Back in April, Wil Wheaton played a game called The Resistance on Tabletop during season 2 episode 2. The game is very reminiscent of mafia and werewolf but is far more structured which is a much needed improvement to the genre. The players are either loyal members of a resistance or undercover government spies. The spies are aware of one another and work towards destroying the resistance cell. Five to ten players can participate and the goal is to take a majority of the rounds. Pretty simple.

The game begins with the spies acknowledging each other.1 Afterwards, leadership is bestowed upon one (un)lucky individual.2 Each mission has a set of number of participants. The leader assigns people to the mission team (and may choose him or herself). Once the team is selected, every person in the game votes to approve or reject the mission team. Majority wins but ties go to the rejectors. If the mission team is rejected, the mantle of leadership passes to the left and the mission round begins anew. Five consecutive rejections and the spies win the game.

If the team is approved, each team member is given a success and a fail card. Loyal resistance members must submit the success card and discard the fail card. Government spies may submit either card. Once all the mission cards have been submitted, the leader shuffles the cards and reveals them. If there is a single failure, the mission fails and the spies are one step closer to victory.3 Sans fail cards, the loyal resistance members are one step closer to bringing down their oppressors. Either way, the mantle of leadership passes to the left and the mission marker is moved to the next mission.

Rules-wise, this is a fairly simple game that can be hours of fun. We’ll often play several rounds over the course of a couple hours. But there’s a lot of strategy and depth to this game. How well can you deceive your friends? How well can you read your friends? What’s the best strategy for getting yourself onto a team? Can you make reasonably sounding arguments that will lead other players to the wrong conclusion? Can you sacrifice yourself to ensure your fellow spies are not found out?

After everyone’s got a feel for how to play the base game, you can introduce plot cards. There are three types of plot cards, Leadership (Star), Always On (Square), One Time Use (1). Plot cards are only drawn once per mission. So if the mantle of leadership moves for some reason (a plot card, a failed team vote), the new leader does not draw more card. At the beginning of each mission, the leader draws two plot cards from the deck and must distribute them to other players. The exception is Leadership cards which must be used by the leader. These cards are drawn and distributed before any mission team selection. Some cards reveal how mission cards were submitted, some force players to reveal their character cards to other players, some force players to vote first and some move the mantle of leadership or nullify a vote. These cards stir up the game quite a bit but are lots of fun.

Fair warning, there will be lots of raised voices and heated discussions. Also be mindful of your tells. And try to play in similar ways as a loyalist or a spy. Given enough time, patterns will develop and observant players will be able to pick you out as a spy quickly. For example, my best friend, who’s known me for over two decades, can tell within a mission or two whether I’m a spy or not. Another friend of mine is incredibly easy for me to read and I can often pick out when she’s a loyalist.

So, if you’re able to get a decent sized group together for game nights, Resistance can fill the hole when most of your games are 2-4 players. I highly recommend it and I’ll have a post on it’s cousin, Resistance: Avalon, soon.

  1. Everyone close your eyes. Spies open your eyes. Spies close your eyes. Everyone open your eyes. 
  2. I hate being the first leader. There’s almost no information to play on unless you’re a spy. 
  3. The fourth mission can be an exception to this rule. In larger games, a single fail does not fail the mission. 

Pandemic quickly became a staple of my gaming group early this year. Their first expansion On the Brink added new roles, updated a base set role, introduced new special event cards, added a fifth optional virus and the bio-terrorist scenario. Certain parts of the expansion have improved the base game but parts of it have sat unused since the box was opened.

The new roles have mixed in well with the base game and the updated Operations Expert is strictly an improvement over the base game version. These were much needed but there are a bunch of roles that sit unused. Part of the blame lies with my game group, we select our roles instead of shuffling them and dealing them out. The reason for this is because we feel the game is difficult enough without the random role assignment. But a good portion of the roles are unhelpful in most situations or worse than other roles already in the game.

