West Fort is overrun with zombies–who better to whip it into shape than a band of outlaws? Take over the buildings in town, hunt the undead, and become the most notorious gunslinger in The Quick and the Undead.
What Is The Quick and the Undead?
The Quick and the Undead is a worker-placement zombie game by Daryl Andrews and Adrian Adamescu for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 to 45 minutes to play. It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $34 for a copy of the game, or $45 for the deluxe edition (which includes metal coins and wooden bullet tokens). I’d note that although the gameplay complexity is rated at 8 and up, your kid’s comfort level with zombies will be a pretty important factor in whether they’d want to play this game.
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The Quick and the Undead Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. For example, there’s a pink-ish targeting card, which presumably goes with the yellow meeples in the prototype, and I imagine these will be color matched in the final version.
Here’s what comes in the box:
- Game Board
- 6 Targeting cards
- 36 Outlaw meeples (6 each in 6 player colors)
- 6 8-sided dice
- 20 Building cards
- 18 Undead cards
- Law Badge
- 48 Coin tokens
- 36 Bullet tokens
- 40 Notoriety tokens (30 1-value, 10 5-value)
There’s a good spread of components in the box, but nothing too complicated. The board has several spaces for building cards, the zombie deck, and your outlaws; there are three resource tokens, and each player gets a targeting card where bullet tokens are placed.
The board shows a dirt road surrounded by some fields—many of these areas will be covered with building cards during play, marked with a minimum player count needed to use the space. I like that the spaces with higher player counts have some illustrations to add some variety when they’re not in use for cards. Also scattered across the board are some people, with small numbers next to them and banners underneath: these are the spaces for your workers, though the layout can be a little confusing at first. They’re arranged in descending numerical order from left to right, but placed in a zig-zag line, so I’ve had players miss a location because it was on an edge between two buildings—I’ve been informed that the numbers will be larger in the final version to make those a little more obvious.
I don’t think the iconography is final, but we also had some confusion about the instructions on the banners, since a sideways hand meant you got to steal from another player, but a hand reaching up meant you could hunt a zombie in the middle of town (and a bullet meant you could hunt a zombie anywhere). Hopefully some of this will get a little refinement before the finished game so that spaces are clearly visible and distinguished from background artwork or buildings.
The illustrations, by Magda Pixi Husar, show a variety of people in the town and then a lot of zombies in varying states of decay, though I’m not a huge fan of this particular art style. There’s a diverse array of characters (both in the living and the undead); I can’t really decide whether I like these portrayals or not, in particular the way that Native Americans (one hunter, one undead) appear. I’ll give credit to the publisher for including diversity, and have encouraged them to solicit some more feedback on how to make sure their representations are appropriate and respectful. Thematically, it looks like there are a variety of living humans in the town, all of them participating in a combination of zombie hunting, intimidating each other, and grabbing up resources wherever they can.
The zombie cards are placed in the center of town, as well as onto building cards. One thing I noticed is that because there is information on both edges of the building cards, the zombie cards are just wide enough to cover one or the other—I’m not sure if there’s a better way to lay out the building cards so that zombies don’t cover up that information.
The targeting card shows you which spaces you can hit, based on whether you have a bullet there or not; each zombie also has corresponding numbers across the bottom to indicate their vulnerabilities. My gaming group did find it amusing that most of the spaces show an exposed view: the brain, heart, guts, arm, and leg. But then there’s one bullet aimed at… the zipper. I bet you didn’t know you could take out a zombie with a well-aimed shot to the crotch, but there you go.
How to Play The Quick and the Undead
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to earn the most notoriety by hunting zombies, taking over buildings, and winning duels.
The board has various spaces around the outside edge marked for the player count. Shuffle the building cards and place one building in each slot for your player count; the rest of the buildings are returned to the box.
Shuffle the undead cards and make a deck of three times the player count, placing it in Boot Hill at the top left of the board; return the rest of the undead cards to the box. Then draw and place one undead on each building, and then one more in the center of the town (in the street).
Give each player a targeting card, a die, and four meeples in their player color. The remaining meeples (two per player) are placed at the lower left of the board, near the “Hire Guns” action. Everyone gets to choose a combination of 3 starting resources (bullets, coins, and notoriety). Choose a starting player and give them the law badge.
The game is played over a series of “days,” with each day consisting of three rounds (tracked by rotating the law badge).
At the beginning of each round, every player secretly sets their die to indicate the action they want to take this turn. There are 7 locations on the board (numbered 2 through 8), plus an additional “Hire Guns” location that is not numbered. If you set your die to “1,” it counts as a wild and you can go to any unoccupied location—but if more than one player chooses “1,” none of those players get an action this round.
After everyone has chosen a die, first check if anyone would like to hire guns. Those players set aside their die, and may pay 2 coins or 1 notoriety to hire an additional outlaw.
