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Subject: A great little solo dice game! rss

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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Inspiration can be contagious; contagious like the bite of a zombie.

I'd been playing this cool Expedition dice game on History.com for a while, and was wondering if there were more games of that nature available, so I posted this article asking for more solo dice games with theme and character. There were a few good suggestions, including Delve: The Dice Game, which is now a favorite of mine. But the question itself sparked one BGG user, Tony Ripley (rolnam), to resolve to create his own such game. That game, Lukuga River, is still in development, but it got me thinking, hmmm, maybe I should have a go at this. So I created The d6 Shooters. Before that game had a name, I was asking for input here on BGG and also at Fortress: Ameritrash, and Mads Brynnum happened to see my description of the game over there and thought, hmmm, maybe I could create my own game like that, which led to Dice of the Living Dead.

So hopefully somebody reading this will think, hmmm, I should create my own solo dice game, and so on, and the genre will be overflowing before you know it. The only thing I wonder about is what inspired the person who created the Expedition game for History.com. It was probably a paycheck... But hey, it worked, and I'm glad that it got the ball rolling to create some more things in that vein.



WHAT YOU NEED

The playsheet. 7 dice (5 white, 1 red, 1 black, or substitute colors as needed). A few more dice and a few pennies or markers for tracking resources would be good.


BACKGROUND

(from the rules)

Zombies have overrun your hometown. You’ve grouped up with other survivors, and you now have to make your way to the outskirts of town and escape the undead menace. On your way you have to fight zombies, search for survivors, and dole out your limited supplies.


GAMEPLAY

Each turn you roll all 7 dice. The red die is immediately placed into the Zombie fight pool, where it will turn into a number of zombie fight dice for that turn (between 1 and 3), depending on the number that was rolled. The five white dice are both good and bad; 3's and 4's allow you to move and 5's and 6's can be added to your fight dice pool for that turn, but 2's lose you an hour of time (you only have 5 hours of time between each safe house) and 1's are added to the zombie fight dice pool. The white dice can be rerolled up to two more times after the initial roll, but 1's on any white dice automatically and immediately go into the zombie fight dice pool. I love that inherent danger which is there for every reroll.

The black scavenger die is mostly good (2-5 provides supplies, survivors, ammo or fight/movement dice), but any time a 1 is rolled on there, one of your party becomes infected and you take an infected marker. The scavenger die can be rerolled up to two more times like the white dice, but you must take an infected marker any time a 1 shows up. Another nice touch.

Combat is simple but well done. Each die in the zombie dice pool is rolled, and all of your fight dice for that turn are rolled (you may spend Ammo to add more fight dice). You may cancel out any zombie dice with your own dice, and may use two of yours to cancel one zombie die. So for example, if the zombies rolled 3, 4 and 1 and you rolled 2, 2, 3 and 1, then your 3 and 1 would directly cancel out the zombies' 3 and 1, and your 2 and 2 could cancel out the zombies' 4. If any zombie dice are remaining after a fight, you lose one person per remaining zombie die. Another thing to note is that during a fight, any time you roll a 1 you lose one hour of time, and you can reroll your own fight dice up to two times after the first roll (but you need to be careful about getting those 1's!).

So hopefully you're covering some ground and moving along each turn, but you need to be careful moving, as some of the spaces (red spaces) will add a zombie die to the zombie fight dice pool if you stop on them. If you make it to the next "safe house" (mall, gas station, house), you roll for an event (which are about 50/50 good/bad), and then you must hand out supplies... one for every two survivors in your party (rounded down). Then you roll a die for each infected marker you have; on a 5 or 6 nothing happens, but otherwise the infected person will either die or turn into a zombie. And you don't necessarily lose the marker when that happens, so those infected markers can really be nasty. Lastly, at each safe house, you reset the hours to 5.

And that's it, and that's great. It's simple to learn and easy to play, takes about 15-20 minutes, and provides some decent choices throughout. I like these kind of dice games because they are a good basis for risk/reward and resource management and thinking about the press-your-luck odds. A lot of times, the choices of which dice to keep and which to reroll are obvious, but still, it's a choice, and sometimes it will be agonizing to decide whether to keep a certain die for a fight die or try to reroll it into that movement that would get you to a safe house. I think the theme is captured very well here, as the zombies emerge frequently and though it's easy to fend them off in small numbers, you're always in some danger from them.


