Feb 18, 2015

[Games] Last Night on Earth: Timber Peak Expansion

So we were a little underwhelmed by Growing Hunger, one of the first expansions for Last Night on Earth. And while it provided some good game options and new ways to diversify play, on the whole it didn't feel quite as balanced as it could have been.

But then comes the Timber Peak expansion for Last Night on Earth that is actually a standalone game. And while it still largely provides the same game experience as the first game, this expansion certainly adds other nuances to the experience that help set it apart and make things feel a bit new again.

Interestingly enough, this game is now set in a new town of Timber Peak, whereas the first game was set in Woodinvale. For those who appreciate the value of a good meta-plot, this expansion adds a little bit more flavor to help flesh things out.

Last Night on Earth: Timber Peak is a standalone expansion to Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game as published by Flying Frog Productions. This expansion was still designed by Jason C. Hill, who also created the original game.

In this game, we have new game modular game pieces to represent the town of Timber Peak and a new mix of heroes to face the zombie hordes. What's interesting is that of the 6 heroes, 3 are actually survivors of Woodinvale and the fact that they survived such a traumatic ordeal affects how they play to some extent. Thus Timber Peak residents Alice the Diner waitress, Ed Baker the Lumberjack, and Nikki the Bush Pilot are joined by the "survivor" versions of Jake Cartwright, Sally, and Sheriff Anderson. I guess his son didn't make it out of Woodinvale.

The game still comes with a mix of 4 scenarios to play through with different challenges and quirks. The town also has a power station and certain scenarios rely on this location to define the challenge of the game. It's actually easier to beat zombies inside the power station, but should the Zombies trigger a Taken Over event targeting the power station, all buildings in town are considered to be under the effects of Lights Out, which you know is a bad thing for the Heroes indeed.

One of the biggest changes in the game involves a new experience system introduced into the game mix that affects both Heroes and Zombies. Earning experience can help unlock new abilities, which can provide additional dice for combat roles or perhaps a greater chance to avoid strikes. And this has made a big difference in our play sessions since getting the edge in experience can make or break your characters. Of course experience upgrades are drawn from special decks of upgrade cards that still adds a somewhat random factor to how your character improves.

One of the smaller mechanics added to the game turned out to be a pretty exciting one - the rules for fire. Sure, before we could use gas on tiles and expect it to cause damage once a Hero shoots the tile or uses a fire source. But this game adds new rules for tiles that are on fire and ways for the fire spread to additional tiles. This may not seem like all that much, but given how fire can be dangerous for both Hero and Zombie players, it really makes you think twice before setting fire to a building.

Character powers have certainly matured with this installment of the game and Heroes feel like they're capable of more than they could manage before. Nikki is a more versatile healer as long as she has an item she can discard and Ed is a tank with 4 health levels and the Jack of All Trades ability which gives him a hero upgrade at the very start of the game. The survivor characters are still pretty respectable but also nicely reflect the trauma of surviving the first game. They all have the Outsider keyword since they literally come from another town and this term has more effects this time around compared to the base game.

Once you play this expansion, it becomes a little harder to go back to playing the base game. The experience system is the big game-changer that really brings overall play to a new level for longtime Last Night on Earth players. This nicely reflects how much the developers have learned with tweaking this system in order to come up with a pretty great game. So this expansion gets a solid 5 burning zombies out of a possible 5.

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