8 Zombie-Themed Games for Halloween
Every time we think zombies are dead, they rise back up and prove us wrong. Not only on television, where Fear the Walking Dead, the spin-off of the highly acclaimed television series The Walking Dead, debuted last month, but also in the board game arena. With The Walking Dead television show returning to our living rooms this weekend, I thought I’d take a look at some of the myriad options now available for zombie-themed gaming. It should be no surprise, that many of the games were inspired by The Walking Dead television series and graphic novels. So, without further ado, I present to you eight games featuring walkers, geeks, biters, shambling mounds of flesh, aka Zombies!
By far, my most favorite zombie game of all time, is Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, a semi-cooperative board game of zombies versus characters straight out of a B-movie horror flick. Since I just covered it in detail last week here on The Glass Meeple, I’ll limit my remarks to describing one of the game’s fun expansions.
Last Night on Earth: Survival of the Fittest Expansion includes three all new card decks that can be seamlessly integrated into all existing scenarios. Our heroes now have powerful Unique Items – if they can find them – and Survival Tactics to help in their seemingly never-ending struggle against the relentless horde of undead, while the zombies become more ferocious than ever wielding a host of gruesome Grave Weapons. (The Zombies with Grave Weapons Miniature Set with its 14 highly detailed plastic miniatures is a perfect companion to this deck.) Survival of the Fittest also adds new game mechanics like Barricades and Sewers and several intense Scenarios that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, with or without Survival of the Fittest Expansion, supports 2 to 6 players ages 12 and up and plays in about an hour.
2. Dead Panic
If there ever were a zombie apocalypse, wouldn’t it be nice if we all worked together against the zombies, cooperatively? Dead Panic is a cooperative board game in which players each take on the role of one of the eight characters provided – each with its own special ability – and working together, try to survive the attacking zombie horde long enough to find the three pieces of the radio, call for help, then escape in the van when help arrives.
At the beginning of the game, players are holed up in a remote hunting cabin at the center of the game board. Six zombies can be seen shambling in the woods. On the players’ turn, each player in clockwise order beginning with the start player – the one holding the Bait token – takes 2 actions. Then it’s the Zombies’ turn: turn up an Event Card, drawing and placing the indicated number tokens (Zombies and/or Survivors) from the zombie bag and executing the Event. Next any Survivors on the board move 1 space towards the Cabin, then the Zombies move. If any Zombies share the same space as a Survivor or Character, resolve the Fight(s). Finally, pass the Bait Token to the next player clockwise (optionally, you can choose who takes it) and it’s the Players’ turn again. Rinse and repeat.
Player actions include:
- Search the cabin (draw a Cabin card). Cabin cards provide weapons and items that can help players fight zombies, repair the walls, move and heal.
- Move 1 space. If moving into the same space as one or more zombies, you must fight the strongest zombie, but may use Cabin cards for free (no action cost). You can take a Survivor with you for 2 actions.
- Shoot with a Ranged weapon.
- Fight with a Melee weapon. Though usually done during the Fight Zombies phase of the Zombies’ turn, players may initiate a Melee fight for 1 action.
- Trade, give, or receive 1 card or a Radio Piece.
- Repair 1 Crack in the wall you’re next to.
- Collect a Radio piece.
- Assemble Radio pieces so that 2 or more take up only 1 space in your hand.
- Call Rescuers – once the Radio Pieces are found and assembled.
- Move the Van – after the Rescuers have been called, the player holding the Radio can move the van.
- Shoot from the Van – once you reach the Van. You’re almost there!
Some items are free to use, others require an action. Fights are resolved by players rolling 2 dice. If the result is greater than the target zombie’s strength, the zombie takes damage, if equal nothing happens (except when fighting a Brawler who wins on ties), if less then the Character is wounded. Both Characters and Survivors can die and turn into zombies – not a good thing. Remember the goal is to survive, radio for help and escape in the Van.
While Dead Panic is based on Castle Panic (both were designed by Jason De Witt), has a similar board layout, and shares some of Castle Panic’s mechanics, it feels and plays quite differently. For example, in Castle Panic, when the item deck runs out, you shuffle the discard pile and continue drawing. In Dead Panic, however, resources are limited: when the item deck runs out, that’s it, you have to make do with what you’ve got. Also, in Dead Panic, you play a character with your own special ability and health meter. You can move around the board, encounter zombies one-on-one, etc. It feels more roleplaying-ish.
