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Subject: A good game to which I gave a "2" rating rss

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Merric Blackman
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I played Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead for the first time last night, and this morning I recorded my play and gave it a "2" rating.

This is a particularly shocking rating. It is particularly shocking because I think Zombie State is actually a good game. However, it has one mechanic in it that caused one player to quit the game a few turns in, and caused me great frustration throughout. That mechanic? The technology research die roll.

I will never play the game again with that mechanic. If we play it again, we'll house-rule it away, but its inclusion in the base game has caused me to rate the game extremely poorly.

Image by Keith Leonard

An Overview of the Game
The game of Zombie State is one of risk management where you try to respond to the ever-growing zombie horde within and outside your borders. The game is mostly a multiplayer solitaire game, but there are particular moments when your decisions are affected by what your opponents are doing.

A brief summary of the game turn:
* You draw resource cards based on the territories you still hold
* Three Random Event card draws help or hinder your actions
* Zombies turn some of your citizens into more zombies
* Zombies move into adjacent territories if there are no more citizens
* Each player performs a limited number of actions (which become more limited as your population decreases), including recruiting army units, researching techs, sending armies in to fight zombies, or drawing more resource cards

You repeat playing turns in this sequence until the game ends because one nation has been destroyed, the zombie virus goes airborne (a limit on the number of turns in the game), or a player has destroyed all the zombies in their territory and has researched enough new technology. In this last case, that player wins, otherwise whoever has the most population left wins the game.

Image by Scott Everts

Resources and Actions
Each player collects resource cards (of four types) at the start of each turn depending on what production areas they still have population in. As the zombie horde grows, your production capability diminishes. The resource cards feel like Settlers of Catan resources, except (a key difference) you can't (normally) trade them with other players. This is something of a pity, and it lessens the multiplayer aspect of the game.

You also get six actions (freedom points) per turn... while you still control all your territories. Losing a certain number of territories will reduce your freedom points: losing two reduces you to 5 FP, and it goes down from there, to a minimum of two.

Each action costs 1 FP, and there are certain bonuses that require extra FP expenditure.

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The Army
At the start of the game, army units are particularly ineffective against zombies. Technologies can increase their effectiveness, but often the army is just allowing you a little more time to survive (at the cost of spending resource cards to rebuild them). Army combat works in a very basic, non-random manner: each zombie kills one tank, which is killed in return. If you increase the strength of your army, either through technology or by using the barricading action, you can kill more zombies and perhaps even have the army survive.

I like how the army works. Barricading proved effective in our game, especially once we grasped how zombies move.

Zombie Movement
One key to playing Zombie Nation well is understanding how the zombies move: once all the population in a province are converted into zombies, they move in groups to the most populous provinces adjacent. Three move to the most populous, then two to the next most, then one... more than that didn't come up during our game.

Tiebreaks are determined by military presence (they go to the army first), and then by random die roll. However, it is a mostly deterministic process.

Zombies do not move into depopulated provinces, which can cause "islands of safety" to appear during the game, at least until an "outbreak" causes a zombie token to spawn in the presumably safe territory.

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The Best Laid Plans...
Although you generally have a good idea of what will happen with the zombies and the army, the three random events drawn at the start of each turn can overturn your plans. These events generally have a minor effect: giving a discount on a certain type of action, or causing a small penalty to the strength of your armies. The most significant are likely the outbreak events, which cause new zombies to appear on the map. It might only be one zombie in your territory, but zombies spread... and they spread fast!

The nature of these events keeps you on your toes. They're normally not of a game-wrecking nature, but they do mean your best laid plans aren't always going to be enough.

(Strangely, it was a positive event that caused me to lose the game we played: a free Quarantine though an event meant that one nation lasted one turn longer than it should have, and so the game didn't end with me with the most population).

Image by Scott Everts

Technology, and the mechanic that ruined the game
Ultimately, the most important aspect of the game for players is to research new and effective ways of dealing with the zombie threat. There are quite a number of technologies, arranged into three "types" of technology and three tiers: three technologies of Tier 1 must be researched before you can research a Tier 2 technology, and two technologies of Tier 2 before you can research a Tier 3 technology.

