Monday, March 19, 2012

Board Game Review - Zpocalypse

There sure are a lot of games these days with zombies in them. You can't swing an undead cat without hitting one. Some of them don't even need zombies, they're just in there because zombies are the new Care Bears. Or unicorns. Or something else really sweet and loveable that is a merchandising gold mine.

Unfortunately, most of those games kind of suck, or are at least less awesome than they should be. I mean, zombies are pretty cool, in that they are dead and still walk around, unless they have a terrible virus that makes them eat other people, as in modern zombie movies that try to make the flesh-eating psychopaths seem plausible, and not just in a Hannibal Lecter kind of way. Come to think of it, I am not sure why zombies are so popular, except that possibly a lot of people think it would be cool if something dead ate their face. But whatever the reason, lots of the games are not awesome.

Zpocalypse intends to change that, both by being a cool game about zombies, and by obviously being imaginative by changing the first letter of 'apocalypse' to an upper-case Z. Which, of course, stands for zeppelin. Why a game about the walking dead attacking a fallout shelter would be named for a zeppelin, I cannot say for sure. I am especially disturbed by the complete lack of zeppelins in the game itself.

What are in the game are lots and lots of zombies, and just a few people who will try to kill them all but fail miserably because there are just way too many zombies. And they kind of move fast, which is unfortunate because while you are trying to cut one in half with a samurai sword, another six or seven will come up and surround you. As anyone who has seen a zombie movie will know, getting surrounded by zombies is exceptionally bad for you. It can lead to athlete's foot.

The survivors in this bunker (that's you, if you're playing the game, or if you are living through a zombie apocalypse, which seems unlikely) have more problems than just the hordes of zombies. They are also very hungry, and require an absurd amount of food. In fact, if they don't eat, the survivors just sit around in the bunker and watch reruns of Three's Company. So rather than just hiding out in the bunker and locking the door at night, they have to wander around looking for food and guns and stuff.

Time is of the essence here. Survivors need to really hustle if they're going to find something to eat, because before you know it, zombies will show up. Then the survivors have to kill them, which would be easier if survivors were not completely incompetent at killing things. Cut them a little slack, though - before the zombies arrived, these poor bastards were janitors and school teachers and eight-year-old girls. Now they are janitors and teacher and eight-year-old girls who have guns and baseball bats.

The survivors learn how to fight zombies pretty quick, fortunately. What they do not learn is how to close the door after they leave. In that way, they are very much like teenagers, who will let bugs in the house because no matter how many times you ask them if they were born in a barn (to which you probably know the answer, since it is very likely you were there), they just plain forget to close the door.

Anyway, with the door to the bunker left open (and the people inside far too hungry to remember to close it), the zombies will have to all be killed before they can get to the tasty meat snack at the center of the bunker pop. This poses a challenge because there are so many zombies and only a few people with a stomach full of irradiated Pop Tarts who could kill the interloping dead people. But eventually, all the zombies will be dead, or all the survivors will be dead. Either way.

To give you a better summary of how this goes, it's a fairly straight-forward process. First you look for supplies. Then you feed a few people so they can fight. Then a ludicrous number of zombies appear and you have to kill all of them in a big skirmish-type game with an incredibly high body count. Then you do it again, after which time zombies probably eat you to death.

Zpocalypse is a cool game. At first glance, it might seem ridiculously difficult, but the thing you have to realize is that if you don't play well, zombies will eat you. If you play well, zombies will still eat you, but you will destroy a lot of them first. Don't get surrounded. Kill zombies, but also find food (and smart people, because smart people find more food). Protect your home with barricades and walls and stuff. And then kill a bunch of zombies before they eat you.

Some parts of Zpocalypse are kind of busy. This is not what a more well-spoken, erudite game reviewer would call an 'efficient design.' Me, I just think there are more rules than are strictly necessary, and that makes what should be a pretty straight-forward bug hunt into a bit of a cluster hump. There were lots of places where we said, 'what do we do now?' Or 'how do we kill that guy?' Or 'does this smell spoiled to you?'

For the most part, though, Zpocalypse is an action-pack, gun-toting, zombie-slaying gore-fest. It's an aggressive, violent game against unmitigated horror in a no-win scenario. The winner is the guy who takes out the most zeds before he goes out in a blaze of gunfire and bloody limbs. It's all about killing in the most spectacular fashion possible, not surviving or escaping.

For it to be about escaping, they would have had to include the zeppelins.


Groovy zombie art
Lots of bloody mayhem
Exciting tactical festival of death and dismemberment
A neat story every time - though every story pretty much ends the same way, with everyone dead

A little clumsy in places
You are going to die. It's just a matter of how many zombies can you take with you

There's only one place you can get Zpocalypse right now, because it's not actually made yet. Right now, you can only get one through the Kickstarter that's going right now:


Peer said...

Is there actually a goal? Or does everybody always loses?

Matt Drake said...

Yes, the goal is to kill zombies. The guy who has the best body count wins.

You can also get points for keeping your survivors alive for two days, or for building fortifications, or for having good supplies.

You're supposed to be able to survive for two days, but we never could make that happen. When there were 30-40 zombies and four people to kill them, we got chewed up like beer nuts.

Anonymous said...

I heard the same from the Dice Tower review. That it isn't a matter of if you die, but when. That begs the question: "Is it actually fun to play a game where the foregone conclusion is that you can't possibly win the traditional (read American tradition) way of being the Numero Uno Survivor?" Is it actually satisfying to say, "Well, I died, but at least I took 30 zombies with me?" I kinda think a survival game that you can't survive isn't going to be an easy sell amongst a group of friends unless its a hell of a lot of fun to take down zombies along the way.

Emery Calame said...

If the doom scenario really bothers you then set a challenging escape threshold for the players to target. Kill x zombies and you escape somehow. Now you have something to shoot for and if you don't get it, well, you tried. If you do get it then its a night to remember.

mopfking said...

how much does the game weight
(for shippment)

Matt Drake said...

I am not even sure how I would know that.