Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Gamed with A Zombie! Part One

Well, I'm sure a lot of people spent their Memorial Day over a BBQ, out camping or any of the other normal activities our society thrives upon. But for some brave individuals, the perfect way to cap off the holiday weekend was to sit in the dark and try out games of skill and daring with members of the Living Dead.

Yep, I spent most of Memorial Day at Guardian Game's second May of the Dead celebration and I had a blast. Games, gory movies on the big screen and a lot of cool looking zombies shambling in, all looking to try out new zombie games or play some old favorites.

To get into the spirit, I started off with It's Alive, though it's not really a zombie game. You play a mad scientist trying to bring his creation to life before the opposing players complete the task. For this, you need body parts, represented in the game's deck of cards.

You draw a card at the start of your turn, then decided if you will buy the body part (if you have the money) or put it in your graveyard, earning half it's value (rounded down) in cash to further your quest. But if you feel you can get a bit more money out of it, you can try to auction the part off to other players.

Of course, the quality of these body parts (there are eight pieces you must collect) must vary, for while you have 6 opportunities to draw a hand from the deck, it will cost you anywhere from 2 to 8 coins. You could go broke fast, if you aren't careful.

Of course, you can buy another doctor's discarded part, but it has to be on the top of his graveyard pile and you must pay the full price for it (the money goes to the bank, not the doctor who's graveyard you're raiding).

Or, you can let the villagers get it for you.

If you draw the Villager card, you have to pay their price to keep them from storming your castle. It can be either in coin, in body parts from your lab (rather costly, as your lab can only store one of each body part at a time; the rest go to the graveyard) or a combination of the two. However, once you pay them off, you can use the card to raid another doctor's graveyard for free on your next turn.

Finally, a few expensive wild card are scattered in the deck. You want at least one, as these cards act as any body part you want.

If you are the first doctor to collect all eight parts, you can claim your victory by calling out "It's alive!" in your best Colin Clive voice.

The game is a lot of fun. However, the auction part, as written in the rules, has the doctor selling the part open up the bidding, then players bid on it in a clockwise fashion. Bidding stops after one rotation around the table. We found that rather dull, and decided to allow open bidding, making the game a lot more fun.

Minor quibble aside, this Yehuda Berlinger game is a blast. You not only get some beautifully illustrated body part cards, but also an illustrated slab and a castle wall to hide your monster from prying eyes (and keep the opposing player from knowing what you need to win!). It's quick and easy to learn and, as most games won't last more than 30 minutes, it would make a great party game. Recommended for 2 - 5 players, but every one at the table agreed that a 2 player game be rather dull. Get five mad scientist together and you should have a great time.

Next, I tried the new game from Steve Jackson, Zombie Dice. Basically, you're a hungry zombie looking to score some tasty brains. You take three dice (each representing a potential victim) out of the tube and roll them. Each die has a varying number of brains, footsteps and shotgun blasts printed the sides. You get to keep all brains you roll, as you've just claimed another victim. Any dice that roll footsteps indicate a victim that got away. But no worry, you get to roll those dice again.

Of course, shotgun blasts are very bad. You put those aside, and if you get three before you decide to stop rolling, you lose all the brains you've collected that turn and must pass the dice to the next zombie.

As the goal is to collect 13 brains, you have to plan on being stymied by those pesky shotgun blasts a few times in your quest for dinner. But if you've collected five brains in your turn, and only have one shotgun blast, do you roll three more dice and try for more, or do you keep what you've got and call it good?

To help you decide, the dice are the color coded. Green dice have more brains then shotgun blasts, Yellow dice are even, but Red dice means your victims have a better chance of blasting you in the head.

Again, this game is easy to learn and a lot of fun. I only have one minor quibble with it. The game doesn't include any tokens allowing the players to keep track of the brains they've collected. I suggest supplying your own (you can find various items that will work at most game stores) and keep them with the dice. I think it would be easier than handing out paper every time you play.

One final note. Zombie Dice would make a travel game, as you only need a small, flat space to roll the dice. And two players will have just as much fun with this as a large group. Saying "Yum, Braaaains" after collecting your unlucky thirteen victim is up to you.

Well, all this talk of brains reminds me that it's dinner time. I'll post my further adventures in May of the Dead later this week, with a brief review of Cannibal Contagion, Zombies!!! and Last Night on Earth. Also, I'll tell you all a bit about a zombie web series filmed right here in Portland!

More to come soon....