Hope you all had a lovely Easter; I myself spent the long weekend gorging myself not only on various meats, savoury snacks and confectionary, but on board games as well! I was lucky enough to have a solid three days of gaming, the highlights of which included a long and increasingly tipsy session of Coup, a big game of Survive! Escape from Atlantis, and a teeth-grittingly frustrating game of Settlers of Catan.
Em and I also took the chance to break out a game that I’d bought a few months ago; Zombies!!!
Zombies!!! is a fairly simple board game; each player is a survivor in the middle of a zombie-infested city. The aim of the game is to be the first player to escape, which is done by exploring the city and finding the elusive helipad. The game starts out on a single 3×3 square tile, but on each player’s turn, a new tile is added, gradually expanding the city. Along the way, survivors can find first aid kits and ammunition to help them fend off the endless horde of walking dead, and gain Event cards to screw over other players.
The rules are simple, and the goal is clear. But somehow, somehow, despite being in its third edition, the makers of Zombies!!! apparently took some game design tips from Games Workshop because they keep making a game that feels shoddy and slapdash.
I have a lot of quibbles with the rules; like how it’s nearly impossible to be caught by zombies (players roll 1d6 + Health for movement, zombies only move 1 space), or how the number of zombies that move is disproportionate to the number of zombie models on the board. Or there’s the Event cards; a lot of them are for gear that can only be found or used in specific locations. A lot of Event cards also essentially do the same thing, with minor variations; compare Brain Cramp, which basically reads “you decide how an opponent moves this turn” to Where Did Everyone Go? which basically reads “move an opponent 5 spaces.”. Lazy, lazy, lazy.
There’s also meant to be some uncertainty as to when the Helipad shows up, but the rules say just place it roughly in the middle of the city tile stack. Oh, okay. Good. So… what’s the point in having the bottom half of that stack then, exactly? Oh, and don’t worry about dying; when your character loses their last point of health, you just go back to the starting area as if nothing had happened.
There’s also a really poorly thought-out “variant” for cooperative play. “All players work together and have to reach the helipad!” Yay! Except that the Event cards and rules for zombie movement simply don’t work if the aim of the game is to play cooperatively, because they’ve been designed for competitive play in mind.
And a final twist of the knife, the tokens that come with the game are by far and away some of the absolute worst components I’ve ever seen in a board game. They’re printed on thin, flimsy card, so they’re difficult to pick up, and they aren’t even double-sided. At least the zombie miniatures are pretty cool (and handy for D&D).
It’s all a shame, because there’s a decent core here for a fun, casual board game. Enter the house rules…
These changes are mostly tweaking with the Event card deck, setting a limit on deaths, allowing for more early-game exploration by having more tiles placed at the start, increasing the threat of zombies by allowing more of them to move and making players slower, and making it less certain when the Helipad will appear. Em and I have tried a few games with the house rules and a few without, and it’s amazing what a difference a few small changes make.
As for the components themselves, I’m using heart and potion tokens from Super Dungeon Explore for health/bullets respectively (nice chunky card and double-sided, plus they were going to waste anyway), and while the survivor miniatures in the game are fine, I’ve needed an excuse to paint up some of the random models I’ve picked up over the years…
Until next time, happy zombie hunting!