The new special event cards have introduced much needed variety to the deck. But the fact that there’s only two special event cards per player in the draw deck, there aren’t a lot of them drawn. In addition, the special event card to choose a different role is always left out as we choose are roles at the beginning.

The fifth optional purple disease is a great expansion of the game in either of the options presented. We tend to use it as a mutation and not as the virulent strain. The problem is it makes the game harder and Pandemic is often times hard enough as it is. So it proves difficult to make use of the mutation when we’re already losing two games out of three.

While On the Brink is probably a good expansion overall, it hasn’t seen as much use as I had hoped. I’ll also take this moment to complain about one of the lose conditions for Pandemic: running out of cards in the draw deck. I understand trying to put a time limit on the game but I believe the outbreak counter already does that. And this feeling is reinforced by playing Forbidden Island which doesn’t have the draw deck limitation. Maybe we’ll try that as a house rule in the future.

Pandemic Lite. Or rather Pandemic Right. While the expansions have made Pandemic more interesting, it’s still an incredibly difficult game. My gaming group hasn’t moved off of the four epidemic level and playing with more than three players has us expecting to lose. And while losing can be rewarding, in Pandemic, it often feels like there was barely even a chance to win.

Forbidden Island is a game very similar to Pandemic. It’s even designed by the same guy. The premise is that the players (2-4) are treasure hunters who have arrived on a rapidly sinking island. The board is made up of 24 uniquely named tiles, on eight of these tiles one of the four treasures can be retrieved. To win, they must collect all four treasures, reach Fool’s Landing and escape via helicopter.

The first major mechanic is flooding. A flooded tile is flipped from color side to blue side. Otherwise the tile is unchanged. If a flooded tile is flooded again, it is removed from the board and player can no longer cross the empty space. After each player’s turn, two (or more) cards are pulled from the flood deck.

Much like Pandemic’s Epidemic cards, there are three ‘Waters Rise’ cards in the treasure deck. These cards increase the amount of flood cards drawn after each player’s turn. In addition, the flood deck discard pile is shuffled and put back on top of the flood deck.

Just like Pandemic, there are many ways to lose:

  • The water level rises too many times
  • Fools Landing is removed from the game
  • Both tiles for an uncollected treasure are removed from the game
  • A player on a tile being removed from the game has no adjacent tiles available to move to

Each player may take up to three actions per turn. With their actions player may: move to an adjacent tile, shore up a tile (the one their marker is on or an adjacent one), give a treasure card to another player on the same tile or collect a treasure (by turning in four of the appropriate treasure card on the appropriate tile).

There are six roles available in the game:

  • The Pilot can move to any tile once per turn at the cost of an action.
  • The Engineer can shore up two adjacent tiles per action instead of one.
  • The Messenger can give treasure cards to any player on the board, not just players on the same tile.
  • The Explorer can move and shore up diagonal tiles.
  • The Navigator can move another player up to two tiles at the cost of one action.
  • The Diver can move through flooded and removed tiles at the cost of one action.

While I’ve enjoyed Pandemic and will continue playing it and buying expansions, Forbidden Island has mostly replaced it for a multitude of reasons. First, it’s far easier. I like winning and Pandemic’s mechanics make the win percentage hover in the 30% area. Forbidden Island is around 80%. It’s okay to lose in cooperative games, but it really shouldn’t be the most memorable thing about the game. Second on the list, Forbidden Island’s setup and play time is around 20 minutes. Pandemic takes around 15 minutes just to setup. Finally, all of the roles in Forbidden Island feel useful. The roles in the base Pandemic game only feel sort of useful and most of the ones in On the Brink feel useless. In the end, I appreciate the challenge of Pandemic. But for trying to introduce people to board games and keep them playing, Forbidden Island is the far better choice.

