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Card Game Review: ‘Pittsburgh 68’

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Despite the surge of zombie-themed games out there, none takes an approach to the genre quite like Pittsburgh 68 by GameWick Games. Rather than a typical two-sided strategy match of survival in the apocalypse, Pittsburgh 68 takes a more thematic approach. Players live out a “zombie movie” that shows their characters’ fates as the hordes of shufflers roam.

pittsburgh68The rules to Pittsburgh 68 are fairly dense with a good deal of jargon in the 14-page instruction guide, giving the game a steep learning curve. Once the terms are deciphered, the game flows much more smoothly. It takes the form of something like a table-top RPG with one player as the Zombie Master controlling the roving hordes of undead and the other players as the cooperative survivors. Of course, at the end of the movie, that survivor-cred is valuable stuff, so players are somewhat encouraged to backstab one another to ensure they alone survive. The players who are backstabbed come back as zombies, shifting the cooperation to the side of the horde.

The best feature of Pittsburgh 68 is the survivor deck: 12 cards following the archetypal characters of a zombie flick. The sheriff, the college guy, the mechanic, the waitress, and the kid sister are all people who can appear and face off the unstoppable menace of zombies. The art is shadowy, conjuring fond memories of Night of the Living Dead and the onslaught of low-budget 1970s zombie films.

Gameplay in Pittsburgh 68 comes in four stages known as “Reels.” Like a dealer with the flop in Texas Hold‘em, the Zombie Master maintains a collective hand from which players may draw. On their turns, players reveal their survivors or take an item from the collective hand and attack a zombie. If a player has multiple survivor cards in play, it gives options of allowing one to flee to a sanctuary card drawn like an item or to rest and build up “spoints.” These spoints become valuable as bonus +1s rolled on the dice during battles with the zombies.

When the players have all had their turns, the Zombie Master acts to injure the living. The Master may take a zombie from the collective hand, attack out of his or her own hand (a “throng”), or draw a new card to cover something in the collective hand, such as a useful Tire Iron that gives a +2 to damage. Play then goes back to the survivors for another turn, and continues going back and forth until the reels are played out and only one survivor remains. If this survivor can hold out one round against the Zombie Master and the fallen former comrades now acting as zombies, he or she will win the game and live to see another day.

Pittsburgh 68 is an intriguing game for three to 13 players aged 13 and up. It is ideal for film-lovers and those who want a great deal of story to play out in their games. While complicated, the rules flow once the learning curve has been ascended.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.