It’s a wonder if George A Romero knew the kind of cultural revolution he began with the release of the 1968 movie The Night of the Living Dead. Sure, there were zombie movies before then, but none quite captured the imagination of the world quite like Romero’s masterpiece. Zombies were no longer a mystical monster of magic and mayhem, but had instead they become your next door neighbour. They became your best friend, your Aunt, your Uncle, and your cat. No one was sacred. Anyone could become a zombie and that is scary.
Around two years ago I was given a copy of the game Zombies!!! for a birthday present. For a while we played loads of it, kind of seeing it as a cheaper Zombicide, playing it as a PvP game as well as a cooperative game depending on the group we were with. That being said, Zombies!!! was lucky. To us the game itself had some inherent flaws, but after a few plays we found a couple of fixes that we toyed with until the game became one that we actually recommended a few friends actually purchased.
So, with that in mind, I thought since I’ve been planning to write this blog for the last five months, here are four house rules to the game Zombies!!! that may improve your game. They did ours.
How is Zombies!!! played?
Zombies is a tile exploration game, based on the idea that you are exploring a city, and are needing to find the way out via a helipad. Each turn players will turn tiles over, revealing more of the city, and, on occasion, bullets, health, and (of course) zombies.
At the end of a turn, a die is rolled. That many zombies move each round. The players need to fight their way through zombies, in which case they can shoot a zombie if they land on the same space as them. To do this they roll a dice, and on a roll of 4+ the zombie is defeated. If the player rolls less than that they can augment their roll with bullets, with each bullet used counting as an additional +1 to the rules.
To move, the player rolls a die and adds the results to the number of hearts/health they have. This denotes how healthy they are and thus how far they can go.
To begin the game each player is given three item cards. These can be used at any time they make sense.
Once the players find the Helipad they win the game.
What was the problem we found with Zombies!!!?
Looking at those rules, there are a few areas we believed there could be improvements made. The first is that the game rules are incredibly simple, and where this can be a benefit at times, they are sometimes oversimplified. The back of the box says that it should be a 60-90 minute game, and yet we were having games that didn’t even make it past the 30 minute mark, and this was because the game was ultimately too easy. There are several variants of rules in the rulebook, however, none seemed to quite add the thrill we were after for a zombie game.
The movement is a nice mechanic for a roll and resolve game, but we found the combat was too simplistic, with all the characters able to use guns (with the miniatures holding shotguns) yet they can only attack if on the same space as a zombie. The zombie movement also caused problems, with a potential 60(ish) zombies out on the board, with only a maximum of six moving whenever a character moves. These could be any, and move randomly, and that didn’t feel right. Yes, they’re zombies, but I’ve seen way too many horror movies to let it get away that easily.
House Rule 1: Place the Helicopter within 5 tiles of the bottom of the stack
Rule number one is to combat the short play time. The last thing you want, as a gamer, is to turn the helicopter pad over too soon. The official rule is to place it “somewhere in the middle of the stack”, but we found that placing it closer to the end of the stack ended in a better game. Much like Sub Terra does with placing the exit within the final five tiles, we would recommend the same with Zombies!!!. That way it wouldn’t come out too soon.
Of course, there are people on sites like BGG saying the game can crawl. If this is the case then maybe place it near the start of the stack. Each group will be different, and so it is important for each group to find their own balance.
House Rule 2: Roll two dice for zombie movement
Having a maxiumum of six zombies move after a player moved seemed like too few, so we made a few adjustments to that rule. The first is that, rather than one dice being rolled to determine the number of Zombies moving, roll two. The second is that zombies do not move at random. They move towards the player on their tile/in line of sight. The real fun comes though after someone has either used a bullet (ie. shot a gun). Then all zombies move towards the source of the noise. That’s right. All zombies move towards the person who shot the weapon. If that was you then you need to get the hell out of dodge, as when more zombies start moving together they can create a horde.
House Rule 3: Bullets kill instantly
If you want to play a horde game, then try this rule – guns kill instantly. They are kind of like a Hail Mary (in American Football terms), allowing you to just charge at zombies without having to worry about augmenting the rolls. If you run out of bullets then you can still go hand to hand with a 50% chance of winning (we also tried a victory on a 3+, which gives a 67% chance-ish). This gives more of a reason to want bullets as they can help carve a way through a horde – a horde that is likely to unfold if you are having two die worth of zombies moving each turn.
House Rule 4: Guns shoot
It always seemed weird that Zombies!!! allowed for using guns in close combat, but had no shooting mechanic. The whole of Zombies!!! happens in pretty close quarters, so it is possible to use a “line of sight” rule and not be too unrealistic (since a street in Zombies!!! is only around 8 buildings long). Essentially, if you are in line of sight of a zombie, who is in your row or in your column on a tile within line of sight, then you can shoot them. Of course, other zombies would then hone in on your location and move towards you so you don’t want to do it too often, but it is a cool little addition to the game.
Those four basic rules make the game more challenging, whilst also giving more reasons for exploration. They make the game more fun, whilst also making it last longer.
I’d be interested to hear if you have any house rules for any games, or what your thoughts are on Zombies!!!. Let me know in the comments below.