Gaining technology is essential for winning the game: you gain new bonuses, or new actions you can spend your Freedom Points and resources on. You can quarantine areas, have more effective armies, raise walls against the undead, or possibly even cure infected citizens!

To gain a new technology, you need to spend an action, four resource cards (which ones depends on the technology) and then roll a 7 or higher on a twelve-sided die. You get a +1 to the roll for each player who has already successfully researched the same technology, and a +2 for each additional action you spend researching the technology. There's an additional +3 modifier for each time you've previously tried to research the technology and failed.

In contrast to the deterministic manner of every other aspect of your actions, this is a painfully random way of determining whether you succeed or not. Unfortunately, failing the roll is incredibly swingy: you've just lost the actions you spent, plus the four resources (each of which is effectively an action, as you can spend an action to draw one).

In my first turn, I attempted to research a technology. One other player had researched it already, and I spent 2 additional FP to aid the roll. That gave me a modifier on the die roll of +5: only on a 1 would I fail it. Guess what I rolled?

Meanwhile, the other players were succeeding on their rolls, despite having a 1 in 6 chance of failing. I failed my third roll (a 1 in 6 chance of failing) as well, and by that time the only reason I was still in the game was because I'd accidentally convinced a player to take my zombie horde - they'd gone towards Africa instead of staying in Australasia - and so I had an island of stability... for a little while.

Another player failed two rolls that he should have succeeded at, and decided that was enough of that, and stomped off. At the time you have a mechanic causing someone to stop playing a game, you have a problem.

What really irritates me about this mechanic is that it is so at odds with the rest of the game: there really is a lack of die rolling. In your standard Ameritheme game, you might expect to roll a lot of dice, especially with combat. However, this game, despite its random events (and occasional random movement of zombies), it feels a lot more like a deterministic game: most events provide a challenge to overcome with your actions. It is only the research action where you are not sure of the result of your action, and it is not something that improves the game.

Certainly, you can play a risk-averse strategy and spend the extra actions to research, but you still have the problem of someone playing a riskier strategy and just getting lucky - and thus getting ahead. There aren't enough die rolls in the game for the die-roll luck to even out.

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Conclusions
I really like most of Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead. There was a very nice rising tension throughout the game, as the zombies began to overrun our nations. Then too, there was the feeling that our actions mattered, that - with good play and decisions - we could beat back the zombie horde and make the world safe for humanity once more. Or at least, our humanity as given by the Australian ideal. Before the became zombies.

However, my intense dislike of the out-of-place research mechanic has soured me on the game as presented. How would I house-rule it? I probably would set a two or three action cost to perform research. The bonuses for other nations possessing the technology or your own previous research of Technology Focus would instead provide either an action or resource cost discount. (Say one card for 1-2 nations already possessing it, two cards for 3-4 nations possessing it).

There's no getting around that the game is still (mostly) a multi-player solitaire game, although the failure of one nation to protect itself might find their zombies then entering your borders. The playing time for the game seemed reasonable to me - less than two hours all up - although I can imagine that some players may take significantly longer evaluating their decisions.

Even with a change to the technology research rules, the game has a number of random mechanics in it, which work against an easy "best" strategy for every game. I like the idea of the game, and I like much of how it is presented, but it is a game whose first impression on me has been dreadful due to one misplaced mechanic.
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Georg von Lemberg
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MerricB wrote:
Another player failed two rolls that he should have succeeded at...


??? Its a random roll, right?

MerricB wrote:
At the time you have a mechanic causing someone to stop playing a game, you have a problem.


Sounds more like the problem is players who can't deal with things not going their way.

MerricB wrote:
What really irritates me about this mechanic is that it is so at odds with the rest of the game: there really is a lack of die rolling. In your standard Ameritheme game,.... yadda, yadda, yadda, ....
Certainly, you can play a risk-averse strategy and spend the extra actions to research, but you still have the problem of someone playing a riskier strategy and just getting lucky - and thus getting ahead.


Sounds pretty thematically coherent to me, watch a zombie movie sometime, whatever your strategy for survival, those hungry fuckers end up popping up to mess with your chances!

