Game design by Todd Breitenstein, published by Twighlight Creations Inc.

This game is selling well. I bought a copy because it seemed fun, and you get 100 plastic zombie figures with it. It has, therefore, achieved its aim: to sell well. Whereas I am convinced that its design is commercial, I am not convinced that the game is great one.

The board is made up of thin card squares with colour printing on one side, which get placed down during the game. Each player also has a hand of quite nicely-produced playing cards with colour (but perhaps not full colour) paintings on them depicting zombies and their hapless victims. The game also comes with two six-sided dice, six coloured plastic figures for the players' pieces (depicting a man in a leather jacket with a pump-action shotgun), small fiddley black-and-white card counters for life and ammunition points, and the star attraction: 100, yes one hundred plastic zombies. These are all the same, but quite nicely sculpted, and they paint up well and easily. Yes, I have painted mine. I'll use them in fantasy wargame one day. They are approximately 25mm scale and depict a zombie in an advanced state of putrefaction shambling forwards, holding out one arm.

My quibble isn't with the game components, but with the rules. I get the impression that some gamers thought that it would be fun to play a game in which the players play a few poor souls stranded in a town filled with zombies, as in countless B-movies of this genre, and that they then threw together some simple rules that would allow them to wander around the town blasting their way through hordes of undead. This is fair enough as an amusing distraction, but on its own it does not make a game that requires thought and skill.

According to the rules that come with the game, the players all start at the town centre, and then move away from this place in search of the heliport. A player making it to the heliport can then get aboard the helicopter, and fly away to victory. The heliport board square is placed at the bottom (or in a suggested variant, near the bottom) of the pile of board pieces, and each turn a player takes a board piece and places it anywhere where it will join on to the existing board. The placement has no connection to the movement of the player's piece. A player rolls a die to see how far he moves (a frustration much of the time), combats zombies with a very simple combat system, and then rolls another die to see how many zombies he must move one space. Once familiar with the combat system, it is usually pretty obvious what the best way to fight is, and the zombie movement is seldom a decisive factor in the game, or difficult to decide on.

Making things a bit more interesting are the fact that some board pieces have buildings that can be entered, and these have in them ammunition and medical packs for equipping players. The hands of playing cards mean that it becomes possible to get better weapons, and to make things difficult for other players by playing nasty surprises on them, such as "butterfingers" which makes them drop a weapon, or "slight miscalculation" which doubles the number of zombies in a building. There is no logic in how one player is able to cause these mishaps to another whose piece is the other side of town.

The consequences of death in the game are not dire. The designer presumably did not want players to be left out if they died early in the game. However, death is little to be feared. The main consequence is that a player starts back in the centre square, although this may turn out to be closer to the heliport anyway, which could even be an advantage.

Whereas kids wanting to play at zombies or half-drunken adults who just want something fairly mindless will probably enjoy this game, there is little here for the serious gamer. On the Twighlight Creations website, there are many suggestions, sent in by enthusiastic customers, for alternative rules, many of which are better than the original ones. Some have "scrolling" boards, where the board is added to when a player's piece moves off the edge of the existing board. Others have more logical meanings and uses for the cards. Some have better motivations for player movement. One, for example, has one player start off with the keys for the helicopter, and this player gets a short head start, while the other players have to give chase. Another good suggestion is to place the helipad on the table in the centre at the game's start, and then the players start from the table edge and fight their way to the helipad by moving over a scrolling board. A nice idea is for "dead" players to turn their pieces into zombies, and to use these to stop the surviving players from escaping.

There are actually two ways to win, according to the main rules, and escape is one. The other is to kill lots of zombies. The first player to collect 25 destroyed zombie pieces wins. This rewards lucky die rolling, slaughter for its own sake, and doesn't seem to me to constitute a proper victory ("Yes, I am surrounded by zombies, and cut off without any weapons, but I win because I've smashed up a load of zombies. You guys about to get onto a helicopter must be so jealous of my body count.").

On the other hand, you do get 100 plastic zombies with it. Yes, one hundred.

There are several expansion packs available (army base, extra cards, zombie dogs etc.), but I won't be getting any.


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