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I have already written about how a rule book can sometimes get in the way of playing game. Unfortunately, sometimes a game’s components can get in the way as well. Quite honestly, when that happens, it’s worse. You can theoretically dig up someone’s rewrite of a rule book or get someone else to teach you the game, not that either of those are a forgivable sin for a game publisher. However, when the components get in the way of playing the game, that’s a barrier that sometimes just can’t be overcome.
Recently, my gaming group found a game that we wanted to like. We felt that, mechanically, it was a very solid and enjoyable game. However, the components were a wall we slammed into. That game was Zombiegeddon.
It has been described as Knizia’s take on Hey, That’s My Fish, a game we all like. You all know how HTMF works. The board is basically a sheet of tiles that you collect during the game, shrinking the board in the process. Zombiegeddon adds some very nice twists, such as blockades that block movement, sewers that create shortcuts and set collection.
Looking over the rules, we all agreed that we weren’t looking at a blatant copy of HTMF but a game that had enough meaningful differences to be considered its own game. Sure, a game that probably would have never existed if not for hungry penguins grabbing fish off the ice flow but a different game none-the-less.
And, mechanically, it’s a solid game.
Unfortunately, the components were enough of a problem that we were barely able to make it through a game.
It was not a case of shoddy physical components, which can sometimes be a problem. The board and pawns were perfectly serviceable and the tiles with sturdy enough. It was a case of art.
In Zombiegeddon, there are at least twelve different distinct types of tiles. Maybe even more since I had such a hard time telling them apart. And the artwork on them was so muddy that we all had serious problems being able to tell them apart. Now, I’ll grant you that I am very colorblind and all of us need glasses to see but we have never had such a problem before. Individual pictures that were so cramped and indistinct that we all had to peer and squint.
Some of the tiles do have numbers on them and those we were able make out without a problem. We were also able to tell the manhole covers that marked sewers and the pile of guns that marked weapon stashes. However, the barricades and the tiles that made up the set collection element, those we constantly struggled to differentiate. Unfortunately, those are a big part of the game. We ended up not even trying to tell the sets apart and just hoped we were collecting matching tiles.
I have no idea how such bad tiles could have possibly made it through any kind of play testing.
We did think that the game itself was strong enough that we are going to mark up all the pieces with sharpies so that we can actually play it. I do strongly regret not getting ahold of the European version of the game, Jager und Sammler, which has much clearer and distinct tiles.
I try to be forgiving when it comes to production issues. After all, the gaming industry is often one of painfully tight budgets, otherwise we wouldn’t have P500 lists or Kickstart projects. However, Zombiegeddon fell down so hard it was amazing.