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Subject: Zimbies, Zombies, and Cannibals rss

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Charlie Theel
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Jim Felli makes weird games. First he hit us with Shadows of Malice, an open ended fantasy RPG coop that left much to the imagination. And now Zimby Mojo - a game where players take on the role of shamans forming temporary alliances and burying nasty little blades into each other's backs. From the perspective of someone who loves Cave Evil and Legend of the Cipher, weird is great.

Zimby Mojo self-declares as a co-opportunistic game. We've seen semi-cooperative elements before in designs such as Homeland and Archipelago, and it's a space that can be fraught with issues.

It runs very well in this title where players must work together and cluster up their minion Zimbies (conniving little mutant buggers) to open a seal and gain access to the Cannibal King. Once the gate is opened and their former ruler can be reached, the evolving situation gets more tenuous. The leader must be felled as victory is achieved by returning his crown to your personal tribal board. Since the Cannibal King is quite strong and also has protection from roaming non-player thugs, usually players maintain rough alliances to tear the greedy and bloated tyrant to shreds.


Zimby, caught in the wild


This is the first half of the game as players manage resources to spawn more Zimbies, move them about the map, and negotiate with guttural pitch and rusty blades. You're managing power with a set of four tokens as well as utilizing your tribal members you haven't moved on the map yet. This mechanic is extremely clever as you can move your Zimbies onto the board or keep them back as a fountain of energy.

Both sources generate Mojo that lets you move your Zimbies to create havoc and play scrolls to create powerful and sometimes lasting effects. The scrolls in combination with a labyrinthine map make for a feel that is slightly reminiscent of Tom Jolly's Wiz-War. You can also join your troops together to form stacks (neatly organized vertically with the wooden discs) which make them a more formidable beast in combat but also require more Mojo to move them about.


On the tribal board, Zimbies await to be harvested for Mojo or prodded into jungle war.


Where things get interesting is when the game presents you with tough choices and myriad options. You can form stacks that contain up to three players total which allows each participant to move them on their turn. This creates more mobile death squads. You're in fact required to form a stack with another player so that each of you can simultaneously expend one Mojo on a seal to permanently open the inner sanctum.

The game also follows through on its tease of cannibalism by allowing you to devour your own snotty little punks. You can have Zimbies eat each other on the map to gain additional brutality in combat or enhance Witchery spells. You can even eat your dudes on your tribal board in order to gain large amounts of temporary power. Neat options full of flavor and consequence.

Where the game somewhat struggles is in the slow crawl of the first half. Some may prefer a lengthier buildup but it undercuts the strongest segment of the game - the post slaughter scramble for the crown.

Much like Shadows of Malice, the game is also pretty open in terms of allowing players to do what they want. The map is a bit confined and funnels players in certain directions, but participants are free to claw at each other and waste time early on in play. This doesn't push the game forward at all and can drag the momentum quite a bit.

The rules discuss a couple of starting options and I vastly prefer the accelerated start with eight Zimbies and six scrolls in hand. This makes for less time summoning and more time skipping down hallways and confronting that mongrel leader.

The second half is where heads roll, eyeballs are cut out, and grins occur en masse. As soon as the Cannibal King's body falls limp, alliances snap. Everyone starts bashing each other and it feels like a sick game of rugby where the players are armed with wicked cutting implements. You have spells firing off, groups forming to take down the runner, and people organizing to block your route. Momentum changes on a dime and adrenaline takes charge.


The Cannibal King awaits, licking his chops and welcoming violence.


When Zimby Mojo is firing on all cylinders it's a treat. However, it does take some work to get there. Like Devious Weasel's previous design, there is quite a bit of detail. You have portals on the map which randomly teleport you about which you can spend Mojo to modify the odds, several types of obstacles which hamper in different ways, and blood mist rituals the King performs every round (yes, you can perform them yourself when you nab the crown). You can also sacrifice warriors to become Zombies which are quite strong and wander around in the cleanup phase towards the closest meat. Sometimes they even dig their teeth into their own people.

It's impossible to stress how unique and odd this game is. At times I feel like I'm in a mashup flick of 80's horror exploitation and Jim Henson fantasy directed by Terry Gilliam. Your mind reels and the resulting narrative is delicious and unpredictable.

Due to all these options your first several plays will require rules referencing and a bit of a jerky flow. Once it clicks though it's on and your guts are aflame as you're focused on taking down the prick sitting next to you. It's all about narrative and telling crazytown stories where you summoned a Zombie behind enemy lines that ended up cutting down your own dude after you stole the crown from Ben. Then Matt jumped in and threw down a cloud of darkness to cover his escape through a portal.


That's no Zimby, that's a Zombie!


There's also a metric ton of dice rolling in this game - queue my 49th comparison to Shadows of Malice. You roll to see where you come out of those portals, you roll for many scrolls, you roll to see where the Cannibal King moves, and you roll to see which quadrants some of the blood rituals affect. Grabbing that six-sider or D4 is a common occurrence and picky players may complain about the lack of elegance.

In this way Jim's design-work continues to hearken back to old school Dungeons and Dragons and similarly influenced games. He doesn't mimic contemporary notions and isn't restrained by modern conventions. That's not to say Zimby Mojo is a morass or bloated as the core system is very simple. There's just a distinct personality here that you either want to greet with a fist bump or throw it the bird. My fist just happens to be bruised and bloody.


This review was originally written for Ding & Dent. To view other reviews written by Charlie Theel check out this Geeklist.

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Mark O'Reilly
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Love that Jim has gone with wooden discs with this, it looks already pimped out and reminds me of Scott E's first pimp of SHadows of Malice. Awesome!
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Charlie Theel
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biffta wrote:
Love that Jim has gone with wooden discs with this, it looks already pimped out and reminds me of Scott E's first pimp of SHadows of Malice. Awesome!


Definitely. It's a very beautiful game and I love the board.
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Dan Conley
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I began with a truly "meh" feeling about this one. Now I've read two positive reviews AND I really dig Shadows of Malice. So I'm in!

Thanks for the review (despite the pain in my wallet).
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Chris Keates
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charlest wrote:

At times I feel like I'm in a mashup flick of 80's horror exploitation and Jim Henson fantasy directed by Terry Gilliam.


Holy shit I'd watch this movie.

Great review, too. Preordered this bad boy.
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