By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on April 23, 2021
It's been a while since I delved into my board game collection, dear readers. The fun thing about this is that you always come across games you half-forgot that you had. Especially if you own a great big lot of board games, old and new alike, you might be surprised by what you have. You might find something shiny, something filled with orcs and goblins or something fun, fast and colorful. And if you dig deeper into darker regions of your game collection, you might even find something... undead.
It's this last category that I wanted to talk about today. Waaaay back in 2001, when I was still a strapping lad of just 21 years old, I was introduced to a wonderful little game called Zombies!!! And in case you're wondering, the exclamation marks are part of the title. This should not come as a surprise because, as opposed to the later seasons of the Walking Dead, where the zombies seem to be nothing but a minor nuisance, that's the only way to react when you see a herd of these lumbering undead killing machines bearing down on you. So yes, Zombies!!! Is the name of the game!
The package comes in a black box with cool artwork. In this chest of darkness, there are 30 map tiles, 50 event cards, 100 zombies, 6 player figurines aptly named "Shotgun Guys", 30 life tokens, 60 bullet tokens, 2 dice and a very clear and succinct rule leaflet. The map tiles, while nowhere near being flimsy, are a bit on the thin side, but this way, everything fits nicely in to a compact box that is easy to take with you when you visit friend. And this is exactly with whom this game should be played; with friends. You see, there is a fair amount of back-stabbing involved in this game, so people who like each other to begin with and can take a friendly knife to the back once in a while, are really the preferred playing partners for this game.
The object of Zombies!!! Is being the first to escape the undead infested city and reach the center square of the Helipad, kill the zombie that occupies that space and get the hell out of town before the pursuing zombie horde catches up with you. And yes, you'll leave the other players to fend for themselves, so you might just feel like a bit of a bastard if you win, but hey; being a tiny bit dastardly from time to time feels good, am I right? Don't worry, you won't have to admit it, but you know it does. Anyway, if you start your adventure, the helipad is a still a long way off. Plus, if you don't fancy "Getting to the choppa!", you can also go Rambo on the undead horde and try to be the first to obliterate 25 zombies before anyone else reaches the chopper and makes their escape, in which case you are crowned the zombie killing king and win the game.
So, does one go about getting to one of these outcomes? "Not dying" is definitely the first rule you should keep in mind. We'll get to that in a bit, but let's first set up the board, shall we? At the start of the game, you take the 50 map tiles, remove the Town Square and Helipad from the pile and shuffle the rest. The shuffled pile is placed to the side, as this will be the draw pile during the rest of the game. The Helipad tile is randomly inserted into the lower half of this draw pile and the Town Square is placed in the center of the table, after which the Shotgun Guys are placed upon it, one for each player. After this is done, you shuffle the Event Cards deal 3 of them to each participating player. Put the rest in a downward facing pile within easy reach of the entire group. And, last but definitely not least, deal each player 3 Life Tokens and 3 Bullet Tokens.
Now it is time for players to take their turns, during which they must perform a series of actions. First, you draw a tile from the Map Tiles pile and place it correctly adjacent to a tile that is already on the table. When doing so, you must abide by a few rules. You see, you must put down the tile in such a way that it blocks no other roads. So in other words, connect a road to another road and be sure not to block an existing road with a building. Sometimes this might not be possible with the tile you drew. In this case, discard the tile and continue your turn without placing a Map Tile. And don't worry if the printing on one tile is "the right way up", while the letters on an adjacent tile are rotated. You may rotate every tile you place as you see fit. If you manage to put down a tile that prevents any more tiles from being placed, the game's goal changes. Because there's no way the Helipad will now come into play, the game turns into a battle for 25 zombie kills.
After placing your Map Tile, you can focus on killing zombies that might inhabit the same space as you, drawing back up to three Event Cards, roll one die and move your Shotgun Guy accordingly. You may move one space per rolled die point, but only horizontally and vertically. After you moved your guy, make another die roll and move that number of zombies (may be anywhere on the board) one space in any desired direction, after which you may discard one event card from your hand. Now, apart from decent dice skills, making good use of these event cards may very well control the outcome of the game. The cards themselves can be played at any time, unless otherwise described on the card itself. You can, however, only play one action card during the period from the start of your turn to the start of your next turn, so think before you start throwing these cards around. Plus, at the end of your turn, you may only have a total of 3 cards in hand.