Ticket to Ride has quickly ingrained itself as a game night favorite. Unlike Zombicide, Pandemic or Betrayal at House on Haunted Hill, Ticket to Ride is a purely competitive game. What I think has set it apart from other competitive games I own like Settlers of Catan, Acquire and Monopoly is that it’s fun and you can win without directly hurting a competitor. Also, if someone happens to mess you up, there are multiple ways to adjust and still win.

So, the basic premise is that the player is a railroad magnate trying to complete routes between cities across the United States. There is a deck of tickets in the game that provide point bonuses for completing a route between the two destinations. Each player is dealt three tickets to begin the game and must retain two of them. Any routes not completed by the end of the game are subtracted from the player’s point total. Each player begins the game with 45 colored train cars. These are used to denote claimed routes. You claim a route by turning in a number of train cards equal to the route’s length and of the route’s color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white). Grey routes can be claimed with any color (though all cards used to claim must be of the same color). In addition, there are locomotive (rainbow) cards which can be used as any color.

On a player’s turn, that player has three basic actions he can choose from. He can only perform one of these actions per turn. The first action is to draw additional destination tickets. He draws three and must retain one. The second action is to claim a route. The player must discard the appropriate number and color of train cards to claim the entire route between two cities. Claiming a route gains the player points based on the length of the route. Finally, the player can draw train cards. He can draw two train cards from either the five revealed cards or from the top of the deck. If a player draws a face up locomotive card, she cannot draw any other cards.

The game ends when one of the players has two or less colored train cars to use. Every player receives one additional turn including the player who just triggered the last turn. An additional 10 points are awarded to the player with the longest continuous train (excluding branches). Then ticket points are tallied and the player with the most points wins.

Ticket to Ride is a competitive game but fun and quick enough that nobody ever really minds losing. This has made it a group favorite. As an avid train person, I’ve always known that I would love this game but never really had the opportunity to play it before recently. I’ve picked up the base game, several of the maps and expansions and purchased it for my computer, my iPad Mini and my iPhone. Basically, I’ve decided I can’t support Days of Wonder enough for this great game.

A New Survivor Has Been Rescued: Charles, the Hoarder

About a week ago I presented my first custom survivor from his initial concept to his current design (including a zombified version). While the initial concepts and first aversion was mostly solo work, my good friend, Charles contributed heavily to the second and third versions. And so, this time, I present Charles’s Zombicide Survivor and Zombivor.


Charles, the Hoarder is inspired by my good friend, Charles. Charles is a good musician and a gentle giant. I’m not honestly sure he would survive the zombie apocalypse at all, but there’s a outside chance due to the ridiculous amount of pop culture he’s consumed.1 Another key to his survival is his messenger bag and the supplies he just happens to have on his person when the outbreak occurs. Unfortunately, most of Charles’s traits don’t led themselves to Zombicide skills.

Version 1 & 2

Blue / +1 free Search action Red 1 / Tough
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / Lucky
Orange 1 / Hold your nose Red 3 / Hoard
Orange 2 / Lock it down

Charles’s skills are focused around his messenger bag and messy room. He gets a free Search action at blue level to let him find things quickly. At orange, Hold your nose let’s him search in zones outside buildings. To me this action is based around his ability to find something useful in his messenger bag and not him digging around an undead corpse. Lock it down allows Charles hole up in a building and get fully equipped before venturing back out into the carnage. Tough allows him to shrug off a single zombie attack every round. Lucky let’s him re-roll a bad attack and increase his chances of survival. Charles ended up a mish-mash of skills with out a well-defined role and had to wait until the expanded lineup in Version 3 to see any changes.

