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Lovecraft Letter Card Game Overview – Last Meeple Standing

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Ah, Love Letter, that venerable game that Seiji Kanai released in 2012 (AEG, US release). Many of us own SOME form of this game. It is a game of court intrigue and is pure simplicity itself. Two to five people can play, assuming the role of court members attempting to deliver a love letter to the Princess. A deck of only 16 (!) cards is used, and each player is dealt one card to start. Each card represents a member of court and has a specific power they inflict upon the other players when played, with the idea of ultimately eliminating all the other players. On your turn, you draw one card and play one of your two cards, following the instructions printed on it. Different cards eliminate players in different ways. If you are the last player eliminated, you are the person to deliver the titular love letter to the Princess and you win. That’s it, really. As you can imagine, game play is very fast.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

Usually multiple rounds are played, striving for the most wins out of seven rounds, for example. So far, so good…
Now, you may be asking, what does a game of courtly love and intrigue have to do with the writer of the wretched and bizarre, Howard Phillips Lovecraft? That answer lies in the fact that Love Letter is so incredibly popular that it has been “re-skinned” MANY times. Re-skinning is taking the core mechanics of a game and simply slapping on a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, to give a different theme. Basically, you take an existing game (Love Letter in this case) and say it now revolves around a different mythos. Recently, we have seen Adventure Time, Batman, Archer, and even The Hobbit Love Letter. No, I’m not kidding. The way I see it, they each cater to the particular sub-genre you’re into, so no harm/no foul.

So, why should you care about a re-skin of this game with Cthulhu slapped on? I’m more than happy to answer that question: Because it is NOT just a re-skin. It is so much more. THIS version is the ULTIMATE gift to fans of horror AND Love Letter, in so many ways. You could say it is a love letter to Lovecraft fans, and what a letter it is.

COMPONENTS:
No matter what else you might think of this game, the components alone make the game worthy of a spot on your Lovecraft shelf, whether you collect games or not. I was lured by the theme, but I was won over by the incredible components.

The game box looks like an old leather-bound book and opens with a magnetic clasp that heightens the tome-like quality of the packaging. When you open the box, you are greeted by some thematic art depicting an adventurer surrounded by various Old Ones and a “wax seal.” Very classy. To the right, however, is the really good stuff.

This time around, the game comprises 25 playing cards and 6 reference cards to remind players of the various powers of the cards. The cards are tarot sized and printed on good, thick stock, which makes them easy to handle. However, in a really amazing show of class from AEG, the player is supplied with high-quality sleeves for every card, depicting a suitably creepy letter image on the back and a silvery interior. There are even clear sleeves, front and back, for the reference cards. On top of that, AEG supplied EXTRA sleeves for the cards, in case one gets torn or the Elder Gods rend it into a fine red mist. Since the cards are handled a lot, shuffled a lot, and passed around the table a lot, the sleeves are going to go a long way to preventing wear and tear.

Below the cards are the Insanity/Sanity tokens. No mere carboard punch-outs here… these are thick, heavy, screen-printed poker chips that have a great heft when held and manipulated. They are printed on one side with Cthulhu, representing an Insane win, and the other side with and Elder Sign, representing a sane win (more on that later).

The manual is only 15 pages, half of which is references to individual game cards for clarification, so you really only have to worry about 7 pages of instructions, complete with lots of diagrams. After one read through, you’ll never have to refer back to the rules again, especially if you have played some form of Love Letter before.

Last but not least is the tray for the game components. There is a lot of discussion in the gaming community lately about how to present the bits and pieces that make up your game (the game Dice Forge seems to be the winner in that category right now). AEG went above and beyond the call of evil duty with Lovecraft Letter. The cards and tokens are cradled in a perfect-fit, simulated green velvet tray that keeps the cards from getting lose in the box and the tokens from getting jumbled as you transport the game. Bravo, AEG!

SETUP:
Setup is a breeze! First, you set aside the Mi-Go Braincase card (ewww… you’re going to need to do things to it later) and shuffle the remaining 24 cards. Depending on how many players are playing, you burn off/remove either 1 card (more than two players) or 5 cards (2 players), in order to thwart card counters. Next, deal one card from the deck to each player as their starting hand, and randomly assign the starting player (I suggest choosing the last player to pet a Hound of Tindalos and live). You are now ready to go!

