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Subject: Six players and two-and-a-half hours of play time rss

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Chris Talbot
Canada
Fort Smith
Northwest Territories
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I've had Zombies for quite awhile now, but it hasn't seen play in several months. Last spring, I was still really enjoying the game (I was rating it a 9/10, but now it's a 5/10), but I had only ever played it with no more than four people (I'd also played solo a few times using one of the variants on the official Website). I had never played with a full six players before ... until Saturday night, that is.

Of the six players, only three of us had ever played the game before. I gave everyone a quick run-down of the rules of the game. I missed a few things because I was being rushed by one of the other players, but we managed to catch the few errors that slipped in before the first turn was over. Because I'd seen games end rather undramatically before by using the twenty-five kills to win rule, I suggested we take that out, so to win, a player would have to get his shotgun guy to the helipad, clear off the pad and take off in the helicopter. I really had no idea how difficult it would be to get twenty-five kills with a full six players, though.

Everyone was amused by the theme of the game, and as we started moving our shotgun guys out of the town square and moving around the city to kill zombies, everyone was making zombie noises (and other sound effects).

I don't think it took any more than forty-five minutes or so before the last tile had been placed (we had shuffled the helipad into the bottom half of the deck, but it turned up as the third last tile, and we figured we might as well throw the last two tiles on, as well), but then the slow grind of moving, killing zombies and throwing down "take that" cards began.

An hour later, each of our shotgun guys had suffered at least one death and a few of us hadn't been able to move more than three tiles away from the town square tile (me included). Some of this was due to really poor movement rolls (it took me two hours to roll something higher than a three), but also because of deaths at the hands of zombies and "take that" cards that sent us back.

By that point, only one person had managed to make it anywhere near the helipad, and he still had a good twenty zombies to shoot through. I was getting bored, as the game had dragged on for far too long already, and I could tell that others were either getting bored and/or frustrated because they hadn't been able to get very far. The game was feeling like a slow grind.

We had been playing for well over two hours by the time the one player had managed to fight his way through the horde of zombies to the edge of the helipad. At this point, not only were people bored, but some of them were also getting tired. The player who had made it to the helipad was down to his last health, but a "taking a break" card popped up at the right time, allowing him to gain back two life tokens. He then stepped onto the helipad and killed off three zombies.

On our turns, we started moving zombies off the helipad or lining them up to make it as easy as possible for that player to get to them on his next turn. None of the rest of us were anywhere near the helipad, so our only hopes of finishing the game was to help the closest person to win. After two more turns, the helipad had been cleared off and we declared the game over ... finally.

If my first game of Zombies had been this boring and frustrating, I don't think I ever would've played again. After the game on Saturday (which lasted two-and-a-half hours or more), I don't the game will be hitting the table for a long time. However, I started chatting with a couple of the players on Sunday about the game and how we could possibly make modifications to it so that it plays out in no more than an hour. I'm now looking for good "quick play" variations while I consider how to make my own. I still love the game's theme, the bits and the cards; and now it's just a matter of figuring out how to make the game work so that it plays quickly and is much more fun for us.

Chris
 
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Ben Sarsgard
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Maryland
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You were very lucky you had a clear winner. I just played almost the exact same 6-player game, except that all 6 of us got within 2 tiles of the helipad at the exact same time. At first, we were all gung-ho about being the first, but we all realized at about the same time that the first 1 or 2 guys in would die, and the 3rd or 4th would be the ones to make it. We ended up spending more than an hour playing zombie ballet on our tiptoes around the helipad, taking turns moving the zombies into such a position that the guy after us couldn't win on his turn. And since he couldn't win, he didn't want to kill anything that would allow the next guy to win, so he'd do the same. Probably half an hour went by without a single combat or movement die roll.

We were also out of cards in the deck at this point, so there was no chance of somebody pulling something to change things. The only way the game ended at all was when I finally was killed by a zombie moved onto my space. I then decided to use my zombie movement phase and remaining cards (move player back to town square, and make player skip a turn) to help another player win. If I hadn't done that, we'd probably still be playing today.

