For the most part, zombies seem like the most benign of monsters. The classic zombie is dumb, falling apart, and shambles without much cognitive processing involved. The problem arises when there are lots of them or, in more recent imaginings of zombies, they’re fast or smart. Still, since we all know at least one person who might just be an actual zombie, at least early in the morning, it’s a popular theme for media and entertainment!
Enter Zombiefilled, a fun new family friendly card game where players compete to escape a warehouse that’s being overrun by the recently deceased. Currently on Kickstarter, it’s for 2-4 players, is easy to explain and understand, and plays pretty darn fast. We’ve had games last less than five minutes because, well, you can end up being braaaiiiinnnn food for the shamblers and lose.
There are four basic types of cards, all featuring a fun, lively and family friendly design:
Left to right, they’re heroes, zombies, objects and actions. Top left of a hero is its power (in this case, she’s a 2) and on the lower right is her speed (again, a 2). Zombies also have power, but on the top right, and speed on the lower right. Speed isn’t really used in the game as currently distributed but I surmise that there’ll be an expansion or new ruleset published for a different version of the game where zombie speed vs. hero speed does come into account. No word from the developers on whether this suspicion is accurate or not, however!
The game starts by extracting the four power 3 heroes from the deck and distributing them randomly, one each, to each of the players The EXIT card is also extracted from the deck (of about 60 cards total, mostly actions and objects). So, pre-start, here are the cards pulled:
Once the power 3 heroes are disseminated and the remainder put on the bottom of the deck, each player then gets three more cards for their hand. Remember, this isn’t a co-op, this is a highly competitive game where you’re pushing your luck trying to find good things in the warehouse (and the exit!) while defeating zombies and even shoving zombies at other players to deal with so you can be the front of the pack.
If any of the starting cards dealt (face down, but viewable by the player) are zombies, discard and replace until the hand is the power 3 hero plus three other hero, object or action cards. Here’s my starting hand:
That lonely power 1 zombie in the middle was a discard during the starting deal. The EXIT card is placed at the very bottom of the deck after a thorough shuffle to get the power 3 heroes that weren’t dealt out randomly positioned in the deck.
HOW TO PLAY ZOMBIEFILLED
Now that the initial hands are dealt, each turn consists of safely “resting” to draw one card in secret, or risking everything by “scouring” for good stuff by drawing 1, 2, or 3 cards face up from the deck. Scouring is where you grow your hand and really push aggressively forward towards that EXIT, gaining lots of useful actions and objects, and, hopefully, a hero or two.
Resting is the safe way to proceed – you draw one card in secret – though if you draw a zombie you must either play it or defeat it. Playing it means putting it in front of another player (each player can only ever have a max of one zombie in front of them, and having that zombie there forces you to rest each turn (e.g., draw a card) and try to defeat it) or in front of yourself if your spot’s open. Not as exciting, but somewhat safer.
This is a push-your-luck game, though, so the more you scour, the more cool action and object cards you get, along with some extra heroes, but the more likely you are to encounter a zombie. Just like with the rest action, you must deal with the zombie immediately with the cards already in your hand. The difference is that if I get a zombie as part of a rest draw, I can push it to someone else. If I get it during a scour, I have to deal with it immediately, all by myself.
For example, if I’m doing a scour and draw FREEBIE, decide to proceed to card 2, draw MOVE ZOMBIE, decide to proceed again (pushing my luck, for sure!) and end up with a zombie, even a power 1 zombie, I’m in a pickle:
I could use my other MOVE ZOMBIE card (already in my hand) to push it to one of the other players, but my opponent already has a zombie in front of them, so I have to deal with it myself.
Fortunately, power 3 hero is still in my hand so he easily defeats this pesky shambler. Your power must be equal or higher, so if I had a power 1 hero she couldn’t single-handidly defeat a power 3 zombie. That’s where objects are helpful! My baseball bat gives a hero a +2 power, for example, which would let a power 1 hero defeat a power 3 zombie.
Not a crisis this round, fortunately:
But it’s not much later that it IS a crisis due to my opponent having a zombie in front of them, me having one in front of me, and me no longer having any heroes in my hand to defeat the powerful zombie I just drew!
With nothing to defeat this powerful group of zombies I’m dead. Game over, my opponent won. Darn it!
THOUGHTS ON ZOMBIEFILLED
This is a pretty rudimentary game when it comes down to it, a game with a bit of the random flavor of Munchkin. It’s all about luck, there’s not a huge amount of strategy, and as with all push your luck games, it can reward bold decisions to push forward or you can push a bit too far forward and find out that your braiiiiiinns are just what the zombie ordered. The competitive aspect of pushing zombies to your opponent might cause some hurt feelings with the youngest of players too, but overall, this is a great family card game for a quick round while waiting for food at the restaurant, waiting for a plane to board or even just taking a break from screens during our endless home schooling adventure.
For an adult group, this is probably too simplistic, however, and like Killer Bunnies, the sheer randomness of it will be a turn off for any serious gamer. Still, worth adding to your collection to have some light filler games to entertain the family. I’ll also say that the name is a bit confusing. I’d have called it something like “Zombie Escape” to make it more clear the thematic aspect of the game. But… that’s just me.
ZOMBIEFILLED, 2-4 players, 10-30 minutes, easy, family friendly. About $20 through their Kickstarter campaign.
Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the game so that I could play and then write up this review. Thanks!