This past weekend, I have been on vacation out on the west coast, so board gaming has taken a back seat to relaxation and enjoying downtime with my wife. Thus, I am going to just jump straight into my weekly review:
Review game: Tiny Epic Zombies
The stats: Published in 2018 by Gamelyn Games; 1-5 players; estimated play time at 30-45 minutes (I would extend that out to a full hour as a possibility); ages 14+ (the Zombie theme is light, so you could probably go a few years younger for a kid with board game experience)
The background: Last fall, Gamelyn Games released another title in their ‘Tiny Epic’ series –> Tiny Epic Zombies. Now, I must admit…this game was actually my first to try in this series. And what’s funny is that I don’t generally enjoy zombie-themed games/movies, but there was something about Tiny Epic Zombies that appealed to me. Thus, I pre-ordered (just a few weeks before the game’s KickStarter fulfillment) and had time to get in a couple ‘timely’ October plays.
The setup and components: The components in this game, as expected, are tiny…but they are great! Great molds for the zombies and nice, bright colors for the Meeples and other bits/pieces. Plus, this game features IteMeeples — in the game, you will have the chance to pick up guns and other weapons. When you do, you can take the physical item that matches the card and place it in a slot on your Meeple so that he can actually carry it around the board with him. One of the highlights (and surprisingly, not tiny) is the motorcycle and police car that comes with the game. These are each big enough to actually put your Meeple on as you ride through the mall with speed.
Where the components are well done and help make the game extra fun, I have found the setup to be a bit cumbersome. To get a game going, everyone needs to select a Zombie card [I appreciate the amount of options the game provides — each Zombie with its own individual, unique ability]. You will also need to shuffle the objective cards and then pick three. Each objective will need to be read thoroughly to make sure all players understand the way each goal works, since all three must be completed to win the game. Furthermore, the weapon/backpack/event cards all need shuffled in a systematic A stack, B stack, which makes a C stack methodology. Last, make sure that you have shuffled the mall cards (randomly flipping sides on some of them) and then lay out the 8 mall cards around the center courtyard card. This will be your ‘board’…your version of the mall for the current run-through. None of this is painful, but definitely expect a solid 10 minutes of setup before you will be able to hit ‘go’ and start attacking zombies.
The gameplay: It is hard to get too detailed on gameplay since each game’s goals will be different based on the three objectives chosen — that’s a good thing, though…the game has great replayability with each session feeling unique in how you must strategize to survive and succeed. The core of the game will be the same each session, though.
First off, let me speak to the cooperative version of the game — note: Tiny Epic Zombies can be played solo, cooperative (all vs. AI zombies), many vs. one (one Zombie leader), or competitive (player vs. player vs. AI zombies). Oh and a 5th mode — competitive (survivor vs survivor vs Zombie player).
On a turn, each player will move 3 times, moving into any adjacent room — regardless of walls…the game reminds you that this is a crumbling mall and there will be various holes that you can walk through to get into any adjacent room. Each store in the mall has three rooms and the courtyard technically has 5 rooms (so 29 total rooms to move through). Potentially, at the end of each move action, you can either: kill a zombie, use a room’s ability, collect a token, or pick up an item. You can kill a zombie with melee damage (same room) or with a bullet (adjacent room). The zombie kill is always successful — you will roll a die, though, to see if you took any damage in the process.
Be careful! Every player has a track at the top of their player card for health and bullets. Health starts at 0, and Bullets starts at 9. When you take damage, health moves up the track. When you shoot a Zombie, your bullet moves down the track. If the two end up meeting at some point…well, there’s a reason the other side of your card has a Zombie-version of your character.
If you are in a room and the store is empty, you will be able to pick up items. This will be essential for completing many of the game’s scenarios.
At the end of a player’s turn, the Zombies get a ‘turn’ — in other words, more zombies will keep streaming into the mall, trying to work their way to the Courtyard to……well…….(brains and stuff). Complete all three scenarios and you win! Lose all your humans or run out of time [one of the card decks acts as a timer in the game] and the Zombies get the victory.
Review Thoughts: I would consider this game to be a 3.5/10 on the scale of cooperative-game-difficulty. In other words, you can definitely lose this game, but I feel like your odds are better than in many of today’s cooperative-play options. My guess is you will more likely lose from running out of time than losing your humans. Of course, there is always the opportunity to up the ante and play on a harder mode. The gameplay itself is very enjoyable — mowing down zombies, collecting new weapons, and trying to puzzle out the best movement each turn.
In my opinion, the heart of Tiny Epic Zombies belongs in the 3 random scenarios/missions that are drawn each game. They are thematic, provide unique goals, and force teams to interact/cooperate to make sure moves and turns are not wasted. For a first delve into the Tiny Epic world, I am very happy with this acquisition.
Note: if you play the game in which someone takes on the role of leading the Zombies, realize that — while the Zombie player does have additional abilities and decision-making than the A.I. — the role is more mechanized than what you get from playing a human survivor role.
If you have given Tiny Epic Zombies a try, what did you think? Also, I would love to get your opinion on the best Tiny Epic game to play.
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