Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hey, Zed (Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Witch Trial)

Halloween Special, super special event!

Pumpkin Pie!

Treat sized snax!



Last Night on Earth

At the math trade, a few people were playing this game I had never heard of. It was LNoE. It looked pretty cool, but honestly these types of "Ameritrash" games don't usually do much for me. Too long, too many rules, too fiddly, etc, etc.

Still, I keep wanting to like them. I've purchased and/or played a variety of these "thematic" and "fun" games in the hopes of finding one that struck the right balance between the campy fun of horror movies and a game that works AS A GAME. Those I've tried so far have all been dissapointments in one way or another:

Zombies: Too long, endgame doesn't work. Still, moderately fun if played using the quickplay rules on BGG.
Zombies 4: The suck.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: Very ambitious, but lacked in followthrough. I enjoyed the scenarios, but didn't like that they were obviously never playtested. The "betrayal" mechanic is cool in theory, but clumsy in practice. Still, I had some fun with this one despite it's rather significant faults.
Arkham Horror: Way too long and fiddly for me. Not enough actual decisions. The rest of the group likes it, though.

Not an exhaustive list to be sure, but the pattern is there. Lots of attempts, very few good games. Enter Last Night on Earth.

Is it good? Well, it's not perfect. It's certainly not "great", but it is fun and it does work, so it's easily the most successful attempt yet.

LNoE is a game about everyday people stuck in a zombie nightmare. Though 2-6 players can play, the game always involves 4 heroes and a "horde" of 14 zombies. 1-4 players play cooperatively as the good guys, and up to 2 players play cooperatively as the Zeds. There is a modular board, 8 different heroes and a handful of scenarios to keep things interesting. Gameplay can be boiled down to this: Zombies move 1 space, heroes move 1d6 spaces. Both sides draw and play cards which can cause effects, modify combat, etc, etc. There's more to it, but that's the style of play. Turns fly by, which in my opinion is a great success in the game design.

I'll admit that there is nothing particularly clever or inspired about the game, the trick is that what it does try to do it does well. We played two scenarios, one where the heroes need to take out 15 zombies in 15 turns and the other where the heroes need to find keys and a gas tank so they can high-tail it out in the truck at the center of the board before night falls. Both were fun and seemed balanced (though the heroes won both games, they all went down to the wire). The truck scenario was particulary interesting because in the first few rounds, we found the items we needed and I was thinking that the scenario would be a cake-walk. Then I realized what Shemp was doing (he was playing the zombies)... we weren't being attacked because they were all heading to the truck. Getting there, filling the gas tank and taking off would not be easy. A lucky shot with some dynamite (and, as it turns out, a horribly missplayed rule) cleared the way for us with 2 rounds to spare and we got out.

The production quality is also excellent. The miniatures are very nice, the boards and cards are of high quality and the rulebook is very nice. The zombie theme is well captured by good scenarios and a good deck of hero and zombie cards. I enjoyed it, and unlike past horror efforts, I expect this one will stay in my collection.

(as an aside, I didn't mention Mall of Horror even though we've played it a few times. I actually like MoH, and think that it represents a very original and generally successful way to deal with the zombie theme. However, it's not an ameritrash style game, so I left it out)

We finished up with Witch Trial, a good game by CheapAss. ACTUALLY funny, and with rules that work (though very luck heavy). Probably the best of theirs that I've played. It seemed like my role in the game was to fill other lawyer's pockets, as I couldn't seem to win a case at all! Kozure won.

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