Introduction and Ridiculously Bias Opinions
For the most part, I've ignored PnPs in my board game. My main issue was with quality control. Publishing, in a sense, is acts as a gate where, ideally, only the cream makes it through. Note the word ideally. As I keep playing board games that I can't believe get published, I've started to grow a little more cynical of the process. Worse still is kickstarting. They want me to put money onto a game I haven't played by a designer I've never heard of so I might be able to get a copy and it will hopefully, if it does arrive, be good? It's like Print and Play's evil twin brother. Mario's Wario.
Well, my heart started softening a bit with the idea of a Print and Play. They're not asking me to pay them anything. And games like Zombie in my Pocket have gotten more reviews and attention than many published games have. Well, I figured with the craze of micro-games recently, why not give this classic a try?
It's strange to write about components in a print and play. Should I disclaimer this with "Your Results May Vary?" So I'll judge it based on what you get.
Zombie in My Pocket really can fit into your pocket. The entire pdf file is only four pages, and the first page is just instructions on how to assemble the rulebook.
And it's clear how intentional Zombie in My Pocket (now referred to here as Zimp)'s compact size really is. Aside from the clever folding rulebook, the dev cards have three different times and an item on each one. I can just imagine a large-boxed game having player separate three piles for 9 p.m., 10 p.m., and 11 p.m., as well as another pile for item cards with a rule like "If you'd like to draw an item card, draw and discard from the pile of the hour you're on." Ew. Could you imagine that? Then they'd charge 40 dollars and the cardstock would be so bad you'd have to buy sleeves, too. Fortunately, since it's PnP, you can choose your cardstock. I went with 99 cent paperboard at a convenient store and a glue stick I found at the house. Apparently I could have just fed my printer cardstock, but who wants it that easy ?
The art in the game is surprisingly pleasant to look at. It's not that obnoxious cartoony Munchkin/Glory to Rome imitation style that I dread in these sorts of games.
I never felt intimidated to print out ZimP because the commitment to assembly was so non-taxing.
It's that clever nature of ZimP's components that are so charming.
(Just an example of how clever some of the geeks here have been with ZimP's compact size.)
ZimP's system is fairly simple. All you really do is draw a tile if you're exploring a new room and a development card, follow the instructions, rinse and repeat. You can take some time to cower, which draws another development card (though you don't follow its instructions). This is another shining example of ZimP's small footprint. Having the development cards act as triggers of events, items, and your countdown to failure makes the game just feel so beautifully sreamlined in ways I've seen bix-box games fail.
To win the game, you must get the totem from the house and bury it in the cemetery to win. Same deal every game, but of course you have the dynamic and sometimes frustrating nature of the tiles. Personally, I don't mind the swaying difficulty. It adds tension not knowing if a game will be easy or hard. I've had games start out with the exact tile draws I needed only to die AT the cemetery because I ran out of time (and why? Because I decided I was so far ahead of the game I could cower for some life back).
Now, I will add some of my criticisms here. I don't want it to seem like it's all zombie roses. First, there aren't that many tiles. I know that's done for size and time, but I feel more like I'm exploring a small Midwestern ranch or an inner city apartment more than a spooky mansion. But this is a microgame, so I can't really complain much about it. It'd be nice to just have a few more interesting places to run into.
Which leads me to my second criticism: The game, of course, gets samey. That's the nature of a microgame/quick game. That might have bothered me more at one point than it does now. With micro board games blowing up in popularity ever since Love Letter, I'm not going to really fault ZimP as a micro game for not housing the room of a deeper game in its package. It's still a larger game than its footprint implies. However, this leads me into one of my biggest compliments to ZimP. The creator (Jeremiah Lee) along with fans released multiple scenarios to keep the game fresh, entirely for free. Who does that? Absolutely wonderful. This reminds me of Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age. Rarely do game creators address a minor weakness in their game like this.
(This Geek's wife made a really clever stat board. I think I'm going to go and make one of my own next!)
Final Thoughts and Rating
Zombie in my Pocket is to Print and Play Games as Alien Frontiers is to Kickstarter games. It's an ambassador of how good its respective format can be. I'm not sold on every print and play title anymore than I'm sold on Kickstarter games just because I happen to love Alien Frontiers. But paired with the expensive gamble of kickstarting a game, it's not hard to look at the sheer love and polish the creator has put into this game (and how he tends to comment on almost every post in the ZimP forums here) and ease up on my cynicism of PnPs and actually try some more. And while I do, I'll have my printed copy of ZimP in a velvet Crown Royal bag proudly sitting with the board games for which I paid $50 or more. Well done.
Based off how well I feel it hits its apparent intentions (in this case, a compact and enjoyable 5-20 minutes adventure that can continue to justify getting pulled down from the shelf), I give ZimP 8 stars out of 10.
What PnP should I try next?
While I still have plenty to explore with ZimP's scenarios, I'd like to try some of the other polished and loved PnPs on BGG. I was thinking about trying Micropul next. Any other suggestions?
- Last edited Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:16 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:23 pm
Very nice review.
I own 3 copies of this game: the original PnP, the Cambridge Games Factory version (with cartoony art and overuse of gradients, similar to their first version of Glory to Rome), and the French Psykéludique version (more gory cartoon art, different room tiles, but functionally the same as the CGF version). I still like the solo mode from the original PnP best, but having to find both the totem and writing does make some games more tense/interesting (fewer trivial games where you find the totem and dining room early).
Hey, that was a fun review to read. Thanks for posting it. I believe it marks the first time anyone called ZimP a microgame (at least the first time I've seen it "in print"). I had never considered that ZimP fits with the current microgame trend. It was about six years ahead of the curve!
So great to hear that you've taken the jump into PnP games. I'd suggest checking out the D Series, as well as Free Trader, and you mentioned Micropul, which is excellent if you don't mind it not having a theme.
thanks for the review, don't see many reviews of print to plays on here. I'm a fan of the entire Aether Captains Series. So you may want to check out their PnP sets the artwork is stunningly well done in quite a few of them. The triads are three games set in 52 cards, mostly these games 2 player but there is at least one decent solo/2 player, so for the games their not bad on size, you'll need some dice and and tokens but that's. For solo go with Pirates and traders and bring your d12 along. Micropul can be a quite fun game, but it's kind of lacking in the solo player department IMHO. My girlfriend is shouting in my ear to tell you to try MythWars: Clash of the Gods or as she calls it that awesome gods fighting game. Another one with a ton of fan variants is Cheese Chasers it does it's job in solo and in two player, the theme(s) feel a bit tacked on but it's a good abstract that fit's in the pocket.
They call me Mister...
Good review, thanks.
I got some warm love for PnP through Maquis which I really enjoy solo - give that a butchers.