Release Date: February, 2014
Publisher: 9 Kingdoms
Age: 13 and older
Pros: Simple rules
Cons: Not much variety in how the game plays
Walking Dead has not just dominated the TV ratings, it’s also had a major influence on zombie games. While older games focused on the immediate survival, games now are about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse: gathering supplies and lasting for the long term. Apocalypze is the most recent zombie game to be as much about gathering supplies as killing zombies. Despite the larger scope, Apocalypze keeps things simple enough, with plenty of zombie killing to go along with the survival, and manages it in a “build your deck” design.
Home is where the guns are
First thing you do when building your Apocalypze deck is pick a stronghold, which begins play. There are four factions (bikers, civilians, police, and soldiers), and naturally you’ll want to pick a faction that complements the stronghold. For example, the police station makes a good stronghold for a police deck.
Past that, the rulebook doesn’t give any information on deck design. The game comes with pre-build decks, but I encourage anyone willing to look into the game to check out some deck lists to get ideas for how to build a deck capable of withstanding the zombie hordes. For all that, the factions don’t play all that much differently, and seem to be fairly balanced.
One man’s trash is your loot. Oh, wait, that’s your trash, too.
Every turn starts with a player drawing up to 8 cards, and there are plenty of ways to discard, so a bad draw is usually just a minor setback. Every turn ends with consumption of resources, which is just discarding cards to the discard pile.
Naturally, you’ll want more “resources”, which can only be gained by scavenging a location–and locations are cards you play that only you can loot. The principle sounds fun, but all resources scavenged this way are coming from the discard pile. Thus, you always know what you’re going to get. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to scavenge a gun when you need it, but somehow the fun is just a little bit less when I know full well I’m going to scavenge a gun from the drug store.
He seems trustworthy, we should let him join…
You’ll need to survivors to scavenge, and they move out after being played in your stronghold. Some survivors serve a “dual purpose” as either survivor or zombie. This extra utility is balanced by such cards being fairly weak survivors or zombies, but it’s still worthwhile. There are other enemies, by the way–doomsday cultists and criminal gangs can also show up to fight.
Your opposing play can send enemies to attack your stronghold, or your scavenging location. Combat has a little twist to it: locations and strongholds have “access points”, allowing attackers to assault on multiple fronts. It generally is best to keep all the attackers together, to make a “stack of doom” that is much harder to stop. If the attackers win, the losing player will generally be forced to discard more cards, and it’s possible to assemble an unstoppable force that will grind away at a helpless player for turns.
The way to lose, by the way, is to be forced to discard a card when you have no cards to discard. The winner is the last one who doesn’t lose.
Overall, Apocalypze is playable, and the artwork catches a familiar zombie comic feel but there’s not enough coolness here for me. There are no “wow” cards that change the game when I draw them, or can turn things around when things go bad. Still, the rules here are quite playable, and one advantage to a card game is it’s pretty easy to expand later (Magic: The Gathering is pretty dull when you’re confined to a hundred or so cards, too).
Product Page [ninekingdoms]