Some years ago—never mind how long precisely*—I acquired a board game called Zombies!!!
I think this game was either a birthday or a Christmas gift, but the thing is, after receiving it, I never got around to actually playing it, and so it sat, unopened, on the shelf, for years, not far from the equally-unused (but opened and previously much-played) Buffy the Vampire Slayer board game. However, since we have, of course, been staying home almost all the time—no studio, no visiting—my wife has gotten bored and has been looking for things to do; and, suddenly remembering the existence of this game, I tracked it down out in the garage and opened it up. In this respect, the Zombies!!! game was much like those zombie-containing canisters of Trioxin from the film The Return of the Living Dead:
Anyway, as one may expect, this is a game about fighting, avoiding, and/or running away from … ZOMBIES!!! The game is played on an expanding board that consists of tiles representing either a street, a building, or a helipad. The rules are actually pretty straightforward, but rather than type them all out, I will summarize:
- Each player starts the game in the Town Square, with three Event cards, three Life tokens, and three Bullet tokens (see subsequent items for more information about these).
- Wife: “Only three? That’s not a lot of bullets for zombies.”
- At the start of each player’s turn, that player draws and plays a city tile. These can either be regular streets or named buildings, one of which is the aforementioned helipad. Regular streets get one zombie per exit; named buildings get the number of zombies specified on the card, along with a specified number of life tokens and bullet tokens.
- Wife: “You mean EVERY time we put down a road there’s more zombies?!”
Me: “Well, they do tend to accumulate.”
- Wife: “You mean EVERY time we put down a road there’s more zombies?!”
- After putting down a tile, the player then rolls a die to move that number of squares. (Each city tile is broken down into up to nine squares on which players and zombies may move.) Then, after moving, the player rolls another die to determine how many zombies move; each of these zombies moves one square.
- If a player and a zombie end up occupying the same square, the player must kill the zombie. This is done by rolling a the six-sided die and getting a result of 4 or higher. If the result is less than three, the player can either spend bullets to raise the result to the level of success (one bullet = one extra point) or spend life to roll again (one life = one re-roll). The player cannot disengage from combat, so basically once you’re in a fight, you either win or you run out of life and bullet tokens and lose. If you lose, you are returned to the starting position of the game, in the middle of the town square, and you have to sacrifice half the zombies you have killed, rounded up.
- Event cards that can be played at any time to alter the flow of the game. A player can only play one such card per round, and they get to draw one when it’s their turn.
- A player wins by either getting to the helipad and escaping in the helicopter** or by killing 25 zombies.
So those are the rules in a nutshell. Pretty straightforward, actually. However, there was one threat in the game that was even more dire than the zombies, coming, as it did, out of nowhere, repeatedly, to disrupt all our progress.
If you guessed that the threat was Chaplin, AKA one half of the reasons why we didn’t go with my wife’s original “let’s assemble a jigsaw puzzle” idea, then you would be correct. So in addition to fending off zombies, we were required to fend off repeated incursions from the kitty:
To start with, each player chooses one of the little shotgun-toting plastic human figurines. They are variously colored green, blue, white, red, orange, and black. You can guess which one I took.
Me: “What color do you want?”
Wife: “What are the choices?”
Me: “Well, not orange.”
My wife chose green, and we got started. To determine who goes first, each player rolls a six-sided die. I rolled a one***. My wife didn’t. Therefore my wife went first. Immediately we started to, not unexpectedly, accumulate zombies.
It wasn’t long before my wife noticed something about the game pieces:
Wife: “So … all the player figures are men, and all the zombie figures are women?”
Me (checking): “No, there are male zombies too.”
However, she was correct that all the player figures were male. I guess it was too expensive to have a separate mold to make an equitable distribution of player genders.
As the map grew, so did the zombie population, although sometimes they arrived a little late.
Wife: “When I play a street, I keep wanting to leave the zombies out.”
Me: “As one does.”
Wife: “Which squares are the roads? I can’t tell the roads apart from the buildings.”
Now the perspicacious reader, depending on the quality of his or her screen and his or her visual acuity, may have noticed that, while the board keeps expanding in size, my poor little orange dude seems to be spending a lot of time there in the Town Square at the center of it all. This is because I happened to have two Event Cards that would get me lots of extra bullets if I could just get into the Sporting Goods store (the square in the lower left), which was, as buildings are in this sort of situation, infested with zombies. So I kept trying repeatedly to get through the lurking zombies and make it into that building and collect my bullets, since, as was previously noted by my wife, three was not a lot of bullets for zombies.
Unfortunately, this turned out—CAT ATTACK!!!
Sorry, where was I? Besides not the Sporting Goods store? 😬 Oh, right. Anyway, as I was saying, unfortunately, I simply could not roll above a four to (quite literally****) save my life, so I kept getting sent back to the Town Square with nothing but the teeth in my mouth. And zombie teeth in my leg, presumably. Finally I enlisted help.
See how that worked out?
Now, while I was repeatedly bashing my head against the doors of the Sporting Goods store, my wife, in the opposite corner of the map, was invading a zombie-infested hospital in the hopes of gathering the life and bullet tokens that were within.
Wife: “Is this more zombies than on the shows you watch, density-wise?”
Me: “Well sometimes on the shows they have what they call a ‘herd’ and then there’s a lot of zombies but, yeah, that’s pretty dense.”
She was having better luck with the dice than I was, and managed to collect several life and bullet tokens. And then—CAT ATTACK!!!
Anyway, as I was saying, and then, she drew the helipad tile; but I, being the player with fewer***** zombies, got to pick where the helipad tile went.
Wife: “Is that really what it says in the rules?”
Me: “Yep.” (reads rule to wife)
Me: “I think the helipad is going to go …” (positions helipad like two tiles from the Sporting Goods store and on the opposite side of the map from wife) “… right here.”
Wife: “Of course you do.”
Now, if you take a close look at that board, you can see my wife’s green shotgun-toting dude in the top right, and the helipad at the bottom middle. You will also no doubt note that there are at least like eight zombies between her and the middle square of the helipad, which was where she needed to get in order to board the helicopter, escape, and win the game. Here it is from another angle:
And I had an event card in my hand that could prevent her from moving one turn, which, being a big meanie, I played. While she was unable to move, I had yet more zombies shamble into the path she needed to take. And guess how that all worked out? Go on. Guess.
And where was my little orange dude while my wife was boarding the helicopter? Again, go ahead and guess.
Of course, the other way to win is by killing 25 zombies. How did our collections of dead****** zombies stack up? Let’s take a look. Wife’s collection:
So obviously whatever my wife had in that coffee mug must have given her extra-special zombie-killing skills, right? Kind of like how being a main character on The Walking Dead means you get a headshot every time you fire at a zombie, even when you don’t bother to aim.
But I’m totally going to make it into that Sporting Goods store next time …
* Because I don’t remember. Also, with apologies to Melville.
** Just like Rick. Sort of.
*** This quickly became a pattern.
**** “Literally” being in the context of my shotgun-toting game figurine.
***** I.E., at that point, none.
****** Or at least, de-animated.