Monday, June 15, 2009

Zombie Apocalypse- Last Night on Earth

Everytime that I play Last Night on Earth I am reminded of two things; how poorly written and confusing some of the rules can be, and how much of a fun, tense game it actually is. Most of my gaming takes place at night, but yesterday Mike and I found ourselves with some afternoon time available for gaming. We decided on LNOE, which in my opinion is much better as a two player game than with a larger group. The game is naturally zombies versus heroes so it makes sense to have it as a two player game. It works fine with multiple players, but when a gamer is controlling an entire side by themselves it really lets you develop strategy and execute a plan. There is something to be said for the heroes to all be controlled to by a different person, it sort of reflects the chaos of a real life zombie invasion, but it also really minimizes each players contribution to the game. A single hero may do very little on any given turn.

We went totally random in the set up and I wound up with the zombies and Mike got the heroes. We drew the Zombie Apocalypse scenario (from the Growing Hunger expansion) which has all sorts of crazy stuff going on in it. 21 zombies for me with autospawn. Well stocked buildings, search markers, extra cards, and respawning heroes for Mike. The goal of this particular scenario is for the zombies to destroy six buildings before the sun comes up (buildings are destroyed when a zombie occupies every space in the building and there are no heroes in it). It¹s a nice little change of pace since it is normally the heroes trying to accomplish a task, and the zombies stopping them. Mike wound up with a pretty good squad as well. To start off he had Jenny, Sam, Sally, and the kick ass Rachelle. With his bonus cards he got lucky and came strapped with some serious firepower (revolvers and pump shotguns), which goes a long way in this game.

The game started off slow for me as I was having a hard time getting my zombies out onto the board. And with small numbers it was easy for Mike to pick them off with his many guns, he knows better than to get close to the brain hungry zombies. We had also ruled before the game that the buildings that were only a single space (the morgue and something else) were only rooms inside of another building, so they did not count as a destroyed building. They also did not get a free search marker. Eventually I was able to get some large numbers of zombies on the board and start to do some damage, in two rounds I was able to destroy three buildings and kill Jenny (though she was promptly replaced by the far superior Amanda). I will give Jenny some credit though, she held out for a bit and took some zombies with her. I¹ve never thought much of Jenny but on this day she did her farm proud. On the other hand, my zombies were fighting like wimps all day (lots of 1¹s and 2¹s) and I really struggled in fights.

While all of this was going down Rachelle was absolutely wreaking havoc on the zombie population with her firearms. I tried my hardest to keep my zombies apart from one another to avoid the blast of the shotgun, but then she would just use the revolver and pick them off one by one. She was a force to be reckoned with. I think that she is my favorite character, or my least favorite on this day. She starts with a gun and a flashlight, which is very good in itself. But then she also has a power that lets her ignore a wound on a roll of 6. It doesn’t work all that often, but when it does you sort of fall in love with her for being such a tough chick.

For a couple of turns I felt like I was on pace to win this thing and then everything started going wrong. I had destroyed four buildings and I had masses of zombies getting ready to overrun two remaining structures. A gruesome battle in the supermarket left Sam the Cook dead. Johnny the Quarterback appeared in his place and in a single turn, using his blitz ability and some well played cards by Mike, managed to take out five zombies and nullify the threat to the high school. I was devastated. I still had a shot as a fifth building had gone down and I was massing to take over the supermarket. The problem is that I was running out of time. The other option that opened up to me was that I had killed three heroes (Rachelle died a hero, I¹m sure that the police force honored her in some way), so one more death would win it for me (if the zombies kill four heroes victory is automatic). I had enough zombies to take over the supermarket but Mike brought Amanda and Sally to the vicinity and the zombies were lured away from the building (and victory!). On the last turn of the game all I had to do was defeat one of the two high school girls and I would win. Mike just needed to survive. I got to give it up to Mike here, he totally had the right strategy. He didn’t need to kill the zombies or charge into the building, all that he needed to do was lure them out and he put himself into a position to do so.

My rolls were pathetic and I had nothing all that useful in my hand. I had shambled a couple of zombies to the space and the fight wound up being seven zombies versus the two girls, but in the end the girls survived and the town stood for another day. Amanda has a great ability that lets her hide and potentially cancel any fight that she is in, and she was able to get rid of two of them that way.

What LNOE does well is create very dramatic situations that often play out until the very last turn of the game. It¹s a lot of fun. The characters all have distinct personas and as they move around over the course of the game they develop personal histories unique to that game. Maybe I get too into it, but I definitely get invested in what is happening with them. It is also nice to play a game that is not operating on a grand scale, such as colonizing alien galaxies and saving the world from invading orcs. Everything in LNOE is on a small scale. Small town being invaded by zombies, there are a handful of survivors left to battle them. We know all of their names and what they have, what motivates them and what they can do. They fight with jumper cables and meat cleavers.

Back to the point that I raised earlier about the rules being confusing. A lot of the text is worded in ways that make it difficult to understand how an item or event is supposed to operate. For example, the pump shotgun. Do I roll a die for each zombie in the space, and if any of them are a one is the gun out of ammo? Or do I roll them all and then roll a separate time to see if any ammo remains? I think that myself and Mike are fair with rules so we were able to come to fairly simple conclusions and keep the game moving, but with larger numbers or less experienced players it could really be an issue and slow down what is otherwise a very fun experience.

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