Version 3

Blue / Starts with a Flashlight Red 1 / Hoard
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / Lock it down
Orange 1 / Hold your nose Red 3 / Slippery
Orange 2 / Tough

Charles saw a bit of skill re-shuffling as his skill were moved around. He also lost Lucky in exchange for Slippery. Neither skill is really appropriate for him, but we felt that Slippery would bring the character into line power-wise with the other characters. I also replaced his +1 free Search action at blue level with Starts with a Flashlight. I thought this would be a big boon to the character and differentiate him from the base game’s Ned. It did accomplish the latter goal but it ultimately failed at the first goal. With Version 3 of James on the team, the smartest move was to always trade the flashlight away from Charles and to James to maximize the use of Destiny. And thus poor Charles never really got a chance to play himself.

Version 4

Search Combat
Blue / Destiny Red 1 / Webbing
Yellow / +1 Action Red 2 / Is That All You’ve Got?
Orange 1 / Hoard Red 3 / +1 free Search Action
Orange 2 / +1 free Combat Action

The fourth version of Charles saw a small but hugely important update. With James moving into a more tactical role, Charles could finally carve out his own niche as an equipment locker. And so, he turned in his flashlight for the Destiny skill. Destiny allows the player to discard the first equipment card drawn and then draw a new card. This can’t be used for any special searches such as vehicles, the additional draw from a flashlight, etcetera. So while it’s more limited in scope than we initially played, it’s still an incredibly useful skill. I also pulled out his Tough and Slippery skills to give him some combat focused skills. With the +1 free Combat action and Webbing, Charles can use any weapons he grabs and keep himself apace with the rest of the team.

Search Zombie
Blue / Destiny Red 1 / Webbing
Yellow / +1 free Search Action Red 2 / Is That All You’ve Got?
Orange 1 / Hoard Red 3 / Zombie Link
Orange 2 / Hold Your Nose

So Charles loses his secondary general combat role and morphs into a zombie. He gains Hold your nose as an attempt to make sure he can utilize his +1 free Search action at yellow level regardless of his location. Zombie Link allows him to move on drawn extra activations which can prove crucial to repositioning himself so that he can make the most of Is that all you’ve got? to protect teammates.

Over the course of his design, Charles has constantly been focused on finding equipment and maximizing it’s potential. I think there may be room to re-design the Zombivor version but that will probably happen after the expansions arrive. As always, you can find Charles and other custom survivors in my Zombicide notebook.

  1. I’ll leave it to the reader whether or not this makes his brain less appetizing to zombies or more useful to him. 

I learned of Pandemic at the wedding of one my friends. He had been introduced to it a few weeks ago and loved it. So much so that he and his wife tore through their wedding gifts to find it and take it on their honeymoon. That’s quite an endorsement. I found out the original source for this information was a new web series called Tabletop which is hosted by Wil Wheaton and produced by Felicia Day.

The premise for Pandemic is simple. The players are a research team from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. Four viruses, represented by colored cubes (Blue, Yellow, Black and Orange/Red), have popped up across the globe and the team must discover cures before time runs out. To discover a cure, the team must collect five samples (draw deck cards) of a particular color and travel to a research center.

Of course, there are several ways time runs out in this game. The first being too many outbreaks of the viruses. On the eighth outbreak, the team has failed to respond and control the viruses and loses the game. The second is to run out of the cards in the draw deck. The third is to run out of cubes to represent a particular virus.

Each turn a player can move, give cards to another player, treat a city, discover a cure or build a research center. They can do four of these actions each turn. The map is divided into four colors, the Blue virus covers Canada, the Northern US and Europe. The Yellow virus covers the Southern US, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Black virus covers Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. The Orange/Red virus covers Asia and Oceania.

There are five possible roles in the base game:

  • The Operations Expert can build a Research Center, once per turn, for free.
  • The Medic can remove all cubes of one color from a city when treating a disease. Also, when a virus has been cured, all cubes of that color are removed from the city wherever the Medic is.
  • The Dispatcher can move another player at the cost of his/her own actions.
  • The Scientist only needs four samples to cure a disease
  • The Researcher can give any card to another player in the same city (normally this is restricted to the card of the city that the players are in).

