Monday, December 17, 2012

When Gaming Matters

Some events are difficult to work through. Sometimes, instead of worrying about the how’s and the why’s, it makes more sense to get back to the basics; focusing on things that matter. So this weekend we spent quite a bit of time doing things as a family – both work and play.

Fortunately, it’s the holidays, so there was cleaning to do and a tree that needed trimming. When the necessities and the niceties of the season had been addressed, we turned to the other great family bonding activity…we played games. The kids were doubly excited due to the fact that I had invited one of my good friends, Paul, to join in the festivities.

We started off, after pizza, with Liar’s Dice. Lo and behold, Paul won – his first time playing! Then we switched to our homemade Zombie Dice and gave it a go. We played two games and my daughter won both. She has this uncanny ability to get six, seven, or eight on the first roll of the game and everyone else gets pressured into chasing her for the rest of the game. Unfortunately for my son, this meant he Jodi'd* two full games.

We finished the dice games around 9:30 PM, rested for a few, and then broke out the next game. Last Christmas I gave Paul a game called Zombies! from Twilight Creations. It is an “older” game from 2001 (apparently), but Paul and I joke about the Zombie Apocalypse all the time so I figured it would be a good game for him. Without being asked to, he brought it last night. Turns out since he received it as a gift he couldn't really get a group together to play it – something he was bummed about.

Skach’s to the rescue!

The game took a little getting used to. For our family, it started a little on the complex side. But one we got into the rhythm it started to get easier. Basically you follow a set of steps on each turn:

  1. Pull a new tile – each is a section of the city – and place it.
  2. Battle any zombie in your current square.
  3. Draw cards to make your hand three cards full.
  4. Roll and move – fight any zombies you run into along the way.
  5. Roll for the zombies – for each pip on the dice you move a single zombie one space.
The Town Center is placed first and all the players tokens are placed in the center square.


You can see in this picture the center square (circled in red). You can also get a sense for how the city gets built - all the tiles around the Center were drawn as part of those aforementioned steps and placed.

The zombies get on the board in two basic ways. First, whenever a tile with a building on it gets placed, it outlines a set of zombies and life points and bullets that go in that building.


In this picture, you can see a hospital building placed on the map. The yellow circle shows the text that informs the players how to fill up the hospital - in this case 8 zombies, 4 life points, and no bullets. you can see the little zombie figures in each square and the red tokens are the life points.So if you want those life points and/or bullets, you have to go kill some Zombies…or someone does as you can always sneak in after someone does the killing and “vulture” them.

The other way zombies get on the board is through the Event Cards. At the start, each player gets three cards, and then replenishes  them each turn. A card can be played at any time, but only one card per player per "round" - from the beginning of a player's turn until the next beginning of that players turn. There are many of those cards that allow a player to load the board up with zombies, while others give weapons and such - some even allow one player to cause another to miss a turn.

Battling zombies is a simple matter of rolling a six-sided die and getting a four, five, or six. If you do, the zombie is yours. If not, you either have to use a life point to roll again, or add a number of bullets that will raise your roll to success – so if you roll a 3, you can add one bullet and make it a 4 and succeed. You do not get to walk away. Once you enter a square with a zombie (or if you start with one in your square) you have to keep battling until either you or the zombies are defeated. Death means you lose half your zombies and are moved back to the town square, where everyone began the game.

After quite a few turns, you end up with a board that looks like this:




As you can see, everyone was having a good time.

At some point, the most important city card is flipped over and placed on the board: The Helipad.


The circle in the lower left is the helipad. As you can see, as our luck would have it it was going to be an arduous task to get there. Once played, it becomes the place towards which everyone rushes because winning is getting to center square of the helipad and killing the zombie there. It is possible to win by being the first to kill 25 zombies…though that proves very difficult.

We played this game for three hours easy. That's right, my kids were engaged at 1:00 AM and playing just like it was 7:00 PM. In fact, my son formed and alliance with my friend Paul and the two of them very nearly won. My wife ignored the helipad towards which the rest of us were working and went for the 25 kills. At 1:30 AM we called it a night. with no clear winner. The kids were tired, but had an absolute blast.

So much so that the kids and I went to Games Plus today and bought ourselves the base set. We bought quite a few games and expansions today, though some will end up under the tree, so I don't want to divulge. Heck, while at Games Plus we got pulled into a game of Seven Wonders and had a great time.

So I think there will be even more regular gaming even if it's not RPG's. It's not only fun, but a great way to reconnect at the end of a busy week and restrengthen those bonds that really matter.

* Jody'd was a term coined at LokiCon for the player who kept getting zero brains because he would shotgun out.

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