Monday, April 11, 2011

Board Game Review - Zombie Survival

There's a game company that prides itself on having the highest production values on the market. Their games come with plastic miniatures, fully illustrated rulebooks, and the best art money can buy. Their rules are finely tuned and thoroughly tested, and the games that result from this dedication to quality are some of the best you can buy.

Twilight Creations is not that game company.

I have played a lot of games from Twilight Creations. They're almost all horror games, and they usually feature big bags of plastic zombies. I would think that having all those zombie games would mean that sooner or later, they would have to have something I like. Apparently, they think so, too. They are wrong. I have never played a game from Twilight Creations that I thought was even a reasonably decent game.

Until now. This weekend I tried Zombie Survival, and while it has all the telltale markings of a Twilight Creations game - confusing rules, bland art, and cheap zombie figures - we actually had a very good time. In fact, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Zombie Survival.

The idea of the game is that each player has a house at the start of the zombie apocalypse. Zombies will show up every turn, more and more of them, and you'll have to shoot them to get them to go away. The lights will go out, the water will go bad, food will go rotten, and people will come running up to your house begging to be allowed inside. Why, I don't know - your houses are doomed. But still, it's fun.

The game starts out with what turns out to be one of the most important parts - stocking your house. You'll need lumber to blockade your doors, food to stock your fridge, a generator to power the house after the electricity fails, and most of all, you will need weapons. Lots and lots of weapons.

This first part is crucial because there are limited numbers of items, and if you miss your chance to grab the best car, you'll be making the run into town in a Prius, and zombies will dismantle it before it can leave the driveway. Other people will steal the sword and leave you with the crappy machete, or take the silencer so your rifle attracts zombies, or otherwise hose you as they stock their houses. It takes a little while to finish this part, but it is very important that you get it right. And like I said, get lots of weapons. You need at least one for every person in your house, because if you don't have those, you are going to feel stupid when five zombies break through the doors and one guy with a kitchen knife is your only defense. You will also feel dead, because the zombies will eat everyone.

Once you actually start playing, each person in your house can do one thing every turn. Mostly, that will be fighting zombies to keep them away from the windows, but since four zombies show up every turn, you still won't be able to stop them all. They'll just keep coming, until they tear down the boards you put over the windows and pour into your house. Hopefully, they eat the other players first.

One reason I liked this game, despite the fact that the movement rules for zombies left us all unsure as to when, exactly, a zombie comes in the house, is the rules for fighting. You have a bunch of dice, and you roll them in the lid. There's a picture of a zombie in the lid, and you have to land the dice on his head to kill him. That's pretty damned cool, if you ask me, and we had a lot of fun with it. It's dumb, but so are zombies, so we liked it.

Event cards happen every turn, and mostly suck. People will get sick. Cars will break down. Batteries will die. In other words, things will go poorly, and you will all groan every time one of these cards flips up and destroys your crossbow or makes all your people hide in the toilet instead of doing something useful.

I would be lying if I said this was a good game, in the sense that Agricola or HeroScape are good games. The rules are kind of a mess. They leave out parts you might need, they have too much happening at once, and they left me with a headache (that may have been induced by look at the horribly bland art on the boards, but I still think it was the rules). The only parts of the game with decent art are the deck of event cards and the inside of the lid, and so most of the game looks like it was produced by a couple teenagers with a Xerox machine and some expensive cardstock. In other words, it was par for the course for Twilight Creations.

However, despite having many flaws, Zombie Survival is still enjoyable. Not great, but fun. I don't think I'll probably trot it out again any time soon, but we did have a reasonably good time, and nobody was sorry we played. Of all the Twilight Creations games I have played, this one was the best, though that's not saying much, because all the others really sucked.

If you're not a fan of zombie games, don't play Zombie Survival (or anything else from Twilight Creations). If you don't like games with lots of micro-managing resources, you also won't like Zombie Survival. But if you can overlook vague rules and art so boring it could be hanging in an accounting office waiting room, you just might have fun with Zombie Survival. Don't pay full price, or anything, but if you see it on sale, it might be worth a shot.


1-4 players

Fun theme
Interesting decisions to make
Some random elements combined with a little bit of a dexterity game
Great art on the event cards

Typical Twilight Creation rules leave a lot to be desired
Weak graphic design and bland art on the houses and yards
Lots of resource management (only a con if you hate that kind of thing)

It appears that even if you were anxious to get a brand-new copy of Zombie Survival, you're out of luck - Noble Knight Games is sold out. Maybe someone else has it, but I really can't be bothered to check for you.


daveroswell said...

One question: Is it better than Last Night on Earth?

daveroswell said...

Thanks Pete. That's all I needed to know.