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Ryan Newell
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I love playing Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game (LNoE).

Whether I’m controlling a never-ending horde of flesh-eating zombies, or I’m the local sheriff taking time out of my search for the truck keys to make the most of my last night on Earth with my son’s sweetheart, or I’m the farmer’s daughter who can’t shoot a zombie standing right in front of her to save her life (literally)… each time I’ve played the game, I’ve had an absolute blast from beginning to end. It doesn’t offer deep strategic choices and it’s not particularly innovative. It is, however, an extremely fun and humourous game to play with friends.

Part of the reason that LNoE and I experienced love at first sight is because it is so reminiscent of several of my favourite games (whether any of these games were direct influences on the designers, I couldn’t say). Therefore, for the bulk of this review, I’ll be comparing LNoE to other games I enjoy.

Doom: The Boardgame

In Doom, one player takes on the role of the Invader and sends a seemingly insurmountable onslaught of demonic monstrosities against the poor saps who are playing as the marines. The demons range from easily-squished spiders to behemoths that can shrug off a grenade before fragging a marine with one punch. If the marines are to have any chance, they’re going to have to function as one unit and they’re going to have to RUN LIKE HELL!



LNoE has a similar vibe. One player (or two) sends wave after wave of zombies against the four unlikely heroes (controlled by one to four players). The heroes need to cooperate if they expect to survive the night – much like in a zombie movie, if Jenny goes off to check out the empty hospital on her own, there’s a decent chance she’s never coming back out.

However, the heroes rarely experience the same sense of dread that the Doom marines are constantly drowning in. The zombies simply aren’t nearly as threatening as the demons because the zombies are all equally and only mildly dangerous (excepting those heroes who have been killed and have come back from the dead). The zombies can only become a real threat when their numbers become overwhelming. This is thematically appropriate, though the limit of 14 zombies on the board inhibits the game’s ability to develop a true feeling of crushing terror. This limitation ensures the game is fairly balanced but detracts from the theme. The Invader in Doom never stops applying pressure on the marines, and I appreciate that.



Arkham Horror

This comparison is a bit tangential, but I think it’s applicable when considering the adage “less is sometimes more.”

AH and LNoE are both intent on delivering a story of good versus evil, but the means to this end lie on completely opposite ends of the complexity spectrum. I consider this a positive and a negative. Part of AH’s complexity involves the incredible diversity of actions, creatures, characters, scenarios, locations, spells, items, and so on. This variety enables an unpredictable and often memorable experience. LNoE simply can’t compete with this epic atmosphere (though LNoE’s modest approach does generate a more grounded narrative and the relative lack of options can evoke a sense of desperation and claustrophobia).

On the other hand, AH's obtuse rules and the excess of chits and cards keep this from being the casual adventure game that it should be. LNoE is much easier to just pick up and play.

Vs.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game and HeroQuest

Buffy, HQ, and LNoE are kindred games. They all feature similar simplistic mechanics. Players choose a scenario to play, they roll dice for movement, they build card hands by searching areas, and they combat enemies by rolling dice.



Such simplicity is very accessible to new players as well as to people who are generally turned off by complicated rules. Whereas Arkham Horror’s pieces and rules can discourage the players just as much as the threat of the Great Old Ones, these user-friendly games do not ever let the work of playing the game obstruct the fun of playing the game.

Though each game tells a story, I think LNoE is more successful at enabling engaging and entertaining storylines to develop through the players’ actions. In particular, the event cards often create hilarious and, most importantly, thematically consistent situations to develop. LNoE truly feels like a new and authentic cheesy zombie movie from start to finish, whereas the Buffy game never really captures the TV show and the missions in HeroQuest pretty much play out the same each time.

Mall of Horror

Here’s another zombie game that I love (my review: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/317064). This takes a completely different approach to the zombie theme. MoH is classic Romero, complete with biting social commentary, while LNoE is shoot-em-up zombie action akin to Planet Terror or straight-to-DVD cheese.



I think MoH is much more successful at capturing a theme: the social disorder that erupts in the face of imminent destruction is cleverly relayed through the mechanic of having the players vote on which of their friends they will sacrifice to save their own skin. LNoE’s theme is not at all enhanced with its simple and, frankly, generic mechanics (roll dice, draw and play cards), but the game is much more successful than MoH in creating an entertaining story arc. As such, I’m more impressed by the artistry of MoH but I think LNoE is more fun to play.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

I enjoy all these games. Each one satisfies my needs in different ways. LNoE is the game of choice when I want to relax, when I want to laugh, when I’m playing with non-gamers, when I want something cinematic, and, most importantly, when I want to drive a crowbar into a zombie’s head. Under any of these criteria, it is a complete success.
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Brian Morris
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The Barefoot Killer wrote:

On the other hand, AH's obtuse rules and the excess of chits and cards keep this from being the casual adventure game that it should be. LNoE is much easier to just pick up and play.


I really disagree that AH would be a better game if it were more casual. What fans of it enjoy and why it has been so popular is that it has a real thematic edge to it. It's not some goofy piece of fluff like so many other "horror" games are. It's a horror game for people who want a real horror game.
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Raul Catalano
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Even if tempted many times, I never convinced myself to buy LNoE after so many comments not-so-positive here on BGG. And your (good) review gives strenght to my doubts ...

I would find really useful and more complete to compare Last night with three other Zombie (or horror themed) games, too: "Betrayal at House on the Hill" (a simple but good game I like), "Zombie Plague" and "Dead of Night" (two free-print-and-play games I just downloaded).

And then, of course, there's "Zombie!!!" ... yuk
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Ryan Newell
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Quote:
I really disagree that AH would be a better game if it were more casual. What fans of it enjoy and why it has been so popular is that it has a real thematic edge to it. It's not some goofy piece of fluff like so many other "horror" games are. It's a horror game for people who want a real horror game.


Casual might be too strong a word, but the game is much busier than it needs to be. The sliders, for example. It's a clever idea to be able to adjust a character's traits, but it's mostly gimmicky and doesn't add anything to my enjoyment of the game. I'd rather they had stable stats that could be modified with the cards. One less thing to worry about every round.

I get into my character's arc much more when I play LNoE than AH, in part because I conceptualize the AH characters more as alterable tools to commit actions than I do think of them as characters.
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Ian Enriquez
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Great review. This has become the favorite game at my home (outside of Lupus in Tabula) for some of these very reasons. You don't need to spend an hour learning the rules or reviewing them. More time is spent playing than tracking what is going on. I feel like I get into the characters more here than in any other game and feel more ivested in the cooperative play.

I haven't noticed any of the negative reviews, but if you are fond of horror games I think this one is the winner so I am curious why anyone would avoid it. And I do really like Mall of Horror, Betrayal and so on...
 
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