plastic minis like Zombicide, this box contains two sheets of punch out cardboard chits. But don’t judge: This is not only one of the prettiest collection of chits you’re going to find on the market, but the gameplay in this box is rock solid.
You and your friends will take on seedy roles way out in the Nevada desert. You can be a hooker or a steel-jawed Navy retiree, a scientist or an assassin. Some are hardened veterans of the zombie wars, cool and calm under any circumstance. The rest are city folk who should not be allowed around sharp objects, let alone firearms. They’re fun roles to play, and the desert setting is an open landscape to fill with your imagination. The game comes with solo play rules, cooperative skirmish rules, a multiplayer campaign, and a competitive multiplayer mode, making it one of those rare Swiss Army games that can be bent to your needs in any given social situation.
The game mechanic is fairly straightforward, but will benefit from a single person learning the rules ahead of time and just telling people to throw dice for a few rounds and narrating to them what happens. You’ll move around hexes on a bird’s eye view map of an urban area, searching for loot and dodging monsters.
Delicious, nutritious drugs. Beck found a handful of pills inside this dollar store and popped a few. She’ll have an advantage to her tests for the next round.
Essentially the game is a series of tests. You round a corner and see a pack of undead heading your way. Do you stand fast and snap off a few rounds, or do you turn and run for your life? Another survivor is firing on your position in the hospital. Can you stand up to the fire and shoot back?
Tonya is a crafty veteran of the zombie wars, denoted by the star on her marker. She can dish it out as well as she can take it. That’s a stack of about 20 zombies she’s going to melee this round. Zombies are attracted to survivors, and to gunfire, so sometimes shoving off a mass of undead is the better move than unloading your gun into a crowd a few spaces away.
Rating: 9.0 Deep strategic game play, including solo, cooperative, and competitive matches. A solid base mechanic that is flexible enough for many unique situations. Big learning curve, but well worth the time invested.
In my opinion what makes the zombie fad so big right now is people’s isolation from each other. It’s almost like we need a little disaster to feel alive again, to create the groups of kindred souls we need to feel human. Hopefully the teams you build with your friends and family in these zombie board games will help bring a little light to your corner of the world.
Zombicide was designed by Guillotine Games and published by CoolMiniOrNot. All Things Zombie was designed by Ed Teixeira and published by Lock ‘n Load Publishing.
Charlie Hall is a freelance writer based in northern Illinois whose work has appeared at Ars Technica, Gamers With Jobs, and Armchair General. He blogs at hisperambulations.blogspot.com and is also on Twitter @TheWanderer14.