Sunday, January 09, 2011

All Things Zombie: The Boardgame

It's been quite a while, but it is time for another dip into my game collection.  This time up is All Things Zombie: The Boardgame.  Normally boardgames don't have to announce what they are right in their name, but this game does that because it is based on the miniatures game All Things Zombie.  The boardgame shares many of the rules, but instead of requiring you purchase and paint up a bunch of zombie and human survivor miniatures and then build a miniature town to fight in it provides you cardboard counters and playing maps to use instead.

The basic premise of the game is that a group of human survivors have fled Las Vegas, and are trying to survive in the surrounding areas.  The game comes with six different scenarios, which loosely link together to tell a story of a group of survivors.  Whether they die or not is up to you as the player.  Well, it should be, but sometimes the rules don't work in your favor.  This is a solitaire game, designed to played by one person, but you could play with multiple people as long as you are playing a scenario that provides enough survivors for each player to control one.  I've never played it with multiple people, so I can't speak to how well it plays that way, but I don't think it would all that fun.  See, many of the survivors, and all of the zombies, don't have full freedom of action.  Instead, whenever you want to do something that might be dangerous (or when danger is thrust upon them), they have to take what the game calls a "reaction test" to see what they do.  For example, if a zombie charges into a survivor's hex, the survivor throws two dice, compares the results to their "reputation" score (a number, higher being better, that says how good they are at everything they do), and determines how many successes they got.  Then you look at a chart to see what the reaction is.  In the example given, two successes allows the survivor to fire a weapon before entering melee, one success doesn't allow weapons fire before entering melee, and no successes sends them running off in a random direction while screaming their head off.  Certain survivors, known as "stars," don't usually have to roll and they can just do what they think is best.

One mechanic that is kind of nice is that zombies are attracted to loud noises.  Like the kind caused by firearms.  Thus, you can't just run around the map shooting everything that moves.  Or, I should say, you can, but you might not like the result.  With every shot you take there is a 50% chance that new zombies will show up on the map, attracted by the sound.  In addition, exploring buildings is usually a source of new zombies as well, as the first time a character enters a building on the map they will find from zero to six zombies, determined by drawing a card from the zombie deck.  The benefit of searching buildings is that once a building has been cleared of zombies it can be searched.  To accomplish this, you pull a card from the building deck to search deck.  Many of these show an empty building, but you could find new weapons, or medical kits, or other useful items to help you in killing zombies.

Each of the provided six scenarios has you playing with different survivor characters and having different things you need to accomplish in order to win the scenario.  For example, the first scenario involves two survivors looking for new weapons.  To win, both survivors must keep from getting killed, must each find a weapon while searching buildings (or must search every building to prove there aren't extra weapons to be found), and must safely exit the map board.  Many, many zombies will oppose you.  Other scenarios involve finding more survivors and other kinds of activities.

The problem I have with this game is that it is kind of boring.  The zombies all move automatically at full speed to the closest survivor (which makes logical sense), and while you control the survivors, you don't control their reactions to things.  When I play the game, I seem to be rolling dice all of the time: to fight zombies, to shoot at zombies, to see what characters do when they get charged by zombies, when characters want to charge zombies, to see if more zombies show up in response to weapons fire, it just goes on and on.  It just doesn't really feel like I am playing the game as much as I am a neutral observer sitting in a helicopter watching these automatons running around doing whatever the dice tell them to do.  It doesn't feel like I have a lot of interesting tactical or strategic decisions to weigh.  I haven't owned this game all that long, but it is going in the trade pile, as I don't see myself playing it much, if at all, in the future.

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