Night of the Living Gamer

The first evening Cap’n Perkins stayed with me, my friend Josh also came over and we all played Zombies!!! It was Perkins’s first time playing it with more than two players, and it had been so long since I played, that I needed a refresher course with other novice zombie slayers.

The premise is rather simple: you, the players, are facing a town that has succumb to the zombie apocalypse. You must either kill twenty-five zombies or find the helipad to escape . Complications occur as the city is built by the players, turn by turn, and killing zombies is purely dedicated to the chance of a die roll (one through three, die; four through six, win). It also doesn’t help that at the end of each turn, you must move a d6 worth of zombies one space, toward the players. You, the player, are also the zombies. To aid the decapitations, one has bullets to add a number to the roll, hearts to allow a reroll, and cards that have various effects.

Death is not the end of the game, however. Oh no. You just start back at town center with your zombie kills halved, any weapons gained being discarded, and the beginning amount of bullets and health.

Much like with Once Upon a Time, the game mechanics on this one rapidly change when more players are involved (this leads me to wonder how multiplayer in card/board games changes as opposed to videogames). Because tiles are placed on each turn, more and more zombies appear before any one player gets his or her next turn. Also, because zombies become less plentiful when all the map tiles have been placed, the opportunities to win by zombie head count decrease.

Because of the mechanics, this quickly becomes a game whose focus is not solely on the Zombies!!! the cover reports. Instead, placing map tiles becomes a strategy and aggressive stance against other players, while the opportunity cards become a way to leverage one’s self. Curiously enough, there is no opportunity to turn against your fellow player (which makes sense in a way–would you turn on your fellow man while escaping zombification?), yet this is not a cooperative game in the slightest. One is solely concerned about rescuing one’s self–no aspirations of teamwork exist.

In fact, Perkins and I contemplated what would become of the game if all the map tiles were to start out in play. The objective of reaching the helipad would become immediately apparent, as opposed to the fact that in normal gameplay it is usually the last tile to be played. It is possible, though seemingly rare, to place tiles so that the helipad never arrives as well. Also, because of the mechanics behind their placement, this means that for the first portion of the game, the goal is merely survival. An interesting way to make evident the feeling through design.

Another boon of the game, though it does not seem so while playing, is that the opportunity cards are quite often very circumstantial. There are only a handful which are always useful, most being one’s that only activate in certain buildings, require a specific turn of events, or are so seldom useful that they often become discarded. It helps to keep the game interesting and requires some forethought, but not so much that one is constantly stalling and card counting (one could if such was desired, though).

We being the people we are, also questioned why twenty-five zombies? Does this make one the undisputed leader of the group? Does this portray a certain amount of experience that means one is capable of survival? The latter does not make much sense, as there are no stats, and beyond acquiring weapons, one never gets better at killing zombies. The former would perhaps makes sense if there was any cooperation. Instead, it seems a way of providing a secondary way of winning the game, and possibly just means one has cleared out enough of the city (but why does this cause just one player to win?).

All in all, it’s an amusing game that doesn’t require too much thought, and rarely plays the same way twice.


About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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6 Responses to Night of the Living Gamer

  1. I was at Sci-Fi city today (to pick up a copy of Once Upon a Time and Dark Tales) and there’s a new version of Zombies!!! called Humans!!! inverts the formula, but claims to be compatible. My curiosity is piqued.

  2. Denis Farr says:

    As is mine. This splits the game even further, and I cannot image it being as enjoyable in a two player version. Will have to look into this when the gaming season passes (odd to think that even gaming has its prime season).

  3. Corvus says:

    We’re going to be picking up Zombies!!! and probably an expansion pack or two for this Zombie Yule. It sounds ideal for the occasion.

  4. Denis Farr says:

    @Corvus: I will have to pick your brain (I just realized what I typed… hmmm) over what you think of the expansions. Have yet to try any of them–only the core game thus far.

  5. @Denis from what my browsing while shopping revealed it appears that Zombies!!! uses a similar growth model to early Munchkin expansions.New themed map tiles to add to the deck with new items tied to the new tiles, more affect cards, and more zombies (often themed in appearance).Although Munchkin started adding new mechanics, they were very minor (servant, mount, etc). I haven’t seen any indication of that with the expansions.Oh and I should have brought Gloom to Chicago. It’s almost the inverted narrative model of Once Upon a Time as you can play cards without ever telling the story, but the story makes the game more enjoyable.

  6. Corvus says:

    Gloom is awesome, particularly when played by people with rich imaginations.

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