The Slog to the Helipad

As I’ve written before about video games, it’s easy for
games with a zombie theme to go wrong. For me, surviving a zombie apocalypse is
not about mowing down hordes of the undead but the fight for survival while the
world is falling apart. Recently becoming the owner of two board games with
zombie themes I got to see examples of either side, where one game has what I’m
looking for and the other does not.

I bought the board game Zombies!!! on sale without knowing a lot about it. I had seen on that the game has a lot of expansions (usually a good sign) but
was conflicted about buying it as the game has a pretty low overall rating on
that site. The folks at BGG are a tough group to please so I figured the low
price was worth the risk. The evening I bought Zombies!!! I cajoled my wife into a game which she soon

The play of Zombies!!!
is fairly basic. You, the surviving humans, are racing to a waiting helicopter
to make your escape from a zombie outbreak. It is a competitive game where the
first person to make it to the helipad wins. The landscape of the city is
slowly revealed as players flip over tiles and attach those tiles to the
existing design. Each tile has a set number of zombies that are to be placed on
it and some have special buildings that contain bullets and health tokens.
Moving your character piece and fighting zombies is a simple roll of a
six-sided die. You may also play special cards which are designed to hurt your

Unfortunately that’s pretty much all there is to Zombies!!!. My wife and I found the game
to be quite boring and at first I thought that it was because had we tried it
with only two people, but a later session of four players revealed it to be no
less dull. From the start I was surprised to find that Zombies!!! is not a cooperative game. The notion that I’m racing to
leave fellow survivors to be eaten just didn’t work for me. Also, more
importantly, there simply isn’t enough meat to the game. Only rolling a
six-sided die to move means you are not going very far on a turn and makes
reaching far flung buildings too hard. Plus, there is no incentive to do so; if
you make it all the way to an outlying building and the helipad tile is drawn
by another player, you’ve essentially lost the game. There’s no real penalty
when your character dies so the game boils down to everyone waiting at the
center of the city for the helipad tile to show up and whoever rolls the best for
movement to get there wins the game.

It’s hard to fault Zombies!!!
too much as I paid so little for it and the game doesn’t cost a lot even when
not on sale. I can see why so many expansions exist for Zombies!!! as its mechanics are simple enough that new rules can
easily be plugged in. Even so, I won’t be getting those expansions since my
experience with the base game was so poor and it didn’t do enough to suggest
that expansions would fix its problems. There is one silver lining to my
purchase however, as Zombies!!! comes
with a large horde of decent-looking zombie miniatures which I’ll gladly swipe if
I ever need a zombie swarm for my next D&D

to capture even the basic ideas of a zombie apocalypse and commits the even
more grievous error of not being a good game. The game destroys what little
drama it creates by making inaction more rewarding than risky decisions. As a
character in Zombies!!! there is no
urgency to make me race to the helicopter since I am never truly in danger, and
a zombie-themed game with no danger, is no fun.

Thankfully the other board game I purchased uses its zombie theme fantastically and does so with great game mechanics– more on that game soon.