I love zombies. I love the different lores. I love the detailed geeky discussions of survival plans. And I love the board game worlds embrace of the zombie themed game. There are quite a few different zombie themed games to choose from now, so a zombie lover like myself can be far more selective. Just off the top of my head there is: “Zombies!”, “Zombie High School“, “Zombie State“, “Zombie Dice“, “Resident Evil: The Deck Building Game“, “Mmmm… Brains” …. the list goes on and on. Now we can add one more game to this long list, a new zombie deck building game that sums up your demise very nicely, “Eaten by Zombies!”.
First off, cast aside everything you know about the mechanics of deck building games. This is one time where that knowledge base will be a huge hindrance. If you have never played Dominion, or Thunderstone, or Nightfall, you’ll actually be ahead of the curve. Here is a short list of mechanics that are vastly different in EbZ then other deck building games
Buying New Cards
Any other Deck Builder: When you buy cards, the new cards go into your discard pile.
Eaten By Zombies: When you buy cards, they go directly into your hand.
Any other Deck Builder: On your clean-up phase you discard all cards that you played and any left in your hand, draw up to your hand limit
Eaten By Zombies: On your clean-up phase you discard all cards that you played, but hang on to all that are left in your hand. Draw cards till you have six in hand, or discard till you have six left in hand.
Any other Deck Builder: You can’t draw any more cards, so you are done with your turn.
Eaten By Zombies: The zombies have you in their grasp! You are munched on and have now joined the dark ranks of the living dead!
As you can see there are a lot of differences here, and there are even more I didn’t bother to outline. Because of this, and some less then stellar instructions, our first game was a complete mess. It seems like every other turn we were messing up and doing *something* wrong. The consequences to this being that the game was long, dull, and we all left with a feeling of “huh?”. But I couldn’t let that stand, so before game two I outlined, very carefully, all the rules to my next set of players. This time I knew where the differences were and thus was able to do a little bit of “hand slapping” when people fell into old deck building habits. Our second game went much better.
So why did we have so much trouble with the rules during that first game? The rule book was less then clear. Remember my “pet peeves of gaming” blog? Yeah, this rule book broke number 3. These are “Spaghetti Rules”, it continually references other parts of the rules. Things are extremely disjointed. It is also rather lacking in examples. The player reference cards help a little with this, but leaves out key bits of information that would be extremely helpful (like what the penalty is for loosing a fight, or the penalty for fleeing). These little details are what threw us for a loop during game number one. But as I said, game number two was much better. Want to read the rules for yourself? Check them out by clicking here.
What I found on that second game, and subsequent games, was that I really liked this games feel. It has a different feel to it then any other deck building game I have played. This one was filled with cheering and cursing as a player managed to squeak out one more round before being eaten by zombies. This game also had an odd mix of camaraderie and back stabbing. In one of my games the player before me killed a zombie on my behalf (using the “Dead Eye” card), which was a huge help, but only so she could have a nasty zombie in her hand to use on the next player, which was a much bigger threat.
I also really loved the losing and winning scenarios in this game, especially the “went crazy from killing too many zombies” rule. You see, one of the ways you can be eaten by zombies is by going stark raving mad. How do you get there? By killing so many zombies that you end up with an entire hand of nothing but the undead vermin. This forced the players to balance how many zombies they killed versus how many cards they bought. It was an interesting and fun balancing act.
I’m sorry, I shouldn’t use the word “bought” when discussing how you get cards. You don’t buy anything. It’s the zombie apocalypse after all, it’s not like there is an attendant waiting for you to check out. In this game you scavenge for supplies, rather then buy them. However, it’s awfully hard to scavenge for stuff if you are being ravaged by zombies. For that reason, you can only scavenge for cards when you have successfully killed all of them that are a threat, or have successfully run away from all of them. Otherwise, you are just too busy to be worrying yourself with dumpster diving. Because of this you will not be able to gain cards every turn, which is an interesting departure from Dominion.
One other interesting thing about scavenging for cards is that these cards go immediately into your hand, not into your discard pile. Because of this you can gain cards that you know you are going to need immediately. To me, this makes for a much more strategic game, because there is less “luck of the draw” occurring.
However, I do have one more significant complaint, and this one is about components. I hate the box and it’s lack of dividers. The box is small, which is awesome, but it is also very plain. The box is designed to look like an old army ammo box, but all it really manages to do is be small, dark, and easily overlooked. When presented with this game next to others, my players almost always choose the alternative, because this one didn’t look appealing.
The second complaint about the box was the dividers. Yes, the game comes with two foam blocks to use in your box as dividers, but that’s it. The game did not come with nice labeled dividers like Thunderstone, or individual slots like Dominion, instead you just lump all your cards together and then are forced to dig through them all the next time you try to set up. This was a major pain in my butt. You could conceivably use the randomizer cards as the dividers, as they are taller then regular cards and would probably work well, however, then you are at a lack of a randomizer deck, and well, that seems problematic. Please, for the love of your players and all that is holy, put some dividers in your next printing!
Overall though, I have to give this game four out of five brains (Mmmm…. Braaaaiins!). The game play is really good. It’s engaging and keeps to the heart of the zombie theme. You really do feel like the horde is closing in around you, choking you off. And you get a rush when you narrowly escape disaster. However, you only will ever get that if you stick with it and manage to get passed the bland look of the box, the annoying lack of dividers that makes the game harder to set up, and lastly (and probably most importantly) the not so great rule book.
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