Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 13/6/2014 – ZOMBIE NIGHT
It was Friday the 13th so you expect only Zombies & Ghouls to visit OTK. Time to bring out the Z-games – Eaten by Zombies!, The Walking Dead, Carnival Zombie and Betrayal at the House on the Hill all seeing play tonight.
Games: Eaten by Zombies!, The Walking Dead, Carnival Zombie and Betrayal at the House on the Hill.
FRIDAY THE 13TH
You don’t get many Friday the 13th in a year, and when one comes along – given OTK Meetups are on Fridays – it’s no-brainer for us to call a Zombies (or Ghouls) theme nite. So with 13th of June being a Friday, it’s gonna be all ZOMBIES tonight….
Let’s dive in and see what games were in play…
EATEN BY ZOMBIES!
First to the table is a fast playing Zombie deck building game EATEN BY ZOMBIES!, which was a Kickstarter project successfully funded back in 2011.
Above: Deck building experience is required to play this game, but hair style is optional. 😛
THE WALKING DEAD
The board game version of the popular TV series The Walking Dead was next to come up at the other table. There are actually two Walking Dead board games, one by Cryptozoic and the other by Z-man Games.
Z-man’s version is based on the comic book while Cryptozoic based on the TV series. Slight variation which won’t matter to you unless you have read the comics, watched the TV series and understand the differences intimately.
Note: From here on, when I write “The Walking Dead”, I’ll be referring to the Z-man boardgame based on the comic book.
Laurence taking the gang thru their journey around Atlanta. The ground rules, what not to do and above all, do not simply fire a shot.. yes that’ll kill a zombie or two but the noise would also attract the rest of the hordes towards your location. Not a good idea, dude.
In this game, each of you start as a character from the comic book and your objective is to navigate the terrain safely and locate three safe zones. The first to do so wins the game. And mind the zombies along the way.
The rest of this sessrep on The Walking Dead is based on the 5-player session we did at All Aboard Community Gaming Centre back in Feb (above).
Each player has a Character board (below) where you keep track of your resources – food, bullet (ammo) and gas (petrol). You get to collect these resources whenever you passed thru a hex space on the board with the resource icon.
Each character starts with a Follower – indicated by the card of Patricia on the left of the player board above. A Follower – and you can have more than one – provides you additional Abilities and also extra dice (or of different colors).
The dice are color coded – blue = heroic, red = fighter and green = scavenge – and the combination of your player character and his/her followers determine your dice pool.
You use this dice pool whenever you need to roll for Actions or to resolve Encounters. Obviously the Red (Fighter) dice would be more useful if you are fighting off the zombies.
The key here is to acquire as many Followers as you could. There’s no “cost” to them but they provided added Abilities and dice; all good.
Each character has his/her own designated starting spot. Mostly everyone starts just outside of Atlanta. There are various “locations” – named highlighted spots eg School – scattered around the board and your objective is to visit some of them and make them safe.
The game picks three locations as everyone’s initial objective. To win the game, you are to visit the 3 locations, attempt to make it safe (by resolving an event) and the first person to make 3 locations safe wins the game.
Each player also has one location card, known only to himself. This adds an element of surprise to the game so that it’s not so predictive that everyone’s going for the same three locations above.
You have up to 3 movement points each turn. The thing is as you sauntered along the beautiful outskirts of Atlanta, your shuffling sound attracts the “walkers” (zombies as they are called in The Walking Dead series). Or it might very well be those McD leftovers you dropped along the way.
Above: As you move along the board, zombie hordes followed your footsteps. The horde tokens follow the Space Hulk Genestealers mechanic of hidding the number of zombies in each horde – until you engage them.
Not knowing how many zombies there are in each horde tokens do add a layer of suspense. Especially when you are boxed in like this (above), or …
… when the location you are trying to get to are littered with horde tokens.
This is also where The Walking Dead (TWD) differs from other zombie games where your primary objectives would likely be to bash in as many zombies as you can. Here in TWD, you should be keeping a low profile and not engage nor disturb the walkers unless you absolutely must do so.
Your primary objective remains the securing of three locations as safe haven.
Whenever you land on a resource space (ie a hex with a resource icon), you’ll need to resolve an Encounter event before picking up the resource. You may also find useful inventories (chainsaw anyone?) or new Followers from the Encounter deck.
Some encounters are easy (like above)…
… and some can be nasty.
Do you still fight zombies?
Alrite, enough of the boring Move-Encounter-Locate stuff. Do you actually get to fight some zombies in this game? 😛
Yes you do. If you find your way blocked by hordes, you can always step in and try to bash a few of their brains out. Some Encounter cards also force you to fight but that’s not as satisfying as you jumping straight into a bunch of zombies, screaming out at the top of your lungs!