Frankly I've passed on this game a few times, but after reading your review (negative those it was) I'm feeling quite intrigued. The tech research stuff sounds a bit like Axis & Allies with zombies. Sure its quite a bitch when your opponent researches heavy bombers combined with long range aircraft, but, hey that's the luck of the dice (and the balls to risk spending your money on research rather than building cannon fodder - sometimes that strategy leads to a quick and painful death, sometimes it leads to a juggernaut of victory). Can someone who liked the game please comment with some negative feedback so that I can go back to not wanting this game (I really shouldn't be spending any more money, trying to buy a house right now and need every penny.)
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Peter Wiles
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gvonl wrote:
MerricB wrote:
Another player failed two rolls that he should have succeeded at...


??? Its a random roll, right?


An example I always pose to my students when we are studying probability is a weather scenario. If the meteorologist says there is a 10% chance of rain, do you take your umbrella? If not, are you angry if you get rained on? Most say yes, but they shouldn't. Probability theory doesn't say anything about what will or should happen. In fact, if he/she were perfect at predicting the odds, you would expect that over the course of all the times that a 10% chance of rain was predicted... well 10% of those times will see rain.


With that pedantic rant aside, I completely understand Merric's point. I can see how it might be aggravating for a critical game element to be left to chance when you are planning out other aspects deterministically. I think it is especially bad when there are fewer rolls (it sounded like there were not a large number of these research rolls). I like randomness in a game, but it needs to be enough so that long term trends can be observed. More trials = more likely to match theoretical probability, which kind of evens things out for all the players.
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Merric Blackman
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You're probably looking at not more than 6-7 research rolls a game.

And, because the cost of making the roll is so high, failing it is hideously bad. (You've basically wasted your turn). So, why not spend enough actions to make it a certainty? That's because the player next to you lucked it out with spending fewer actions, and so has a distinct advantage over you.

This is the *only* roll you'll be making in the game for the success of your actions, and so stands out like a sore thumb.
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Ken K
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I could make a Geeklist of games I've played in the past year that left me cold because of rotten dice rolls. Lords of Vegas, I'm convinced, shut me out because of dice.

But I'd give them all a second try because I know it was probably a fluke and I'll probably do better next time. Such are the vicissitudes of all games that involve the roll of the bones.

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jumbit
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I'd have given it a "2" just due to the tired old zombie theme.
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Lance
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I personally greatly enjoy the game because of the fact that things are this random. I go into it not really caring if I win or lose and just try to have a good time watching the world get overrun by the undead. Each game tells a story, and there are almost always a handful of laugh out loud moments as you watch your opponents (or your own) people getting munched on and converted into more members of the walking dead.

Some of the technologies are stupidly more powerful than the other however. We have house ruled a few of them to make the bad ones a little better and the great ones a little worse.
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Darrell Hanning
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I appreciate your point on the way research works, Merric, and also see it as a flawed approach. While I'm not a big fan of beating zombie horses with a stick (as in, making more games about zombies), the game does sound interesting, save for this element.

The fundamental flaw in the model is that everything is lost, in a failed research attempt (save for a future modifier, on subsequent attempts). That isn't how research works. It is not a matter of "all or nothing"; rather, it is a matter of incremental movements - forward or back. Are there "Eureka!" moments? Sure, there can be, but when there aren't, you don't suddenly lose everything you've invested in the research as a result.

I suggest you investigate implementing an alternative research mechanism. One I've always favored is the one found in the game, Liftoff!. In this game, research is performed by accumulating research "points" through dice rolls, every turn. The rolls are paid for, but the results still vary, yet not ever with a total loss of what you've invested - just not necessarily the pace of progress you had hoped for. So, for example, you would spend X amount of money/resources/actions/etc. to roll each die, and the amount rolled for all dice would apply toward your research goal. Technology Y might require 20 research points, so you can expect that to require something around 6 rolls on D6. But there's no guarantee it will happen that fast, or it could happen even sooner. Still, the only way you "lose" your investment is if you choose to discontinue research on that technology.
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mateo jurasic
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I believe there are three types of people in regards to dice rolling

