Eaten by Zombies, a deck-building game by Max Holliday, is finally back with a new expansion, bringing some new zombies and some new heat for the players: fire! Whether you survive or turn into a zombie, it’s time to Burn It Down.
At a glance: Eaten by Zombies: Burn It Down is an expansion for Eaten by Zombies and requires either the base game or the In Cahoots standalone expansion to play. It is for 2 to 6 players*, ages 13 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play (though allow a good bit longer until you’re more familiar with the game). It is currently on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $12 for the expansion and other reward levels available for those who need the base game or In Cahoots.
* The base game is 2 to 4 players, In Cahoots is for 2 players by itself, or combining the two sets allows for up to 6 players. Burn It Down adds new cards but does not increase the number of players.
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Burn It Down includes:
- 10 Zombie cards
- 40 Swag cards (5 each of 8 types)
- 10 over-sized divider cards
There are some stretch goals in the works that may add more cards to the game, so this list is subject to change.
The Eaten by Zombies games have a great look–the base game and In Cahoots look like ammo boxes, and the artwork has a 1950s feel to it. This expansion will come in a tuckbox, because you’ll probably want to add them to one of your other boxes. The cards are a linen finish and feel nice, and the dividers actually work. My complaint about the previous installments were that there were a lot of typos on the cards and the rules–the new cards look better, though if you’re backing at a level that gets you the base game, those are still from the original printing.
How to Play
Here’s a very basic overview: Eaten by Zombies is a deck-building game, which means players all have their own decks of cards to manage, starting with a set of 12 basic cards and building up new “swag” cards over time. Each turn, you face a zombie horde and must choose to fight or flee, using the cards in your hand. If you’re successful, you get to acquire new swag cards into your hand. Fail, and you lose cards to attrition–and you also lose cards if you flee successfully, though not as many. If you can’t draw back up at the end of your turn, you die … and become a zombie player, wreaking havoc on the surviving players.
There are a few ways for the game to end. If you’re the only surviving player, you win. If any player draws a hand of 6 zombies, the zombies (and any zombie players) win. Or, if the entire deck of zombies is destroyed, then all surviving players win. (Honestly, though, I’ve never seen that happen.)
Here’s what’s been adjusted in the 2.0 version of the rules:
- There’s a new drafting mechanic introduced for setup to allow all players to help choose the swag cards used in each game.
- Zombie cards cannot be lost to attrition, which means they’re stuck in your deck and hand until you play them into the horde.
- The turn sequence has been tweaked a little.
And here’s what’s new in Burn It Down:
Burn Zombies: When one of these is revealed from the Zombie deck, it immediately burns cards from the Swag piles on the table. It destroys one card from each pile matching its Level and each pile matching its Attrition value. So that zombie on the left above would burn one card each from all the “3” and “4” piles, turning them face-down and placing them at the bottom of their respective piles.
Fear Zombies: When one of these is revealed, the active player draws cards and then discards swag cards from their hand equal to the Fear value. (The artwork isn’t done for these yet, but apparently yours truly will be appearing as one of the zombies for this set. I’m pretty excited.)
I won’t go into all of the new cards–you can see them on the Kickstarter page–but the Fuel cards are a new type of card. The Fuel Can itself doubles the Fight value of any card with Fire, Flame, or Burn in its title–so some other cards from older sets like the Flame Thrower or Fire on a Stick benefit from this. Several of the cards from Burn It Down include the Fuel icon, and there are other cards that allow you to discard Fuel cards for bonuses.
Another new card, Fire!!!, actually lets all the surviving players band together to fight off the growing horde. Players may discard various types of cards to add to the Fire!!!, and the zombies it destroys are placed under the Fire!!! swag pile rather than into the player’s discard pile, which can be a benefit to everyone. However, when the Fire!!! swag pile runs out, everything under it comes back into play. Also: the Fire!!! card can be played even on a turn when you’re fleeing, so it lets you burn up a few zombies and make it easier to flee what’s left.
The original Eaten by Zombies got an honorable mention in my Best Board Games of 2011 for combining deck-building and zombies, two of my favorite genres. After the In Cahoots expansion in 2012, however, nothing else came along for a few years. Designer Max Holliday had worked with Mayday Games on the first two installments, but for this one he got the rights back and is publishing under his own game studio, Ginger Ale Games. He’s using the same printer, though, so the card quality should match the original game.
Over the past couple of years my enthusiasm for zombie games has waned a little, but I still play a lot of deck-building games. Eaten by Zombies has an interesting arc to it, because unlike most deck-building games where your deck gets increasingly bigger and more powerful, you spend the first half of the game building up and then (usually) the second half of the game just trying to stay alive as the zombie horde gets too big and you start losing cards to attrition. Unlike Valley of the Kings, however, removing cards from your deck does not help you win the game. It means you’re getting eaten by zombies.
There are some interesting choices you can make throughout the game. Fighting off zombies usually seems like your best bet: if you kill all of the zombies in the horde, then you don’t lose any cards at all. However, there are some downsides. For one, it puts zombie cards into your deck, and they’re sort of like hot potatoes–when you draw them into your hand, the only way to get rid of them is to play them into the horde on somebody’s turn. Plus, every time you draw one, that’s a space in your hand that could have been a swag card. Running away from the zombies will cost you cards even when you’re successful–half the attrition value of the entire horde–but the bonus is that only the oldest zombie card gets discarded, and the rest stay for the next player. So, although you may end up losing cards by fleeing, it leaves a lot of zombies for the next player to deal with.
The “Fear” zombies that are added in Burn It Down seem pretty nice at first–you get to draw and then discard cards, helping you set up your hand for fighting or fleeing, right? The problem is, you might draw some zombie cards into your hand, but your discards must be swag cards. So if you’ve been killing a lot of zombies, that “Fear” can be pretty crippling.
Sometimes, though, it feels like you don’t have much of a choice. Depending on the types of zombies in the horde on your turn and the cards in your hand, you may only have one course of action. Every so often there’s a chance to gamble with the cards that let you draw up, since you have to decide on fighting or fleeing before playing any cards. But most of the time you’ll know what action you’ll probably take before the zombies are even revealed. That can make you feel like things are a little futile–which might be good for a zombie story, but isn’t necessarily the best feeling for a game. I did like the fact that the “Fire!!!” card introduces a chance to get other players to help you, and adds another layer of interaction to the game, wherein you try to convince players to throw their cards into your fire.
Eaten by Zombies probably isn’t my favorite deck-building game, but I still like it and I think it does a good job of simulating the feeling of impending doom. As you play, you can tell that death is inevitable, and you’re just trying to stay alive long enough to claim victory. (I think we can pretty much assume that after you win the game you probably won’t last another day before succumbing to the zombies yourself.) I like the new swag cards, but I do wonder if they would be less effective once they get randomized and you only end up with one Fuel card during the game.
Overall, Eaten by Zombies is a fun way to play out the zombiepocalypse, as long as you’re okay with the “everyone usually dies” endgame. For more information about the game, visit the Kickstarter project page.
Disclosure: I received a demo prototype of this game.