Mad Hatter Gaming
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Last Night on Earth (LNoE) is an attractive, engrossing board game which flaunts all of the best aspects of the zombie genre in one versatile package. In short, LNoE is fun, fun, fun.

The idea of a zombie apocalypse is not unfamiliar terrain for the gaming industry. Players have been mowing down endless streams of the living dead for a long time now, and will continue to do so for many years to come. In our opinion, however, few make it as engaging or as involved as LNoE. This review covers both the LNoE core game and its first expansion, Growing Hunger, which adds a little more of everything including characters to play.

The appearance of the game is top quality. All photos in the game were done with seemingly professional-grade skill and equipment. I am certainly no artist, but the work done in this game exceeded all of my expectations for a title released by a relatively small gaming company. They didn’t skimp on materials, either. The board and the character plaques are made from a particularly heavy stock, and we have noticed no wear issues as the game continues to undergo sessions of play. Bravo to Flying Frog Productions for quality art and construction. Very well done.

LNoE offers multiple scenarios with which to play the game. These cover all kinds of different objectives, from simply killing a certain number of zombies to escaping town in a truck which starts the game with no gas and no keys in the ignition. Regardless of which scenario you choose to play, there is built-in time pressure in the form of a counter which is used to represent the number of turns left in the game before either the sun sets (the heroes automatically lose) or the sun rises (the heroes win). Most scenarios place this time pressure on the heroes.

The game pits the familiar zombie horde against a small group of living, human characters against the backdrop of a small rural town. The board consists of small buildings such as a Gas Station or High School inside which the characters begin play. These buildings are randomized, so every new game of LNoE will be geographically different. Every building has it’s own little bonus as well: Most offer a "pick up" option, which allow characters to loot associated items directly from the discard pile instead of drawing random cards from the draw deck (Pump Shotgun may be specifically "picked up" at the Police Station, for instance). Among the buildings are red Xs which signify zombie spawning pits. The placement of these pits signify staples of the horror movie industry: One pit is placed within a small, mysterious laboratory, for example. Another is, of course, in a graveyard behind the church.

No matter how many people are playing, one or two people control the zombies and the rest control the humans. The characters are familiar archetypes of the small town horror genre, and each one has different bonuses and abilities that set them apart from the others. For instance, Sally the High School Sweetheart is "lucky", and can force a zombie to re-roll their combat dice. Jake the Drifter is "resourceful", which means he is able to draw two cards and pick one to keep when searching, instead of simply drawing one. These bonuses aren’t merely fluff, either--most are good, if not very good, and will be used over and over again by the players in order to keep the heaving tide of zombies at bay. This same sentiment applies to the cards which may be drawn throughout the game. These either represent items and weapons the characters may use, or events which create bonuses or other advantages for the hero characters. No one item is so overpowered that it unbalances the game, although some care should be taken by the zombie players to not make things easier for the human opponents. The pump shotgun, for instance, will likely kill every zombie in the same square in a single shot. In one game I lost four zombies in one blast because I didn’t space them out more. Indeed, some of the weapons are very powerful, particularly the guns. They typically can only kill one zombie a turn, however, and while they may bring down one, there’s almost always many more shuffling along with it.

All of the previously described bonuses, weapons, and abilities are very strong, but they are necessary. The greatest thing about this game is that the players are constantly seeking ways to bring the odds a little less against them. I’ve only played one game where the heroes soundly trounced the zombies, and that was with the basic objective scenario (where the goal is to simply kill 15 zombies before sunset) and careful character selection. Heroes always have a target-rich environment, and things take a turn for the worse should they get boxed in. Zombies are of the "slow" variety in this game, and only move one space per turn. That being said, they CAN move through walls (representing them smashing through windows or coming up through floorboards) while heroes can’t. Heroes can move away from zombies if they started their turn in the same space, but must end their movement if they run into another one. Also, zombies fight heroes during the zombie turn AND the hero turn. When you take these things into account along with the time pressure built in to the scenario, heroes can find themselves in big trouble in no time, especially if the zombies have spread out to block movement. It’s this desperate attempt to find a way out of a sticky situation which makes the game so fun to play.

Player strategy can be subtle, yet have a huge impact on the game. For example, a player searching the Supermarket can quickly find useful items at the cost of sending a lot of additional cards to the discard pile. This can be bad, since once the draw pile is depleted, it isn’t replenished. However, sending a lot of cards to the discard pile early makes it easier for your companions to use the "Pick up" abilities of other buildings (they "pick up" from the discard pile, like the pump shotgun example earlier in this review), effectively arming the entire squad of heroes earlier than normal even though in separate areas of the board.

There is plenty of strategy to playing the zombies as well, as strange as that may sound. A clever zombie player can be extremely tough to beat. Zombie players do get their own stack of cards to use against the heroes. Many of them are one-shot bonuses to movement or combat, some of which almost guarantee giving a wound unless cancelled. Others are played directly on the heroes themselves and are quite entertaining, reflecting the illogical and petty human behaviors displayed in other vehicles of the zombie genre (Unnecessary Self-Sacrifice automatically wounds a hero who is in the same space as another hero, and depicts the football jock squaring off against a pair of zombies as the farmer’s daughter looks on from behind him--truly classic).

