An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. Conrad writes news and produces video content for Destructoid (including Sup, Holmes?, Office Chat and Saturday Morning Hangover) and is a regular host on Podtoid.
The mere inclusion of Rodney Dangerfield can vastly improve anything. Films, music, toasters, anything. In particular, the force of Rodney Dangerfield could elevate video games to the level in which they are accepted by the mainstream as a true art form, bringing together people of all races, creeds and tax brackets in peace and harmony.
While I adore video games, I'm equally fond of board and card games. On the Table is a weekly feature of my cBlog that examines some of these analog entertainments. If you have a suggestion for a game to appear in this column or suggestions on how to improve it, please let me know.
Alright, honestly, who doesn't love zombies? They're probably the greatest supernatural creature ever conceived because of their multitude of uses. There's no story in existence that cannot have zombies integrated into it because they're so versatile. And they're as deep as you want them to be, whether you're into semi-cannibalistic gore or you want to intellectualize their existence as metaphors for human behavior.
This week's game, which has been requested by a few members of the community, shares more with zombies than just the name and their use as a game mechanic. It also enjoys that fundamental level of depth, allowing you to tailor the game to be as simple or complex as you want. The game is basic enough at heart with a slew of expansion material available and players are encouraged to play only with what they like, discarding the rest.
In Zombies!!!, the object of the game is to get your survivor to the helipad, clear it of zombies, and escape the city. Zombies!!! uses a modular, tile system to comprise the board. At the start of each turn, players draw a new tile and use it to expand the game board. While some tiles contain just streets, adding to the growing maze of the city, many will have buildings full of zombies along with valuable health and ammunition. After the tile is placed a number of zombies are placed on it based either on a number in the corner or the number of intersections the tile contains.
Players then roll a die to determine how many spaces they move. If a player encounters a zombie on their movement, they must kill it before moving on. Killing zombies is just a matter of rolling a die. Rolling 4 or greater kills the zombie. If the player rolls three or less, it means the zombie survived the attack and the player must either sacrifice a health token or spend ammunition tokens to increase the value of their die roll (a roll of two would require two tokens, making the roll a four, for example). Combat continues in this manner until either the zombie or the survivor is dead.
After each turn, the zombies shamble about the board. Rolling a die, the player whose turn has just ended moves a number of zombies equal to the roll on space in the direction of their choosing. This can allow you to clear some space in a building you're trying to get to or stop opponents from getting to where they want to be by placing zombies in their path.
In addition to the aforementioned health and ammunition tokens, players have a hand of three event cards at their disposal. The varying effects of these cards range from helping you kill zombies more effectively to filling the streets around your opponents with zombies and practically everything in between. Some cards represent scavenged equipment and can only be played while in a specified building.
Zombies!!! has had seven expansions released for it, each adding more rules, scenarios, event cards or locales to spice up your game. Most of them can be played on their own as well as with the basic set.
Zombies!!! 2: Zombie Corps(e) takes place on a military base. A jeep is made available to facilitate your travel around the board and the event cards are full of all sorts of new weapons. Unfortunately, the army has been performing experiments on the zombies, resulting in harder to kill "Super Zombies".
Zombies!!! 3: Mall Walkers returns us to that age-old zombie haven, the shopping mall. New movement options are available to the players, who can now travel air ducts in the mall to get from store to store without having to risk the hallways. The mall also features a "second floor" which becomes accessible when the escalator tile appears.
Zombies!!! 3.5 is the one of two expansions that cannot be played individually and features some really vicious event cards to throw into your existing deck.
Zombies!!! 4: The End gets back to nature in an setting reminiscent of The Evil Dead. Players must travel through the woods to reach a cabin and end the horrible curse that has brought the zombie plague down on humanity. In addition to standard zombies, this expansion has zombie dogs that, while easier to kill, can swarm upon survivors and be a great irritation.
Zombies!!! 5: School's Out brings us to a university campus and introduces a fantastic new rule called "Guts". Guts determines how many event cards you can hold in your hand. The more successful you are at killing zombies, the more cards you can hold. Be tragically unsuccessful, however, and your hand size decreases. One of the best additions to the game.
Zombies!!! 6: Six Feet Under is the second expansion which cannot be played individually. This one adds subways and a sewer system. Going to subway stations will allow you to hop around the board quickly, while entering the sewers will let you move without encountering zombies but at a cost to your health.
Zombies!!! 7: Send in the Clowns puts the survivors in a circus, complete with zombie clowns. Special "funhouse" tiles rotate 90 degrees whenever a survivor leaves them, resulting in a much more chaotic board layout.
All of the sets of expansion material add a lot to the game, with most sets containing variant scenarios with different victory conditions. The modular nature of the board means that no two rounds play out exactly the same and adding just one expansion to your collection can result in many more, completely fresh games. Of course, even just the basic set can take up a lot of real estate on a table, so you may want to limit yourself to playing with only one at a time.
The components of the game are great, too. The main box comes with a ton of little zombie figures and the cardstock used for the cards and board tiles are decent quality with excellent art. The expansions are all of similar quality, usually coming with special figures to represent the unique zombie types found within their game. The one complaint I have with the tiles is that they're somewhat lightweight and slick, which means they can be hard to keep in place on a smooth surface. I recommend playing the game with some kind of tablecloth (I use a rubbery mat intended for lining kitchen drawers).
I would highly recommend this game for anyone who loves either zombies or board games. It's simple enough to play that you can get anyone with the patience to play a game up and playing in a heart beat, though the length of time required to play may be prohibitive to some groups (this is easily remedied with a simple suggestion in the rule book also) since it can feel as though it drags on a bit at times.