The diseases spread by the infection mechanic. At the end of each player’s turn, a number of cards equal to the infection counter from the infection deck are drawn and an appropriately colored cube is added to those locations. If any location has three cubes of the color already, a cube is instead added to each of the connection cities.

The last major mechanic to discuss is the epidemic card. When drawn, the bottom card of the infection deck is revealed and discarded. That city receives three of the appropriately colored cubes. The infection deck discard is then shuffled and put on the top of the infection deck and the infection counter is increased one step. After that, the infection phase continues as normal.

You might not be able to tell by the description, but this game is really hard. In the beginning, we made it harder by having to eradicate (cure and remove all traces of the diseases from the board) all the diseases. This proved impossible even at lower difficulty levels. Despite all our attempts, the all-time winning percentage for our group is still incredibly low. Maybe one out of every three or four games. It’s hard but it’s a lot of fun and the first cooperative game outside of Zombicide I picked up. Paired with Zombicide, Pandemic really fueled the beginning of our board game nights.

If you like difficult but cooperative games, pick the second edition of this game up. In a few weeks, I’ll discuss the first expansion, On The Brink.

A few months ago, I visited a friend a few hours away who is an avid gamer for International Tabletop Day. All my friends know I have the most board games and I’m an eager host. But Jesse and Jodi blow me away. They have way more games than I do and I’m steadily trying to catch up. One of the games that they played was Betray at the House on the Hill. The basic premise is a bunch of characters explore the house. At some point, one of them reveals themselves as the traitor and turns on the others. This is known as the haunt. At this point, the game becomes competitive with either the traitor or the remaining explorers (collectively known as the heroes) winning. On most occasion, this involves killing the other team.

There are a total of twelve characters paired on a double sided hexagon character card. Each character has a name, a birthday and age, a list of hobbies, two physical traits (Might and Speed) and two mental traits (Knowledge and Sanity). These starting traits can be rise and fall with the game. The stats don’t necessarily increase in a linear fashion. Brandon Jespers’s Knowledge goes from 3 to 5 with a single trait increase. If any of your traits hits the skull on the tracker after the haunt, the character dies and is removed from the game.

There are eight dice used throughout the game. Each die has two blank sides, two sides with 1 dot and two sides with 2 dots. So the range of values is from 0 to 16. To begin the game, there are five revealed tiles and three floors, basement, ground and upper. The entrance, foyer and staircase which are three tiles joined together to form the ground floor, the basement landing and the upstairs landing. The staircase on the ground floor leads to the upstairs landing. There is a basement stairs room card in the shuffled deck, so you have to explore the basement to get out. The basement stairs lead to the foyer.

There are a stack of room cards that are face down and shuffled. Each explorer can move his or her speed score each turn. If they reveal a room with a symbol (raven, bull skull or spiral), they stop moving but can continue to do other actions. They draw the respective card. Spirals are event cards, they’re generally negative but if you can win the die roll, you can get a stat increase. Bull skulls are items. These are almost universally positive but there may be a drawback on occasion. Finally, the raven marked cards are omens. Omens are mostly positive (except for the bite card). They can be traded or given away just like items (except for a select few cards). After you draw an omen card, you make a haunt roll which means rolling six dice. If the total on the dice is less than the number of omens collected, the haunt begins.

There are 50 haunts described in the game. Each one plays with different rules and goals. The omen that was drawn and the room that triggered the draw are combined to determine who the traitor is and what haunted is happening. At this point, the traitor leaves the room and reads a rulebook while the heroes read their rulebook and plan how to win and escape the house. Every imaginable horror story can happen in Betrayal. Werewolves, vampires, dragons, waxmen, vampiric bats, ghost brides. It’s truly great how well this game draws on horror stories of every kind.

This game has quickly become a staple for my game nights. We’ve had to pace ourselves so we don’t run out of haunts too quickly. We’ve probably completed about 15 of them. So, now we’ll play one, maybe two each time but I’ve got plenty of other games to play. It’s been a nice change of pace compared to our recent sprees of Zombicide and Pandemic.

