I’m so tired of shambling hordes, but the zombie games keep coming towards me.
What is your favorite zombie game and why?
Greg Schloesser: I am frankly perplexed as to the popularity of zombies. Yes, they make for a good horror movie, but there is a zombie-mania throughout the U.S. and perhaps even the world. How many TV series can be made that are centered on zombies? I am not part of the mania, so as such, am not naturally drawn to zombie-themed games. I have found most of them to fall within the “American-style” gaming category, an area of our hobby that tends not to appeal my tastes. Move around, collect items, roll dice to fight zombies, lose health points, etc. This mechanism is generally not one of which I am fond, and most zombie games that I have played use this system. If forced to choose, I’d say Last Night on Earth was the one that appealed to me the most, and even then only modestly.
Ben McJunkin: I’m not certain, but I don’t recall ever having played a game containing zombies (much less a “zombie game”). I’m not averse to zombies as a subject-matter (for instance, I’ve seen a handful of zombie movies in my life), but I have no particular affinity toward zombies. I’ve played a few games that could easily be adapted to contain zombies. Mansions of Madness, for instance, could have contained (or may contain, for all I know) a zombie scenario without negatively impacting play. I would have liked Escape: The Curse of the Temple just as much had it been Escape: Oh No, Zombies! But these games are few and far between in my rotation. I am partial to games that allow players to strategize and optimize slowly and methodically, which does not seem well-suited to the zombie theme. Running away from things (or running towards them with weapons, depending on the game) has never really been in my wheelhouse. So, until some adventurous designer releases a game about medieval zombie merchants sailing in the Mediterranean, I suspect I’m unlikely to stumble onto a “favorite” zombie game.
Larry: More “Get Off My Lawn™” crankiness. I am sick unto death (or, in this case, non-death) of zombies. They hold no appeal for me at all, nor do I find hordes of mindless creatures which are easily outrun to be even mildly terrifying. So if a game is centered around zombies, I ignore it. This works out well, as the vast majority of such games wouldn’t be attractive to me anyway. Maybe that makes me a “No Fun Allowed” strategy gamer, but so be it. So I guess the answer to the question is “none”.
Not that you asked, but a close second to zombies for subjects I don’t give a rat’s behind about is Cthulhu. Now Lovecraft’s creation is much more legitimate than zombie nonsense (it actually qualifies as literature), but it doesn’t really grab me and it’s been way overdone IMO. Liga mentioned recently that the designers of Kingsburg, a game I enjoy, have come out with a new version themed around the Cthulhu mythos. My first reaction to this was that it pretty much destroyed any interest I would have in such a redesign. Sure, generic fantasy is a bit dull, but it’s still more attractive to me than yet another invasion of the Great Old Ones. Sorry to all you Cthulhu lovers out there, but maybe it means that I’ll be the last human on earth not to go insane!
Mark Jackson: I can’t think of any zombie games I’ll seek out to play – but I can think of more than one that I’ll actively avoid. (I’m looking at you, Mall of Horror… and you, Give Me the Brain.)
However, I do think that the Zombies of Morindan are a very nicely designed set of squad figures for Heroscape. It’s just a shame that you need to buy two packs of them to make them really shine.
And Larry’s not alone in his Cthulhu hating.
Dan Blum: I liked zombies better when they were still underground.
OK, in all honesty I have never been very interested in zombies, and I think it is inarguable that they have been incredibly overdone at this point. Certain people like to hammer on Euros for their repeated use of certain themes, and there is some justice to that. However, if you mock a recent Euro for having a medieval farming theme and in the next breath say how cool the latest zombie game is, that pretty much guarantees I am not going to take your opinions seriously.
And I agree with Larry and Mark in re Lovecraft games. It was a fine, fresh gaming theme back when the Call of Cthulhu RPG and the first version of Arkham Horror came out. Now it, like zombies, has been used far too often. It’s stale. If you use it for your game I assume you couldn’t be bothered to think of a decent theme.
Now, I don’t really care that much about theme, so I am not opposed to playing games with these themes. However, I usually don’t, for three reasons. One is that use of one of these themes makes me suspect that the game’s mechanisms are not that great and the (inexplicably) popular theme was used to get people to buy it. Another is the reason Greg mentions; games with these themes tend to not be to my tastes even when they have actual design thought behind them. Finally, these themes encourage people to use dark graphics which usually look bad and are always difficult to use.
Going back to the original question which kicked off this article (finally), my favorite zombie game would have to be whatever scenario of Betrayal at House on the Hill I played that involved zombies (I think there was one). If that doesn’t count, I guess it would be Zombiaki, which was OK. Dishonorable mention goes to Zombiegeddon, which is presumably a good game I would enjoy playing, since it’s almost the same game as Jäger und Sammler, but which has such dreadful graphics that when we tried to play it we bailed during setup.
Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I know it could be seems strange but Zombies is a theme that doesn’t interest me particularly and it also, at present, not fitting my family tastes. In my gaming club are all frenzy about Zombicide and I must admit it actually works fine. I also played Zombiaki and the old Zombies!!! Both interesting but not excellent.
So, if I have to say the best Zombies games I have played it is Zombicide because it is a real well done collaborative game with enough tension.
Undead are charming and I have used a lot in my Dungeons & Dragons adventures but outside the rpg systems I found Zombie quite boring because are too much well defined (stupid, slow, …) to let designers possibly to make something really new.
The real Zombies game I love is the computer game Plants VS Zombies that I think is one of the best PC/Tablet games ever.
Erik Arneson: First, Mark Jackson is absolutely correct about the Zombies of Morindan for Heroscape. They’re excellent to play, and you need to buy at least two packs of them to make them really shine. Highly recommended.
As to zombie games, I’m a fan of the genre (which seemingly puts me in the minority around here). My favorite is Zombicide. (I’m also a fan of cooperative games, so Zombicide hits that niche as well.) Every game I’ve played has been tense, most have been losses, and I’ve always been ready to play again right away. Perhaps it has something to do with the people I tend to play with (I’ll take on the zombies with Chris and Sue any day!), but Zombicide is just flat-out entertaining.