By September 16, 2011

Zombie Dice Game Review

We have a ton of games here at Fort Gibberish. Most of the games we like last between 45 and 90 minutes. They often have a fair amount of rules and/or nuance that require a few playthroughs before people “get” them.

The typical gaming session ends in a race condition: people want to keep playing games, but they are too tired to crack open another “full-sized” game. I’ve purchased some short, more simple games like Zombie Fluxx and Uno to ease everyone down from their gaming afterglow.

Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson Games accomplishes that mission quite well. Here’s my short review on a short little game.

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Theme and Game Play

You are a zombie, and you are hungry for BRAINS! The object of the game is to roll brains on special dice while avoiding shotgun blasts. The game ends when someone rolls at least 13 brains.

Dice have three icons on them. Brains are obviously tasty. Shotgun blasts are obviously bad. The last icon is a set of feet, which means that your prey has escaped.

There are three kinds of dice: green, yellow and red. The green dice are easy targets, and three sides are brains, two are feet, and one is a shotgun blast. Yellow dice have two brains, blasts, and feet each. Red dice represent hardened survivors, ready for the zombie apocalypse. These tasty morsels — I mean, people — have three shotgun blasts, two feet, and one brain.

You roll three dice per throw. Brains and shotgun blasts remain on the table until your turn is over. You have the option of re-rolling any feet on your next throw. If you choose to roll again, you must draw back up to three dice without looking. For example, if you roll one brain, one blast, and one foot you would draw two dice without looking and then roll.

When you roll three shotgun blasts your turn is over, and you lose any brains you accumulated that turn. You may stop rolling at any time and add the number of brains you’ve rolled to your total. First one to thirteen brains ends the game.

Gameplay Impressions

Zombie Dice is a great example of a “European” style game. The game components and rules are easy to grasp, but the underlying strategy can be more complex depending on the age, personality, and gaming experience of the players. Personality types really come out while playing Zombie Dice. Some people are very risk adverse and will stop as soon as possible. Slow and steady sometimes wins Zombie Dice. Other players throw caution to the wind when they throw their dice. Sometimes a single massive, lucky turn will turn the tide and reward risk-taking behavior. Gamers who have been around for awhile start counting the dice and realize that if they’ve already thrown a red shotgun blast and a red brain there’s only one red die left in the cup. Might be time to take a chance.

At the other end of the spectrum, new gamers can take to Zombie Dice easily and may have fun just from rolling and shouting at the dice. The Enforcer, age 5, really likes this game because the dice rattle loudly in the cup and who doesn’t like rolling a fistful of dice? It was one of the best things about playing West End Games’s d6-based Star Wars roleplaying game.

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“Now, you have ten brains, two blasts, and one red die left. Are you sure you want to roll?” “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”

There isn’t one “right” way to play Zombie Dice, and I think that’s part of the appeal.

If I had to make improvements on Zombie Dice I would:

  • Put some sort of padding inside the cup. The dice rattle very loudly and kept us from playing Zombie Dice a few times when other people in the house were sleeping.
  • Build an easier way to extract dice. Players are supposed to draw dice without looking. This keeps players from deciding to stop rolling based on the “riskiness” of their dice. The recommended way to do this is to avert one’s eyes and extract dice from the rolling cup by hand. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s an unusual amount of concentration and dexterity required for a social game. It would be cool if the cup had a sliding door that allowed for one die to be dispensed at a time.
  • Lower the price. I got mine on sale at Amazon.com for just a little over $10 delivered. The game retails at $13.13, and while it’s a cute bit of marketing I think that’s a bit too much money. I would have not bought the game at the full retail price without playing it first. Less than $10 puts the game into impulse buy territory; pushing $15 makes me pause. Your thresholds may vary.

Conclusion

Zombie Dice is straightforward and easy to teach. It takes about five minutes to go over the game and anywhere from five to fifteen minutes to play depending on how lucky and risk adverse the players are. Aside from deciding to roll again or not the game is pretty mindless and is a great warm-up or cool-down game. The game is so easy to play that we video Skype with my pal Roclar in Virginia and describe what we’ve rolled on his turn. Works great.

Strongly recommended

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Posted in: games, review, zombies

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