May 21, 2014

[Games] Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game

I have to admit that Geek & Sundry's web show Tabletop has done a world of good for the geeky world of gaming. It's become a great vehicle for introducing more people to gaming and it has helped veteran gamers discover other games that they might not normally try. Sure, watching a full episode is a bit of an investment of time, but watching a game played out remains to be one of the best ways to understand the mechanics and determine for yourself if it's something that you'd want to play.

This is how we came across Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game. As much as it has been generating its own share of buzz among geek circles, the local board game market has only been rather limited to smaller gatherings and thus news doesn't travel all that fast. So it wasn't only until this particular episode of Tabletop that I came to better appreciate what this game was about. And then I snatched it up to add to our game nights.

After all, everyone loves zombies, right?

Synopsis: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game is a survival horror game created by Jason C. Hill under Flying Frog Productions. It has won numerous game awards and has spawned quite a number of variant games that has pretty much defined the Flying Frog game style.

In Last Night on Earth, anywhere between 2-6 players will play out a zombie apocalypse scenario. Some players will be the human heroes while others will be the zombies. Based on a particular scenario selected for that particular session, both sides will have their victory conditions such as finding the items needed to gas up the truck and escape the zombie-infested town or simply kill as many zombies as possible. There will be a set number of nights to complete the scenario, as marked by the sun tracker.

Human heroes each have specific characters to represent them with their own unique abilities like starting with a pistol or being able to give up movement in exchange for healing. The zombies don't have unique characters, but they do get a chance to spawn more zombies every turn along with the benefit of always having zombie cards to play to aid their efforts. Both sides need to work together with their team mates to ensure victory, thus providing a fun mix of both cooperative and competitive play.

The game celebrates a lot of the tropes of horror movies, a look and feel very well captured by the cheesy photography that defines the art of the game. Both the hero cards and the zombie cards have images to go with them and cheesy one-liners that capture the card's effects in a nutshell. Heroes will be eager to search buildings for weapons and other items to help them while zombies just keep on coming in search of human flesh. And it's hard to tell how a game will go - the heavy dice-rolling element that defines combat and other card effects really does make the game unpredictable.

The game is highly modular in nature, and not just because of the different scenarios that one can play. The board itself consists of several pieces that can be combined in different ways. Thus the very board can be different each time you play, apart from the mix of crazy stereotypical characters. So yes, we have the jock ad the cheerleader, the drifter from the edge of town and the priest, to name a few.

Heroes have a lot more movement options, can search for items and can use weapons. Zombies only move one space at a time, have a chance to spawn more zombies and have some wicked cards supporting them. Oh, and zombies totally ignore doors and walls while humans still have to line up at those exits to get out. It's hard to appreciate on paper, but it's these sorts of game mechanics that have done a lot to help the game remains pretty balanced.

A lot of thought went into this game and the overall design and I love how it managed to celebrate the b-movie zombie feel while having a game mechanic that is decently easy to learn. Whether you get to be one of the heroes or part of the zombies, there's a lot of fun to be had.

And this is just the base set - there are a ridiculous number of expansions that are out already that provide new characters, new board pieces and of course new zombies. This is just the tip of the iceberg and I expect to review the expansions on an individual basis.

Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game is a fun zombie adventure that can support enough players to make it a pretty decent source of party entertainment. And while some will argue that all the dice rolling takes away potential strategy, I think it just provides an alternate mindset that's always a lot of fun to exploit. And so I may seem a little generous in this rating, but I think given the achievements of the franchise as begun with this game, it still deserves a full 5 zombies coming out of the walls out of a possible 5.

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