Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Zombie Dice (Steve Jackson Games)

Zombie Dice is a fun, quick game of odds and probabilities and generally pushing your luck from Steve Jackson Games. It's a somewhat reminiscent of FOR*GET*IT, but with streamlined rules and a better scoring system that avoids one of that game's biggest flaws. (*)

Each player is a zombie searching for brains while trying to avoid shotgun blasts as represented on the sides of the nicely crafted green, yellow and red dice. The colors are important because your probability of success is higher with green than with red, but the dice you roll are chosen randomly, so look out. (Note: if playing a zombie bothers you for some reason, you could easily flip this game around and be humans looking to shotgun the zombies before your brains are eaten, but that would be more challenging with these dice. The zombies numbers are overwhelming.)

The rules literally take seconds to learn, and their simplicity might fool you into believing that the game is too simple. Start believing that and you'll pay everything (to paraphrase the song) when you roll the dice just one more time. You risk all the points for the round on every roll, and you can only dodge the shotguns for so long. Under the best circumstances, there's better than a 40% chance of seeing the business end of those barrels.

There were a few drawbacks discovered from our first sessions. First, going last is a major advantage, so we have a House Rule that the first player from the previous round goes last in the following round so that this position rotates.

Second, there's no interaction between the players other than goading them into taking another dangerous roll or convincing them to play it safe. Psychological manipulation aside, maybe an expansion could address this with some kind of challenge dice or interference cards or some other twist.

Third, after a few games, the nifty Zombie Dice cup start to show signs of wear around the rim, caused by players shoving their fingers down into the narrow can to draw their dice randomly. (It's called "gravity", people. Tip the cup upwards and the dice will come to you!) Quick Fix for next time: put the dice in a spare dice bag and use the cup to roll only the three you select.

Summary: Great, quick game. Perfect between longer games, for the one-last-game-before-we-go game, or a we're-still-waiting-for-you-know-you game. (And then tell them about all the fun they missed for coming late.) And if you like zombie games, you probably have bags of little plastic zombies. use them to keep score.

(*) In FOR*GET*IT, if, for example, all the "IT" dice are out of play, you're free to continue rolling until you max out of points without any chance of losing. There's always the possibility of Bad Stuff on every die in Zombie Dice

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