What is the first thing you think of when you think of a game called Zombag? Jeeze… get your minds out of the gutter (the same one MY mind roams in)! The game is not about THAT zombie bag. In Zombag, 2 to 6 players take the role of zombie apocalypse survivors scrounging through the wreckage to rescue other survivors, gathering weapons and supplies, and fighting off hordes of zombies that swarm the streets looking for tasty brains to devour.
Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn
The survivors struggle to complete their own missions, triggering an end condition and hopefully having enough points for the win. This is as if there really are any winners in a world where zombies want to snack on your tasty bits all day and all night. But, hey, for at least for a few moments, there will be a greatest zombie apocalypse survivor of all time. Zombag was originally a successful Kickstarter project, which is where I got it. It pops up from time to time on eBay and in game trades on www.boardgamegeek.com. The main mechanic in the game involves drawing tokens of various type – survivors, gear, weapons, conflicts, infection, and, of course, zombie – from a bag and resolving each type of token drawn. But more on that later, after you stop giggling at the name Zombag.
The primary components of Zombag are cardboard punch-out tokens representing survivors, supplies, weapons, conflicts, infection (ewwwww), raid opportunities, and (yes, you guessed it) horrible zombies. The tokens are serviceable, but they are a little on the thin side. One nice thing is that they punch easily. One downfall of board games that rely on tokens is that they often tear or separate when they are punched out, resulting in the art layer being torn completely or partially off or leaving annoying tags you have to tear or cut off. That is not the case here. The tokens popped right out, no problem. The highlight of the tokens, and the art throughout the game in general, is the art. Brittany Biggie has done a great job of representing the world of the zombie apocalypse in a stylish, ghoulish, and yet family-friendly style. The characters and zombies look like they spawned from an Adult Swim TV show, and that is a good thing. To house the tokens, the game comes with a nice, black, velvet, drawstring bag from which the tokens are drawn… the titular Zombag (stop tittering behind your hand). Maybe the bag should have been green?
Biggie’s art is also featured on the game’s Mission cards, of which there are 40, each depicting a different combination of survivors and gear you need to complete a particular mission. The cards are nice, thick stock and are not flimsy and prone to easy destruction, like many of the cards that come with Kickstarter projects. Also included with the game are six black D6 dice with sickly green pips. They match the theme nicely, but I can’t help but think they would have been a whole lot cooler if the pips glowed in the dark.
Then there is the rule book, which is a single sheet, front and back, chock full of simple but somewhat flawed instructions. Hooray for short rule books! There was some ambiguity and left-out bits, so there is an updated version of the rules on their website that clarifies some of the rules issues and presents things a little more nicely.
Lastly, if you Kickstarted the Zombag (I’ve not seen it in the wild, in friendly neighborhood game stores), there were some cool exclusives. Two character tokens were added: The Clerk (who is obviously Ash from the Evil Dead series, complete with chainsaw) and The Advisor (who is based on Simon Pegg’s character from Shawn of the Dead, complete with cricket bat). Each of these characters has special abilities, like dual wielding for The Clerk (“boomstick” and chainsaw) and the ability to use any weapon for a re-roll for The Advisor. The Urgent Mission Event token stops the player in their track and forces them to complete a randomly drawn Mission before they can continue with the game. My favorite bonus for backers has to be the “V.I.P. Zombie,” a tough zombie that is based on SFX make up artist extraordinaire, Tom Savini! The likeness is hysterical!
One of the beauties of this game is the simplicity of the set up. First, place all of the tokens in the bag. Then each player draws blindly from the bag until they have two survivors, two weapons, and one equipment item. They simply place any other kind of token back in the bag and keep drawing until they have the required combination. Players place their survivors in front of them and pair them with a weapon, if possible. The key is to try to pair survivors with the weapon whose token is the same color as the survivor. If the colors match, the survivor gets a re-roll during combat. More on that later. Items get placed in a row beneath the survivors and their weapons (their “backpack”), in five imaginary slots. That is the capacity of their backpack, and only equipment can go in the back pack (bullets, food, binoculars, etc.)… no weapons. If you ever have more items than you have space for in your backpack, you can have survivors who don’t have weapons hold them. Deal each player three to five mission cards. This sets the length of the game. The more cards you give each player, the longer the game will be. This makes it easy to tailor the game play time to what you have available. Place the dice within reach of all players, and you are ready to go!