A New Survivor Has Been Rescued: James, the Field General

As I mentioned previously, with help from my friends, I’ve made custom survivors for Zombicide. Over the next few months as I finalize the flavor and backgrounds of character, I’ll be discussing their design in this space. You can also find all the previous survivors in my Zombicide notebook.1 One thing to keep in mind as I present them individually, they were often designed as a set or to fit in with a previously designed set of survivors. Also, I’ve improved with design and balance in mind.2


Today, I’m showing off my own survivor. James the Field General is inspired by myself. I consider myself a pretty strategic person and generally helpful. I also tend to be a leader in games. I’ve also fired off a shotgun and a rifle a few times. I’m no expert but I can hit a target. Luckily there’s plenty of ranged combat skills available. I’m also on the smallish side and pretty quick. Unfortunately until the skills from the Toxic City Mall expansion and Season 2: Prison Outbreak were revealed there wasn’t a lot in the way of those strategic, tactical or leadership skills.

Version 1

Blue / Sniper Red A / Gunslinger
Yellow / +1 Action Red B / +1 free Combat action
Orange A / Slippery Red C / +1 max range
Orange B / +1 die: Ranged

James’s skills clearly lead him to ranged combat. His Sniper skill at blue level allows him to move with the larger group and not worry about killing his friends. At orange, he can continue to improve his ranged combat abilities by getting an extra die per ranged weapon per ranged attack. Incredibly useful if he’s got dual sawed-offs or SMGs. Otherwise, he can pick up the Slippery skill which allows him to move in and out of trouble with ease. All three of his red level skills focus on ranged combat. He can pick up an extra attack action or increase his range. Finally, Gunslinger lets him dual wield any ranged weapon, perhaps rifles or shotguns. Overall, it was a rough start. When I showed this character to my friends, they felt it was slightly out of character for me to be so focused on shooting things.

Version 2

Blue / Slippery Red 1 / Born Leader
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / Is that all you’ve got?
Orange 1 / Destiny Red 3 / +1 to dice roll: Combat
Orange 2 / +1 to dice roll: Combat

So the second version of this character is unrecognizable when compared to the earlier one. Slppery is about the only thing that stayed the same. The ranged skills were given to another survivor. Destiny and Born Leader are strategic skills. The +1 to dice roll shows that this character can diagnose weak points and target his blows better than most. Finally, Is that all you’ve got? is another strategic-ish skill. I envisioned it as throwing items he holds at zombies to slow them down so he can avoid getting hit.

Version 3

Blue / Destiny Red 1 / Born Leader
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / +1 free Combat action
Orange 1 / Slippery Red 3 / Hold your nose
Orange 2 / Is that all you’ve got?

This is the version of the character that’s seen the most play. With the idea that resources (equipment) are of strategic importance, James has morphed into a more tactical role. He gets to decide what equipment to keep for the team or discard in an attempt to find something better. With Hold your nose, he can search a zone he’s cleared of zombies for useful stuff even if he’s not in a building. So the precise-related skills from the second version of this character were again moved to a different survivor.3

Version 4

Tactical Ranged
Blue / Lifesaver Red 1 / Distributor
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / Born Leader
Orange 1 / Tactician Red 3 / +1 die: Ranged
Orange 2 / Sniper

With the release of Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak, there were a whole slew of new skills added. This allowed me to redesign most of the characters and well-define their roles. Also, there was a big philosophy shift on my part during design, now each character would get either melee or ranged combat roles unless they were just combat specialists.

So, James finally turns into the field general of the survivors. Using his strategy honed brain to control the apocalyptic battlefield. Lifesaver, Tactician and Distributor are all new skills which really let James shine in his role as a strategic leader. He can pull people out of trouble, go at any time in the player turn order that best benefits himself and the team. And at Red danger level he can somewhat control the spawns on the board. Born Leader stays in at Red level to make Distributor not an automatic choice. Finally, the ranged skills make a return with Sniper and +1 die: Ranged.