1) People like me, who hate losing random dice rolls, so they do everything to minimize the chance of losing a dice roll. In a game like Twilight Imperium, I always try to scout out the distant suns random planet events or send enough stuff thats its very unlikely a disaster will happen, even though it takes more time, in Axis and Allies I always send enough units to give me a >90% chance to win, even though it means I can't attack that send territory or bomb that IC, and in this game, I always spend those extra points to make sure I dont fail the tech roll, or at worse I have a very small chance of failing

2) People who dont likelosing random dice rolls, but still take big gambles because they are risk takers and understand the consequences. They send 1 long carrier and 2 ground forces to an unexplored planet, and then understand it when the distant suns maker reveals enemy fighters which then kill their carrier, they send just enough Japanese forces to take out the Pearl Harbor fleet, and blame only themselves when they lose a bunch of ships and planes, and they roll for that tech when they only have a 60% chance to succeed, and accept that as the risk for not spending more points to ensure success.

3) People who hate losing random dice rolls, but still take big risks. They send 1 long carrier and 2 ground forces to an unexplored planet, and then curse when the distant suns maker reveals enemy fighters which then kill their carrier, they send just enough Japanese forces to take out the Pearl Harbor fleet, and then curse when they lose a bunch of ships and planes, and they roll for that tech when they only have a 60% chance to succeed, and then blame the game for being so lame.

If you want the tech 100% of the time, then spend the extra points and get the appropriate techs and wait for other players to learn the tech.
If you want to gamble, feel free to gamble, but dont whine.
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mateo jurasic
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there is also the bonus for failing a research roll, which helps offset (not completely) the failure. This does mitigate the pain somewhat.
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Tim Pskowski
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superflypete wrote:
So, you liked everything about the game except for one minor niggle about the swingy research roll? One that you can modify through spending additional actions?

Then you gave it a 2?

Seems shallow as a drop of water, and more than a bit like sour grapes.


I agree with this. First of all you can play such that you'll win all of the rolls you make. You can also play such that each is a quite swingy event. If the first option is just better then the latter you'll be able to beat people making the high-variance rolls while you are rolling with a +5 or 6. If you're so much better then they are you should still be able to win.

In addition you're basing this 2 on one game with what sounds like a very immature player. I can't fault a designer when someone stands up and leaves after losing two die rolls their first time playing the game (I assume).

On top of all of this there is a very easy fix. House rules! You can change so many things about the mechanic so easily. You could have a +4 bonus per extra action spent, you could make it an auto-success costing 3 actions but you can still use the roll on one action. Easy to fix and saying a game is awful because of something easily fixed and minor in the larger scheme of things seems silly.
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Kevin Outlaw
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glocks4interns wrote:
superflypete wrote:
So, you liked everything about the game except for one minor niggle about the swingy research roll? One that you can modify through spending additional actions?

Then you gave it a 2?

Seems shallow as a drop of water, and more than a bit like sour grapes.


I agree with this. First of all you can play such that you'll win all of the rolls you make. You can also play such that each is a quite swingy event. If the first option is just better then the latter you'll be able to beat people making the high-variance rolls while you are rolling with a +5 or 6. If you're so much better then they are you should still be able to win.

In addition you're basing this 2 on one game with what sounds like a very immature player. I can't fault a designer when someone stands up and leaves after losing two die rolls their first time playing the game (I assume).

On top of all of this there is a very easy fix. House rules! You can change so many things about the mechanic so easily. You could have a +4 bonus per extra action spent, you could make it an auto-success costing 3 actions but you can still use the roll on one action. Easy to fix and saying a game is awful because of something easily fixed and minor in the larger scheme of things seems silly.


While I admit it sounds a bit harsh to give a 2 rating just because of one element of the game, if it really did cause such a problem that it ruined the game for everyone then it is understandable to rate the game low as a result.

If something annoys your players to the point they don't want to play any more, that is not the fault of the player, that is the fault of the game. If I am really not enjoying something, am I supposed to sit through the agony? Life's too short, and I don't think we should insult the maturity of someone we don't know because they weren't prepared to carry on doing something they were hating.