Like Castle Panic, Dead Panic is a family or casual game, in terms of complexity, though some may disagree with the family categorization due to the zombie theme. Personally, I don’t find it any more bloody than Castle Panic, except that characters and survivors can die and turn into zombies. All in all, it makes for a fun, thematic, zombie game, perfect for Halloween or anytime you want to beat up on some zombies, whether in solo play or in coordination with a team.
Dead Panic supports 1 to 6 players, ages 13 and up and plays in about 90 minutes.
Bang! The Dice Game: The Walking Dead is a retheme – graphic novel Walking Dead with corresponding artwork – of Bang! The Dice Game, which spun off Bang! the classic western-themed hidden-role, deduction card game. Like its predecessor, Bang! The Dice Game: The Walking Dead is a hidden role deduction dice game in which you’ll play as either the Leader of the Survivors (paint a big target on your back, everyone knows who you are and that your goal is to defeat the Saviors and Loners); a Survivor (Rick’s group thematically, with the goal of protecting the Leader and eliminating the Saviors and Loners); one of the Saviors (trying to kill the Leader and all Survivors), or a Loner looking out for numero uno (winning when everyone else is dead, the Leader last). Which team you’re playing on is determined by your Loyalty card, while your character card (Rick, Michone, Carl, Abraham, The Governor, etc.) gives you a special ability and specifies your hit points. During all this conflict – and there’s a lot of it, the zombies provide a constant and ever-present threat to all, so don’t forget to defend against them.
On your turn, you get up to three rolls, Yahtzee-style. You want to keep dice that will harm or help other players according to your Loyalty’s objective and reroll the rest. Of course, you don’t know for certain where everyone else’s Loyalties lie, except for the Leader. That’s where the real fun comes into play: guessing who’s with who.
The dice have 6 faces. When you’re done rolling, you’ll have to resolve them in order:
- Zombie Head – every time you roll one you have to take a zombie token. If you take the last one, everyone counts his zombie tokens and takes an equivalent amount of damage. (I told you the zombies were an ever-present threat. This is a zombie apocalypse you’re playing in here.)
- Infection Symbol – you can’t reroll these – roll three and your turn is done: take a damage, resolve the dice as they are, and pass them to the next player.
- Target, Range 1 – deal damage to the player of your choice 1 space away.
- Target, Range 2 – deal damage to the player of your choice 2 spaces away.
- Medpack – heal yourself or another player.
- Grenade – 1 or 2 grenades are useless, unless you’re Carl, with 3 you can blow away all the zombies in front of you and deal 1 damage to all other players.
As people die, their Loyalties are revealed, helping you deduce who’s with you and who’s against you, or if you’re all on your lonesome now. With its quick play time (15 to 30 minutes), support for 3 to 8 players and team play – even though you don’t know for sure who’s on your team – Bang! The Dice Game: The Walking Dead makes both a good filler and a fun party game. Suggested ages are 13 and up due to the zombies and violent theme.
In Bang! The Walking Dead, a stand-alone retheme of the shoot ’em up hidden role deduction card game Bang!, trust and betrayal are critical to survival. Team up and face off against your fellow players in the struggle to achieve superiority (according to your Loyalty card) during a zombie apocalypse.
The characters and artwork are straight out of The Walking Dead graphic novels. As in Bang! The Dice Game: The Walking Dead just discussed, you’ll play as the Leader (Sheriff), a Survivor (Deputy), a Savior (Outlaw) or a Loner (Renegade) with the same goal (that depends on your Loyalty card) as in the dice game just described. Instead of rolling dice, you’ll play cards to injure and kill your opponents while protecting your teammates. Of course, the only known loyalty at the start of the game is the Leader (same as the Sheriff in the original Bang!). In fact, every role from the original Bang! card game has a direct equivalent in Bang! The Walking Dead with the same special abilities, etc. Only the names and artwork have changed. The game remains the same. So, if you’ve played Bang!, you already know how to play this game.
Likewise the weapons and other cards have direct equivalents. For example, in Bang!, you start play with a Colt .45, while in The Walking Dead version, you start with a hatchet, but they both have the same abilities. Each weapon has a range of 2, 3, 4, and 5: Schofield, Remington, Rev. Carbine, and Winchester in Bang! represented as Pistol, Shotgun, Assault Rifle, and Sniper Rifle in Bang! The Walking Dead.
Your goal is to survive and eliminate others according to your Loyalty card. Try not to kill your fellow teammates. This can be difficult, particularly if you’re playing a Survivor or the Leader. For the Saviors it’s more cut and dried: kill the Leader. He’s the one with his Loyalty card face up like a big target on his back. He may as well be yelling “Shoot me! I’m right here!”