GAMEPLAY:
Players take the role of explorers tracking down a relative that has vanished under very nefarious circumstances in Egypt. The gameplay is simplicity itself, basically following the same pattern as the original Love Letter, where each player in turn draws a card from the communal deck, picks one of the two cards now in their hand to play, discards it in front of themselves, and follows its instructions, for good or for bad (and yes, sometimes there is no avoiding taking the brunt of a card yourself). Then play passes to the left.

WINNING:
The round ends in one of two ways: (1) the deck is empty at the end of a player’s turn or (2) all players but one have been eliminated. If more than one player survives at the end of a round, compare the number at the top left of your remaining card, and the winner is the player possessing the card with the highest value.

But here is where things get *weird* (in a Lovecraft game? No way…). The quick amongst you may have noticed that the original game came with 16 cards, but Lovecraft Letter has 25. That is because there are new cards that introduce an Insanity/Sanity win condition that is unique to this incarnation of the game. Some of the cards now are “Insanity cards,” cards the represent the mind-boggling damage inflicted by coping with the Cthulhu mythos. Insanity cards look slightly different and present the player with two options: a sane action and an insane action. Once an insanity card is in the player’s discard pile, they have the option of enacting either the sane option OR the insane option when playing future insanity cards, either of which can be good or bad for that player. A further complication of having one or more insane cards in your discard pile lies in the fact that your level of insanity my break you and force you out of the game! If you have insanity cards in your discard pile, before you draw a card into your hand, you have to draw cards from the deck equal to the number of insanity cards in your discard pile. This is called a “Sanity Check.”

If you happen to have the misfortune of drawing an additional insanity card, you are immediately knocked out of the round!

If you win the round with no insanity cards in your personal discard pile, you earn a Sanity token. If you win the round with insanity cards in your discard pile, you earn an Insanity token. To win the game you must either be the first to two Sanity tokens or the first to three Insanity tokens.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
The original version of this game that Kanai released in the US back in 2012 was a GREAT game. It was portable, easy to teach, and above all… FUN. It merits all of the re-skins that it has seen, in order to reach a wider audience. But up until now, there have been no major improvements to the game, in my opinion. Lovecraft Letter raises the bar, not only for future iterations of the basic game, but for all games, I think. The combination of a unique new Sanity/Insanity mechanic on top of the beautiful presentation of this game should make it a treasured part of a game collection OR a Lovecraft collection. I highly recommend Lovecraft Letter!

RATING: 4/5

PRODUCT DETAILS:
Designer: Seiji Kanai
Artists: Vincent Dutrait and Kougi Ogata
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in southern California.

For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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Last Meeple Standing

YOU Are the Maniac! – Game Overview and Review

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In the world of horror board games and card games, there is a glut of games where you and your fellow players portray the victims. The mechanics of the game itself act as the villain, or another player takes that role. These asymmetric games can be quite good, but they leave many players aching to be the bad guy, the maniac, and go after innocent (or not-so-innocent) victims to their blackened heart’s content. For those players, I present YOU Are the Maniac! (YATM for short). This wicked card game is designed to scratch just that itch, except with a chainsaw.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

COMPONENTS:

As a simple card game, YATM doesn’t need to shine very hard in the area of components. The four decks, Victim, Maniac, Plot Twist, and Final Girl, are printed on casino-style card stock, resulting in sturdy cards with a nice SNAP! when you shuffle them. The colors, particularly blood red, really pop, which is always nice. No washed out, muddy colors here. Your victims will have a hard time hiding in the shadows. The four decks have very distinct back designs, which makes clean up at the end of a game simple. The art on the face side of the cards is appropriately nightmarish, if not a tiny bit amateurish. Some of the characters are downright SUREAL. One victim, poor “Saul the Stoner” looks so outrageously deformed, his card provides enough horror to last the entire game. Victim cards are the cards you are fighting to collect throughout the game to give you points. Maniac cards allow you to manipulate the rows of Victims and allow you to take/kill the Victim card with the highest value. Plot Twist Cards alter the direction of the game to your advantage or to your opponent’s disadvantage. The Final Girl cards represent special victims that you face at the end of each round (which the game calls “movies” – there are three rounds or “movies,” so you a playing out a “trilogy”).

