Jun 18, 2014

Zombies!!!! Board Game

Zombies!!! - Cover
I admit it; the main reason I bought this game was because I wanted to use the included plastic figurines in ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE RPG. The board game comes with six colorfully molded figures for the players, and 100 28mm zombie miniatures.  Throw in a couple of dice and the game was a value even if it wasn't fun to play.

And it is fun. The game is much more competitive than a role-playing game; the goal is to be the first character to reach the helicopter and escape a city overrun with the undead. The board is built up of randomly selected squares, each one with a predetermined number of zombies, ammunition and health-pickups. Each turn, a player lays down a new map tile (and all the new zombies that come with that tile), moves his character and then moves some zombies. The strategy of the game lies less in where you move your character and how you move the undead; do you move the ghouls out of your path or take the opportunity to push them into your opponent's direction? Unlike ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE RPG, this is not a game that encourages players to work together to survive the undead horde! It is every player for himself in this game.

Zombies!!! - Example Card
Combat is nicely simplistic and should be familiar to any ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE RPG player. Any time you encounter a zombie, you roll a six-side die; if you roll a 4, 5 or 6, the ghoul dies; otherwise, you lose a health point (you start with three at the beginning of the game, but can pick up more by exploring the map). You can also find bullet tokens; each token allows you to re-roll your attack if you missed the first time, but is used up in the process. Fortunately, you can find more bullets on the map as well.

The game also uses cards to provide special bonuses or game-changers. Each player can carry up to three cards at once, and a card can be played at any time. Cards have a variety of affects, from forcing other players to lose their turn, spawning in more zombies, or providing combat bonuses (although the latter are usually limited to only being used on specific map tiles). These cards add an extra bit of randomness to the game.

Zombies!!! - Bits n' pieces
The overall production values of the game are very nice; the aforementioned map-tiles are four-color print, as are the cards. The latter are well illustrated to boot. The plastic figurines are unpainted but are good molds, especially given the quantity the game provides. If there is one area where the game falls short, it is in its rather skimpy rule book, which do not do as good a job of explaining the game as it might have. Although there is something to be said for simplicity, a mere four pages is not enough to cover all the basics, much less some of the more unusual situations  that might arise. More than once I was forced to refer to forums on the developer's website to answer some questions about what to do with certain cards, for instance.

The original Zombies!!! has spawned a host of supplements, which increase the number of map-tiles, action cards and even add variety to the type of zombies you face. Combined into one giant map, you can easily create a gigantic city-scape to explore, pillage, and potentially die in. Fairly easy to pick up, the randomness of the game ensures that every match will be different. With high production values and a reasonably low price (the base game can be had for $20, the supplements are around $10 each), it is easy to recommend this title to gamers who want to experience a quick and fun battle against the undead.

Jun 17, 2014

New domain

So, in case you didn't notice, the ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE Role-Playing Game now has its own custom domain name: http://www.ZombiepocalypseRPG.com. The site itself is still hosted on Blogspot.com (and probably will remain there for the foreseeable future) but now it has a more direct identifier. No need to update your bookmarks; the old address will redirect to the new domain.

I've updated the logo, and uploaded a copy (suitable for printing - they make great stickers - or as wallpaper for your computer's desktop). You know, just in case you want to spread the word.

Jun 4, 2014

Playing In Minature

Plastic figures on a whiteboard map
Plastic figures on a whiteboard map
The ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE RPG was designed to be simple enough that it can be played with nothing more than a group of friends and a single six-side die, but that does not mean you have to limit yourself. Many gamers - myself included - enjoy using miniatures for the added tactility and better spatial awareness it allows them. Using miniatures, both players and game master can achieve a better understanding of the relative positioning of Monsters and Player Characters. A better certainty of how each stood in relation to the other allowed the players to craft more cunning strategies, which did much to prevent battles from stagnating into two opposing lines that whacked at one another until one side or another prevailed.  Plus, having a physical artifact to represent a character helps some player become more attached to their in-game avatar, turning a dull collection of stats into something more real for them.  And most modern miniatures tend to be nicely sculpted and are fun to play with even outside the game.

Of course, miniatures do have a downside; not only are they an added expense but they are another thing for a game-master to keep track of (they can also be an unwanted distraction for some undisciplined players). I personally believe the advantages of using miniatures more than balance out the potential for distraction, and as for cost, even an army of undead does not necessarily have to challenge even the most modest of budgets. Below I offer a handful of inexpensive alternatives.

Using coins as tokens on a vinyl mat
Using coins as tokens on a vinyl mat
A quick and easy way of representing the armies of the undead is to use the change in your pocket. Each denomination can be used to represent a different type of character; pennies for the zombies, nickles take the role of any living survivors, and quarters for the Player Characters. Dimes can be used as Injury Markers; simply place one on top of a character every time he gets Injured. The face of the coin can represent its status; head's up for when everything is okay, while face down ("tails") when the creature is staggered. Larger denominations can be used for "special" zombies, and dollar bills for things like cars or small structures. For the few dollars in your pocket, you can create a whole world. And nothing is more terrifying to players when you pull out the penny-jar that most households have tucked away in some corner...

Paper tokens played on a whiteboard map
Paper tokens played on a whiteboard map
Paper tokens can perform a similar role, and for no more than the cost of a few sheets of color printing and the few minutes of time necessary to cut out the tokens. You can either create your own or use the Official ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE RP Game Tokens you can find here. It is recommended that if you do use these, you print them out on 40lb card stock or heavier to keep them from flying away. There are five types of tokens; green figures that represent the Player Characters, yellow figures for any Living Monsters, and dire red for the undead monsters hunting them. There are also two other types of tokens: Injury Markers and Stagger Markers. An Injury Marker is placed on a character everytime it gets Injured and is used to keep track of how many times he has been hurt. They can only be removed with the use of a medkit. The larger Stagger markers are overlain on characters or Monsters that are Staggered; these tokens are automatically removed after one round.

Finally, you can purchase small bags of plastic miniatures from most gaming stores. I personally like to use the figurines from the Zombies!!! games as these have both monsters and heroes but there are many alternatives you can find. Barring that, cheap plastic Army Men toy soldiers can take the same role; just use different colors to represent the different factions (for instance, green soldiers for zombies and tan for the Player Characters).

The primary purpose of miniatures is to help players better envision how they are positioned with regard to each other and any monsters. As such, neither game mats nor boards are required. A game mat with a pre-printed hex grid can be useful to help determine the distance between the various creatures, but many Game Masters find they can manage without this sort of aid. I personally like to use an dry-erase whiteboard so I can quickly sketch any nearby landmarks such as buildings, vehicles or vegetation. Vinyl mats are available for about $30 dollars, either from your favorite online retailer or your local gamestore; dry-erase boards can be had for anywhere from $10 to $50, depending on the size, from any office supply store.