Loads of fun, no matter which version you play, but with a little longer playtime than the dice version. Bang! The Walking Dead plays in 20 to 40 minutes and supports 4 to 7 players ages 13 and up. Yet another way to quench your thirst for zombies. Eww!
For a more humorous take on The Walking Dead, you can play a zombie, instead of a human: kicking down doors, attacking monsters, and eating brains, Munchkin style, with the new expansion for Munchkin Zombies, aptly named Munchkin Zombies: The Walking Dead.
Like its parent game Munchkin, Munchkin Zombies is all about parody and tongue-in-cheek humor, designed to “capture the essence of a role-playing experience… with none of that stupid roleplaying stuff.” It’s a silly, often cutthroat game. Sometimes you help your fellow zombies, other times you throw everything in your power against them to impede their progress… especially if they’re leveling up faster than you are!
In Munchkin Zombies, the “monsters” you’re attacking are people, some helpless, some hazardous, with a few rogue zombies thrown in. Your armor is whatever you’ve blundered across during your lurching search for braaains.
With the Munchkin Zombies: The Walking Dead 56-card expansion, you get to do battle with deadly living foes like Rick, Michone, and Negan. You can whack them with a deadly Katana you happened to pick up or the brutal Lucille. Then take their stuff and shamble toward victory, leveling up to become the most badass undead Walker of them all!
Munchkin Zombies, with or without Munchkin Zombies: The Walking Dead, supports 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up, and plays in 1 to 2 hours. The more expansions you add, and the more adversarial you play, the longer the playtime tends to be.
6. Zombie Dice
Enough of The Walking Dead already. How about a simple push-your-luck style dice game, that’s small enough to take and play anywhere? Enter Zombie Dice.
In Zombie Dice, your goal is to grab as many brains as you can without getting shotgunned. On your turn, you roll 3 dice. Brains are gooood, yum; footprints are walking food that got away; and shotgun blasts are bad news for you. Set aside any brains and shotgun blasts you rolled, draw back up to 3 dice – no peeking when you draw them now! – and roll again – if you dare.
Three shotgun blasts and you’re dead and lose all the brains you accumulated that turn. However, you can always bank your brains, instead of rolling again, if you haven’t already been blasted away. The first player to accumulate 13 brains wins. <chewing sound> Yum, braaains.
Zombie Dice supports two or more players, takes 10 to 20 minutes to play, can be taught in a single round, and played just about anywhere.
Zombies!!! is a tile-laying game of survival. Your goal is to get to the helipad first and take off or be the first to kill 20 zombies.
There’s nothing cooperative about this game whatsoever. On your turn, you refresh your hand to three cards, choose a tile and place it. The tile will indicate how many zombies to spawn on it; the default is one per road space. Then you roll a die and move that many spaces, fighting zombies as you encounter them. Finally, roll a die again to see how many zombies you get to move, usually to intercept your fellow players. Once per round – during your turn or another player’s – you can play one of your three cards to mess with your opponents or help yourself.
Zombies!!! plays in about an hour without expansions and supports 2 to 6 players ages 12 and up. Epic games utilizing lots of expansions can go on for hours.
8. Zombie Fluxx
In Zombie Fluxx you play a person trying to escape from zombies – in a Car, with a Friend – or sometimes you just want to get a bunch of them together to form a zombie baseball team or choir, or accomplish some other weird agenda. It all depends on the current Goal in this ever-changing zombie game.
As in all Fluxx card games, the cards you play determine the current rules of the game. The game begins with no way to win, each player holding a hand of three cards, and the only rule is to draw one card and play one card. By playing cards, you and your fellow players change the rules of the game, including: how many cards to draw, how many you have to play, and even how to win the game.
There are many versions of Fluxx – Batman Fluxx, Cartoon Network Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx, Holiday Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx, Oz Fluxx, Monster Fluxx, Star Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, Regular Show Fluxx and more (the list is as long as Bubba’s shrimp dishes in Forest Gump) – each with its own theme and unique flavor. Of them all, Zombie Fluxx is my favorite.
The overall rules in Fluxx games are basically the same. There are 5 types of cards: Keepers which you put on the table in front of you when you play them; Goals played in the middle of the table to change the current winning condition – most Goals require you to acquire particular Keepers; New Rules which change game play such as draw rate, number of plays, hand limit, etc.; Actions that provide a one-time use; and Creepers that are sort of a bad type of Keeper – they might keep you from winning or be just what you need to meet the current Goal.
Zombie Fluxx is a very light-hearted, casual zombie game. It supports 2 to 6 players ages 8 and up and plays in 10 to 40 minutes.
Copyright © 2013-2015 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.