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