Hollywood is running out of fresh ideas for zombie movies. It’s time for an homage flick–one that covers as many classics and sub-genres as possible. Unfortunately, when you asked the casting company to send over zombies for the film, you neglected to specify zombie actors. The set is overrun with the undead, but you’ve already got the stars, crew, and props on hand, so you might as well keep the cameras rolling!
What is Adventures in Zombiewood?
Adventures in Zombiewood is a cooperative game about filming an epic zombie movie for two to five players. It’s currently on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $35 for a copy of the game (which includes all unlocked stretch goals). The game involves planning, resource management, and timed combat events. To dispose of the undead, players roll custom dice for their actor and match the combat symbols to those on Z-lebrity cards.
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Adventures in Zombiewood Components
Note that my coverage is based on a prototype version of the game, so components will change from what is pictured here. Notably, much of the zombie artwork will be changed to include Kickstarter backers (at the $150 reward level). Additionally, my copy included anodized aluminum dice, an add-on that the developer has arranged via collaboration with JavelinDice; the basic game includes plastic dice.
Here’s what is slated to be in the box:
- 64 Actor/Z-lebrity Cards
- 64 Z-lebrity Cards
- 18 Location Cards
- 10 Casting Call Cards
- 5 Plot Twist Cards
- 50 Scavenge Cards
- 15 Custom Dice
- 5 Six-Shooters
- 1-Minute Sand Timer
- 40-Page Graphic Comic
Adventures in Zombiewood is primarily card-based, with 15 custom dice and a sand timer. The Actor and Z-lebrity cards are oversized and make the most of the space to show off the hideous zombies, as well as the zombie versions of the actors. Location cards contain the rules and flavor text for the various sets.
How to Play Adventures in Zombiewood
While the typical goal of a zombie game is simply to survive, here you have to film a good movie as well. You face zombies in three acts, each composed of four scenes, followed by a final attack by the horde. Keeping your actors alive will see you through to the end, but a good zombie movie means that a few characters should have been zombified. Your movie’s star rating will be lower if everyone makes it out intact.
Core Gameplay: Combat
In each act, Z-lebrities will face off against actors. Each actor has a base combat value shown as a combination of green, blue, and/or red dice. The dice have a variety of symbols on them, including axes, bats, explosions, and “ZW” (which is the equivalent of a blank side).
To put a Z-lebrity down, the player needs to roll a set of symbols that match those on the Z-lebrity’s card. Tougher Z-lebrities have more symbols, and the actor might need some assistance. In those cases, the player can choose to use up to two items (from their collection of Scavenge Cards) to add dice or specific symbols to their roll.
Once the player has rolled, they can re-roll dice by using bullets from their six-shooter. One bullet lets a player re-roll two of their dice. Additionally, other players can spend one of their own bullets to allow another player to re-roll a single die.
Combat is timed using the included sand timer, and commences with the first roll of the dice. Players conduct their fights simultaneously, meaning that there is sometimes a scramble to get the dice you need, and decisions happen under pressure.
Should an actor fail to defeat their Z-lebrity before the timer runs out, that actor is zombified! The actor is flipped over and placed with the Z-lebrity in the horde pile, to be faced at the end of the game!
Players choose three locations where the movie will take place. You can shuffle these out for a random movie, or select them to hand-craft your experience.
The Actor cards are shuffled together, and two actors per player are dealt to form the Actor deck.
The Casting Call deck is formed from four cards (one for each scene) and is customized to the number of players. For example, in a two-player game, the cards are 1/1/2/2. The deck is then shuffled.
The Z-lebrities, Plot Twist, and Scavenge cards are each shuffled into their own decks.
Each player is dealt an initial actor for the first scene of Act I. Players draw three Scavenge Cards each, and set their Six-Shooter dial to “3” by rotating the dial so that number is in the top position.
Acts I, II, and III
Each act takes place at one of the chosen locations and is made up of four scenes. Players start by flipping the top Casting Call card to see how many Z-lebrities show up on the set, drawing that number from the deck. Z-lebrities with a horde symbol (a hand) are moved off to another pile, awaiting the final battle, while those with a clapperboard symbol may trigger special events related to the location.
Players can then assign which zombie will fight which actor. Sometimes, actors will have no zombie to fight, but they can still participate by helping out with items, bullets, and suggestions.
Once combat is complete, actors that were not zombified scavenge for supplies, rolling dice that matches the actor’s Scavenge Card and bullet icons. The number of symbols on each die dictate how many Scavenge Cards are drawn and how many bullets are added to their six-shooter.
After scavenging, the actors are discarded, replaced, and the next Casting Call card is drawn to film the next scene. Yes, this does mean that the players are controlling different actors every scene of the game. However, items and bullets remain with the player, irrespective of which actor they are controlling.
When all four scenes of the act are completed, the game progresses to the next act (and location). To make things interesting, a Plot Twist card is drawn, adding a symbol that will be required to kill zombies for all combat in Acts II and III.
No good zombie movie ends with just a few isolated encounters. Hopefully, the players have collected a strong set of items and full six-shooters. When fighting the horde, the Plot Twist cards are no longer in effect, but there is a huge pile of zombies to face.
Players are allowed to look through the remaining pile of actors and choose their “all-star” team of two actors per player. While each player starts with a single actor, should that actor be zombified, they have the remainder of the all-star team to replace them.
Combat happens as with the normal encounters, except that all zombies have to be defeated within the allotted time (one minute per player). Moreover, there will be no scavenging between zombies. You have to fight with whatever you brought to the final encounter.
If at any time all actors are zombified, the game is over. Should the actors make it through the final horde, they’ve succeeded, and their movie’s star rating is based on how many actors made it through. Having half of your starting cast or less ensures a five-star movie.
Why You Should Play Adventures in Zombiewood
Fans of zombie movies should find plenty to love here. Adventures in Zombiewood is a quick game, perfect for beer, pretzels, and reminiscing about your favorite zombie movies. It may be a perfect game to play during a zombie flick, or between movies during a zombie movie marathon.
There are a few reasons why it’s a good fit. Of course, there’s the art and the homage littered throughout the items, characters, and locations. You’ll constantly spot references to your favorites movies.
The structure of the game gives players the opportunity to plan out their turn strategically, but the timed combat requires sharing dice and quick decisions under pressure. This helps recreate the ebb-and-flow of an action zombie flick, giving moments of tension leading up to the inevitable combat (and brain eating). The final fight through the horde can be quite frantic, with people talking over one another and calling out for assistance.
Allowing players to choose the game’s locations in Adventures in Zombiewood was an inspired choice. Locations vary in difficulty, so if you just want to mow down the undead, you can choose an easier set, or make it a brutal zed-fest if that’s your thing. However, I had the most fun by recreating my favorite zombie movie: Return of the Living Dead. Having players move from the Warehouse to the Morgue and ending in a Mansion put a huge smile on my face.
Setting up your game this way may require your group to be a bit more respectful of the magic circle than usual, but come on: you’re playing a zombie game with zombie movie lovers. Surely everyone is there for a good time!
Bottom line: if you’re a fan of zombie movies, you should check out Adventures in Zombiewood for some brain-eating, zombie-slaying, dice-rolling fun.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Adventures in Zombiewood Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a prototype copy of this game for review purposes.