House rules are fine, but I don't think you can consider them in a review. When I buy a game, I expect the rules to be such that they have been well-tested and implemented by the designer. If I start houseruling then I might be ruining the careful balance of the game. Plus the fact, I want to play, not design. I always find shouting "house rule" is a cheap way to excuse any shoddy piece of game design.

All that aside, this really doesn't sound like a game I would enjoy.

Thanks for the review!
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Sarah
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RedMonkeyBoy wrote:
glocks4interns wrote:
superflypete wrote:
So, you liked everything about the game except for one minor niggle about the swingy research roll? One that you can modify through spending additional actions?

Then you gave it a 2?

Seems shallow as a drop of water, and more than a bit like sour grapes.


I agree with this. First of all you can play such that you'll win all of the rolls you make. You can also play such that each is a quite swingy event. If the first option is just better then the latter you'll be able to beat people making the high-variance rolls while you are rolling with a +5 or 6. If you're so much better then they are you should still be able to win.

In addition you're basing this 2 on one game with what sounds like a very immature player. I can't fault a designer when someone stands up and leaves after losing two die rolls their first time playing the game (I assume).

On top of all of this there is a very easy fix. House rules! You can change so many things about the mechanic so easily. You could have a +4 bonus per extra action spent, you could make it an auto-success costing 3 actions but you can still use the roll on one action. Easy to fix and saying a game is awful because of something easily fixed and minor in the larger scheme of things seems silly.


While I admit it sounds a bit harsh to give a 2 rating just because of one element of the game, if it really did cause such a problem that it ruined the game for everyone then it is understandable to rate the game low as a result.

If something annoys your players to the point they don't want to play any more, that is not the fault of the player, that is the fault of the game. If I am really not enjoying something, am I supposed to sit through the agony? Life's too short, and I don't think we should insult the maturity of someone we don't know because they weren't prepared to carry on doing something they were hating.

House rules are fine, but I don't think you can consider them in a review. When I buy a game, I expect the rules to be such that they have been well-tested and implemented by the designer. If I start houseruling then I might be ruining the careful balance of the game. Plus the fact, I want to play, not design. I always find shouting "house rule" is a cheap way to excuse any shoddy piece of game design.

All that aside, this really doesn't sound like a game I would enjoy.

Thanks for the review!


I'm gonna quote all of this cuz I've kinda got something to respond to each.

For reference I also played in the game Merric played in, and am the owner of the copy we played -- I never had an issue with tech, I succeeded every roll I made.

The problem as I see it is that Merric's first roll only failed on a roll of 1 (on the d12) -- he spent the extra actions and didn't try to 'gamble' it, and still failed. It happens. His second roll failed on a 1 or a 2 and also failed. Bad luck, yes, but it put him quite a bit behind. I made every tech roll, as mentioned, but only researched about 6 techs by the time the game ended, so it doesn't seem like you do a lot of rolling for the luck to even out. Yes, you get a +3 to your next attempt, but the cost in actions and resources cards to do nothing is painful.

Second, folks say you can spend enough actions to not have to roll and just take your tech. This is true, but a problem can come out of it where you spend 4 FPs to be sure of your tech, and your opponent takes the risk and wins the 7+ roll with 1 action and now can do so much more in the turn, causing the swing once more. As it's a multiplayer solitare style of game -- and I mostly enjoy the 'survival of humanity' story that comes out of it rather than actually caring about who's doing better and winning, it doesn't bother me that much.

I don't think it ruined the game for everyone. Two of the players at least (one of them me) had little to no problem with it . I don't think it warrants a two rating personally, but that's my opinion -- I'd play it again with the dice rolling for techs still, but I understand where the frustration comes from. You don't get to research a whole lot of techs in this game and missing your first two puts you so far behind in dealing with the zombie threat.
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Darrell Hanning
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I, at least, appreciate your explanation, Sarah. Merric's review has actually pushed me to buy this game. I have little doubt I can develop a more equitable R&D system - that retains a random element - and I'll be happy to post it, when I have.
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John

