Monday, October 31, 2016

Tabletop Tuesday! There's a zombie horde outside...

Happy Halloween and welcome back to another Tabletop Tuesday Monday! In the spirit of the holiday, I am hitting publish a day early.

Formerly a weekly post about tabletop gaming, Tabletop Tuesday has been resurrected as a biweekly series. Older posts can be found under the Tabletop Tuesday tag, also linked at the top of the page.

All month long we've been showcasing a variety of zombie-themed games through a series of weekly posts. Last week's game was The Walking Dead, a board game based on the popular comic and TV series that requires strategy and luck as players explore the board to collect resources and fight zombies.

The final game in our zombie series is Last Night On Earth by Flying Frog Productions. Right off, I'll say this game is not for the faint of heart. Not just because there are zombies... but because this game can easily eat up an entire afternoon.

Hit the jump to read more!

Game: Last Night On Earth
Manufacturer: Flying Frog Productions
Ages: 12+
Players: 2-6

Last Night On Earth is a board game that pits Heroes against Zombies. The Heroes have a series of objectives they need to meet before the sun goes down. To met these objectives, the Heroes must move around the board, find weapons and items, and fight the Zombies. The advertised game length is 90 minutes and we've found that this is pretty accurate, though your first game will take longer as you learn the rules.

This game also has several expansion packs. These expansion packs contain extra scenarios, settings, and items to challenge players.

How to Play:
In preparation for this post we played through two of the scenarios included in the standard game pack: Die, Zombies Die! and Escape in the Truck. In addition to these two scenarios the standard game pack includes three more scenario cards. The items, characters, and events needed to play through all of these scenarios are included in the game.

This post will focus on the Die, Zombies Die! scenario because it present the basic rules and mechanics of the game. The goals of this basic game are:

Some scenarios use specific parts of the board, but in general the board is randomly generated. There is a large Town Center square that is surrounded by four or the six board pieces. These board pieces are usually chosen at random. The opposite side of the Town Center is the Mansion, used in the Defend the Manor House scenario.

A game of Last Night On Earth requires at least two players; one to play the Heroes and one to play the Zombies. The rules, actions, and cards are different for each side. In a 3+ player game multiple players will act as a team, taking control of part of the Zombie horde or a few of the Heroes. Players can collaborate with their team, showing each other their cards and devising a strategy. The breakdown of Zombie and Hero players is included in the rulebook on page 3.

Every game includes four Heroes. There are 8 Heroes to choose from. Players can select these randomly or chose characters that align with their play style. Different characters have different abilities that influence healing and movement. Player characters move by rolling one die, can't move through walls

The Zombie horde consists of 14 Zombies, half green and half brown. There can never be more than 14 Zombies on the board. Zombies can only move one space at a time, unless they use a card granting additional movement. Zombies can move in any direction and through walls, but if there is a Hero in an adjacent space the Zombie must move into that Hero's space on their next movement.

Game Play:
The game is turn based, with the Zombies always going first in the round. Each round includes one Zombie turn followed by one Hero turn. Helpful cards remind players of the actions they should take each turn:

Each scenario also includes a time limit - the Heroes must complete their objectives before the sun goes down, they are plunged into darkness, and the Zombies win. Rounds are monitored using the Sun Tracker, which is moved at the start of each Zombie turn. When the sun sets, the Zombies automatically win if the scenario objectives have not been met.

The game also includes two decks of cards - the Zombie cards and the Hero cards, one for each side/player. The Zombies begin the game with a hand of four Zombie cards, while the Heroes can only gain cards through Searching inside a building during their turn.

Cards included in the Zombie deck include movement bonuses, Fight Dice bonuses, and event cards that alter the board, limit Hero abilities or movement, or let the Zombies draw additional cards.

The Hero card deck includes tools and weapons, Fight Dice bonuses, and event cards that cancel Zombie card effects, heal Heroes, and kill Zombies without a combat win.

