By Peter Kuebeck
I’m an avid tabletop gamer, which means that Dungeons & Dragons and various board games tend to feed my gaming cravings over, say, hours of letting my hands go numb while playing my PS3. Rolling the dice, for me, is the way to go – I love the element of chance.
With that in mind, I was happy when I picked up a set of “Zombies!!! 2nd Edition a while back. A fast-paced, creepy ride of a game, it also has built into it just that chilling element of chance that will drive you – or other players – batty.
The premise of Zombies!!! is simple: you and the other players are survivors of a zombie apocalypse that has struck your city. Your goal: reach the helipad and get the heck out of there.
But there’s a catch: only one of you can go. And this is where the fun begins. As players attempt to make their way to the Helipad and blast zombies on the way, there’s a big-time incentive to betray and outplay your opponents. Just like in Highlander, there can be only one.
The gameplay is pretty easy. Players start on a central “town square” tile that is laid on the table. On each player’s turn, that player draws another tile depicting another part of the city (a store, crossroads, etc.) and places it on the table, connecting it to another tile. There is no set board in Zombies!!! – the players create it as they go along.
Each game tile, once placed, it also then spread with the requisite number of zombie pieces (little gray guys) and, if it’s a store, with “bullet” and “heart” tokens. More on these later. The Helipad is always shuffled into the bottom half of the tile deck to ensure it doesn’t come up until later in the game.
Now the game begins. Players first make a movement roll with a d6, and as they go along they must fight any zombies that they come across. To do so, a player rolls the d6 – if they roll a 4 or better, they win and they put the zombie in their collection (an alternate way to win: collect 25 zombies you’ve killed).
If they roll worse than a 4, they have to “pay” to increase that number using bullet tokens (i.e. – you roll a 2, and so you pay 2 bullet tokens to get a 4) or, if you have no bullet tokens, you pay a heart token to roll again. Once you run out of heart tokens, you forfeit half of your zombie collection and have to start at the central square.
After movement and combat like this, players roll for “zombie movement”: roll the d6. The result equals the number of zombies that you can move one space. This mimics the aimless wandering of zombies that you see in movies and games.
The really dirty element of this game is the Event cards. At the start of the game, each player gets three, and they can discard and replenish their hand of three cards throughout the game. These cards can be anything from a chainsaw that will add to your combat rolls, to cards that will clear out zombies from buildings, to others that will, for example, surround your opponent with the creatures, force them to give up a card, etc.
Basically, Event cards are the big way to destroy your opponent. A well-timed card play can dramatically change the tenor of the game and turn your opponents’ hopes of winning on a dime.
Casual gamers will dig Zombies!!! – it’s easy to play, fast-paced, and competitive. A regular game can be played in 30 to 45 minutes if you’re playing with three people. (I highly recommend playing with three – fewer than that and the competitive aspect is more diluted. The more the people, the more the challenge.) The rules are simple to get ahold of, so even someone who hasn’t played a lot of games will still be able to see what’s going on. I’ve seen and played other zombie-based games, and this is by far the most accessible for the newbie.
Hardcore gamers will appreciate the endlessly customizable nature of the game. There have been more than 10 expansions for the game, adding everything from mall, army installation, sewer, and graveyard tiles, along with female, dog, and glow-in-the-dark zombies, to tons of new Event cards. (Personally, though I own a number of the expansions, I rarely use anything from them except the different zombies and Event cards. Adding in too many of the tiles can GREATLY increase the playing time of the game to hours – though that may be what you’re looking for).
Hardcore gamers will also love the fact that they can use the simplicity of the rules to really be creative and try new things with Zombies!!! If you go to the website BoardGameGeek.com, and look the game up, you’ll see how some gamers have created epic scenarios, built their own custom boards, used miniature figures from other games, etc. One scenario I particularly liked saw the gamers simulate a massive fire in the city, and created rules for how the flames would spread and grow.
I’ve played this game with groups large and small, and it’s a great way to pass an hour with friends on a weekend. I highly recommend Zombies!!! for gamers of all stripes, fans of zombie things, and just somebody looking to roll the dice on a Saturday. Enjoy!
Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and artist in the Midwest, currently providing colors for the upcoming Athena Voltaire Omnibus from Dark Horse Comics.
His Blog: Super Pop Culture Cube