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  Mechanic #220 - Dice Zombies
Posted: Jun 22, 2016

When your boardgame is as big as a house, it needs to solitaire and multiplayer simultaneously

  A Big Game of Zombies!!!

One of my first board games (that wasn't Monopoly or Life or whatever) was a game by Twilight Creations Inc. called Zombies!!! (that's three !'s). In the game, you lay out a bunch of tiles to build up a city in which you battle zombies and try to get to the helicopter and escape. It is an okay beer and pretzels game. Not great. Just okay. But the thing that captured my imagination was the expansions.

Zombies!!! has something like 15 or 16 expansions at this point, each one adding a new "zone" to the game. First one was a military base, then a mall, then a forest, a school, a circus, sewers, zoo, and I think a space station. Each of these could be combined together to make a massive game board that just totally pumped me up to see it happen. In my head, I imagined a game where entire rooms would be taken up with game boards, and the hallways between them.



Fig 220.1 - Zombies!!! plus expansions

Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to that promise. Besides the tiles being made of extremely flimsy cardboard that likes to curl up, the game just fundamentally doesn't work with more than one or two expansions added in at a time. It becomes too large, too unwieldy, and too time consuming. It is barely fun enough to justify time spent as it is, and it buckles completely under the weight of the added game components.

Still, I thought it would be pretty neat...

  Too Big Isn't Big Enough!!!



Fig 220.2 - A rather sizable game board.

If you are going to have a seriously massive game board - one so large that it spills between rooms and out onto the patio - you have to make a few concessions as to how to play it. First, and perhaps most importantly, the game must play simultaneously. That is, player 1 takes his turn while player 2 is also taking his turn. This is simply because they could be physically in two different rooms, and you don't want players running up the stairs so that player 2 can take his turn in the military base and then down to the basement so player 3 can move around the sewers.

While playing separately, it means that the game needs to be a solo game when players are apart, but a multiplayer game when players are physically close together. This also makes the game effectively real time. There aren't so much turns as there are actions, and actions take as long as the player takes to perform them.

The second concession is that since the board is so large that players may have to physically move around. This means that the game state must be contained completely on the board, while the player state must travel with the player. To this end, everything in the game that isn't a tile is dice, while the player carries a bag of dice as his inventory, which he must roll before using. The player can carry as many dice as he can fit in the bag.

  Dice Zombies (and Everything Else)!!!



Fig 220.3 - Game Board With Accessories.

Things that the player can use or fight are dice placed on the various tiles. Each room's tile will have a list of dice to place on it (like 1 zombie die, 1 tool die). Whichever face is up is that die's current game state. The dice will have a small symbol on one face indicating its initial state.

Some dice are meant to be manipulated (actions taken to turn the die to a different face), some are meant to be collected (put them in a player's dice bag), and some are meant to be battled against (they stay in the room, but are rolled during battle to change their state).



Fig 220.4 - Various Dice.

The dice have, as their center symbol, an icon indicating what kind of enemy, tool, or feature they represent. Surrounding this are additional icons which may have other meanings or purposes. For instance, surround a zombie on his die may be defense icons, health icons, and attack icons representing the zombie's current strength, while a hammer tool die may attack icons (for when it is used as a weapon) and nail icons (for how effective it is at repairing barracades).




Fig 220.5 - Building a Barricade.

To give an example of how this may work, the player is in a room with a door that he wants to barricade. He has a hammer tool die and a wood tool die. The wood tool has faces that represent various things he can build from the wood, such as a barricade, a trap, a door, or a plank bridge to cross gaps. Each one of these has a number of hammer icons of increasing number (a bundle of planks is 0 hammers, a trap is 1 hammer, a door is 2 hammers, a barricade is 3 hammers, etc).

To start the barricade, the player places the wood tool die on the tile with its lowest side facing up (a bundle of wooden planks). Then, to improve the die, he rolls the hammer tool die. For each nail he rolls, he can increase the wood by that number. So, if he rolls two nails, he can move the bundle of planks (0 hammers) to a door (2 hammers) for that one turn. He can roll again on his next action to improve it further. It also goes in reverse. He can roll nails to reduce the side of the wood tool as well, such as destroying a barricade and taking the wooden planks into his inventory.

Because this is a game about fighting zombies with a dwindling stock of supplies, the hammer tool die also has an icon indicating when it breaks. If you roll the hammer die and it shows this icon, you get whatever icons you got for that particular roll, but the die must be discarded afterwards. You broke your hammer. Sucks to be you.


Combat is relatively simple. After each action, four zombies (your choice) from the neighboring rooms will move into the room with your player die. Then all zombie dice in the same room (including the new ones) are rolled. If you have any defensive dice you want to use, you can roll them at this time to add shields. Count up the number of hits on the dice and compare them to the number of shield icons showing on your player die and defensive dice. For each unblocked hit, you must discard one die from your inventory (ultimately leading to discarding your player die and losing).

During your turn, as an action, you can attack the zombies in your current room. Take your player die and any weapon/tool dice you want to add from your inventory and roll them. Compare the number of hits to the number of shields shown on the zombie dice. For each set of hits equal to one zombie's shields, remove that zombie. For instance, if you roll 5 hits, you can remove two zombies with 2 shields each, but not a third one.

If you are paying attention, the player die and zombie dice are rolled during attacks, so their face changes every time they attack. This can result in a zombie or player changing their defense count for the next attack. Also, tools have icons on them that indicate that they break, so you might have a shotgun die which does a lot of damage, but has a high chance of breaking. Dice that break during defending can be counted among the dice you lose as damage.




Click for Prototype Note.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.