Monday, July 28, 2014

ARggh ARggh Human, Have you any brain? Zombie HUNGRY!

Its the near future and while you are in a meeting with your cabinet, the television started reporting news flashes. Reports are now coming in of a strange outbreak and its not just an isolated incident. At least 1 outbreak of an unknown disease has been reported in each of the 5 major areas of the world. As live footage start to trickle in, you are greeted with scenes of chaos and people eating people and the dead rising afterwards. As the horror starts to set in you realise, this is it! This has been foretold in so many movies, books and TV shows. This is the Zombie apocalypse! Can you keep your population alive enough to overcome this scourge? Will you be the first to succumb to the unstoppable horde? Welcome to Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead!

Its just beginning....
Ok so what am I talking about ? Zombie State is a 2010 game published by, surprise surprise, Zombie State games (and now Game Salute). It is a 2-5 player game and takes roughly around 2 hours or so. Players manage a region (i.e. North America / Europe etc) and try to either a) remove ALL zombies from their region AND research a Tier 3 tech OR when the game end is triggered, have the most number of population remaining to win the game.

Wait a minute you ask; Isn't this an Ameri-trash game? What's with all those dice? Why does it look like Risk ? Is it just Risk with Zombies? What's with all the tacky colors ? Did I actually enjoy this game? Has Eric gone off the deep end?

Yes while the tacky name and Zombie theme does suggest this is an Ameri-trash game, it is, surprisingly a somewhat thematic Euro-style game. This is because during your turn you have Freedom Point (goodness another tacky term) or action points/pawns with which to perform actions. There are a variety of actions you can perform from drafting armies to research. All of the actions are either to help you combat the zombies OR prevent them from destroying your population. What's with all the dice? They are to count the number of population you have in each area under your control. So as zombies eat your population at the start of EVERY turn, they will reduce the pips down and spawn more zombies. Whenever a die is reduced to zero, that means the entire population of that area has been consumed and you take back the die to place on your player board. The only die you get to roll is a 12-sided die when you attempt to perform research.

Look at all that Tech you can research! 24 in total!
Speaking of research, boy are there a LOT of things for you to look into. The player board which helps you keep track of how many Freedom Points you have (and having more dice means less Freedom Points) also has everything you need to know about the game as well as the technologies, making it essential and extremely helpful in the game. As mentioned, one of the ways to win is via Technology and you will need to research at least 3 Tier 1 tech to be able to start on Tier 2 tech. Two Tier 2 tech will allow you to research a Tier 3 tech. Surprise surprise, the technologies and what benefits they can achieve for you is very thematic. To get the technology though, you will roll a D12 and on a roll of 7 or higher you will succeed. IF however you fail, then you will get a +3 for your next attempt. Every failure will provide you a +3 to help you in the next attempt. Oh, in addition, should any other opponent have researched the same technology, you will get a +1 for each opponent. You could also use a Freedom Point to add +1 to your roll. Not only are there 24 techs to work on, they also offer different paths to victory. Do you want to research so that you can have a more powerful military to take a whack at the zombies? Or do you want to research a cure? Or perhaps more infrastructure to help in your turtling ? So many options!

Fortress UK, the last bastion of Humanity in Europe!
The board may look tacky with all the bright colors and a little like Risk, you won't really be wrong if you are led to think this is like Risk. In some way it does. At the start of every turn, zombies that have not fed (usually because the region has no more humans left), they will start to move and they will move into an adjacent region with the most population remaining. So you could potentially lead your horde into your opponent's region, thereby offloading your problem onto them. Doesn't this sound like fun? Well for you, yes because you have now successfully dealt with some of your zombie problems. For your opponent, not so much. Most of the planning and actions you do during your turn will be to evacuate people from adjacent regions so your opponent's regions will look more enticing. This elicit many a groan from many players as they realise to their horror what has transpired when the horde rambles in.
Is there a way to stop the horde? Well if you manage to have military yea that may help. But, for some strange reason, they are rather weak OR function like some kamikaze troop and often die together with the zombie token they were trying to kill. Researching some military tech will beef up their defences, allowing them to kill more zombies before they die, but its costly to draft units. You could also build walls and barricades but that requires research which, for our game, nobody did until it was too late.

Turn 1 to Turn 8 where Europe was decimated and the game ended.
In summary, Zombie state is a game where you are trying to herd your zombie hordes around while trying to save as much of your population as possible and try not to be the first to lose everyone. During a turn, random events will occur which may trigger more random outbreaks. After which, zombies will either feed or move. Then players will get to perform their actions in turn order. Players advance on the mutation track and this may sometimes add more outbreak cards into the events deck OR just trigger an outbreak. Play continues until either turn 15 is reached then the game ends OR when 1 player has lost ALL population OR when someone has eradicated all zombies in your land AND researched a Tier 3 tech. In the first 2 scenarios, the player with the most population remaining will win. In the last scenario, the player who did the impossible will win the game.

Did I enjoy this game? YES! Surprisingly yes. It is amazingly thematic and everything is quite intuitive and easy to understand. Even the technologies make sense and I had a lot of fun. Most of the time we were groaning as more outbreaks occur and we struggle to contain the ever growing horde. We groaned when we lost population and in this regard it felt a bit like Freedom the underground railroad to me. Once I researched Evacuation technology, I was shifting population all over the place in hopes to entice the hordes to get out of my lands but the random outbreaks foiled my plans and got more groans from everyone.
Africa player seems to have an uncontrollable horde that was threatening to overrun everything until she hunkered down and built up her fortress in South Africa. Then through clever Red Cross technology, she managed to slowly repopulate her desolated regions. Until outbreak came and foiled her plans. Another groaning moment ;p.
Europe player was also bombarded with hordes from Asia and North America and wanted to stage a last defence in UK, building Fortress UK. Alas the hordes were hungry and the army failed so they got into UK and ate him out.
I was South America and originally I had mine well managed until outbreaks occurred and I could not control them. Luckily they were attracted northwards via Mexico (sorry Mexico!) and I managed to research Quarantine tech which prevented anymore losses when the game ended!
Australiasia player cleverly isolated his hordes while pushing the rest away to Europe and had a bastion in Australia until an Outbreak occurred there and started eating his population away. Luckily though this occurred near the game end and he had enough population to beat mine by 1.

So all in all, I had quite a bit of fun with this game. It is definitely not perfect but it gave me a feel of World War Z (a book which I love) and also how it feels to try to manage and contain and possibly reverse this epidemic. The randomness of the events and tech dice roll will not make this a game for everyone but there's a free expansion with some variant suggestions out now that may help to mitigate this. There is quite a fair bit of interaction amongst players as while you cannot directly attack someone, you can try to lead your hordes into your neighbours. Researching after everyone has researched will also make it easier for you to succeed. If you don't mind zombies and what I have described sounds interesting to you, then I highly recommend you to give this game a go. It may require the right group to play and may cause everyone to become very depressed afterwards, but it provided me with such an experience and story to tell that I won't hesitate to play this again.


1 comment:

  1. Yes! Hopefully your article will help me get more plays out of my set:-)