Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Zombies quickly slaughtering heroes!

The Growing Hunger expansion for Last Night on Earth comes with rules for a quick, two player version of the game. It is supposed to take about ten minutes and the goal is simple; one hero has to kill six zombies before the end of ten turns. It uses a modified board of only two pieces. They are set up to form a rectangle. Lately Mike and I have been sneaking in a whole bunch of these to get our zombie fix and it has been an absolute bloodbath for the heroes. I would estimate that we have played around 20 games and the hero has not won once. Zilch. As in zero. It’s been close a bunch of times, but in the end the zombies continue on their path of mindless destruction through small town America. Dark times indeed.

The game is certainly fun for what it is, a fast skirmish type of game, but it is filled with issues. The fact is that using all the pieces for the full game just does not translate well to this shorter version. The rules come with a couple of changes but they don’t really address all the problems. Any card that addresses two heroes (as in two in the same space or something similar) instead gives the player that drew it the ability to move the sun tracker a step in whatever direction they want. Considering the game ends in a zombie victory when the sun tracker goes to zero this is a really powerful change. I realize it works both ways, but it seems like there are more zombie cards than hero cards in this category. We just ignore the cards when they come up and draw again.

Another issue is the Bitten and I Feel Strange cards. Both of these do the same thing, when a hero takes a wound they essentially get infected. The next time they are injured, instead of taking a wound they turn into a zombie hero. This is bad enough in the full game, but in a game when there is only one hero it ends the game entirely. Bad news for the hero. Those cards are grossly overpowered in this type of matchup.

Additionally the game is very dependent on the hero that you wind up with. We always do a random draw for characters so pretty often you wind up with someone who sucks. In the normal game the high school characters are a mixed bunch. Billy and Becky are total wastes, but Amanda and Sally are pretty good. I still have mixed feelings on Johnny, I respect his ability but I have a personal hatred that I can’t seem to get past. But in this version? All zombie fodder due to the two health boxes, it’s just very hard to keep them alive. Plus, Amanda’s power lets her give an extra fight die to a male that she shares a space with. So that’s useless in the short game. The other night I was psyched when I got Sam the Diner Cook. He has four health boxes (the most in the game) and I drew the med kit (which heals you fully) in the beginning. I figured that with that combo I could just out slug the zombies. Until Bitten was played on me after the first fight, essentially nullifying all the health I had since the next hit turned me into a zombie. Ooh, I was so mad!

With a little bit of strategy the zombies can easily avoid the hero, making them run around the board and chip away at them. Usually the sun rises before the zombies are in any real danger. What needs to happen is the hero needs to get a gun early and have some luck with it in terms of holding onto it. Pick off the zombies and ride into the sunset. Eventually the hero will come out on top, but things are very grim most of the time.

The game is actually a lot of fun, I don’t mean to be so critical of it. But a little more thought should have gone into the rules, rather than just slapping it together and throwing it into the instructions. I really like the idea of the hero customizing the hero deck, maybe take 40 cards and shuffle them up. Lots of weapons and no lighters. But that takes time which defeats the whole purpose of this variant. Or maybe make a hero duo have to kill 10 zombies? Again, this is making the game longer.

So, it seems to me that I need to find a good, fast two player game. As far as two player games go my favorite is still Starship Catan, but I would love to find some others, especially ones that play quick. Like 20 minutes quick. Anyone out there have any suggestions?