Believe it or not, one of the coolest components for the game is the box itself. It is very intentionally designed to resemble one of the old Cannon Films paper VHS boxes you would have pulled off the shelf and your friendly neighborhood video store when you were a kid. The edges of the box are designed to look worn and rubbed white, with cracks and tears at the corners and scratches from shelf wear. I have to hand it to the designer for nearly fooling me into thinking the game was packaged in a video box from the days of horror yore.

SETUP:

Setup is a breeze. Shuffle the four decks, Victims, Maniac, Plot Twist, and Final Girl, and deal out 12 Victims in two rows of 6, with the first card closest to the Victim deck. Place the Maniac, Plot Twist, and Final Girl decks below the Victim card area. Hand out 7 Maniac cards to each player and you are good to go…kill to your heart’s desire.

GAMEPLAY:

As mentioned earlier, the game is played over three rounds, with each round being referred to as a “movie.” A movie is completed when all 12 Victims plus a Final Girl have either been collected (killed) or have survived (moved to a Survivor pile to be dealt out as Victims in the next movie!). When it is your turn:

    1. Play a Maniac card. Some of these cards move Victims forward or backward in the line of 12 Victims. The goal is to get them to the Kill Spot, the No. 1 position in the row next to the Victim deck. Other Maniac cards are Mask or Weapon cards, which you have to play later in your turn to claim a victim.
    2. Move in for the Kill. Grab the Victim card from the Kill Spot next to the Victim Deck. If it has special instructions (drawing of Plot Twists or other guidance) on the card, carry them out.
    3. Optionally play a Weapon and/or a Mask card to achieve the kill. No weapon or mask = no kill (the Victim goes to the Survivor pile).
    4. If the Victim was killed, add the card to your Collection for point scoring later. You may want to sort them by Victim type (Bimbo, Athlete, Fodder, or Suspect) for ease of scoring at the end of the game. Do the same with your weapons and masks, as well as any other special cards that give you points.
    5. Clean up the mess. During this phase, move the remaining played Maniac and Plot Twist cards to their discard piles.
    6. Draw back up to a full hand from the Maniac deck.

When you have to draw Plot Twist cards, some of them are Nemesis cards. These cards force you miss the kill and place the Victim in the Survivor pile. You can defeat the Nemesis with special Defeat a Nemesis Maniac cards, though!

At the end of a “movie,” when all of the Victims have been killed or have escaped to the Survivors pile, you face the Final Girl. Killing the Final Girl in a movie is similar to fighting any other victim: you optionally play a Maniac card, but you HAVE to turn over a Plot Twist card and you HAVE to play a Mask and a Weapon Maniac card to defeat her. If not, she, too, goes into the Survivor pile to be faced again in the next movie.

At the end of the first movie, you deal out another 12 Victims, starting with cards in the Survivor pile and then moving to the Victim deck. You face a Final Girl, you move on to movie 2, play that round out, move on to movie 3 and then the game ends. Three movies and the audience is DONE with you.

WINNING:

At the end of the third movie, after the Final Girl has been offed…or has survived, you determine your score. Each victim in your Collection has a score value in the lower right of the card (on a bloody fingerprint). Add these scores up. Some Maniac cards may give you extra points for certain types of victims, how many victims you have, or how many weapons and masks you have. The player with the highest point total at the end of the game wins!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

YATM is one of the hardest games to rate for me in a long time. I like the quirky art, the perfect box, and the 80’s slasher movie theme, which is REALLY strong here; but, there is a big issue that a lot of reviewers have touched on. YATM is very much a re-skin of a previous game called Guillotine, from Wizards of the Coast. Both games are focused on moving victims down a row toward a Kill Spot, where they are snuffed and saved to score at the game’s end. Both games have a mechanic allowing players to move Victims up and down the row to allow you to kill Victims of higher value. Guillotine had a French Revolution skin. YATM has an 80’s slasher skin. If the two games were EXACTLY the same and I had no ethics whatsoever, which game do you think I would pick over the other? Yeah, you’re right: I’d pick YATM. That said, there are enough unique mechanics to give YATM a fair win over Guillotine for me, regardless of the re-skinning issue. I enjoy the Plot Twists the give the Maniacs certain advantages during a turn. I like the Maniac cards that reward you for trying to kill only a certain type of Victim. Hell, as weird as it is, I just plain like the box the game comes in! Lame, I know, but I do really dig it. In the end, rating this game comes down to which theme you like more, as well as a few other game mechanics, and not much else; hence, my somewhat low rating. Had YATM possessed a few more highlights, even just slightly more professional artwork, it would be the clear winner in this fight. YATM swung for the neck but only made it half-way through. In a cheeseball horror movie, we want to see the head come all the way off, and that doesn’t happen with this movie/game.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

