Randy McKinney
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Lexington
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This is the third review in a series of on-going reviews. The first two were for Railroad Tycoon and Rails of Europe. Still trying to get everything down pat with technical issues, and getting used to things being recorded. But I hope you enjoy. Feel free to subscribe to our channel at Youtube, or join us in our Guild room where there is admittedly very little going on right now.









Last Night on Earth is a zombie apocalypse game released by an upstart company, Flying Frog Productions in 2007. Jason Hill designed the game. As of the date of this review, Flying Frog Productions only has 2 games currently out. Last Night on Earth, and A Touch of Evil. The two games are quite similar in their “evil” themes, and the quality of both games seems to be quite high. Also, Flying Frog games are now notorious for packing soundtracks in with their board games. It’s important to note though, that most people consider the Last Night on Earth (To be called LNoE from here out) soundtrack to be rather bad.

Gameplay

LNoE is a two-sided game. One side will play controlling the zombies, and one side will play controlling the human characters. The zombie side is played by either 1 or 2 players (2 players in the case of a 4 or 6 player version of the game). The human side always contains 4 characters, and those 4 characters can be controlled by up to 4 players. Right off the bat, I have to mention that in my experience, the best games occur when there is only one player playing the zombies. When you have two players playing the zombies, there are a lot of questions that your group may have that will send you seeking out answers, many of which will require unofficial answers. It really takes you out of the game. So I highly suggest making your first few play throughs happen with only one zombie player, and then deciding from there whether or not you want to try allowing a second zombie player.

Overall, the basic mechanics of the game are very simple. The Zombie player draws cards to make a hand size of 4 cards, he rolls to see if he can spawn new zombies at the end of his turn (Roll 2 D6, if the total you roll exceeds the number of zombies on the board, you will be able to spawn new zombies at the end of your turn. Thus, the less zombies you have on the board, the greater the chances of bringing in new zombies), then the zombie player moves each zombie one space, resolves combat where need be, and finally spawns new zombies if he succeeded in his ability to spawn new zombies earlier in the turn. To spawn the new zombies, the player rolls a D6, and places that many zombies as evenly as possible in the zombie pits on the board. Play then passes to the human players.

Each human player may take their turns however they wish. You can switch your turn orders to benefit you the most. The basic idea of a human’s turn is that the will first get the opportunity to move (Roll a D6, move that many spaces). After they roll their movement, they may instead give up their move in order to search for an item or an event card. In order to do this, the character must be in a building, give up their move, and then draw a card from the human deck. If it’s an event card, it goes to the player’s hand, and may be played on any character in the game. If it is an item card, it goes to the character who drew the card. A character may have up to 4 items, 2 of which may be weapons. After this step, characters have the option to use a ranged weapon (If they have one). Finally, they resolve combat with all zombies that are in their current space at the end of their turn.

This is the basic steps to the game, and is actually rather simple to learn. Players will generally have the basic rules and steps of the game down in one game. And if you have that down, you are well on your way to understanding the game. However, there is a lot more to the game that will change how you think about it. First, each character has special abilities, which often change the rules of the game. For instance, Jake Cartwright gets to draw two cards from the human deck when he searches, rather than one. Then he must choose one to keep. Secondly, there will be many rules that will only occasionally arise. Like when you get gasoline, you may need to know how to use it, and what it is good for. Third, each scenario will have a different objective that will add more complexity. Collect items, protect a location, or possibly collect items and take them somewhere. In all of those cases, you will need to add additional rules to the game.

Even with the added rules, the game never gets too bogged down with manual reading. However, it is an issue that you will need to be aware of, and be prepared for. It is something that I imagine a few people will have issues with. The other complaint in this regard is that several of the rules in the books are not completely clear as written. Sometimes, you may need to seek answers, and for that I suggest the Unofficial FAQ available of LNoE’s Boardgamegeek page. Even then, things won’t always be clear. So just be prepared to make some judgments, and not allow the game to break down into debates.

As for the gameplay itself, I highly approve of what is there. The game plays rather fast, so that you can get several plays in during a 3+ hour game night. In addition, there feels like there is a lot of heft to the game as far as strategy goes. Yes, sometimes the game will break down into the luck of the card draws, especially with certain scenarios. However, quite often, players can do a good job of maneuvering, knowing when to focus on certain goals, and as a result the game gets rather strategic. I tend to prefer playing as the humans in 3+ player games, just for the social aspect of that. However, I actually enjoy playing as both sides in this game. That’s not always the case in games like this where the sides play completely different.

Combat is a system that I think works really well. It’s easier for humans to “win” at combat, since they almost always roll more dice. However, since zombies win on ties, and always deal damage when they win (Which is not the case for humans, who have to not only win, but also roll doubles in order to deal damage). the zombies are a lot more dangerous. Overall, I find the combat in the game to be quite exciting. There is a lot of risk for both sides. More importantly, there is a lot of methods that you can use to your advantage, no matter which side you are on. When do you use your combat cards? How far do you push things? Do you use the strength in numbers? Or do you try to push heightened individuals for combat? This all makes things very interesting, and always keeps things fresh, in my opinion.

Rules

I already covered a lot of the issues that the rules face in the gameplay section, just because it effects gameplay so much. The basic game is very simple. As you add more rules, you add a bit more complexity, but the worst thing about the additional rules are the questions that come with them. The LNoE manual is pretty hefty, and you will find yourself flipping through it quite often, unless you eat, breathe, and sleep this game. Still, for the most part, it is pretty well organized, and won’t be a huge burden for players.

