Friday, 2 November 2012

Hopping the zombie games bandwagon

Had a big Nooooooooooh! moment yesterday as the great guys of the Shut Up & Sit Down Show came out with a glowing review of City of Horror. As you could´ve picked up from my Essen report, that game didn´t go down well with me at all. So I was disappointed to see these guys, who´ve shown such good taste in the past, come out like this.

Artwork is good in City of Horror

When I made my opinion known in the comments on their facebook page, a wise ass came out remarking:
"Not sure how deciding who gets eaten by Zombies DOESN'T "connect to zombies at all." This game looks fantastic. We'll be picking it up 4 sure."
Well, here is what I replied
"Just like Caylus and many other euros, this game is a mechanism with a theme pasted on. In a good game, the theme and mechanisms are congruous. Just because there are some nicely illustrated cards and zombie tokens doesn´t mean this game connects to zombies.
This is a move around and pick up game, where the zombies limit your ability to move around and pick up. Running across the street roaming with zombies doesn´t feel like dealing with a zombie outbreak. This is just a designer jumping the zombie bandwagon. Fair enough, but as a zombie game it fails"

There's been tons of zombie games, and Zombies!!! even if it's not the best game ever, captures the flavour of an outbreak extremely well. You try to be in the right place at the moment the helicopter arrives to take one survivor away, while obstructing and attacking your opponents with the zombies.

Four pretty different zombie games

Last Night On Earth has some claim to being the best zombie game ever, although the accompanying CD has opinions divided. Two human players attempt to resolve the outbreak scenario challenges, under constant attack from the zombie players.

And All Things Zombie approaches the theme from a wargamers point of view, guiding you through a survivor campaign of anxious encounters with zombies and other survivors. Which reminds me... this one needs playing!

Zombie State takes the outbreak from a global point of view. You have to build up a working strategy in the midst of local outbreaks that wreck you best laid plans. Unaffected population drops, vital resource areas are lost and if you can't find ways to hold of the zombies or cure the disease you're doomed.

Zombie State: two players happy to contain the outbreak in Mexico. Everything seemed under control then 

The magnificent Die2Nite online game that puts 40 players together in a doomed town, with the option of cooperating or profiting from other peoples efforts is a brilliant experiment in small group cooperation and conforming mechanisms. The best bit is to get out the gallows and hang the traitors!

I even liked the Eaten by Zombies race element in deck builder form, and Zombie In My Pocket's free rider and group dynamics approach.

Starting deck for Eaten by Zombies

It all works because the games put the zombies and the human dilemma first, not the mechanism.

There's no doubt zombies are red hot. Recently two games were published based on the popular Walking Dead comic and TV series, also in the survivor genre. One of them seems to be actually quite good.

The Zombicide kickstarter was a great success, but apparently on the strength of the miniatures, rather than the game.

Even Brad Pitt has thrown in his lot with the movie based on World War Z, arguably one of the more interesting zombie books, combining a Studs Terkel interview style with a sensible background story of the outbreak.

Regrettably this also leads to mediocre games being released. But it's the job of reviewers to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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