The rules included with the game are, for the most part, decent. However, it is a bit vague on one very important issue. If you read other reviews of LNoE, they complain that heroes can defeat the zombies in hand-to-hand combat very easily and pose no real threat. What they don’t realize is that they are actually performing hand-to-hand combat incorrectly. Zombies only roll 1D6 for their combat, and heroes roll 2D6. What the rules don’t clearly state (but do imply in the combat example on the same page) is that heroes don’t ADD their dice together. The heroes simply take the highest single D6 roll and compare it to the zombie’s single D6 roll. You can imagine how much different this makes it, especially since zombies win on ties. I would have probably made the same mistake had I not had the rules explained to me by a Flying Frog representative at their playtesting station at GenCon.

Another potential issue for some gamers is that quite a bit of the action is dependent on a dice roll or a card draw. The "luck" aspect may turn some off, but honestly, I find it to be part of the challenge of the game.

We here at Mad Hatter Gaming thoroughly enjoyed playing LNoE, and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a thematic strategy game with high replay value. LNoE may be too advanced for beginners or younger players, but would be a good platform for demonstrating teamwork, position optimization, and priority management.

Pros: Zombies. Small-town horror theme perfectly captured and reflected. Excellent gameplay balance. Lots of replay value.

Cons: Pricey. Rules unclear on a single important point regarding combat. Chance can play a big part of the action.

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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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MadHatterGaming wrote:

The rules included with the game are, for the most part, decent. However, it is a bit vague on one very important issue. If you read other reviews of LNoE, they complain that heroes can defeat the zombies in hand-to-hand combat very easily and pose no real threat. What they don’t realize is that they are actually performing hand-to-hand combat incorrectly. Zombies only roll 1D6 for their combat, and heroes roll 2D6. What the rules don’t clearly state (but do imply in the combat example on the same page) is that heroes don’t ADD their dice together. The heroes simply take the highest single D6 roll and compare it to the zombie’s single D6 roll. You can imagine how much different this makes it, especially since zombies win on ties. I would have probably made the same mistake had I not had the rules explained to me by a Flying Frog representative at their playtesting station at GenCon.


Hmm, I've never heard of that particular thing being misunderstood like that... But then again, I also misplayed something similar about combat for a while... so perhaps the rulebook might have emphasized some things a little more. I guess I can see how "players use their highest dice roll" could easily be glossed over or thought to mean a sum.

I had been playing that Heroes kill a zombie in a fight if they roll doubles, when it should be that they kill a zombie in a fight only if they roll doubles and roll higher on at least one die. It's a subtle difference, and the rules are indeed very clear on that, but apparently it's easy to miss or not grasp entirely when you're first learning the game as I've since heard a few others say they've done the same thing. I used to wonder why so many people thought the game was skewed in favor of the Zombies, when it seemed like the Heroes were always winning in my games (most of them close, though). Well, once I realized how I was playing that wrong, it made a lot more sense and sure enough, the Zombies have been winning a lot more games ever since...

Anyway, great review! It's one of my favorite games, too, for many of the reasons you state.
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Kyoko Steeple
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MadHatterGaming wrote:
I’ve only played one game where the heroes soundly trounced the zombies, and that was with the basic objective scenario (where the goal is to simply kill 15 zombies before sunset) and careful character selection.


We always select characters randomly for this reason - otherwise, players would always combo the Father and the Nurse.

Great review, by the way!
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Andrew Asplund
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Great review!

MadHatterGaming wrote:
The appearance of the game is top quality. All photos in the game were done with seemingly professional-grade skill and equipment. I am certainly no artist, but the work done in this game exceeded all of my expectations for a title released by a relatively small gaming company.


It's funny because with Last Night on Earth, I feel like the art style is excellent. The photographic style just screams of Romero zombie films (or something in that vein). Strangely, though, the same art style appears in Flying Frog's other game, A Touch of Evil, where I feel like it looks especially silly (and not in a good way).

MadHatterGaming wrote:
LNoE offers multiple scenarios with which to play the game. These cover all kinds of different objectives, from simply killing a certain number of zombies to escaping town in a truck which starts the game with no gas and no keys in the ignition.


I really appreciate that they've added quite a few extra scenarios (via Growing Hunger, the "web supplements," and downloadable from the web site). I kind of wish they had a few more variants, if for no other reason than to utilize some of the extra (silly) components that came with the game (tractor, anybody?).

MadHatterGaming wrote:
The rules included with the game are, for the most part, decent. However, it is a bit vague on one very important issue. If you read other reviews of LNoE, they complain that heroes can defeat the zombies in hand-to-hand combat very easily and pose no real threat. What they don’t realize is that they are actually performing hand-to-hand combat incorrectly. Zombies only roll 1D6 for their combat, and heroes roll 2D6. What the rules don’t clearly state (but do imply in the combat example on the same page) is that heroes don’t ADD their dice together. The heroes simply take the highest single D6 roll and compare it to the zombie’s single D6 roll.


There's clearly something a little bit awry with the rules since it seems like quite a few people have had (different) issues with the combat. However, my group seemed to have no problems with this (instead developing strange questions on other issues). Then again, I had the luck of getting the game demoed to me by a FFG employee at PAX, so that may have helped.

Again, great review.
 
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