Components

The components to LNoE is one of the really strong points for the game. It would have been nice if the figures were painted, but even as they are, they are pretty nice. Also, the cd soundtrack that comes with the game is pretty lackluster. But given that it’s the first time I’ve seen something like that done in a game, I can’t complain too much. However, with that said, I can’t come up with too many other drawbacks for the components.

The pros of the components far outweigh the cons, in my opinion. The top of that list has to be the beautiful “art” of the game. I use the term art loosely, because the art is actually a series of in-theme photo shoots with actual actors and actresses. However, it works so well, that I often find myself forgetting that these people are real. All of the character cards, event and item cards, shots in the manual, etc are actual pictures from photography sessions. All the work from the art has really paid dividends for setting up the theme.

I haven’t mentioned this lately, but the theme for the game is actually more to do with Zombie movies rather than zombies in general. A lot of the cards, scenarios, and characters are intentionally cheesy, because that’s the theme that they are going for. And they pull it off wonderfully. It really feels like you are playing through a zombie “B Movie”. And I mean that in a positive way. Even if you don’t enjoy that style of movie, as long as you can have a good time laughing at that style, you are going to feel right at home with this game.

That theme is what makes the art really stick to this game. Normally, you might complain about the characters fitting such extreme stereotypes, but since that was the obvious intention in the design, it all works out perfectly. Whoever initially came up with that idea deserves a pat on the back, in my opinion.

The other components that come with the game are also pretty high quality. The pieces that make up the board are pretty well done. I only have one slight annoyance in that regard, and that’s the fact that the colors are sometimes a little more faded than other times. And again with the cards, I really like what they do for the game, but they also have a small annoyance for me. The style of lamination that they use for the cards sometimes makes them stick together. It can make it a bit difficult to shuffle/draw/etc, especially when you first buy the game. But overall, these issues don’t effect the gameplay much at all, so I can’t fault them too much for that.

Overall

I also have to mention at this point that I really enjoyed the Growing Hunger expansion. Most of my favorite characters come from that set. I’m not a big fan of the new red zombies with yet more fiddly rules, but I can tolerate them. The additional map pieces also add in some additional variety. But to be honest, it’s the characters and the additional cards that do it for me in this case.

LNoE has been one of my groups most played games for going on 2 years now. It’s not the type of game you can play all the time, but it’s something that you can always come back to. Add in the fact that it’s easy to squeeze in a game at the end of the game night, and it all adds up to many, many plays over time.

My overall opinion of the game rises and falls, depending on how each game plays out. Sometimes, LNoE rises into my top 5 games, and sometimes it’s something I’m not interested in playing for a while. However, a majority of the time, I still find myself placing the game in my top 10 favorite games. So, I have to recommend everyone check things out, and see if it’s something you could find yourself having fun with. Watch the video review, and if it intrigues you, definitely consider giving it a buy.

Pros and Cons

+ Strategic gameplay
- The rules sometimes get a bit fiddly
+ Combat often feels fresh and fluid
+ The art is beautiful
- Games often rely a little too much on luck
+ Components are of high quality
+ Make your own scenarios
+/- Zombie movie feel
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Yoki Erdtman
Sweden
Södertälje
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Very cool. So far I've only read the written part, but will watch the videos next. You should consider posting the video on Vimeo.com instead, as they allow videos over 10 minutes in length.
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Brian Thomas
United States
Langhorne
Pennsylvania
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"I will take love wherever I find it, and offer it to everyone who will take it. Seek knowledge from those wiser, and teach those who wish to learn." -Duane Allman
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Very well done guys, really enjoyed it. Off to watch your train game reviews.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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West Richland
Washington
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Great job, guys! And I'm glad you covered Growing Hunger, because I was just about to do a video review for that sometime soon, but you've saved me the time and trouble.

I guess I'll disagree somewhat about the rules issues. I think the rules are pretty straightforward and the rulebook is very well written. I can only think of one time in the 15-20 games I've played where I had to look outside of the rulebook for a clarification about something. By and large, the lengthy FAQ is just reiterating things that are already in the rules. I'm not saying the FAQs aren't legitimate questions or that there aren't situations that will come up that will make you wonder about something, but I think everything is covered very well in the rules and in the text of the cards.
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Randy McKinney
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Lexington
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Grudunza wrote:
Great job, guys! And I'm glad you covered Growing Hunger, because I was just about to do a video review for that sometime soon, but you've saved me the time and trouble.

I guess I'll disagree somewhat about the rules issues. I think the rules are pretty straightforward and the rulebook is very well written. I can only think of one time in the 15-20 games I've played where I had to look outside of the rulebook for a clarification about something. By and large, the lengthy FAQ is just reiterating things that are already in the rules. I'm not saying the FAQs aren't legitimate questions or that there aren't situations that will come up that will make you wonder about something, but I think everything is covered very well in the rules and in the text of the cards.


Granted, a lot of my issues with the rules come from things like two zombie players, which I think is absolutely horribly explained. But even excluding that, our group often came up with a quite a few questions while playing. Nothing that was a crazy amount, but definitely enough to take notice.

Now, that isn't to say that things are flat out wrong, or you wouldn't be really good at figuring out what they meant from just reading the base rulebook. However, just looking around at some threads on the LNoE forums, there are a lot of people that mis-read rules, or mis-understand them. So in a group like mine, where not doing that is an active goal, it can be an issue.

I wish I had some real world examples for you off the top of my head, but it's been a couple months since we last played. One of my groups will probably never play the game again, actually, because of a similar issue. I love the game, and rarely find issues like that. But I still think they are there. Not nearly as bad as a game like Betrayal, but still present, IMO.
 
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