SUGGESTIONS

I understand this is still a work-in-progress to some extent, and while I think it's great for what it is and probably very close to being "just right", there are a few things I would suggest for Mads to consider...

1. The events could use some choices. I really like in Expedition where you reach the milestones and the event makes you decide between things like 1) add 2 Days to the expedition 2) gain one food crate but lose 2 porters 3) spend $300, etc. So here there could be even a few simple either/or choices, like "Either lose 2 survivors or reset the hours die to 4".

2. I love the idea of the infected markers, but if you happen to get a run of 1's on the scavenger die, then look out. Perhaps a resource of "medicine" could be incorporated somehow to allow for infected markers to be removed. I'm thinking of something like, instead of on the white dice: 3= supplies +1 4= supplies +2 Maybe it could be: 3= supplies or medicine +1 4= supplies or medicine +2. And then perhaps if you have 5 medicine, you can spend it to remove one infected marker, or something like that. In the games I played, the supplies were never really too difficult to keep enough of, especially when you only need half per person and you can get 2 of them with each 4. But with this kind of change, you would have to think about how you want to use your 3's and 4's, for either supplies or medicine, given the current situation.

3. Along the same lines, if you are in a fight and happen to roll all 1's, then forget it, you'll run out of hours. That's not likely to happen often, but considering that you'll probably have a few fights between each safe house, you might get a few 1's each time and that'll be it (not to mention that any 2's locked on the white dice will lose you an hour). Again, I like the idea of the 1's in fights costing hours, but it may be a little too harsh if the luck of the roll is against you. Of course, that might be the case in general with a game like this, but the nice thing about these games is that they often allow for some measure of dealing with that or some kind of balance to that. What I would suggest for fights is to say that 1's rolled after the first roll will lose you an hour. That way, if you really want to reroll something, then you know the risk, and it also makes sense thematically, as further rolls are taking more time. Perhaps a compensation for that could be to start the hours at 4 instead of 5 each time. You do want the danger of running out of time to be there and to be quite strong throughout, but not have it so that you might crap out with a handful of 1's on a certain roll (which would not only lose you the hours, but be a sucky fight roll). That would be particularly annoying if you made it almost all the way through the journey and then crapped out with a roll like that, right before you were about to make it. In one sense, I can always accept that as the narrative result, and when it's a 15-20 minute game it's not a big deal, regardless, but still, if you can find a way to balance the bad luck with some means of preventing or mitigating or dealing with it, then that would be better.

4. I think it would be helpful if everything could be on the one playsheet. I mean, have the separate rules with more details, but also have it so that you could play from just having the playsheet. As it is now, just about everything needed is on there, but the infected die roll results are not, and a simple rundown of the game turn and safe house phases could easily be added there. The movement boxes could be made smaller and things moved around a bit, and that would probably leave more than enough space.

Also, I had previously suggested to Mads using boxes for tracking resources, instead of dice. I had made that switch for d6 Shooters and definitely preferred that, as the dice would sometimes get bumped around. I still think that's preferable, however, it might also be nice to just have one printout laminated, so you don't have to keep printing new sheets to play, in which case you'd have to use markers, dice and a token to track and move. So maybe both versions, one with resource boxes and one with spaces for tracking dice, would be best.

5. A scoring system of some kind would be nice. I like the goal-oriented nature of these kind of games (as opposed to just trying to beat your previous best score, like in Yahtzee or other solo dice games), and reaching the goal should be the primary mission and be difficult enough to give a good sense of satisfaction for achieving. But once you've reached the goal, it might be nice to have some kind of reckoning... + points for how many survivors, + how much food you had left, + how many zombies you killed, - infected markers, etc.

