ZombiePox : Save the People

ZombiePox.  *sigh*

Zombies are cool, and right now they are big business.  TV shows, movies, merchandise, and games all seem to sell well when they have the zombie theme on them.  However, I start to find it irritating when games simply have a zombie theme pasted on top of an otherwise un-zombie game.  That is exactly what you find in ZombiePox.

The game play isn’t terrible, let me say that up front.  This game is a cooperative game, with elements similar to Go.  It’s also very simple by comparison to other cooperative games.  Having an understanding of Go is only somewhat helpful though, because unlike Go where you are playing against an intelligent human being with some ideas about strategy, in ZombiePox you are playing against a deck of cards, which essentially places randomly.

Game Information
ZombiePox
DesignerZara Downs, Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman
ArtistZara Downs, Ed Flanagan
PublisherMary Flanagan LLC, Tiltfactor
Year Published2012
# of Players1 - 4
Playing Time35
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
CategoryAbstract Strategy, Educational, Medical, Zombies
MechanicArea Enclosure, Co-operative Play, Pattern Building

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

The goal of the game is to contain the zombie virus by vaccinating key people on the board.  In order for a person on the board to become a zombie, they have to be infected with the virus, and be completely surrounded by infected people.  However, if anyone around them is vaccinated, it keeps them from being effected.  The game would be far too easy if that was it though, there are six “babies” on the board that become zombies instantly if they are infected, regardless of who is vaccinated around them, and they can not be vaccinated against the virus.  Players lose the game if they surpass a given zombie threshold which is agreed upon before the start of the game.  The easiest mode is 6 zombies, the hardest is 2.  Two zombies start out on the board at the beginning of the game, so hard mode is really really hard.

So, I’ll talk about the pros of the game first.  For one, it’s very quick to pick up.  The average player only needs 1-2 minutes of explanation to fully get what is going on.  Given that I teach people rules all day for a living, this is a beautiful thing.  This ease of learning makes it strongly preferred over other co-op games which typically can take 10-20 minutes to explain, and often have a ton of follow up questions.

Secondly, I liked the components.  The board is a roll out, rubber backed, mat.  So there is no slipping and sliding, which is wonderful, and the “board” behaves more like a play mat, which makes the pieces easier to pick up and manipulate.  There is also no warping, which can be a problem with some boards.  They also gave players two plastic containers to keep the pieces in.  I usually use baggies for this, but the little plastic bins were much more gamer friendly.

The cons, for me, are a little more numerous than the pros though.  Firstly, the rules are slightly lacking.  They are a very simple couple of pages, but they leave large bits of ambiguity.  Such as, what does it mean to have the virus completely contained?  You see, even if I have it completely surrounded, that doesn’t necessarily mean contained.  There are cards in the deck that let random people on the board be picked to out break the virus, and for this reason, it seems that a new outbreak can start at any minute, regardless of your defenses.  So what does contained mean?  Does it mean when the whole board is full and you haven’t lost?  When had to house rule this part.

Review of
'ZombiePox
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Secondly, the game becomes predictable in a hurry.  The first game that we played, we lost handily.  However, the second, and each subsequent game, we won without any real problem.  The board always has the same weak spots that need defending, and therefore the same strategy works in the vast majority of cases.  We started ramping up the difficulty, and it wasn’t until we were playing on the hardest level, that the game was a challenge again.  However, this challenge was not wrought via the game actually being more difficult.  Rather it was wrought via randomness in the deck that didn’t play out in our favor. Allowing four, five, or six zombies on the board was enough that skill could be applied to keep it from happening.  Two or three zombies was just too few to keep it from being strategic game, because one unlucky draw of the cards ended it, not poor game play.

So my final impression?

If you really have a desire for an abstract logic game with a zombie theme, this will suffice.  However, this is one of those games that is likely to get lost in the back of your closet, rather than broken out fondly and often.  Kudos to the designers for not skimping on components, but if they had, it would have likely lowered the price point enough to really reflect the number of plays you are likely to get out of it.  What might make the game more interesting is if you played against an intelligent zombie opponent who could control the spread of the virus.  But really, at that point, you might as well play GO instead.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 11:59 am and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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