I haven't played any expansions, and I hope they solve the issue somehow. As the rules are now, I'll be sticking with no more than maybe 3 players in the future.
 
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Ken B.
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The things I've seen to speed up the game are seeding the board before it begins, and make sure the helipad is in an appropriate location. This cuts down on the early game mindless wandering, as everyone knows where they're heading. If you have a bag o' zombies, you can go ahead and populate each square; if you want to limit the board, you can remove a few tiles for a smaller board.

Also, I believe even the designer has suggested removing several of the more abusive "take that" cards from the deck to make play faster, particularly those which essentially teleport characters away from their goal. Those cards definitely make the game go longer.


There's an awesome scenario in the BGG files section that looks to be based off of Romero's later zombie films (with each colored character having a special designation and ability, and there being more to the game than just "find the helicopter"). Might be worth trying just to break up the monotony.
 
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Less snark is my goal.
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Allen Park
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ctalbot wrote:
I'm now looking for good "quick play" variations while I consider how to make my own. I still love the game's theme, the bits and the cards; and now it's just a matter of figuring out how to make the game work so that it plays quickly and is much more fun for us.


I think part of the length was a misunderstanding. You don't have to kill all the Zombies!!! on the helipad. You only have to be on the middle square with no zombies on your square. So if you're in the middle of the tile and there are Zombies!!! on the other 8 squares, you win.

The other thing that can help speed the endgame is to not reshuffle the event deck (once it's gone it's gone) and to roll 2d6 for movement once the helipad appears. Both of these are rules that Twilight Creations uses when running the game at conventions.

The other thing is to consider removing 1 of each of the following cards from the deck:

Alternate Food Source
Bad Sense of Direction
The Keys Are Still In It
We're Screwed
Zombie Master

These cards are more powerful and are "limited" to one for constructed deck play. You can also check out their website for some alternate decks, although if you only have Zombies!!! that won't help since they involve including cards from the other expansions.
 
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Ken B.
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Thanks, Steve. I knew there was an "official" list of cards to remove but I couldn't remember what they were.

Actually not shuffling the deck makes good sense--it stops the endgame of "I play card to teleport you back...you play card to make me wander off in a random direction...I play card that fills your tile with zombies...then...zzzzz". I think that's the one part of the game that even its fans (like me) aren't always terribly fond of. The first time you nail your opponent with one of these cards, you'll smile; after you've traded them fifteen times with the same foe it gets a little tiresome.
 
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Bernd Caspers
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bsarsgard wrote:
We were also out of cards in the deck at this point, so there was no chance of somebody pulling something to change things.


You are never out of cards in "Zombies".
Once the last card is drawn from the stack, reshuffle the played cards to a new draw stack.
 
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Mr X
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Milwaukie
Oregon
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It sounds like you only need to change a few things.

For one, when a player dies don't send them back to the town square. That takes way too long to travel back to where they were last at. Instead just roll two six-sided die and have the player move X (the amount rolled) spaces towards the town square. This will set the player back but not by a ridiculous amount.

Second, try experimenting with a death limit. For example if a player dies three times they're dead for good (and perhaps become a "super" zombie themselves). This makes the characters more mortal and helps set a cap limit (instead of infinitly dieing and respawning for 2 1/2 hours).

Third, experiment with setting a physical time limit. A helicopter is a noisy craft which is sure to attract a small legion of undead. The helicopter can't stay on the ground for too long before it'll be forced to escape itself. Tell everyone they have, say, 30 minutes to make it to the helipad once it's been revealed. Anyone not onboard loses.

Fourth, as suggested put the helipad tile closer to the top of the deck. Count out something like ten random tiles then choose five more (including the helipad). Randomly shuffle the helipad into the five then place the five on the bottom of the ten. What this does is guarantee at least ten tiles will be placed. After that the helipad will be revealed somewhere in the next five tiles.

Fifth, to fix the slow movement problem try this varient: Players move spaces equal to the amount of hearts their character has plus 2. Unless they only have one heart then they only move the amount of their hearts plus 1.

 
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