Designer/Artist: Todd Wahoske
Publisher: Counterculture Cards/Golden Games
Published: 2013
Players/Playtime: 2–4/45 min

RATING: 2.5/5

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Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination – Last Meeple Standing Game Overview and Review

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I’m going to kill you. Well, actually, me and few friends are going to snuff you. We are going to use… ummmmm… a bunch of old socks, a bucket of lighter fluid, and a piece of quartz to do it. Believe it. This is all because a machine that took a drop of your blood told you your cause of death would be “Blaze,” whatever that means. As assassins, it is our job to see you shuffle off your mortal coil in that manner (somehow, no matter how vague) using only a random assortment of items to force that death upon you. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And we LIKE our job. It makes us laugh, you see.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

In the world of Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination (MoD for short), a device has been invented that uses a single drop of your blood it takes when you stick your hand in it to predict, in VERY vague terms, how you are going to die. The catch lies in that vagueness. When the machine spits out the card with your cause of death, it is going to be one or two words that may or may not make any sense to you. For example, the card that pops out of the machine might say “Elephant.” How the hell is an elephant going to kill you if you live in Modesto? Just avoid circuses and trips to Jakarta, right? Wrong. What about that billboard for Elephant brand tires that falls off a four-story building and squishes you into strawberry jam?

MoD puts players in the role of killers whose job it is to make sure the Machine of Death pays off in…well…death. The problem, and the fun, of the challenge is that you HAVE to use a randomly drawn assortment of items to send your victim on to the next life. If MoD didn’t have such a dark theme, I’d call it a party game. Wait…fuck it. It IS a party game. Who am I kidding? It is hysterically funny to try, within a limited amount of time, to bring about the timely end of your target.

COMPONENTS:

Shall I start drooling all over this game right away? Yes! Commence drooling. The hefty, glossy game box comes packed with goodies: a huge pack of Death Cards, the cards that pop out of the MoD; a big box of Black Market Gift Cards, the items used to kill the victims with; a pack of Specialist Cards, bonus cards you can be awarded with to aid in our murderous adventures; a book of Target Intel Sheets, slips where you list various important traits for your victim; a wooden Fate Coin, which is flipped at various points in the game to help with decisions; a Mission booklet; and a nifty, red, custom die with a skull symbol for the “1.” All of this schwag is top-notch, high-quality stuff. The art on the cards is whimsical and very functional. The Death Cards look like those cards that used to pop out of the Fortune-Telling Gypsy booths on the boardwalk when you put a quarter in. The Black Market Gift Cards are designed to look like credit cards on one side with cute iconography identifying the item in question. The Specialist Cards have really fun artwork depicting the helpers you are awarded with if you kill particularly well. Lastly, anyone who frequents this column knows I’m totally nutty for custom dice, and this game scores with theirs. An embossed skull? Yes, please!

SETUP:

Separate out and shuffle the Death, Black Market Gift, and Specialist Card decks, and place each deck nearby face down. Draw one Death Card face down to the table. Count out 20 of the Black Market Gift Cards face down as your “shopping budget” for the game and put the rest away. Create your victim on an Intel slip using the tables in the rule book or select one from the Mission booklet. This will give the players some important and helpful insight into the target, allowing them to manipulate both their tools and the target for the kill. Turn over the Death Card and draw three Black Market Gift Cards face up in a row. Put the sand timer nearby, and you are ready to annihilate the victim.