Combat is done during both the Zombie and Hero turns during a round. Any time a Zombie or Hero enters a space with the other, movement ends for that game piece and they must fight. Fights are decided using dice, the number of which is decided based on the presence of weapons, Fight Dice bonus cards, and character type. The base number of Fight Dice rolled for a Zombie is one; Heroes roll two is they are unarmed, potentially more if they are using a weapon.

Because of these combat mechanics, surviving a fight is weighted in the Heroes favor, but that is true to the theme of the game. Once the dice are rolled, if the Zombie has the higher roll the Hero takes a Wound. This is also true in the instance of a tie. If the Hero has the higher roll, they have fended off the Zombie. If that higher roll includes doubles, then the Zombie is defeated and removed from the game. It is not easy to outright kill a Zombie, while Zombies must win several fights to kill a Hero.

The Heroes can also take ranged attacks with ranged weapons. These weapons use dice to hit, can target single or multiple Zombies in a single square, and can really add to the tally of defeated Zombies.

After an attack using a weapon, the Heroes must roll dice to see if the weapon breaks or runs out of ammo. This added chance of losing a useful weapon adds to the suspense of the game.

To win the Die, Zombies Die! scenario, the Heroes must kill 15 Zombies before the Sun Tracker runs out of turns. If they fail at this, the Zombies win. The Zombies also win if two Heroes are killed, though this is hard... it is really a better strategy for the Zombies to wait out the Sun Tracker.

This post is already getting pretty long (like this game!) so I think we'll cut it off here. This is not a complete break down of the rules, but gives a general idea of the game mechanics. In my opinion, this game is not hard to learn - just read the rules carefully, and once you get into the flow of things I think you'll find Last Night On Earth easy to play. Just make sure you move that Sun Tracker!

As a fan of the zombie genre, this game is one of my favorites. It uses the theme well, drawing on classic tropes and scenarios. It even comes with its own soundtrack! The artwork is appropriately dreary and the detail on the character figures really demonstrates the quality of the game. The cards do stick together and are hard to shuffle thoroughly, due to either the shiny coating on the cards or the thickness of the cardstock.

As much fun as this game is, it often feels like it's weighted in the Heroes favor. This is entirely due to the game mechanics, and while those game mechanics are very in-theme for a zombie game it does make Last Night On Earth feel like the only way the Zombies can win is by running out the clock. Zombies will pretty much always move slower and roll fewer dice than the Heroes, and that is great - a shambling undead should not be smarter, faster, or more agile than a living human, and this adds to the theming of the game. But this also makes it harder for the Hero player(s) to feel imperiled.

I have thought of a few ways to help counter this while staying in-theme - for example, making searching more difficult if the building has lost power via a Lights Out! event card, perhaps by rolling a d6 and succeeding on a 4, 5, or 6 (right? if movement is slowed, why shouldn't it be harder to find a weapon or provisions?)

I have also thought that perhaps if a Hero starts their turn in the same square as a zombie, maybe they should have to fight and fend off the Zombie before they can take their movement - either adding an extra combat to that Hero's turn or by rearranging the general order of the Hero's turn. I'm considering making these house rules.

Despite these criticisms, I really do enjoy this game. Every time we break it out, I wonder why we don't play it more! The various scenarios and combinations of Hero characters make this game a little different every time you play it, and the expansion packs add to the variety.

Last Night On Earth retails for $59.99. The expansion packs cost between $20 and $35. With the high level of replayability and great use of theming I think this is a reasonable price for the game, though it feels a bit pricey at first glance. Amazon usually has it for around $45.

If you are a fan of the zombie genre, I really recommend this game - for mechanics, variety, and faithful theming, this is one of the best zombie board games I've played.

Now that October is over, we'll be returning to our biweekly posting schedule - see you in two weeks!

The Tabletop Tuesday series is my own personal hobby - I do not receive any compensation for these reviews. 

Thank you for reading!

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