Tactical Zombie
Blue / Lifesaver Red 1 / Distributor
Yellow / +1 free Move action Red 2 / Born Leader
Orange 1 / Tactician Red 3 / Regeneration
Orange 2 / Rotten

With enough skills, this is the first attempt at designing Zombivors for the custom survivors.4 My general rule was subtract the secondary role from the character and add in a few zombivor only skills. There’s not much rhyme or reason yet behind the zombivor skill selection. It’ll probably need some re-balancing and adjustment in the future but I think this was a good start. Rotten let’s James move with the extra activation draws and regeneration keeps the strategic leader functioning even in dire situations.

So James has morphed from a ranged sniper into a precision killer into a resource manager and finally into a field marshal. This last version is very well-suited to how I envisioned an early character. The only thing that would make me reconsider his role is if there was a larger focus on vehicular combat. Steady-hand is so far the only skill and I’m not sure that’s enough to warrant any changes to the character.

  1. Granted this is the first one, so by that I mean, future survivors. 
  2. Though certainly not perfect by any stretch. 
  3. It’s in theme to give that character precision bonuses, but it also didn’t hurt that the person he’s inspired by has terrible luck with dice. 
  4. Technically, it’s the second stab. We had one scenario go really badly and we made up zombivor versions on the fly. Not the best idea as they were mostly ill-informed choices. 

Just over a year ago, Penny Arcade ran a comic and article about a recent Kickstarter scam project that was snuffed out by the community. This piece by the PA guys hit home a bit or at least served as a warning. By this time, I had backed over a dozen projects and hadn’t had any issues but it made me aware that there were some out there.

Anyways, after that brief discussion of the comic, Tycho explains that Penny Arcade has lent out their Cardboard Tube Samurai character as a stretch goal to a boardgame called created by a small French studio, Guillotine Games. I took the time to check out the Zombicide Kickstarter and fell in love almost immediately but the price tag was high. I sent the info along to one of my good friends. We had a discussion on Facebook and decided to both back it after some initial reluctance.

Let’s be frank here, $100 for a board game is a lot when you’re used to Monopoly and Risk which top out around $30. Previously, the most expensive board game I had purchased was Red Dragon Inn and its expansions which totaled about the same. My general thought process when buying any type of game is based on how much play time I’ll get out of it multiplied by about $5 which will get me an hour of a good movie. And Zombicide looked ridiculously re-playable and customizable. And so I quickly backed it just two days before the end of the Kickstarter. I ended up pledging for everything, the Abomination pack, all the extra survivors and an extra set of tiles.

The game itself is a lot of fun and challenging. The co-op aspect has quickly made it a game night favorite.1 Hordes of zombies pour out across the board and each player must contribute in a balanced manner or else it’s easy to get overrun. The mechanics are sound and with the addition of zombivors we never have to worry about a player having a quick exit from the game and having to sit back and watch the rest of us play.2 The scenario setup takes a bit of time to get everyone prepared and ready to play but the basic rules are fairly intuitive and easy to learn. Some rules can be hard to interpret and there are a lot of rules which makes the game pretty complex.

Since it’s delivery in early Fall last year, my friends and I have basically played it non-stop. Generally at least once every two weeks. We’ve played almost every scenario in the book and online, including the Switch City Campaign. And we’ve played dozens and dozens of hours. We’ve also built custom heroes for each of my friends somewhat suited to how they like to play but mostly influenced by how they are in real life. The scenarios themselves have a good range of easy to insta-death but there never seems to be a short scenario. The miniatures are well-sculpted and I hope to get around to painting them one day.