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Hello Merric,

I wanted to thank you for your review of Zombie State. This is one of the better reviews that I have seen posted. I have been following with a great deal of interest as I am the designer of Zombie State. I welcome the criticism as this is the only way that I can grow as a designer and understand what gamers want. I design games with one goal in mind and that is the enjoyment of games and of my gamers. Thus I design games for others to enjoy the only way I know how, by designing games that I enjoy. I am sorry to hear about the frustration of one of your players, but Zombie State was designed with the very real goal of creating anxiety, tension, and frustration. To make you the player feel that you are a government that must actually deal with the very real decision about whether to spend your hard earned FP for a sure thing verse taking the risk.

The reason that I jumped in on this thread after a bit is we are working on a PDF of 2 or 3 official variants to post for the one year anniversary of Zombie State in April. One of these variants deals specifically with technology research and I would love to get some feedback if you would give the game a second chance in addition to any others that would like to jump in. (Another variant that we are working on is Military Experience that I think you might like under the thread Official Variants?.

Anyhow this variant does not address the technology roll itself, but rather the ramifications of failing that roll. To clarify why the roll was not changed is I believe that most of the theme, emotion, and critical decisions in this game revolves around the anxiety in rolling that D12 and whether you should, or should not have spent that extra FP when you really need the FP to do something else, but also really need the technology to succeed. I thus think the research and development is adequately represented as is the increased chance of success on future rolls showing that your R and D is actually progressing until on the third attempt it will be automatic. Unfortunately, you bring up an excellent point that in certain rare games someone is bound to not take their chances and make all 7 of their 50/50 rolls. (I think this can be the case in other games I have played as well where some games someone just seems to have luck on their side, but is not what I would call the norm for that game).

So, here is the variant that we are working on and again would love some feedback from the fellow geeks here. I think this is an especially good variant for the first few games that people play.

Research and Development

When you fail a technology roll place a number of markers (represented by zombie tokens) on that technology box for each FP spent testing the technology. This includes both the FP in the testing cost as well as any FPs used to enhance the roll with a +2 bonus. These markers stay on the technology box for that technology, and will accumulate if another test fails, until the technology is successfully tested. For each marker on that technology box you may spend one less resource card of your choice in re-testing that technology.

For Example

On your first test of a technology you spend 2 extra FP to give yourself a +4 to the die roll. You fail the die roll and thus would place 3 markers on the technology box for that technology. (One for the FP in the testing cost and 2 for the other FPs). You really needed the technology and took your chances and failed, but decide to test it again immediately. You now pay 1FP and 1 RC to test the technology again since there are 3 markers on the technology. You do not have any more FP to spend on the technology so you push forward. You fail the roll again and place 1 more marker on the technology box for a total of 4 markers. The next time you test the technology it will cost 1 FP and will be an automatic success with 2 blue +3 research tokens.

Thanks and I look forward to your feedback!!!
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Paul McKenzie
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John:

I absolutely love that research mechanic, and am going to be incorporating that in my next game for sure.

I also like the military experience variant.

I can understand the frustration for missing tech rolls, and how costly losing one is with the base set. As has been noted, I wouldn't give ZS a "2," but I can see how the reviewer is frustrated by the mechanic as-is, and would echo that there are not enough die rolls to even out the average, as is. I think your mechanic addresses this nicely.

Paul
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Mike Loftus
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John: I'm excited to try this. I love the theme of the game and only wished there was an option for a "high-military" version. I like the original game, but welcome the alternate play options as this really adds quite a bit more flavor to the sauce!

I enjoyed this review too, every game is not for every player. If you don't like randomness in games and can't overlook it for the theme, there are plenty of games in the sea.

-Mike
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Chris Palmarozzi
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Austin
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I agree completely with Merric. I was really high on playing this game leading into BGG.con. It was pretty difficult to find anyone who knew the rules early on so I rented a copy, determined to figure it out myself. The game's contents were still in shrink so it's no surprise I wasn't able to find anyone.