On your turn, you have two options: Draw New Missions or Scavenge. If you choose to spend your turn by drawing new missions, you simply draw two missions from the deck and then discard two of the missions in your hand. A player might do this if they thought the missions they already had were too hard to complete. Since missions are completed by having the right combination of equipment and survivors, the player might need different mission cards to enable them to end the game while they are ahead in points.
Scavenging is a slightly more complicated process at first glance, but after a turn or two, it can be completed in mere minutes.
The first step is completing a mission if possible. If during the start of your turn you find yourself owning the combination of survivors and equipment depicted on one of your mission cards, you can complete the mission by revealing the card and discarding back into the bag the matching tokens. You then keep the card, face up, to show your progress with completing the required number of missions.
Second, you can freely trade tokens with other players, enticing them with tokens they may want (“Hey, you want the shotgun that goes with that character? I’ll give it to you for the Chef. I really need him in my camp.”). Third is the actual scavenging. During this phase, you roll one die. You may then draw up to that number of tokens from the bag. This is a “push your luck” element of the game. The more tokens you draw, the higher the likelihood that you’ll have to fight a higher number of zombies lurking in the bag. Tokens drawn are resolved in the order: Events > Zombies > Items. Events are Conflicts (where the players roll a die and the highest roller gets to draw and resolve a token either from the bag or in front of them for free), Raids (where a player holding a Raid token rolls a die, and on a 4-6 they succeed and may steal an item that was just drawn or from a backpack on a 6!), or Infection (like I said… ewwwwwww… it’s a rotting grandma lady… but the player who drew the infection rolls a die, and on a 1-3 they have to keep the Infection, which gives them negative points at the end of the game, and on a 4-6 they pass the Infection to the next player who rolls the same way, continuing in this manner until someone gets the ickiness).
Third, they encounter any zombies they drew in any order they want, one at a time. Zombies have a target number you have to roll to hit them and a certain number of life (unlife?) points. Each weapon indicates how many dice the player gets to roll trying to meet or beat the zombie’s target number. For each hit, the zombie loses a life point. If a survivor is using their matching weapon, they may re-roll a die. The player attempts to kill each zombie, keeping those they snuff (they are all worth points on their back side at the end of the game…worth more points the harder they are to kill). If the player is able to wipe out all of the zombies from that scavenging attempt, they get to keep all of the items/survivors they drew, with no limit on survivors but a limit of five items in their backpack. Once this is done, play moves on to the player to the left and the process continues.
Once a player has completed all of their assigned missions, all players total up the points they have from completed missions, items they have, zombies killed, etc., and the player with the most points is king of pile of dead zombies in the wasteland (yay?).
Ok… by this point, two things should be clear. The first is that this game is a LUCK FEST. From rolling a die to dictate how many tokens you can draw from the bag, to rolling dice for events, and to rolling dice for combat… it’s pretty random. But if you can accept that, it leads to the second thing: the game is loads of fun. There is a lot of yelling and cheering as folks make or break vital rolls. Players get to toss a crap ton of dice in this game, and for a certain type of gamer (me, for example), that is a blast, no matter how random the game is. There is also the element of trade, which is often overlooked by players and reviewers of this game. Players can really work the table by making shrewd trades at the right time, thus preventing a mission completion by one player and ensuring a completion of their own mission. Good stuff!
The art in the game is delightfully weird and silly at the same time, a style I’m really drawn to. Lastly, the game is a synch to teach. After a turn or two, gameplay becomes automatic and people settle into the fun aspects of the game. Also, and this is a plus to me: the game is as quick to put away as it is to set up… even faster! That sometimes makes a difference to me, as after gaming, I don’t want to have to take two hours cleaning the game up before I move on to the next game (Twilight Imperium, anyone?). When all is said and done, and all of the walkers have been taken out, I give this game a rotted and festering thumbs up. It’s good simple fun, and it’s sure to delight anyone into killing the undead while laughing your ass off.
Designers: Chris Miranda, Ryan Morgan, and Grand Giles
Artist: Brittany Biggie
Publisher: Glass Cabinet Hobbies
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