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

Anyway, those suggestions notwithstanding, this is a fun game as it is, and I look forward to playing it more. I don't know if Mads has any new scenarios or expansions in mind... I might like to create a fan expansion for this. The basic system is terrific and definitely captures a good feel for what it's portraying. So if you have some dice and a printer and 20 minutes, give this a try. And try out The d6 Shooters, too, while you're at it, and Expedition. And then go create a solo dice game yourself, already!
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mads l. brynnum
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Thank you for the great review - you even explain the game better than I do in the rules :-)

I like your suggestions. Especially number three about fights. It makes perfect sense that you risk loosing times when pressing for a win rather than just by entering the fight itself since that is something you don't decide yourself. Also having the choice between medicine and supplies is a good idea which I have to test. Especially since it's not uncommon for me to have nothing but infected when winning the game.

I also think you're spot on about a scoring system. I have considered it, but would rather concentrate on getting the core game ready. It will be in the next version.

And I gotta say that I quite like working on such a small game. Just like you make several installments of The d6 Shooters I'm considering using part of the system for another game. For now I only have the title - "Dice of the Damned". I'm thinking something about minions of Hell, but maybe I should concentrate on making this game better

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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Mads, if you don't mind, I'd like to try creating a new scenario using your system. I had an idea for how a mall based zombie scenario could work with this (Dawn of the Dice of the Dead). I would probably incorporate the changes I suggested, which might be a good way to see if they're any good or not (and they very well might not be).

Anyway, Dice of the Damned sounds like a good idea. I wonder if there's a way the feel of Arkham Horror can be distilled into a short and simple dice game. Now, that would be a challenge!
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mads l. brynnum
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You just go ahead, Eric - I'd love to play a zombie game based in a mall.

And I like the Arkham Horror idea. Better than what I was thinking about for a game about Hell. Hm ... gotta think more about this.
 
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Okay, cool. I'll start working on that... The thing I have in mind is a little different than the "journey" kind of thing that this game and d6 Shooters and Expedition are like, so I'm trying to figure out how to translate everything from the basic system to work for that. I think I've got it worked out, but we'll see...

Another thought about the importance of a scoring system came up in my game today... I had some heavy fights in the last stretch and realized that, per the rules, I could reroll any zombie 6's by taking infected markers and that those infected markers wouldn't have any effect, really. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, per se... if I didn't have that option I don't think I'd have survived... so maybe it's a home stretch advantage where you're willing to take a few bites knowing the end is in sight and hoping you'll be cured. But it felt a little like "gaming the rules" to do that at that point. With a scoring system where you get some negative points for any infected markers, that would be a deterrent to doing that. Or perhaps once you reach the goal you have to make one final roll for your infected markers, and if they don't finish you off, then you win.

Anyway, it was a cool game that I just squeaked by on. I'm enjoying this more every time I play.
 
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mads l. brynnum
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More good ideas. I like that you have to roll for infected one last time - and it makes perfect sense theme-wise.

But concerning zombie sixes. I play that you can remove them (not reroll), but maybe it isn't worded that way in the rules. Will look into it.

And I agree on finding some other thing to do than the journey. I had the same thought about the Arkham-thing you suggested. I figure it would be more of an open map where you can visit locations that might help you. Or maybe the progression is the different steps in your investigation so that instead of movement points you roll to get investigation/clues that will move you towards the showdown.
 
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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No, you're right about removing the 6's. I just remembered it wrong.
 
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Chris Hansen
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mads b. wrote:
I'm considering using part of the system for another game. For now I only have the title - "Dice of the Damned". I'm thinking something about minions of Hell, but maybe I should concentrate on making this game better

I love the name "Dice of the Damned!" You better get on that.
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Julian Jimenez
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Dice of the Damned sounds cool. I would love to take on the minions of hell in a dice fight. Maybe even Doom style?
 
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mads l. brynnum
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Thank you, Julian, but I have to admit that Dice of the Damned is kinda abandoned. I still like the basic idea and title a lot, but I'm not sure it fits with a very linear, solo dice game.

I have, however, recently returned to Dice of Arkham, which I think I can make work. But again, there's some thematic challenges - escaping from zombies is a very straight forward story. Running around Arkham looking for a way to stop a hellish ritual not quite as much. Also, work and child keep interfering.

But if you're looking for a Doom-style solo game, I have made one that's more or less ready for PnP. Only thing is it's butt-ugly. But if you want to give it a spin I'll be happy to email you the files you'll need.
 
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