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Subject: "Route 666" or "Get your kicks on Z Road" rss

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Ron
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Many games sell on the title alone. For me, this game was one of them. When W. Eric Martin first reported about it on BGG News, I was super-excited: Zombies, Martin Wallace and the title “Route 666”. Well, they changed it into “Hit Z Road” which I find kind of lame compared to the original one. However; I bought it nevertheless and here’s a first (and probably also last) impression.

Components

State of art. Players control survivors, which are more or less standard wooden meeples; but the Zombie-Meeples are adorable. The cardboard (as well as the box art) has some kind of sixties retro-look, which I find very appealing and fitting to the theme. It’s also thick and sturdy. The custom dice are wooden and look a little on the cheap side, although they work fine. I guess many people prefer wooden dice over plastic ones. The cards are clearly designed by different artists than the cover and the cardboard, and they look a little inapt compared to the rest of the game, but they are fine fit the theme well.

Game Play

The story: It’s the Zombiecalypse and the players control a handful of survivors and try to get out of Chicago to the western coast (on Route 66), gathering victory points and avoiding to get killed by zombie hordes on the way. Pure Hollywood stuff!

The game itself is surprisingly easy. There are three resources which are used to pay for player order determination and special effects. The game lasts for 8 rounds or until all players but one are eliminated. Each round begins with the random drawing of 8 cards which are put on the table in pairs: these are the four possible routes the players (and their survivors) may take. The cards have certain symbols on them: how many resource tokens of which kind do I get, a possible event, how many zombies do I have to battle on the card and how many victory points will I get if I overcome the card. There are easier and harder routes available each turn; more or less rewarding ones and outright deadly ones. Each route may be taken by only one player, so player order for the round matters a lot.

The first thing to do each turn is to establish a player order. On a special tableau, players bid with any resource tokens they have to go first, second and so on. According to the outcome, everybody gets a numbered player order card.

Then – in the new player order – each player selects a route (two cards in a row) to take. He takes the resource tokens shown on the first card. If there is an event on it, it will be executed. If there are zombies on it, they have to be defeated. This is done in two steps:
E Ranged combat (which is optional) – pay any number of bullet resource tokens and roll that many dice. For each “crosshairs” shown face up a zombie dies.
E After that, you have a choice: pay two fuel resource tokens and flee (thus forfeit possible victory points on the card) or enter melee and roll as many dice as you have survivors. As before, each crosshairs rolled kills a zombie, each flash rolled kills a zombie if you also pay an adrenaline resource token, and each skull kills one of your survivors if you don’t pay an adrenaline resource token to rescue him. The dice are rolled until one party is eliminated and if the player is victorious, he puts the card (with possible victory points on it) onto his personal discard pile. Then the procedure is repeated for the second card.

The last player of course has to take the route that is left … usually the most deadly and most unrewarding one. So bidding for player order is very important. But the key to victory are those resource tokens: you need those for bidding, for fleeing a zombie horde too big for your remaining survivors and for battling zombies. Use them wisely!

After eight rounds the game is over, and players with at least one survivor left are eligible for the win. Bonus points are rewarded for players with the most resource tokens left and then all victory points in your personal card stack are counted. The player with the most point wins.

There are a couple of other minor things which add a little chrome here and there, but basically, that’s it.

So?

Well, it’s a solid game. As I wrote earlier, the zombie meeples are simply great. The rest of the game … well, we really tried to like it. We like the theme, we like the box graphic, we like Martin Wallace. But this game failed big time in creating an atmosphere. It failed telling a story. Although you battle zombies with dice here, it feels like a bland Eurogame (that battle dice rolling could easily also be simulating buying or selling goods on a medieval market) – the theme feels pasted on. And even those adorable zombie meeples couldn’t help saving the game for us. Nevertheless, we played it to the end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad game, but it fails to deliver what it promises. It’s not about killing zombies and escaping them, it’s simply bidding and then making the best of the situation by spending tokens and rolling dice. There’s not even a push-your-luck mechanism in the game (which I think would have helped a little to make this game better).

One more thing: the game features player elimination – when your last survivor dies, you’re out! This usually happens very late in the game, so although we don’t like that mechanism in general, it seems not to be a problem.

On the BGG scale it’s between a five and a six for my group. I don’t think I will ever play it again – I have hundreds of better games sitting on my shelves. Which is a pity. I’d have loved a Martin Wallace 60’s retro-graphic zombie killing game. Just one that is a little better than this …

Thanks for reading. meeple



The box image has been uploaded by W. Eric Martin; the other two images are from my playing session.
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Patrick C.
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I try not to fault people for disliking games because you can dislike a game for whatever reason you like, but I don't think this is accurate:

Quote:
There’s not even a push-your-luck mechanism in the game


I'd say most plays of this game are going to have push your luck as the entire purpose. There are safe (or safer) paths you can take to get points and less safe paths where you're taking your chances to get points.

