The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 Game Overview and Review - Last Meeple Standing - Dread Central
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The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 Game Overview and Review – Last Meeple Standing

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How much do you trust your friends? More specifically, how much do you trust your *gaming* friends? Games of social deduction have been popular for a very long time, but it seems like it took forever for the gaming industry to catch up to the obvious and ultimate implementation of the concept of “who is the bad guy,” John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m sure it had a lot to do with rights and moola.

Let’s deal with the obvious first: yes, I’m certain the developers of the game were well aware of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes There? as well as Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World, much less the 2011 prequel The Thing, but Mondo’s semi-cooperative game very specifically focuses on the John Carpenter version, all the way down to specific characters from the film and even snippets of dialog. With that out of the way, onward with what is important: the game itself.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

COMPONENTS:
The components are a mixed bag for me, ranging from “Wow!” to “That works.” The standout components for The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 are the miniatures, or “movers” as the game refers to them. The movers are incredible. The sculpts are exquisite in their details. Each figure portrays the characters exactly from the film, all of the way down to their defining details. Nauls and his roller skates, Clark and his dogs, Garry and his pistol, and, of course, MacReady with his signature flamethrower. I’m really impressed at how well the miniatures capture the essence of their inspiration. Other components don’t fair QUITE as well, but do the job. I like the boards for tracking objectives and infection in the game. They are sturdy and the iconography used is easy to understand at a glance. They provide a quick reference at any point in the game with regard to how what needs to be done and how doomed you are due to infection by the unfriendly ET.

There are two elements that fell short for me, though. First, some of the cardstock used in the game felt flimsy and lightweight. The character cards, Mission Log cards, and Power Out/Room Destroyed cards, in particular seem to have been printed on somewhat cheap paper, leaving them limp and easy to bend, fold, and otherwise mangle. These days, cards in a lot of even obscure games are printed on really nice stock with a linen finish, so it seems strange to me that a AAA title like this would have gone for somewhat cheaper materials. Second, and this one may be personal preference, but the art design for me just didn’t work 100% for me. When this game was being marketed, a certain amount of emphasis was placed on the art and how amazing it was going to be. Well, I’ll agree when it comes to the miniatures, but the rest of the design seems a little… well… bland. I understand that the designers may have been shooting (flamethrowers) for a somewhat stoic or “official” document-like design. If that is the case, they have succeeded. For example, the main board for the game DOES look like a “you are HERE” sign. Sure, the sterility of the graphic design matches the cold isolation of the theme, but there are times where the player might wish for a little more. For instance, if you flip over a tile to see simple red text that says “Thing 1,” are you going to quake with fear or are you going to start looking around for the Cat in the Hat and his duo of disaster? Couldn’t this token have had a horrific graphic depicting the correct iteration of The Thing? I’m just sayin’…

SETUP:
Set up for this game is fairly simple. If you follow the one page of instructions in the manual, you can’t go wrong. After one play, you probably won’t need to refer to the setup instructions again. Each player picks a character, maintaining an even distribution of choices between the three Departments available: Maintenance, Operations, and Science. Lay out the main game board, where you will be tracking the movements of your team during the game, setting the Infection tracking board and Objective tracking boards alongside the main board. Shuffle the Supply deck (the base has a LOT of supplies to last the winter) and the Mission Log deck (you have a lot to do in order to survive a cordial visit from The Thing), and place them on the provided spaces on the main board. Place the awesome character movers for the characters chosen in the Rec Room space (remember all of the fun that takes place in THERE?), and place the Rope, Dynamite, and Flamethrower cards within reach of the players. For each of the three Sectors on the main board, shuffle up the Room Chips (depicting hidden Things, Gear, and specific actions, such as card discarding) and distribute them one per room for each sector. Now comes the brutal part: distribute a Blood Test card to each player. There is one card for each player, all of which are Human blood except one card, which indicates you are Infected. Keep these cards secret, as they are going to dictate how you play… for or AGAINST the Humans. Lastly, deal five Supply cards to each player. You are now ready to have your ass handed to you by The Thing (as you may have guessed, this game is HARD to beat).

GAMEPLAY:
The gameplay for The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is somewhat complex. That is ok, because ferreting out who amongst you is a perfect imitation of a Human and means to cause you grievous bodily harm is also complicated, as it should be. With that said, let’s concentrate on the highlights of game play. First and foremost is table talk. The heart (dripping and still beating) of this game is frantic and desperate talk between the players. Some games encourage the players to keep all elements of the game secret, not sharing hand contents, not sharing strategy, not sharing who the hell you think is an infected Human that means to eat your face off. This game is different. It is semi-cooperative in that all of the Humans are working together to wipe out the Infected, and the player/s who are infected are working secretly to wipe out humanity, all while pretending to be human and throwing blame onto others who may or may not be human. Not only are players constantly discussing who they think might be up to no good, but they are also sharing information about how they might be able to get the survivors onto a helicopter to get the heck out of there. That said, you are encouraged to flat-out LIE if it serves your purposes. Distrust is key in this game, so sow it where you can.

