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Deck-Building Game Review: Eaten by Zombies

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Taking two great things and finding that they go great together has brought us hamburgers with cheese, ice cream coated with chocolate syrup, and now zombies and deck-building games. The modern zombie craze, arguably started with the staggering success of Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, has refused to die, and Mayday Games brings us Eaten by Zombies, created by Max Holliday.

Deck-building is the rapidly-growing style of game where the players compete to build decks based on points. Many fans of card games remember carefully crafting Magic: The Gathering decks, which eventually turned setting up a deck for a game into a game itself. All players choose a starting deck of five “Heavy Stick,” five “Hide,” and two “Sandwich” cards, giving the player the option of fighting, fleeing, or fleeing and drawing another card while encountering zombies.

The production value on Eaten by Zombies! is fantastic. Max Holliday is a 3D artist and graphic designer by trade, even teaching in the field, and the expertise shows. Each card features exciting art with a powerful image, explanation, and a number of symbols arranged in traffic signs to show their affect. While less innovative games might have standardized start cards, each player’s deck is based around a character with related images. One set shows a cop hitting zombies for “Heavy Stick,” hiding under a mattress in a cell for “Hide,” and a hoagie next to a nightstick for his “Sandwich.” There are also a housewife, a businessman, and a girl at school, which is the best, showing her with a blood-covered bat and batting helmet… she’s a survivor!

Players draw from their original deck and face a zombie drawn from the Zombie Deck. Some are easily killed, others require fleeing, and the players must choose how they act. Whether escaping or fighting, the player is able to gain points from the cards they play to “Scavenge” from the other decks laid out, enabling them to get more powerful cards such as “Trash Bin” or “Flamethrower” that give higher bonuses and special actions. Gradually, the players’ decks set themselves up as potent warriors in the zombie uprising.

While gaining powerful cards, players also collect the zombies that they kill, adding them to their own decks. When a zombie is drawn, it may be added to the horde attacking the opponent. As the players increase in power, so do the zombies they face, until eventually the horde becomes overwhelming. The winner is the player who can survive the longest. In games of more than two players, the “dead” players even continue as zombies, adding more mouths to the horde.

In addition to the standard deck, the Eaten by Zombies! has a number of add-ons. “In Cahoots” is a two-player game that may stand alone or act as an expansion pack with two additional characters, a greaser and his girl. The “We Have The Bomb!” promo pack raises the stakes of the game. Bomb shelters protect players from losses, but drawing one causes the Bomb card to come into play, taking cards when it appears from the zombie deck. Perhaps coolest of all is the additional storage box, which comes in the shape of an ammo case. What more fitting way is there to keep cards about the zombie apocalypse?

Eaten by Zombies is for two to four players, ages eight and up. It is a quick game, taking only 30 minutes or so for a game. The rules are initially complicated, but after a few goes at it, the turn order begins to click smoothly. It’s a great game for short play, and the wide number of additional decks makes for good replay value.


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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.