Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Boardgame Overview: Last Night on Earth

After much searching, I finally managed to get hold of a copy of Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game by Flying Frog Productions. Currently, the game seems to be out of print (though I hear rumours that this is how Flying Frog works, they'll do new runs every few months), so I tracked down a second hand copy on ebay which is in perfect condition, with many of the cards still unpunched.

If you've ever seen a zombie film then you pretty much know the theme of this game. A small group of Heroes are trapped in a small town, battling a rising horde of the undead. The game borrows from every zombie movie you've ever seen so expect shambling brain hungry zombies, and heroes toting shotguns and chainsaws. For me, the theme is awesome. The in-game art really adds to the movie like feeling.

The components are good quality. The board and counters are on nice thick cards, and the card decks are decent card stock and in full colour, as is the rule book. The game also features 14 zombie miniatures (28mm scale) and 8 hero miniatures:

The minis are well detailed, but my only gripe with them is that they're a bit flimsy. My wife nearly snapped Becky the nurse of her base as her legs are so thin and flimsy. You could look for some alternate models for the miniatures (a box of GW zombies would do you nicely), but the bases on the LNoE minis are much smaller than normal GW bases. This is important as you need to fit multiple figures in the same game square. The game is also supplied with a soundtrack CD of original music, which I have to admit I haven't listened to yet.

Throughout the game, it uses photos to convey the zombie theme. The same actors are used on the character cards as on the hero and zombie cards to convey the theme. As an example, one of the characters is the town priest, Father Joseph. Here he is on the Faith card (gives rerolls in combat):
..and he is again, this time on the Fire Axe item card:

Game Overview:
The game is scenario based with each side (Heroes and Zombies, 2-6 players total) trying to complete a certain task. For Heroes this might be something like killing a certain number of zombies within the turn limit, or rescuing townsfolk. For Zombies, it's killing Heroes. The fundamental mechanic is probably hand management, as Heroes search building to draw cards from the Hero deck. These might be items or weapons, or event which are going aid them (like boarding up all the windows in a building). Zombies always get to draw cards each turn, and these might give them extra zombies, or extra bite in combat, or other events to mess up the Heroes efforts. Each side takes turns (not an integrated turn sequence).

So, zombies move slowly and try and eat Heroes. Heroes find stuff to fight off zombies. Heroes can make ranged attacks with weapons they have, and both sides can fight in close combat. Each hero has different skills and abilities which can help in different situations. For example, Becky the nurse can heal wounds on other heroes, whilst Johnny the quarterback is tough enough to win fights with zombies on a tied roll (zombies normally win on a tie).

Ranged attacks are a simple roll to hit, and then a check to see if the weapon is out of ammo. Close combat is slight more involved. Each side rolls fight dice, one for the zombie and two for the hero. If the hero rolls higher the zombie is fended off (not killed). If the hero rolls higher and rolls a double the zombie is killed. If the zombie rolls higher or it is a draw, the hero takes a wound. That's the basic mechanic. Once you've rolled each side can elect to use items, or play cards to give themselves an advantage. They might have a weapon which gives them a re-roll for example, or a card which lets them modify dice rolls. Each side can then play cards as they see fit to alter the outcome of fight. This basic mechanic is quite simple, but the card mechanic on top really adds some depth.

I love this game. I love the theme, and the mechanisc mean the game is deep, yet quick to play. The game play is exciting and has a cinematic feel. For example, in a game I played with the missus, she holed up in the police station with all her heroes, as I closed in on her with my 14 zombie horde. Really cool stuff, if you can find a copy, buy it!

There's a boxed expansion entitled "The Growing Hunger" which I don't own, plus a couple of extra card packs. Developer support for the game seems good, with a 30 page FAQ on boardgamegeek which is unofficial, but many of the question have been answered by the game developers and play testers. There's also some fan created solo rules as well which I will get as well.

As a reward for getting to the end of this review, here's a picture of the very nice Jenny the Farmers daughter, courtesy of boardgamegeek:

One final note, don't try and get your non-gaming wife to play this. She will hate it, mine did. She says there's too many rules and exceptions (a trivial amount compared to 40k in reality), and she has non interest in zombies.

Pictures in this post are not mine, they're taken from the Flying Frog website and boardgame geek, so cheers for lending them to me ;)

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