All the fun times spurred me to back the Season 2 Kickstarter without any hesitation. I also ended up ordering every available survivor. Which when they arrive, I should have nearly 100 survivor and zombivors. I know Zombicide is pretty pricey but if you love killing zombies there’s no way to not love this game and get hours upon hours of entertainment.

  1. Possibly because my fraternity little brother and I are crazy competitive in other games. 
  2. Much debate in my group whether it’s pronounced Zom-by-vers or Zom-be-vores. 

Tabletop Gaming

You’ll notice the title of this article is tabletop gaming and not board gaming. The reason for this is two-fold. First, board games often have a younger connotation associated with them. Board games are for kids they say. Wil Wheaton, [Chess Grandmaster] and many others are here to tell you otherwise. Second, there are lots of table top games that don’t involve boards of any kind.

First, let’s talk about puzzles which aren’t really tabletop games (they are generally put together on tables and there are rules). I’ve always seen “the big picture” well. One decent look at the picture and I can put most of it together. I suppose one could hone their skills by doing more and more puzzles but while puzzles are good for solitude, they’re not so great for groups. So, I’ve left puzzles mostly behind but every once and a while I’ll get a new one and spend time putting it together. Now that puzzles are out of the way, let’s move on.

My history with table top games is a long one. It probably started with Monopoly (or maybe Candyland or Life or Sorry!) but my first table top true love was Chess. This was a game made for me! The game has lots of constraints that have complex interactions plus a single opposing player. Most people would say that I “see the board” well which is probably the best way to describe it.1 I was an avid chess player throughout elementary school, the latter part of which I shifted to math competitions. I’ll still play an occasional game of chess but my skills have deteriorated significantly.

The next table top game to take hold of my life is the grand daddy of all card games, Magic: The Gathering. I think it was about 4th grade where I was really absorbed by it. A couple of my classmates were playing it and I immediately became invested in. The artwork, the strategy and the story, I found all of it incredibly compelling. In all my years of Magic, I never played at a particularly high level. It was mostly just for fun with my friends.2 I did do a round of Block Constructed and I’ve participated in several drafts. I shelved my cards for good after Apocalypse. They’re all tucked away in storage but I still play the Duel of the Planeswalkers video game series. It gives me enough gameplay to scratch the itch when it arises without the huge costs of playing at the local game store. Also, I don’t feel so bad buying a game as opposed to the virtual cards that the Magic Online application sells.

Table top games took a hiatus in my life for a while after I exited the collectible card game scene. A mix of role-playing games and computer games took over. It wasn’t until a group of my friends started playing Risk that I got back into the table top scene. Just about every Wednesday, we’d get together at one of our apartments and play a few rounds of risk.3 This weekly game routine kept for a while and eventually I received Settlers of Catan for my birthday. The heavy strategy games started to take their toll and eventually game nights disappeared when my little brother left for grad school.4

The next big game to take over our game nights was Red Dragon Inn. I was introduced to this game by a long time friend of mine. This was the first game that got lots of my friends involved and restarted our somewhat weekly game nights. Since a lot of us were playing D&D it fit in well with the group. The humor and our borrowed rule of having to read the title of a card when playing it keep the game from becoming overly competitive. Of course being a good amount of fun and very replayable help.

Recently, we’ve discovered co-operative table top games which go over far better with some of our friends. We’ve also mixed in a few competitive games that are more fun and not so much cutthroat.5 Our current rotation: Zombicide, Pandemic, Forbidden Isle, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Ticket to Ride. Each of those games merits their own post. So, I’ll wrap up by saying that now is a great time to be a table top gamer and a lot of this is due to Wil Wheaton’s Table Top

  1. Not unlike seeing “the big picture”. 
  2. Some of them would dispute the “for fun” part. 
  3. Properly titled World Domination Wednesdays. 
  4. This would be my fraternity little brother, Kevin. I have a younger brother, David, but he is far from little. 
  5. Also better play by a few of our uber-gamers (myself included).