The Road to Ruin from designer Justin Halliday at Hero Forge Games gives a fresh look at the end of the world. The zombie apocalypse is a familiar trope in gaming thanks to its huge upswing in its popularity on TV and in movies over the past decade. Many of the games have been player-versus-player, hinging on self-interest as humanity’s driving force. Others have emphasized cooperation, showing that there is still good to be found even in a collapsed civilization: If one person loses, everyone loses.
Road to Ruin gives the most realistic perspective, driving players to meet goals through a variety of scenarios even though it is unlikely that they will all survive.
In The Road to Ruin, cards are organized into decks of Locations, Items, Weapons, Threats, Survivors, and Wounds. Besides the decks, a set of tokens and some six-sided dice are all that are needed, making it a handily compact game. The Locations are shuffled and made into a grid that may take different shapes depending upon the scenario. Players could find themselves facing a Long Road or jumping over a Barricade in search of supplies, or simply on the run from their safe house to scavenge.
Some cooperative games suffer from a single action being the best and most logical course, which prompts others to “help” by taking over direction. The Road to Ruin has strong elements of luck that keep the game unpredictable. Players take turns moving their tokens, scavenging based on what is available on the Location card, or holding position. With the “board” unknown until cards are flipped face-up through exploring, there is constant danger of coming upon a nest of zombies or getting pinned into a corner by debris, unable to escape without severe damage. Combat with the zombies is determined by rolling the six-sided dice, and can result in wounds that will require items for healing.
The versatility of The Road to Ruin separates it from other cooperative zombie games. Those are often longer, drawn-out battles, while Road to Ruin is faster-paced and based on movement from location to location rather than combat-focused. The key is the mission, and the game continues as long as one player is still alive.
Players, just like survivors in a real apocalypse, might be frustrated by their hodgepodge weaponry and hand-limits, especially while carrying Supply Items like Fuel or Water that are necessary for victory in the scenario but not useful within the game. Sometimes players may need to find these cards to win; other times they may need to transport them to a new location for evacuation. In other scenarios, the players may simply try to survive as they make a mad dash for the map.
The Road to Ruin is a cooperative card game for one to four players aged 12 and up. It is a moderately short game, lasting about half an hour, depending on how many players there are and how long they will spend plotting their next action. With the wide range of scenarios already built into the game, players will want to come back again and again or even continue their game with campaign elements. Solo-play rules make it a fun solitaire game, and a sample video on the website shows the game in action.