Zombie 15′ is a real-time cooperative game from Iello Games, perhaps best known for King of Tokyo and the highly anticipated King of New York. Although they’ve usually gone the traditional publishing route, they did tap Kickstarter for this one, which had a lot of miniatures, a soundtrack, scenarios, and piles of extras. Funded in February 2014, Zombie 15′ was delivered to backers shortly before Gen Con (a couple months late, but nonetheless an impressively short funding-to-delivery timeline).
I mentioned Zombie 15′ in a Kickstarter Tabletop Roundup, but hadn’t actually played it at the time. It’s one of those games that just sounded cool, and I backed it myself with fingers crossed. I’ve since played it a few times (though I didn’t attempt the huge version at Gen Con) and it’s a lot of fun if you like frantic real-time games like I do.
Here’s the idea: people turned into zombies, and you’re a group of kids who survived somehow. Now you’re trying to find weapons, make your way out of your infested town, and figure out how to survive—nothing new there so far, right? The twist is that you only have fifteen minutes per scenario: there’s a soundtrack that serves as a timer.
At a glance: Zombie 15′ is for 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes 15 minutes per scenario (though you may want to play multiple scenarios in a row—and setting up different scenarios takes a while). It retails for $79.99. The artwork for this one is more cartoony, though there’s still blood and gore, so if your younger kids are okay with zombies then you could probably play with them—but they have to be quick!
- 32 double-sided terrain tiles
- 1 CD (with 3 tracks)
- 8 Hero figures
- 99 Zombie figures
- 1 Alpha Zombie figure
- 8 Hero sheets
- 1 Horde box
- 25 Ammo/Durability tokens
- 15 Life Point tokens
- 56 Search cards
- 48 Zombie cards
- 18 Special Item cards
- 33 Scenario cards
- 40 Search tokens
- Various other tokens
- Campaign scenario booklet with 15 scenarios
The components are pretty great—the map tiles are very detailed and there are a lot of them. If you’re playing some of the later scenarios, you’ll need a pretty big table. We could barely fit some of the layouts on my round table.
The miniatures, particularly the Heroes, are pretty small. I worry about some of them breaking, but they’re pretty cool looking and are different colors so you can distinguish them easily. (All the zombies are grey.)
How to play
The goal of each game is determined by the particular scenario you’re playing, which will involve a certain layout of tiles, starting locations, starting zombies, and so on. You win if you achieve the objective before the time runs out. You lose if the soundtrack ends, or if everyone goes down to 0 life points. Because you’re dead.
You can also play a quick game that isn’t scenario-based, just by making up a random map and following some guidelines about how to create the board.
There will be a deck of Zombie cards and a Search deck that contains items and weapons (and a few surprise zombies). Typically the Horde starts with 3 zombies, though the introductory scenario didn’t use a Horde.
Each player gets a character sheet and some starting items. If you play through campaign mode, you’ll be able to carry some items forward from a successful scenario to use in the next.
Essentially, on your turn you get 4 actions, which you can choose from the following:
- Use an object
- Pick up/drop a heavy object
When there are zombies in your location, you have limited options (you can’t search or move), and if you’re lying on the ground because you got knocked down, you must spend an action to stand up before doing anything else. Finish your turn, and you shout “your turn!” or “next!” so the other player knows they can go.
Throughout the game, whenever you use a loud weapon or item, you throw some zombies into the Horde box (or cup, if you got the Kickstarter bonus). The horde gets bigger and bigger. Depending on the difficulty level (and the track used), you’ll hear growls that indicate that you need to flip a zombie card and add that many zombies to your tile. And sometimes when you flip that card, you’ll get the Horde card, and then this happens:
Part of why you yell “next turn!” is because until you do so, any growls that you hear on the soundtrack need to be resolved on your turn.
There are a lot of different types of items, and your character can only hold so many things. As you use items, you use up ammo (or the items deteriorate), and they’ll have to be discarded and you search for new items to replace them. Some scenarios also require you to find particular things as part of the objective.
Zombie 15′ is a fully cooperative game, but there is this sort of hot-potato aspect where you want to end your turn before the next growl happens so that you don’t have to deal with the horde. That moment when you flip over a Horde card and dump the entire cup (or box) of zombies on your location is awesome. I mean, it’s bad, because it means you have to fight your way out of it, but you’ll still get a kick out of it.
The game is scenario-based, so you’ll play through a series of scenarios that play out a story, and there are even character-based scenarios (in the Kickstarter version) to tell a little more back story about each character. I won’t say the plot-line itself will win any awards, but it does give you an explanation for where you are and what you’re trying to do, and adds a little flavor to what could be just a “here’s a long road filled with zombies; kill all of them.”
I really like the artwork for the cards and the characters—yes, these are teenagers using heavy weaponry, but the game is a little over-the-top and I think the artwork has a great style for it.
The zombies in this game don’t actually move, which is the one thing that seems weird. Instead, you get zombies that crop up in your location due to cards (sometimes while you’re searching for things) and, of course, the Horde. But other than that, the zombies that are on a location just sit there and wait for you to arrive. And there’s no sneaking around them, either.
The setup for the game does take a while because you’re looking for specific location tiles and setting those all up. If you decide to play multiple scenarios in a row, you have to rebuild the map each time. That can make it harder to progress through a series of scenarios in one sitting, because unlike some other games you can’t just say, “oh, let’s play again while we have it out.” On the other hand, the first time I played Zombie 15′, we did four scenarios in a row because we liked it so much.
So far I’ve only gotten through a few of the earlier scenarios, but I’ve had a blast with it. It’s a little less random than Escape (another favorite real-time game) because it’s based on choosing four actions each turn rather than rolling dice until you get the results you want, but it also has that same high tension while you’re playing it.
And one more: David Short’s Safe House (not yet available).