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Phil Shepherd
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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Be on your guard. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.
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Introduction

The living dead have risen to feast on human brains and flesh, and they’re coming to get you Barbara! Armed with a shotgun, a few bullets and whatever you can scrounge up from around town, your mission is simple: be the first to reach the helipad and get to safety. Be warned though, others are trying to get there too, and with hordes of zombies to worry about, they’ll have no problem stopping you to save their own hides.

Game Play and Rules

The object of Zombies!, as stated above, is to be the first player to reach the helipad or be the first to kill 25 zombies. A hand of cards will be at your disposal which will allow you to use additional weaponry, make special moves, or thwart your opponents.

This game uses map tiles to employ the popular build-as-you-go game mechanic. Unfortunately, it also employs the less than popular roll and move mechanic. The rules aren’t very complicated. Each player receives one “shotgun guy,” three bullet tokens, three life-force tokens, and a hand of three cards. To begin the game each player begins at the town square. Players then draw a tile from the map deck and place it, fight the zombies on their space, replace their event cards if they have fewer than three, roll and move (fighting any zombies encountered along the way, roll again and move that number of zombies, and discard an event card, if they’d like to. Play then proceeds clockwise around the table.

Combat is resolved by, you guessed it, die rolls. A roll of 4, 5 or 6 kills a zombie. Rolls of 1, 2 or 3 miss. If you miss, you may either spend a life token to re-roll, or use bullet tokens to “raise your roll” to a hit. Thus, if you roll a 3, you may spend one bullet token to turn your roll into a 4, for a hit. If you run out of bullets, you may collect them around town, but if you run out of life tokens, you die and must start at the town square again.

The penalty for death is not too extreme, but it is progressive – lose half of your zombie kills, any weapons you’ve accumulated, and go back to the start. You will receive three more life tokens and bullet tokens. Thus, dying early in the game is nearly inconsequential, but if you’ve got 20 or so zombie kills late in the game, then dying really stings.

This leads us to the cards, which are mostly of a screw your neighbor stripe. A few cards give you extra weapons, a few are helpful to you, fewer still are location specific, and the rest are used to thwart your opponents. What this normally leads to is the bash-the-leader syndrome, which tends to make a game that drags out well enough on its own drag even more.


Summary

This is a game I truly wanted to love, but didn’t. The theme is there, as is the quality; but the rules, while not actually broken, just don’t provide the kind of fun that I’ve come to expect from non-mainstream games. To Twilight Creations’ credit, they have many alternate and variant rule sets posted on their site, as well as several expansions. The game as it comes in the box, however, is a let down.

From a quality standpoint the game isn’t bad at all. The cards are of excellent quality, the artwork captures the “B Movie” zombie feel and the miniatures are very nice. The lone quality complaint, and its more of a quibble, is with the map tiles – they’re a little bit on the thin side, but they’re certainly serviceable.

The game play is a rather tedious experience. Midway thru the game I find myself wishing that it would just end. I haven’t yet tried the any expansions or variants, but I would guess that they can only help. I’m sure there’s a good gaming experience in there somewhere, but it will take effort on your part to find it.

Overall tilt: The overall component quality is great, unfortunately the gameplay falls quite short of the rest of the package. I’d almost call this more of a game kit than a game.

 
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Mark Mokszycki
United States
Snohomish
Washington
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Nice review. I agree with your assessment, for the most part.

I own three of the exapansions, and they actually make the game LONGER. So if you're main problem with the game is that it goes on too long, you may not want to add the expansions. Although, occasionally, they can make the game SHORTER. (Huh? Now he's confused me).

If you're playing with the mall expansion, for example, and the mall entrance happens to turn up near the top of the deck, and the escalotor happens to turn up near the top of the mall deck, then there's a good chance you'll discover a helipad before the town is even half way complete! But *usually* the game is longer with expansions.

One expansion worth getting is 3.5, which just adds extra cards. I find they help to balance the game. The original card deck contains too many "Screw your neighbor" type cards, and it's hard to get anywhere between rolling low movement numbers and your opponents playing craptastic cards on you. The 3.5 deck has far fewer screw your neighbor cards, and more helpful cards, so the overall balance of the game shifts a bit and it's a bit easier to move about and fight zombies (which is the point, after all...)
 
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