I mentioned City of Zombies in a post a week or so back as a Kickstarter project that I liked the look of. Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news.
I’ll start with the bad. After rather underwhelming support on Kickstarter Matt, the creator of the game, has decided to cancel the funding as it was looking like it would fall far short of its goal. As far as I can make out, and this is purely my guesswork, the problem was partly to do with not getting a publicity machine mobilised in time (a common failing) and partly that the comparatively small scale of the project meant a price per unit that US-based potential backers (a sizeable part of the potential market) didn’t like the look of, particularly when considering international shipping (personally, I think it looks pretty reasonable from where I sit!).
The good news, however, is very good. Matt has figured out a way to go ahead with the project anyway and fund it himself. He has been schmoozing with assorted people and keeps on pushing, so the game will be seeing the light of day, and this looks like it will be in the next month or so as production is under way.
Anyway, Miss B and I met up with Matt at the wonderful Thirsty Meeples boardgame café in Oxford, where he has been running fairly regular demos, and we got to try out the game for ourselves.
So, how does the game work? Well, basically this is a cooperative game where cards representing the cutest zombies imaginable (a set of cards with less cute artwork is also provided as an option) appear at one end of the board and then relentlessly bear down on your barricades at the other until either they completely overrun you or a set number of turns elapse and you are rescued. You get rid of zombies by rolling three dice and doing bits of arithmetic to combine the numbers on the dice to match numbers on the zombie cards.
Yes, it’s actually a maths game and a lot of the sales pitch is towards schools. In fact, there isn’t really that much of a game there. It’s mostly about solving a puzzle. But that is actually fine: it’s charming, cute, and quite a lot of fun, taking you on a bit of a roller coaster ride as things look hopeless for a while, then you get a lucky break and clear the barricades only to have a new wave of the undead coming and crushing you again.
There are a lot of optional rules, most of which just add extra chaos, but some do add more genuine decision making to the mix, like hero abilities which need to be used at the most critical moment — but when is that? You can also ramp up the difficulty with special zombies or dial it back to make it easier for players who can only work with addition and subtraction.
If you are interested, check out the City of Zombies website, where you can find out more and order a copy of the game. I’ve ordered one and we’re really looking forward to playing it some more.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾): “City of Zombies is a good game. I’d give it 9 out of 10. I think you should be able to split up the numbers but that would make it an easier game. The pictures are cute on the Chibis but they are scary on the Walkers.”
The game: City of Zombies (ThinkNoodle), 1 to ? players aged 8+.
There seems to be a perceived wisdom on young children and competition in that competitive games can upset them and lead to tears before bedtime. It is thus preferable to play lots of cooperative games, along with other games where any competition is incidental and you can pretty much gloss over who has won (or you can go with the “let the wookie win” approach and keep throwing the game, which is a whole other kettle of worms). Indeed, we have generally avoided direct conflict games as they have mostly not gone too well in the past, with the notable exception of Magic: the Gathering, which is purely a slugfest.
The thing is, though, that Miss B has been developing quite a competitive streak, though she is usually pretty good when she loses and generally remembers to compliment the winner (sometimes along with an “I’ll get you next time!” comment). Furthermore, over the last six months or so I’ve noticed that she is getting more resistant to cooperative games, which I feel is a shame as I happen to love them!
Anyway, we have had a discussion about this and I asked her about the various cooperative games we have played to see if I could figure out how she is thinking. Here are some of the things Miss B said…
“I’m not too keen on Forbidden Island because you’ve got to be good at guessing what cards you get and it might be water rise and that’s really bad.”
It seems that the problem here is that the game state just keeps getting worse, however hard the players try. Later on she commented about liking to play against people and not “Mr Nobody”, which seems to fit in with this.
“Castle Panic was good but I hate it when we get the giant boulders even when they crush the monsters, it’s killing monsters but damaging the castle.”
We’ve always had fun with Castle Panic, particularly when playing with more people, but again I think the problem with the giant boulders is that they are just these big bolts from the blue; at least when monsters are coming, you see them coming and can do something about them.
“Flash Point is 6 out of 10. I’ve only tried it twice and the second time was better because there were more people. But at home we’ve got to do it with less people because there are three people and Mummy doesn’t usually join in the games.”
Cooperative games definitely seem to go down best with more people and both Flash Point and Castle Panic can handle six players, which can make them into a real social event which can distract from any deficiencies in Miss B’s eyes.
“I like close games as well as ones where you play against each other.”
Win or lose, games always seem more exciting if they are close and it really feels like the winner only managed to squeak ahead. I guess that if you lose, this supports the “I’ll get you next time” thing.
“I don’t really like the idea of doing what cooperative games do.”
I should have asked for clarification on that but I didn’t think about it at the time. I think that in general, if Miss B is going to be playing on the same side as everyone else she might as well be playing one of the free-form make believe games that kids play all the time.
I wondered about team-versus-team games though. At first Miss B misunderstood me, thinking that I meant when people help each other to play one position in a game between them (as we do sometimes), but I gave her an analogy about football teams.
“I think that’s in the middle of everyone working together and everyone just on their own.”
So, team games are okay but individual competition is better.
I feel this was an interesting discussion and I learnt a lot. Miss B wants to discuss competitive games for another post, and I think that sounds like a good idea (though maybe thinking about types of competition), so maybe there’ll be another discussion soon. In the meantime I have to remember to listen…
I recently received a very welcome present from the in-laws, a cooperative game called Flash Point: Fire Rescue which is, as the name may suggest, about being a team of fire fighters trying to rescue victims from a burning building. I’d been hearing good things about this for some time, so it was great to have a chance to try it out.
So the game is pretty straightforward: you move your fire fighter and/or take other actions like extinguishing flames or opening doors, then roll a couple of dice to see where more fire spreads; then it’s the next player. The mechanics quite cleverly make it more likely that existing fires will get worse and new areas generally build up smoke before flames break out. There are two sets of rules: a basic version, where everyone is the same, and a more advanced version where each fire fighter has specialist skills (like first aid, imaging, or dealing with hazardous materials) and other features are introduced like a movable fire engine and ambulance.
We have now played the game a couple of times: once with just the two of us and once as part of a games afternoon with five fire fighters (a couple of which were being controlled by a pair of children. Both times we played with the basic rules. Miss B enjoyed the first play, but wasn’t massively impressed. The second time, though, with the bigger group of players, the game really came to life and she was getting really into the swing of things, and she says it is definitely more fun with more people.
However, Miss B would like to withhold her verdict until we have tried playing with the specialist fire fighters. So no verdict this time. Some time, hopefully in the near future, we will do this and I will report back.
The game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue (Indie Boards & Cards), 2 to 6 players aged 10+.