GAMEPLAY:

It is important to remember that the game is more about fun storytelling than beating the dice. The more the players work together to come up with good stories, the better the gameplay is going to be. If you lose, so what? The game sets up in moments and is ready to go again, with fresh people just lining up to visit with Death.

Each game lasts for four rounds (four assassination targets). Each round you will do the following in order:

  1. Generate a target.
  2. Make an assassination plan.
  3. Attempt the kill.

If you fail at any kill, you lose. Too bad, so sad. If the kill is successful, you stand a chance to earn bonus Specialist Cards before moving on to the next assassination.

To generate a target, you use a series of simple tables and basically answer questions Mad Libs style to come up with Name, two pieces of intel (such as likes, dislikes, fears, beliefs, etc.), and a location for them. This meta-game is sorta fun all by itself. Making up goofy characters to slaughter shortly thereafter is a good time, right?

Next, the players look at the gift cards that have been turned up and try to come up with a way to use them to bring about the demise of the target. Keep in mind that these gifts are not going to be simple, single words, like: chainsaw, acid, or rifle. More than likely, they will be something like “something red.” In this case you could say, for example, it is a pile of bricks, a red dump truck, or a red baseball bat. String together a story of sorts from all of the items you have to form the death plan. If you had the cards music, something red, and batteries, you could come up with: “We’re going to block him into an alley with a red dump truck, confuse him with loud Skinny Puppy music so he doesn’t try to escape, and then pour battery acid on him from above.” All is good and well, but now you have to, as a team, try to assign a difficulty, from 2 (easy) to 6 (hella hard), for each of the three parts. How hard is it to accomplish each part? You might say that backing the truck block the alley is easy, so a 2, but getting enough battery acid together to kill the person might be hard, so maybe a 5.

To attempt the kill, you turn over the sand timer and get started as quickly as possible, because once the timer runs out, it’s game over, man! Starting with the first item in your plan, select a player to roll the die, in an attempt to roll the decided-upon difficulty level or greater. If you succeed, move on to the next item! If you fail, discard that item card, draw another, and revise you plan using the remaining items. The remaining items can operate the same way they did before, or you can create new uses and new difficulty levels for them. Then start over, attempting to succeed with all three items in your plan. If you roll greater than the difficulty level you set for all three items, your assassination is carried off for that victim. If you still have time on the clock, roll the die and consult the Aftermath table, which will let you attempt to flee the scene, establish an alibi, cater the target’s wake (really), etc. by drawing one item card and attempting a plan against that item. Win and you get to roll again, draw again, and try again if there is still time on the timer. For each successful roll, you get to draw a Specialist card and set it aside for the moment. These cards allow you to switch them out for item cards on subsequent assassination attempts, basically giving you more options of a unique and interesting kind (e.g., “water into wine,” “killer solo,” or “flying saucer ride”).

WINNING:

You win by successfully killing all four targets. Good job. You’re a serial killer. You lose if at any time you run out of both Gift Cards and Specialists before all four targets are dead. You also lose if you fail to kill a target before the timer runs out. What? You think you get a lifetime to snuff anyone you want? Guess again, killer!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

By now, my enthusiasm for this game should be self-evident. I fricking LOVE MoD! The components are great, but the gameplay is even better! You’ve got a winner already, but I’ve been holding some info back from you, readers. This game is based on two awesome books of short stories delving into the possibilities of the wicked machine: Machine of Death and This Is How You Die. Both of them are chock full of hysterical…and creepy…stories of the fates of folks who fall victim to the machine. Not only that, but the website dedicated to this game, machineofdeath.net, is packed with bonus goodies for players: an Intel randomizer, timer music albums you can use in place of the sand timer (fun!), more missions, and target Intel blank sheets. Wow! The website also has pins, patches, posters, death certificates, t-shirts, etc. for fans to pick up if they love the game, which I suspect they will. Mind you, I’m not trying to sell you anything here, but WOW! What a bunch of cool-ass stuff! But wait, there’s MORE, and this may be the best part: there is a gigantor expansion for MoD. The Side Effects expansion includes more than 600 additional cards to plan deaths with: Death Cards, a Genre Deck, Intel, and what they call “Web Pals + Chums,” cards designed by famous Web personalities and illustrators (these cards are particularly awesome, according to ME).