Core gameplay involves drawing a Mission Log card each turn and checking whether it is an Event or a Mission. Events can indicate things such as power outages in certain rooms or even rooms catching fire. Events are resolved immediately, and then a new Mission Log card is drawn, again resolving an Event if it is drawn (damn bad luck). However, if it is a Mission, the card will indicate what the Mission party’s composition must be: how many team members and what type (e.g., it must contain one Maintenance character). The Mission Log card will also indicate how the Mission must be completed, which is my favorite part of the game. The captain that turn will decide, with input from players, which room in the current Sector to explore. Each Mission requires the players to secretly add one Supply card to a pool of cards, face down, attempting to get certain types of cards (e.g., petri dishes) or weapons to generate damage (e.g., guns that are worth three dice).

The trick is… and don’t forget…at least one of the players is not Human, and they are going to do everything they can to foul up your plan, either by contributing a card that does not help you beat the mission (e.g., a weak card) or even Sabotages the mission. Yes, the Infected player can chip in a red Sabotage card secretly that causes all manner of bad things to happen to your team. You’ll note that I said cards are provided by players SECRETLY, face down. This is because the captain that turn is going to shuffle these cards and either draw randomly from them or reveal them all at once…and he will NOT know who contributed what card. But, they might have suspicions. How the players react to their suspicions makes up a lot of the gameplay. If players succeed on their Mission, they get to reveal the Room Chip in the room. It may be gear they need to advance the game by filling in spots on the Objective Board. It may be instructions to discard a card and draw a new card, or it may be a Thing they have to Battle.

Battle is VERY similar to completing missions in that each player is going to contribute a card face down, with each card indicating how many dice you get to roll or, in the case of the Infected, Sabotage. Depending on how far the infection has advanced in the station (infection advances as a result of failing Missions or Battles), the captain rolls dice looking for different types of results, such as three of a kind after three rolls. If the players succeed, they add the Thing they beat to the Objective Board, possibly allowing them to advance to the next sector.

If the game sounds challenging so far, wait until you toss in special gear like the Rope, which allows the players to “tie up” the current captain, preventing him from embarking on the current mission and switching the new captain to a new captain. Or there is the Flamethrower, which allows you to torch, kill, and remove from the game entirely a player you suspect is the Thing (heck yeah!). Then you’ve got new blood tests that take place when you advance to a new sector. A deck of Blood Test cards which has been seeded with ONE Infected card is drawn from by each player, possibly secretly creating second infected player, making the game even harder. There are other hitches that arise like determining if only humans have made it onto the escape helicopter, but these just add to the fun. Heck, you may not even make it to that point (case in point, we didn’t even make it out of Sector 1 the first time we played…we got devoured). This is not a game for first-timers to board games or casual gamers, but all of the twists, turns, and unexpected developments only add a deeper sense that you really are fighting for your life as desperately as you can.

WINNING:
Winning, whether you are the Humans or the Infected, is ALSO a tiny bit complicated. The game is asymmetric in that both the Humans and the Infected have different ways they can win. For the Humans, they can beat the game together, as a team, by clearing all three Sectors and ensuring that only humans are aboard the helicopter. That’s IT, their ONE shot at living. The Infected, though, have three ways they can win and thus wipe out humanity: Achieve maximum Contagion level on the Infection Tracker board, Destroy Outpost 31 by destroying four rooms throughout the base, or Stow Away on the helicopter. Any of these results in humanity being shit out of luck.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Despite my slight amount of griping about the graphic design and card stock earlier, this is a GREAT game. If you are into The Thing and its growing mythos, this game is OUTSTANDING. The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 absolutely captures the paranoia and growing sense of dread that has instilled every iteration of the story up until now. Players find themselves completely unsure who really is The Thing if the Infected player plays their cards right. You find yourself asking why the captain made a decision that got your party damaged when your voted against it. You find yourself wondering who it is that sabotages your missions time and time again and try to read in their face who it is, wishing that you had a petri dish/blood/copper wire test in real life.

Is the game hard? You betcha it is! Some might argue that it is TOO hard, but to that I say: No, you’re wrong… shut up and look for The Thing before I torch you. Would discovering who was an ET from hell be easy? No way! Would you be scared and frozen with fear? Damn straight you would be. All of the mechanics in this game steer the players into a state of mind very similar to that of the characters in the novella and movies. I have nothing but respect for the designers of the game for fostering that kind of experience, and I cannot recommend this game more highly. It should be on the shelf of every horror fan.

PRODUCT DETAILS:
Designer: Joe Van Wetering
Artist: Justin Erickson and Mark Simpson (II)
Publisher: Mondo and Project Raygun
Published: 2017
Players/Playtime: 4-8 players/60-120 minutes

RATING:
4/5


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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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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