I suppose two things can happen that inhibit this. One, everyone plays it safe or tries to. Two, theoretically the order of the cards is such that the pushing your luck element is mostly removed.

The first is about player behavior which can ruin any game. The second is something I'd have to observe with more games under my belt. I know in the game I did play there were distinctly safe routes with no points and much more dangerous points with points. Push your luck was the entire purpose of that game. I'll grant that this might not happen all the time (again, don't know without more plays), but push your luck does exist in this game is in fact a huge factor at times.
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Ron
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Patrick, I wouldn't call that push-your-luck, but risk-management. A cost-benefit analysis of the four (or fewer) available paths.
But I guess this is open for dispute meeple
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James

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Agree... this is not a push your luck game at all!
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Patrick C.
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PzVIE wrote:
Patrick, I wouldn't call that push-your-luck, but risk-management. A cost-benefit analysis of the four (or fewer) available paths.
But I guess this is open for dispute meeple


Then I suppose we're arguing semantics because to me push your luck is risk management.
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travvller wrote:
Then I suppose we're arguing semantics because to me push your luck is risk management.

Risk management: the probability of success is x. This is my plan, I will go for it. The odds are in my favour.

Push your luck: I've managed to roll 52 five times, but if I don't make it on this next roll, I'll lose them all. Should I keep going? Oh, the agony!
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Guilly Berto
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Dead Man's Draw is a great example of a push your luck game. You should watch a video of that and compare the mechanism to those in this game. I think leroy43 describes this perfectly.
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Patrick C.
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leroy43 wrote:
travvller wrote:
Then I suppose we're arguing semantics because to me push your luck is risk management.

Risk management: the probability of success is x. This is my plan, I will go for it. The odds are in my favour.

Push your luck: I've managed to roll 52 five times, but if I don't make it on this next roll, I'll lose them all. Should I keep going? Oh, the agony!


I can only see this making sense exclusively amongst gamers. Outside of that people would be calling this splitting hairs.

This is a game I plan on playing with people less serious about gaming than I am. If during the game they said they were going to push their luck and I corrected them and said, no, you're doing risk management they'd probably think I was a dick. Because throughout this game there are moments when you can stop pushing and save yourself and your resources or push your luck, in layman's terms, and risk it all.

There are many times when I don't feel like I'm a "real" serious gamer because the demand that terms such as this mean only one type of circumstance and no other is a personality trait I do not have unless I was talking about a moral issue which this is most certainly not. And because I reserve such specificity for moral issues it drives me insane to see it applied to an activity that was created to have fun and enjoyment.

I'll stand down on this debate because not only is this a semantic issue, it's also about personality and demographics. IOW, I'll grant that you are correct amongst gamers and leave it at that.

Quote:
Dead Man's Draw is a great example of a push your luck game. You should watch a video of that and compare the mechanism to those in this game. I think leroy43 describes this perfectly.


I've been gaming long enough to know there's a difference in games. I realize Hit Z Road is not like Can't Stop in terms of gameplay. I could make a list of games that fit the precise definition given here that I've played over the years. I'm not disagreeing because I haven't played enough games to know the difference, I'm disagreeing because I don't think like you. My issue with the term is that it represents a feeling or environment, not a specific and super precise circumstance. I see now that once again this is simply representative of me not viewing things the same was as many serious gamers who speak in a language I do not share.
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Mike Pranno
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I am reading through an old thread while researching a game in a Math Trade.
Quote:

Risk management: the probability of success is x. This is my plan, I will go for it. The odds are in my favour.

Push your luck: I've managed to roll 7 five times, but if I don't make it on this next roll, I'll lose them all. Should I keep going? Oh, the agony!


I am going to partially agree with Patrick here. If anything, the "push your luck" mechanic is a subset of risk management. My guess is that most people would hold to the belief that a "push your luck" tends to describe all-or-nothing scenarios. However, I don't consider all-or-nothing to be the only way that someone can push their luck, and I think the example above is what helped muddy the water for me.

"The probability of success is X. This is my plan, I will go for it. The odds are in my favor."

Since you don't describe the actual percentage (in favor != sure thing)of success nor the penalty versus reward for said outcome, your description of risk management may very well describe a scenario where push-your-luck could be ascribed. And the definition of risk management revolves around prioritization of the risk versus your potential gain. Are you saying this thought process does not happen in push-your-luck games? Unless playing completely random or irrationally, players are willing to push their luck (Quartz, Dead Man's Draw, Can't Stop, Diamant) only if it is their perception that the potential benefits outweigh that risk. Risk management is not absent.

I personally view these two terms as very closely related if not somewhat equivalent. I would concede it makes sense to attach the "push your luck" mechanic to games that deal exclusively with all-or-nothing scenarios. But as risk management is present in some form in nearly every non-abstract game, it has almost no real distinction to me as a mechanic.
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