But what do these Event Cards do, I hear you ask? Well, they might just mean the difference between life and getting torn apart by undead claws and teeth. The Event Cards have a selection of effects, varying from deciding the direction another player is going to move in, to killing any and every zombie in a certain building. Some of them might give you additional ammunition, while others may give another player an acute case of claustrophobia, preventing them from entering any buildings during their next turn. There are cards that you can use to make other players end up in locations they definitely didn't wat to go to, or even cards that let you randomly place a number of zombies in any legal space across town. And keep in mind, this is but a small selection from the awesome collection of cards the game has to offer.
When making your way through any zombie-infested city, it is a given that you'll have to do some fighting. I mean, you can't just walk by a huge group of zombies, yell: "nothing to see here, please disperse!" at the top of your lungs and expect them to shrug and go: "Oh, nothing to see? Oh well, then I guess I don't need to devour you, now do I?" No, whenever a zombie gets you in its sights (being on the same square as one usually does the trick), it will attack, regardless of how adamant you are about there being nothing to be seen. So, when battling a zombie, you must roll a die. If you roll 4 or higher, you defeat the zombie and "collect" it (put it in front of you on the table). If you somehow manage to roll below 4, you are screwed and the zombie will do damage.
Now, no matter if you roll a 1, 2 or 3, zombies will always inflict one damage, forcing you to give up one Life Token for every fight lost. Seeing as how you only start out with three life tokens, a few zombie encounters may mean a lot of damage and the inevitable end of your career as zombie hunter when you run out of life tokens. Well, maybe not really the end, because you are actually stripped of every card and token you've collected so far and have to hand in half of the zombies you've managed to kill up until then. You receive three bullet and three life tokens and can try again next turn. With penalties this severe, you damn well batter stay alive, wouldn't you agree? And you can't run away from combat; you either kill the zombie or die trying. This is where the Bullet Tokens come into play; these handy little tokens can be used to raise the outcome of a die roll to make it successful, i.e. turn it into a 4. So when you roll a two, you can either give up one Life Token and try again, or spend 2 Bullet Tokens and kill the zombie.
Both Life and Bullet Tokens can be found around the city. You see, when you place a map tile with additional values printed on it, you must place that number of zombies, Bullet Tokens and Life Tokens on any of the legal spaces on that tile. If there are no additional values printed on a tile you just added to the ever-growing city, only zombies will be placed, one for every street exit on the tile in question. So it's mostly a question of deciding whether a certain building holding items is worth enough risking your life for. Because you'll have to battle any zombie you come across, it's mostly a matter of how good your dice rolls are. After killing a zombie, you may still move, provided you have any movement points left. This way, with a high number of movement points and a successful rolling streak when fighting the undead, it is possible to clear an entire building in one go, giving you valuable resources for the rest of your adventure.
Make sure you have plenty of time when playing a game of zombies, as a game can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes and even beyond that if the amount of backstabbing among players is high enough. While a game may take pretty long, the player turns themselves aren't overly long. And because you can play cards practically at any given time, the amount of player interaction stays consistent throughout the game. Because of the simplicity of movement and combat, the game can be played by absolutely everyone, provided of course that they know their left from their right. The addition of the cards make the game somewhat more intricate, but all cards have a very clear description of how and when they can be used, so there's no problems there! You can just have a good time without overheating your brain by being forced to use elaborate sheets listing abilities, exceptions or other things that can just clutter up a fun game.
So, all in all, Zombies!!! Is a really fun game to play with friends. The box says it can be played with two to six players, but I found that playing it with four to six makes it much more enjoyable. The Event Cards and Map Tiles are adorned with awesome artwork, which gives the game the look and feel of those really cool zombie apocalypse movies. Please note that the pictures featured in this review are of the 2006 2nd edition, jokingly called the "Director's Cut", so may vary from the original. Nevertheless, if you happen to love zombie movies, you're bound to enjoy yourself when playing Zombies!!! If you're not into zombies. well, why the hell have you been reading this review for so long?! So, zombie lovers. wait, that came out wrong. zombie enthusiasts from around the world, grab your shotgun, enter the infested city and become the undisputed zombie master!
Twilight Creations Inc.
Published: 2001 (Original version)
Designer: Todd Breitenstein, Kerry Breitenstein
Artist: Dave Aikins, Kurt Miller
Players: 2 - 6 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 60 - 90 minutes