The rules were great, the zombie mechanics were great, the pacing was great, but a few key random elements killed it. One friend who was playing lost 3 low risk rolls in a row and he was pretty much not going to win at that point. I technically lost the game on the last turn because of a good card forcing me to revive a population in one of my locations. I had 2 locations with population left, one regularly being quarantined with zombies all around it. The other location had no zombies adjacent. I succeeded in my nuclear weapon roll the turn before and was all ready to nuke my 1st location to oblivion and win the game. In the end, I believe we said it would be best if all the 'good' cards were treated as an option.

Ultimately, the issue was that the random elements were too powerful and too spread for a game this long. Failing a research roll frequently in a coop game where you win/lose with other players is fine. Failing dramatic rolls in a short game is fine. For a competitive and longer game it's not fun. I don't mind dice (Chaos in the Old World is a 10/10 for me) but sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's not.

John's technology variant might be enough to make things work. My initial thought was to make the blue 'failed research' tokens worth +2 and make them both permanent and work on all research.
 
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Doug Cooley
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Portland
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You've just saved me a purchase. Saw this game at a con over the weekend and my inner parakeet was all over it. However, this same sort of wackiness (small number of die rolls affecting the entire game) was exactly why I hated Age of Empires III as much as I did (traded it away within weeks) after I found the Discovery mechanism to be just as random and misplaced. Again, a really great game that was ruined because of a lack of imagination and discipline on the part of the designer.
 
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Liam Merlot
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Melbourne
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Boo Hoo! I failed a couple of 11 in 12 chance rolls and lost the game. Shit happens. Get over it. That is unlikely to happen in your next 50 or so games so why obsess about it.

Play the game more than once before writing a critical review please. There is nothing wrong with the tech rolls. Good play can mostly mitigate luck in this game.
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Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Ramping up my reviewing.
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Happily playing games for many, many years.
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dcooley wrote:
You've just saved me a purchase. Saw this game at a con over the weekend and my inner parakeet was all over it. However, this same sort of wackiness (small number of die rolls affecting the entire game) was exactly why I hated Age of Empires III as much as I did (traded it away within weeks) after I found the Discovery mechanism to be just as random and misplaced. Again, a really great game that was ruined because of a lack of imagination and discipline on the part of the designer.


That's interesting, for Age of Empires III is one of my favourite games. However, I know what you mean. It doesn't bother me in AoE3 because it's a much smaller part of the game: you don't need to explore at all to win (in direct contrast to Zombie State), and the difference between being very lucky and making it a "sure thing" isn't that much: a couple of actions.

I've a feeling that if the AoE3 mechanic bothers you, this would make you a lot more frustrated and unhappy.

I like the variant rule John gives above, although I'm not sure when I'd play the game again (so many games, so little time).

Cheers,
Merric
 
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Stephen Keller
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Dr Corey wrote:
There is nothing wrong with the tech rolls. Good play can mostly mitigate luck in this game.


I agree that there's nothing wrong with the tech rolls. Too bad the rest of the game completely sucks.
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Runs with scissors
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Vancouver
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I can see dice rolls being a problem for eurogamers trying for a low luck game, but I really didn't see it this way. I felt that the mechanic fit in with the rest of the game play.
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Jason Parks
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The rating of "2" is a bit harsh.

So many things in this game work well. The randomness and the chaos of watching everything turn undead despite your best efforts is great. Resource management is simple and works well, and the tech trees are offer many different avenues in combating the threat.

I do however agree with the OP in this thread. The dice roll research is very harsh. When I first purchased this game, we played it the first two sessions afterwards. We last played it 3-4 months ago, because of everybody in my gaming group agrees the dice roll doesn't fit in with the game. We are trying to come up with a house rule that is balanced where we can play again.

One thing that was discussed is you automatically get the first tech with no roll. It is so painful in the beginning part of the game to use that many resources and freedom points only to have them wasted with bad luck.
 
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Kurt Weihs
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Tacoma
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I guess I am in Merric's camp. When a few single die rolls play such an important part in whether you will be successful in a game or not I see that as a design flaw as well. Coupled with the fact that they are single die rolls (ie. no built in bell curve like you get with 2 or more dice) you end up with victory being determined by who rolls their die the best. bleh. Might as well be playing Yahtzee.



 
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