Six to Start’s Zombies, Run! app (available on iOS and Android), is a running tracking app with a twist: there’s an ongoing narrative as you run where you’re collecting supplies for a safe haven during the zombie apocalypse. You’re jogging along, listening to the app and suddenly moans of the shambling undead! Time to sprint! The game has over one million players who have logged in over 40 million km run.
The company also loves boardgames.
Currently, on Kickstarter, Six to Start is offering a board game version of Zombies, Run! As this goes live, they’re halfway through the campaign (13 days left) and have doubled their goal. A pledge of £26 (roughly US$34) gets you a published version of the game. Six to Start has provided us with a prototype to see what the game has to offer.
Like the fitness app, Zombies, Run! The Board Game uses an app to drive the story. Hit play and listen for audio cues. Our initial (tutorial) mission has us escaping a hospital that’s overrun. While the audio plays, there are story moments: someone is about to get grabbed by a zombie, do you grab her arm and pull her along, distract the zombie, or just run? There are decisions to be made: cut through the lobby, closer to where the zombies are, or head up to the roof and down again, which would take longer? Meanwhile: “Zombies advance,” says the app. “Two zombies detected.”
There’s a track of cards, A through E, that shows how far away zombies are. When they show up, they’re at A. When they advance, they all slide over toward E. If they slide off E, they’ve bitten you. That’s bad. Bitten and you take a Death Card face down. At the end of the mission, name one of six body parts, like “head”, “left arm”, or “naughty bits”, and flip the card. It matches? You’ve been infected. In the prototype, this is just a scoring mechanism; in the final game, there’s probably more to it.
But the main thing you’ll be doing during the mission – and where the main part of the game is – is trying to escape zombies by creating Plans. You’re assembling opportunity cards like Talking, Thinking, Running, and Sneaking in order to evade a particular zombie. Most opportunity cards have one icon on the left (the type of card this is) and another on the right (the type of card that can attached to this one). Chain cards together to create a Plan. If your Plan is long enough and ends in the correct symbol, you’ve evade a zombie. For instance, Zombie Mia requires a chain of at least 4 cards that ends in a Thinking symbol. Play six cards that ends with Thinking and you remove them and Zombie Mia from the mission.
Everyone is scrambling for these cards while under pressure, and that’s where the tension of the game comes from. You’re looking over the zombies closest to catching you, trying to determine how to link three cards together to end in Sneaking while everyone is also grabbing cards, and the supply is dwindling, and ONE ZOMBIE DETECTED, and the person replenishing the cards just covered up the one card you needed with more draw cards, and maybe you should just use your cards to reload the shotgun, and ZOMBIES ADVANCING, and now you’ve got the shotgun loaded and can shoot a zombie over there or maybe you can wait for them to get closer when you can shoot more, and TWO ZOMBIES DETECTED, and oh crap that’s an incredibly tough zombie that just entered maybe you should just chain a few more cards together to take him out instead, and can we please please please just survive long enough to get to the police station?
And there’s the map.
As you’re running to your destination, you might pick up a distress call asking for help. You might see a flare shooting off to the north. You might rescue a survivor that heard of a cache of supplies in town. Do you change your destination? Because you totally can. The map is 100 square kilometers, with a city, several towns, parks, woods, lakes, highways, roads, trains (including a tunnel that I’m never taking my survivors to), power lines, and even a castle. It’s a fictional slice of Britain that’s yours to run around in.
Oh, and because it’s an app, it remembers choices you’ve made: did you free that person handcuffed to a hospital bed? Did you go get those supplies? Did you find out what’s up with that flare?
Do I like this?
Lots of short bits of pressure with the whole card combination planning. The puzzle of building those is simple enough to not overwhelm, but the pressure from the game makes it challenging. When I opened the package from Six to Start, there were all these envelopes, all these deck boxes to open. “Oh, it’s a legacy game,” I thought, but no – those were step-by-step instructions for the tutorial. But then there’s the map and the app that remembers what you’ve done. So yeah, it’s a legacy game.
Zombies, Run! The Board Game is a game for 2-4 players (well, you can play with one but that ramps up the difficulty) and plays in as little as 15 minutes, depending on the mission you’re taking. Recommended ages: well, there are zombies eating people and the voice actors use the s-word about as frequently as you’d hear it in a PG-13 film, so keep that in mind.
A prototype copy of Zombies, Run! The Board Game was provided free for review.