Although I have a decent-sized game collection, one thing that’s been sorely lacking is zombie games: with Halloween coming up, my only real options were Last Night on Earth and Age of Steam: the Zombie Apocalypse. Having recently been introduced to Kickstarter, however, I was happy to get in on a new offering from Mayday Games: Eaten by Zombies. This is another Dominion-inspired deckbuilding game with, obviously, a zombie twist. It also has a great start player condition: the starting player is the one with the least convincing zombie moan!
What’s in the Box
First off, the components. With one exception, the game is of good quality; it consists of a cardboard ammo box containing a number of cards, with enough room left over to add a couple of expansions. The cards feel like decent plastic; I’ve only played once so far, so I can’t comment on how well they’ll hold up to repeated plays, but they don’t feel flimsy. My only real complaint quality-wise is with the We Have the Bomb promo, which very obviously received no proofreading and contains multiple typos. Additionally, while the rules were proofread well, they would be better if they showed the cards; it’s very difficult to graph the game from reading the rules alone, without the cards to look at. (There’s also no card list, but you can find a summary on the bottom of the box, along with the playing time (20-40 minutes listed, though that’s likely an overestimate) and a warning that the game is not appropriate for small children).
Playing the Game
The actual gameplay is pretty simple. You start with a deck of a dozen cards, consisting of heavy sticks (which help you attack zombies), Hides (which help you run away from zombies), and Sandwiches (which both help you run away and let you draw a card). At the start of each turn, a zombie gets flipped over and you choose whether to fight it or flee from it; big zombies are hard to kill but easy to run away from, and vice versa for small ones. Once you’ve made that decision, you play as many cards of the appropriate type (fight/draw or flee/draw) as you like. If you successfully kill all the zombies or run away, you get to scavenge for swag: however much fight or flee you played, you can buy any number of cards that cost up to that much altogether and put them into your hand. The cards work similarly to Dominion: you deal out two cards per player (three per player if you don’t use the three starting swag cards) and are available to all players to be purchased.
But wait…did I say ALL of the zombies? That’s right…when you kill a zombie, it goes to your discard pile, and once you’ve drawn one you can (usually) only get it out of your hand by playing it on somebody else. Additionally, every time you go completely through the zombie deck, the number of zombies coming out each turn increases by one. Finally, if you’re able to successfully flee the zombies, all but one of them stick around to go after the next player. Eventually, we’re all going to die!
If you fail to fight or flee successfully, you lose cards equal to the total flee value of the remaining zombies (even if you flee successfully, you still lose half this value). The game has a healthy dose of luck in it; in my first game, for example, I had a handful of flee cards, but the smallest zombie game up and one of my opponents played another one, so while I would have only needed 2 attack to kill both of them, I needed 8 flee to get away, and only had 7…causing me to lose half my deck in one turn!
Winning and Losing
At the end of your turn, you draw back to six cards in hand. If at any time you need to draw and there are no cards remaining in your desk or discard, you immediately lose the game and become a zombie. The last player alive when everyone else becomes a zombie wins the game: you’re going to be dead soon, but at least you outlived your friends!
There are, however, two other ways to win. Players can work together to defeat the zombies: in the unlikely case that the zombie deck and discard pile are empty, all remaining survivors are safe (although only the survivor with the most cards is the ultimate winner). Zombie players can still win as well, through directing the zombie horde; killing zombies takes a toll on the mind (represented by the zombies that go into your discard pile) and if you ever have a hand full of zombies at the beginning of your turn, you go insane and the zombie players win!
If this game was longer, I wouldn’t care for it; it’s entirely too random. For a 20 minute filler, however, it’s not bad, and the gameplay fits the theme.