There you have it…one of my favorite games in my collection. I’m happy to admit I have pretty much everything available for this game. Yes, I love assassination THAT much! This game is perfect for nights when you need a break from heavier games but are still in the mood for some mayhem and murder. I’ve rarely played MoD in public without some random stranger begging to please sit in on the next game. I strongly urge all of my readers to take the time and effort to find a copy and pick this up as soon as possible…or my friends and I will kill you.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

Designer: David Fooden, David Malki, and Kris Straub
Artists: Kris Straub
Publisher: TopatoCo
Published: 2013
Players/Playtime: 2-4 players/30 min
Suggested Player Age: 15+

RATING:
5/5

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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We Are Dead: Zombie Massacre – Last Meeple Standing Game Overview and Review

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It is a fine Saturday afternoon. You and your friends are hanging out at the Mall (like you do), and as lunchtime rolls around, the savory scent of hot dogs wafts through the air straight to you. Making your way to the hot dog stand, you notice the vendor looks a little strange: wide, wild eyes; pale, almost greenish skin; and a shambling gait that makes him look like he might have recently been kicked in the nards. No matter…you’re gonna have those hot dogs or die. And that is EXACTLY what happens. After you nosh the proffered dogs, a blinding, stabbing pain hits you in the guts and you and your friends fall to the ground and shuffle off this mortal coil. However, you don’t STAY dead. Moments after biting the dust, you rise again…as a ZOMBIE. All of a sudden, those Shoppers in the Mall look much better than any bratwurst ever did. It is time to consume some consumers!

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

COMPONENTS:

First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way: the awesome art. Mike Morris and Mike Collins are artists know primarily for their work in the animation field, creating animation for The Simpsons, Power Puff Girls, and Adventure Time, just to name a few. With that pedigree, you can rest assured that the art throughout this game is top notch and hysterical. Everything from the portrayal of the Heroes, to the Zombies (and what Zombies they are), and even the board is nuts on and perfect. I have to admit, it was the art that drew me to the game long before I knew anything at all about the game play. The characters look like they are going to pop off the cards and bite you on the ass (Zombies) or start busting heads (Heroes). You’re gonna like the art, trust me.

Everything, from the game board, to the cards, and even to the box has a linen finish, which is always a nice perk when it comes to games. It just adds to the “chrome” of the game, as they say. It is a finishing touch that just makes everything that much nicer to the touch and a little easier on the eye. Speaking of the box, the box is sturdy as hell! This is super nice, as many games these days are packaged in boxes that basically fall apart shortly after buying them, with the corners tearing and splitting, requiring some serious taping to keep them from falling apart.

 

 

All of the tokens in the game are printed on extra thick cardboard, as is the board itself, which is nice. This is another example of how the designers and publishers went that extra bloody mile to create a nice gaming experience. The cards are printed on nice, thick cardstock, also with a linen finish. They snap nicely when you shuffle them, which is a must-have in my book.

SETUP:

Set up is a little tedious. After picking player tokens, each of which imbues the player with a unique power that will help them throughout the game, and placing their scoring token on the “0” space on the scoring track, tedium rolls in. Sixty-six Shopper tokens must be randomly placed value-side-down on the board, which depicts the layout of the mall in a large grid of squares. The rules recommend that the players all randomly grab the face-down Shopper tokens and distribute them around the mall, but even this is bothersome and time-consuming, I think. Once this is done, a Horde scoring token is placed on the “0” place as well and two Horde tokens are set aside.

Each player is given six cards at random from the common stack of shuffled Attack, Hero, and Horde cards, keeping them secret from other players. They also receive two Infection tokens. Players place their Zombie token on the hot dog stand space on the board. Lastly, each player receives two Infection tokens, and the game is ready to play.

 

Set Up

 

GAMEPLAY:

The steps of gameplay are as follows:

(1) Movement: Players take turns moving their Zombie token on the board, three spaces at a time, in an attempt to reach a Shopper token and attempt to kill them. They can increase the distance they move by discarding cards or infection tokens.
(2) Attack: flip the Shopper token, defeat Heroes that a played against you, and attack the Shoppers.
(3) Discard/draw: Discard any/all cards but one and draw back up to 6. Reveal all Horde cards drawn.
(4) Resolve Horde attacks.

