Thursday, May 21, 2015

Boardgames at Lunch: Zombie Edition

Alright, enough of the morose stuff. Back to games!

This afternoon, I resurrected my Boardgames at Lunch initiative in my office. I grabbed my two regulars, Ryan and Brian, sat them down in the conference room, and broke out Zombie 15'.

Zombie 15' is a co-op zombie survival game played in real-time. The game comes with 15 missions. Each mission has different objectives, and are meant to be played in order, with each mission adding a new rule and more challenge than the mission before it. However, every mission has one thing in common: the players have 15 minutes to complete it, or they lose.

The rules are extremely straightforward. On your turn, you get four actions. You can basically do three things with your four actions: fight zombies, search buildings, or move. There's other stuff, like getting up if you've fallen down, and in later scenarios, picking up heavy objects critical to the scenario can take actions, too. But overall, that's it. Players take turns moving around the board, smashing zombies, ransacking houses for more weapons and equipment, and achieving whatever the scenario's objective is. New zombies get added to the board every 60 seconds (except in the first mission, which works like a tutorial). They get added wherever the current player is when the 60 seconds are up (a soundtrack included with the game cues the zombie onslaught with a grrrrrrl!!) 

This was my second time playing Zombie 15'. Like the first time, it was an absolute blast. In two short plays, Zombie 15' has soared right to the top of my list of favorite zombie boardgames, dethroning the former champ, City of Horror. (No, I haven't played Dead of Winter yet, but I really, really want to). At its core, Zombie 15' is a tactical game, like the D&D adventure boardgames, but it plays so much faster than any other tactical game I've ever played. The escalating campaign is a great touch, too, as it gets you used to the fundamentals before beating you over the head with the crazy stuff, plus it allows you to scale the game to the level of the group.

Speaking of which, if you've got a group of seasoned board gamers (or just smart, patient people who don't mind the idea of getting torn apart by zombies), I'd recommend starting with the second scenario, not the first. The first is actually a little too easy; after both games, me and the other players were like "Uh, that's it?" It was fun, don't get me wrong; but Zombie 15's campaign errs on the side of caution and wants you to be comfortable with the fundamentals before it unleashes the horde in all its terrible glory on you. If you are going to start from the very bottom, be sure you pitch the rest of the game to the players so they don't think that's all there is to it and aren't willing to come back.

Oh, and if you're worried about replayability, don't be. Even if/when you get through the 15 included scenarios, there are already more available online, and you can easily make your own; this isn't Mansions of Madness where the scenarios have customized bits or anything.

As a Boardgames at Lunch selection, Zombie 15' is damn-near perfect. After everyone grabs their lunch and is ready to play, an hour gets whittled down to about 40 minutes...that's pushing it for a 60 minute game, even a 45-minute game, but more than enough time to setup, play, and take down a whole scenario of Zombie 15'. I would add, though, that just a little bit of preparation will make it even easier. Take ten minutes before bed to get the search deck ready and the tiles necessary for your scenario stacked up top and separated from the rest, and you'll be bashing zombies with looted banjos in no time flat in your conference room!

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