Saturday, 14 January 2012

Review: Zombie Dice

Title: Zombie Dice
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Players: 2 to any number (but between 3 and 10 is probably optimal)
Play time: Depends on players (about 3-8 minutes per player)
Prerequisites: Some paper and a pen, or something else to keep score

For theme, I really should have done this review yesterday (Friday the 13th).  Can we all just pretend it's yesterday?

Zombie Dice is a short-form play-almost-anywhere game of pushing your luck to impress your zombie pals.  The premise is, you're all zombies, competing to become the one true Zombie King, because, y'know, zombies need strict hierarchies or their society falls into chaos.  One of the most appealing things (and what eventually persuaded me to buy the game) is that I don't need to describe how to play.  There's a Flash demo that stylishly introduces you to the concepts and rules in a matter of minutes.  Find it hither.

Cool.  You done enjoying that?  I like the way the zombie talks.  Reminds me of me in the mornings.

So, you've seen the virtual game, how about the physical version?  For your monies, you get a short, reasonably sturdy tube (which doubles as a dice shaker) full of 13 six-sided custom dice.  When I first saw the game in my friendly local gaming shop, the first question that popped into my mind was: does everyone need to buy their own dice to play?  The answer is a very reassuring "no".  Everyone involved in a game plays with the same 13 dice.  And the number of players is really only limited by the number of people you can persuade to play.

Steve Jackson's Zombie Dice game
My slightly tattered Zombie Dice
That said, I can see that as the number of people increases so does the tendency to lose focus, as well as the impracticality of maintaining scores.  Likewise, boredom might set in the longer a particular player has to wait for his or her turn, so I'd cap the number of players at about the same level as how many people you'd generally be happy carrying out a conversation with at any one time (for me, that's about 10).

There's strategy to be had in the game, but it's mostly limited to "should I push my luck?"  The dice in the game come in 3 different colours, clearly indicating whether a die is likely to come out as favourable or not, and cunning players will obviously take account of how many favourable dice remain to be rolled.  Since the game mechanics allow for only one winner, the way it's played will change depending on how ahead or behind other players' scores one is -- think like a multi-player version of darts.  There can be only one Zombie King, so if one player is very close to getting the prerequisite 13 brains, other players will start to take risks just to catch up.

Does hilarity ensue?  Mostly, yes.  I don't think Zombie Dice will suit everyone, and it's a lot more fun if you get into the moment (putting on your best zombie drawl, pretending that 3 red dice are a group of survival nuts with double-barreled shotguns, etc.).  Since it's short-form, it's better played in a very casual setting, or as a filler between other games.  It's self-contained and doesn't require much table real estate, so it's perfectly suited to play in a pub*, and apart from losing the dice themselves, there's no risk of coming back missing any small parts.  Zombie Dice has a pretty good chance of ending up in a bag if I'm meeting up with people of the gaming persuasion, and that sounds like a recommendation to me.

* US followers, please read: bar.  Medieval followers, please read: tavern.


  1. I think the same guys have made a game called "Cthulhu dice"- I thinks it's similar, but with Lovecraftian imagery and polyhedral dice.

  2. Awesome game. Def a pick up and play game. Review = Nail on head