Yup, the gameplay really is that simple, but I’ll go into some detail for you here. Players are trying to kill as many Shoppers as they can, as they player with the highest number of kills wins the game. To do this, they move their counter until it is on a Shopper. The get three squares of movement each turn, but they can get an extra square for each card they discard or each Infection token they discard. Easy!

When you attack, you flip over the token to reveal how many Shoppers there are, the number printed on the bottom of the token. Once you have done this, the other players can attempt to prevent you from getting the kill by playing Hero cards against you. Non-active players can play a Hero card face down in front of them or pass. The active player (Zombie) selects one of the hero cards to defeat, revealing the strength printed on the Hero card. The non-selected Hero cards MAY be revealed to add +1 attack for each card thus revealed. To defeat the Hero, the Zombie player must discard Attack cards (plus Infection tokens for +1 strength), each of which has a strength printed on it, to meet (meat?) or beat the Hero attack strength. If they succeed, they get one point on the score track and may attempt to attack Shoppers. If they fail, they take one damage token and perform the negative effect described on the hero card.

Fighting Shoppers is much easier. The Zombie may slay as many Shoppers from the group as they can by discarding and Attack card for each Shopper to be slain. The Attack strength of the card does not matter. For each Shopper killed this way, the Zombie player advances their score token one space on the score track. Any number of shoppers they can’t defeat in this manner is considered to have run away, and the Shopper token is removed from the board.

After attacks are resolved, the Zombie player may discard any or all of their cards except one from their hand and draw back up to the hand size, which is six. After they do so, any player who revealed a hero card in an attack that turn draw one card each to replenish their hands.

This brings us to the Zombie Horde. Whenever a player draws a Horde card, they must lay it face-up on the table. The first time a Horde card is drawn, a Horde token is placed on the hot dog cart. Upon subsequent turns that reveal a Horde card, a second Horde token is revealed, but, more importantly, each Horde on the board moves 10 spaces toward the nearest Shoppers. Hordes will not move to the same Shoppers. Players then attempt to stop the Horde by scoring. The Horde will score a number of points equal to the Shopper value minus the number of Hero cards played against it. Hero toughness and effects are ignored. In this way, the Horde can effectively, possibly, outscore the players and deny them shoppers to attack! Damn the Horde straight to Hell! Those are my shoppers, and I’m going to eat them!

WINNING:

The number of points required to win varies, depending on the number of players: 50 pts for 2, 45 pts for 3, 35 pts for 4, and 30 pts for 5. The game can also end when the last Shopper token has been flipped over. In this case, the player with the highest score wins. That said, the blasted Zombie Horde can win the game, and all players LOSE, if the Horde has more points than the players. Stupid Zombies!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It is hard to say anything bad about We Are Dead. It does what it sets out to do: it is a simple beer and pretzel game that doesn’t take a lot of thought to play. It has a bit of a “take that” mechanic in that other players playing Heroes against you can really knock your score down. It’s not a “roll you dice, move your mice” game that relies on the luck of the dice in order to score and win, which is nice. It forces you to think about where is best to move to block out other players from scoring and yet avoid the Horde. Some of the Hero cards have cool effects, such as the Hero “Harley Baconstein,” who forces you to only draw up to a hand of four if you lose against him, or “Rick Dixon AKS Mall Santa,” who deals damage equal to the number of Shoppers on the revealed token (yup, brutal). Once again, I have to come back to Morris and Collins’ artwork throughout the game. Hell, it is fun just to rifle through the cards to look at the hysterical art. The game is worth it just for the art. The game may be hard to find, as it was originally a successful Kickstarter project, but it DID make it to some stores for retail. If you look hard enough, you’ll find it. If We Are Dead sounds like the kind of game you want to play, there is nothing wrong with it. Really…I mean it. It’s fun to knock out over a bowl of chips and a good microbrew, but in a market chock full of zombie games that do this type of thing, but even BETTER, you might want to spend your zombie game bucks elsewhere.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

Designer: Derak Morrell
Artists: Mike Morris and Mike Collins
Publisher: Never Peak Games
Published: 2013
Players/Playtime: 2-5 players/45-90 min
Suggested Player Age: 13+

RATING:
2/5

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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