Fighting is resolved quickly. You assemble your dice pool (ie color & number of dice based on your character and the Follower cards) and roll them all. Each roll of a “kill” allows you to take out one zombie.
If you have ammo, you can spend it to roll the black Ammo die. While a Red (Fighter) die gives you the best probability of getting a hit, it’s still one zombie per hit. The Black ammo die allows you to kill up to 3 zombies with a single die hit.
However using a gun is loud and would attract unnecessary attention. If you rolled a “blam!” instead of a hit, you’ll need to place a horde token on every adjacent space around you.
(Above) waiyan covering her ears as the other players started shooting at the hordes. Blam! Blam!
Each horde token has a variable number of zombies – and you only get to know the actual number when you engage them – and should you be unable to kill all of them (in a single fight), you & your party of followers will take Fatigue tokens.
Above: Follower Patricia has one Fatigue token placed on her.
Be mindful though. A character or follower can only have two Fatigue tokens. Taking a 3rd token would spell their end. Another reason why it’s good to have more followers. tsk tsk.
Aside from the sense of blood achievements, killing zombies does not advance you in this game. There’s no VP to be gained, no experience point to add nor even zombie miniatures as kill trophy. Nada.
The game is not about killing zombies (so if that’s what you are looking for, this is not the game for you) but is more of racing to the locations and making them safe. Remember, the first to make three locations safe wins the game (not the first to take out 20 zombies).
Each location has a designated challenge for each level (the 3rd level being the hardest since resolving this challenge wins you the game). The level commensurate with the number of locations you have already made safe. For eg, if you have converted one location into a safe haven, on the next location you’ll be resolving Second Location challenge.
The horde tokens actually act as a game timer. As the game moved on, the number of tokens spread through out the board and eventually all players would be overwhelmed if they do not get 3 safe havens completed.
TWD plays like a dreadful feeling of slow choke…as opposed to the fast n furious action of some other zombie games.
Since most other zombie games labeled theirs as “cooperative”, The Walking Dead is no different and has a cooperative play to it. However I see TWD’s Coop Play as something that should have gone thru a few more rounds of playtesting. Or perhaps simply omitted.
In TWD, players can choose to coop with another player to form a coop party. The party can comprise of more than 2 players. There’s strength in numbers as in a coop party, they travel as one and when they fight zombies, they fight as one too – so this means they combine their dice pool for a huge dice fest to whack the zombies.
Resources, and fatigue are tracked separately (but can be shared if other players in the group consented).
Looks okay right? Yes but no. When two people joined a coop party, the winning condition is still erm 3 safe havens. Let me extend this further… if a 3rd player join this coop party, the winning condition is still erm… 3 safe havens but they now get a dice pool of 3 character cards plus all their followers.
So why wouldn’t anyone coop? Dunno. Actually there’s nothing stopping ALL 5 players cooping and the game finishes in like 15 min?
They tried to introduce a “traitor” element to the coop play, and it makes the coop rule even more questionable. At the start of a coop player’s turn, the other coop player(s) can choose to break away from this group. Oh-kay… so you can join a group, enjoy the benefits of strength-in-numbers and then when the “time is right”, you leave the group to screw the rest of the group members?
I think if any group members do that, they screw not just their group members but also himself. Coz the winning condition of a group is the same as your individual winning condition, but you get like additional 6-7 dice to use when fighting zombies and all the abilities of the followers in your group, why would you want to LEAVE that group to search for victory on your own?
Yes I know sometimes you have gamers in your group that do things out of spite.. but I’m assuming you do not play with such gamers, no?
OTH, we did explore varianting the game to say if you form a coop group of 2 players, your victory condition increases to 5 safe havens (making the challenge of winning proportionate to the strength advantage of the group) but we also realized the number of locations in the game may not scale to support this variant.
My thought? We’ll play the game as-is and remove the coop play option. Think it plays better that way.
This is not a meaty zombie game (not like LNOE, Zombicide or DDD) but does offer something more than a mindless zombie bash (as in Zombies!!!). It’s very much a beer-n-pretzel type of game and if you enjoy The Walking Dead comics, the theme would be more immersive for you. Above all, remember this game is a race to secure 3 safe havens and not one where killing zombies is your primary objective.
CARNIVAL ZOMBIE & BETRAYAL AT HOUSE ON THE HILL
Stay tune for our 2nd parter of this sessrep which covers a hard-to-find game CARNIVAL ZOMBIE, and another popular Halloween game BETRAYAL AT HOUSE ON THE HILL.
For more pictures of this meetup session, pls see our Facebook photo album (below).
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