Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Do zombies wanna have fun? First impression on Carnival Zombie

Tom has mentioned that this game is a whole lot of fun. While I don't usually agree with his views on games, Roy had gotten himself a copy of the game and since I am always open to playing any game at least once, we brought it out on the table and gave it a go.

Carnival Zombie plays 1-6 in about 2 hours and is in essence Castle Panic (or more accurately, Dead Panic) on steriods. Players, controlling unique characters, try to navigate during the day through Venice (apparently during a mascarade festival), stopping at checkpoints to fend of zombies and bosses during the night so as to reach one of 4 final objectives. If players manage to succeed in the final encounter, then players get off Venice and win the game (nevermind that you are leaving behind countless zombies and the rest of the population to fend for themselves).

After 1st night....
Depending on the difficulty level (easy, medium hard), players will have a starting point and that is where they make their first stand for the night. Each night and day section is divided into 4 hours and during the night, zombies will spawn every hour and move towards the players who are also, surprisingly, dressed up in Mascarade get up AND carrying awesome weapons to boot!

How the zombies move and attack is very similar to Castle Panic. Players are in the center of the board which has 4 quarters, each having access to 2 zones. During each hour, zombies will spawn and placed on the outer zones. Then they will move and, if they are next to baracades (do you hear the people moan?) they will attack and try to enter the players' circle. If they succeed, then they will start to damage the players. Players will then, in character order, perform an action. Usually it is to kill zombies or perform a character's special action. Players can stress themselves (taking a wound in the process) to perform a second action. Players will repeat this for 4 hours and then the night is over.

How we determine if a zombie revives...
During the day, players will start to move their merry band (and any remaining barracades) towards the end game objective location. Take note if they left behind any remaining zombies in the direction they are moving, players will take damage (they decide how to distribute the damage amongst themselves). The 4 end game possibilities are, escaping by air ship, by boat, by bridge and fighting the final boss (which looks like a shark, squid, cthulluish monster). Before you can escape by ship / boat though, you will need to signal or find the boat respectively. Thus during the day time, you can either spend the hour by moving the group OR performing day time actions which is resting or trying to signal the airship / find the boat. You can also search for weapons/equipment to improve your team's survivability for the upcoming nights.

After the 2nd night...
When you finally reach the end game location, you will conduct an end game instance of sorts to see if you succeed or fail. In our game, we first tried for the air ship but we had bad mobile signal so we gave up on that and ran to find the boat. When we boarded the boat, we had to navigate correctly by having 3 cards showing the same direction as they are placed at (i.e. 3 cards showing East that are placed on the right of the boat) before the boat goes to zero health. We manage to get lucky with some good card placements and we escaped and won the game.

So that is Carnival zombie rules in a nutshell. I tried to streamline the rules but as you can see, even though the main gist is similar to Castle panic, there are quite a few more rules added to the mix. What are my thoughts? Well lest see...
After the 3rd night ...
The Good
1) With 4 end game missions, 3 difficulty levels and a number of bosses that will appear at random, there should be enough replayability in the game.

2) Not very difficult to pick up and play. Though I hear the rules are not easy to go through, once you get the gist of it, its not too difficult to play.

3) The Doctor seems quite powerful and gets more so with each survivor (blue cube) that you save. They increase the Doctor's firepower and the Doctor can even use the survivors to fend off 1 zombie attack, negating any damage done. Hmm maybe this should be in the "Bad" category for sacrificing a survivor....

4) Each character has an individual set of items that they can search that's unique to them.

Final round ! Will we escape ?

The Bad
1) The artwork is too gaudy for my tastes. The box art could have been better. Dead Panic's art, while showing a zombie right in your face, doesn't create such a turn off as this box art did to me.

2) The theme is quite odd to me. Why are the zombies and players dressed up in costume? Perhaps I did not read the fluff in the rulebook but it seems very odd. Granted the bosses have special powers somewhat attributed to the costume they are wearing and how they look, but I felt that a simple theme would have been better and less distracting. It has a novelty factor but that is all.

3) A lot of luck based elements when placing zombies and drawing of cards. Drawing of the nightmare cards is worst because if you have a lot of bad draws, you could potentially spend way too much time trying to get a signal to the airship or look for the boat that you will end up losing.

4) The end game instance seems abit weak to me. After all that frantic fighting of zombies, it all boiled down to us arranging cards and seeing if we are screwed by pulling out cubes which reduce our boat's health at the end? Quite anti climatic. Its as if we have no more control at the end and can only hope that we had enough survivors with us to even the odds. For the bridge, I think you are supposed to fight off a final horde of zombies. That may have been more fun.

5) I think it plays way too long. We took almost 2hours+ to finish our first game and we were moving relatively fast with minimal dispute of the actions to take.

6) Characters cannot share items so that can limit how useful a character can be especially if firepower is needed to fend off the zombies most of the time.

7) whenever you kill zombies, you plunk them into a headstone shaped cardboard piece. If any of the zombies fall off and touches the table, they will revive and come back as a nusiance again. This is gimmcky though unless you challenge yourself and place your hand maybe a foot above. That could make it exciting.

So in summary, at the heart of it all, it is a puzzle to be solved depending on what cubes appear and how threatening the zombies are to the barracades protecting the characters. Melee fighting is not what they want because they can only kill one zombie per action. With guns, they can use blast damage which helps to clear off groups of zombies from 1 section at a time. Keeping the health up, making good use of their skills (i.e. sniper can be used to take out the heavy health ones or bosses from far away) and having a little luck is crucial to allow you to win the game. While I am still very much open to trying zombie games, this unfortunately was not a whole lot of fun for me. I'll give it a miss.

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