Summer of the Dead – Zombies!!!

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Board games don’t get a lot of love here at MWN, and that’s because most board games are slow and let’s be honest pretty boring.  Zombies!!! is a pretty awesome board game created by Todd Breitenstein and Twilight Creations.  It’s a fast paced survival horror in board game form for two to six players and is a pretty fun to spend a couple hours.  The city has been overrun and you and the other survivors are trapped in the town square and have got to get from there to the heliport where a helicopter is waiting for you, the only problem is zombies are everywhere you don’t which way the heliport is.
The town is built as you progress through the game, before each player moves they have to pick a town card from the deck and place it next to one of the town squares that has already been placed.  The great thing about this is that every time you play the layout of the game is different so you can’t stick to one particular plan to get yourself your safety.  Each tile is different some will be streets that you simply have too move through, whilst others will feature shops, schools, police stations or other amenities. All of the special tiles includes extra ammo or even a bonus item specific to that particular building, for example if you break into the hardware store you’ll find a few extra bullets and the bonus item is a chainsaw which not only will help you take on the zombie hoard, it’ll also save you some bullets which are in very limited supply. Every tile will also have a set number of zombies attached to them some tiles will only have a few zombies on them which you can try and dodge.  Unfortunatley squares like the heliport  will be filled with zombies that you have to fight through before escaping to freedom.

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To initiate combat the player has to move into the same square as a zombie, once they are in the same square the player must roll the six sided dice twice.  The first time is for the player the second time is for the zombie, if the player rolls the highest then the zombie is destroyed however if the player loses the roll then they lose one of three lives.  The player has the option of utilising their 3 bullet cards, which gives the players roll a +1 when they fight a zombie this can be especially useful if both player and zombie score the same on a role as it offers a lifeline for the player and an option other than rolling again and risking death if the roll is a bad one.  If the player loses all of their lives then they have to go back and start again in the town square and if they do die then they most lose some of the zombies that they had previously killed making it a lot harder for them to win.  However the player does have help in the form of three cards that are picked at random at the beginning of the game.  Zombie movement is also controlled by the player, at the end of their turn they roll the dice again and the number that is rolled represents the number of zombies that can be moved.  They can only be moved one space in any direction but the person moving them can really screw the over players over by forcing them into combat whilst clearing a path for themselves, I lost count of the amount of times I’ve been playing this game with friends had a clear run with no zombies near only to have my friends gang up on me and send as many zombies after me as possible and lucky dice rolls will only last so long before I’ve found myself down on the zombie count and back at the the town square.

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The player does have help in the form of three bonus cards that they can utilise to assist them as they make their way to the freedom.  Some of the cards might give you more weapons like a shotgun that will give you some extra fire power for a few turns or you might have a card that that grants you the gift of a car for a few turns that will increase your movement speed.  Of course a few of the cards can be used to hinder your team mates and make life very difficult for them and life a little bit easier for you.  The cards can be played at any time and one of the most frustrating cards to have played against you is one that allows the person playing the card to move you anywhere on the map.  There have been several occasions where I’ve been playing the game and had victory yanked out of my hands as I’ve gotten onto the heliport tile only to have the card used against me and suddenly I find myself trapped in a zombie filled police station with no health or ammo absolutely no chance of winning.   Long games of Zombies!!! can get very frustrating especially if people save cards like this one up until people are nearly at the heliport and then choose to start screwing everybody over although if everybody starts doing this the games can become very long and some people may find themselves tuning out and getting bored.  I’ve been part of games that have lasted four hours and keeping people interested can become a struggle.

The game can be won in a couple of different ways, the main one is to just try and survive and make if all the way to the heliport although if your not the person who’s laying the heliport tile when it appears in the deck don’t expect the other players to place it near you to help you out, they’re going to place it as near to themselves as possible and try and get themselves to safety.  The game can also be won by the first person to kill 25 zombies although this is very hard and sometimes it’s a lot easier just to try and run for the heliport, however if your too far from the heliport tile once it’s been laid then the best way of trying to claim victory is to just start mowing down zombies.  If none of the players survive and make it to the heliport then the winner is determined by the looking at how many zombies each player has managed to kill and the whoever has killed the most will be posthumously be made the winner.

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Zombies!!! is a lot of fun and has been popular enough to score a series of  expansions each of them based in a different setting typical to the zombie genre. Schools, sewers, military bases, woods and haunted cabins all appear and with them bring their own unique rules and in several cases introduce new super zombies to make life a lot more difficult for the players.   All the games can be combined together so you can play one massive game of Zombies!!! that can take hours or maybe even days if you have the patience but if you’ve got a group of friends that are really into the game then the time will just fly by.

Twilight Creations have also seen fit to release a couple of very specific spin-offs’ including Humans!!! which gives a full rule set for somebody to take control of the zombies themselves andMidEvil which is an Army of Darkness inspired game and replaces the zombies with skeletons, this has now become a full game in it’s own right with it’s own expansion packs.  The games are a lot of fun and whilst the body count isn’t as high or as fast paced as it would be if you were playing a game of Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising, I can’t help but feel Zombies!!! helped to inspire at least in a small way those aforementioned games.  Twilight Creations are working on an XBLA version on the game although they are having difficulty trying to find a developer. The game is available pretty much everywhere and it’s quite cheap so no excuses everybody should go and check it out.

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