Then everyone reveals their die, and places an outlaw on the corresponding space, standing up. You may not place your outlaw in a space that already has one of your own outlaws from a previous round. (After everyone has placed, then a player who chose “1” may place their outlaw on any space that does not have a standing outlaw.)
Once everyone has placed their outlaws, then you resolve the action spaces from highest to lowest number. Each space has an ability and an income effect. Abilities include hunting zombies, stealing from other players, and intimidating other players.
To hunt a zombie, you choose the zombie you want to shoot, and roll your die. You must roll one of the numbers shown at the bottom of the zombie card and there must be a bullet in that space on your targeting card. Either way, you spend a bullet from your card. If you kill the zombie, put it in a scoring pile in front of you. Some spaces allow you to hunt any zombie on the board, and some only allow you to shoot a zombie in the street. There are some special rules for rolling 1s and 8s—you have a “crit” token that can be flipped over if you roll an 8 to score a hit, but if you roll a 1 when it’s on the non-crit side, then your gun misfires and your outlaw comes back to your stash.
Some abilities let you steal resources from other players. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
Some abilities allow you to intimidate another player: these show a list of numbers, and you can intimidate one player who has a standing outlaw in one of those numbered spaces. That player must either pay you any two resources, or “walk out.” If they walk out, you get one chance to shoot them: roll the die, and if it lands on a space where you have a bullet, you kill that outlaw. (It’s not very sporting to shoot an outlaw in the back, but I suppose you did give them a chance to pay you off first.)
After using the ability (which is optional), if you didn’t misfire your gun and get sent home, you get income—the various spaces will allow you to gain bullets, money, or notoriety from the supply.
Finally, after finishing your turn, you may pay to take over a building—if there are no zombies in the street. (It’s okay if there are zombies in the building; you’ll just want to clear them out later.) Pay the cash shown to the supply and move your outlaw to that building. If there’s already somebody in the building, then you pay half the cash shown, but then there’s a shootout to see who gets to keep the building (unless the person decides to leave voluntarily).
Buildings do two things: first, each building gives you a special ability that is active as long as you have an outlaw there, even if there’s a zombie in the building. Secondly, each building is worth notoriety at the end of the game—but only if it is clear of zombies.
This being the wild west, shootouts are a pretty common occurrence, particularly if there are lots of players. (Maybe this town IS big enough for two of us, but not more?) If two people choose the same location to send their outlaws, there’s a shootout. Each player indicates which player at that location they’re shooting, and rolls their die. If you roll a number where you have a bullet loaded, then you hit the other player; otherwise, you miss and discard a bullet. If two players simultaneously shoot each other, the player with the higher successful roll hits. If you get shot, you don’t spend a bullet (as a tiny consolation prize).
Any time an outlaw is shot, the shooter gains 1 notoriety. Then the outlaw is placed in Boot Hill… and then comes back to life as a zombie. That player gets to draw an undead card from Boot Hill and place it anywhere: in the street or in a building. There’s no limit to the number of zombies in a building or in the street.
When you try to take over a building from somebody, the shootout is turn-based, starting with the defender. Players take turns rolling their dice until one player is hit. The shooter spends a bullet and claims the building, and the loser heads to Boot Hill.
At the end of the round, lay all the meeples at numbered locations down on their backs, and then start a new round, choosing a location with your die. Remember, you cannot use a location where you already have an outlaw, but the lying down meeples do not result in shootouts and cannot be intimidated.
At the end of three rounds, the day ends, and everyone collects their outlaws back from the numbered locations. Outlaws in buildings stay.
“High Noon” is triggered when the town is cleared of zombies: everyone gets one last turn to perform actions, and then the game ends.
You add up your notoriety: tokens you’ve earned, zombies in your scoring pile, and buildings you occupy if they have no zombies in them. Highest notoriety wins, with ties going to the player with the most coins. Still tied? Duel to the death. (If both players kill each other simultaneously, then the next highest notoriety wins.)
Why You Should Play The Quick and the Undead
Daryl Andrews and Adrian Adamescu have teamed up on several titles before, like the 2-player Before the Earth Explodes and the stained-glass puzzler Sagrada. This time their collaboration has lead them into the wild west, with frontier towns scrambling for survival from … the undead? That’s right.
The Quick and the Undead puts an interesting spin on worker placement games with the simultaneous selection: unlike many worker placement games where each spot can only hold one person and there’s a bit of a race to get to the right place, here it’s something of a gamble: if you don’t have a lot of bullets, you probably want to take a spot that nobody else wants so that you can just take an action in peace. But if you’re feeling confident that you could win a duel, you kind of hope that somebody else picks the same space, because winning duels gives you notoriety and prevents a rival from taking an action for a turn.
That said, it did feel a little strange that the number of available actions doesn’t scale based on the player count. With 7 available spaces (not counting the “hire guns” action), things can feel very different if you have only 2 players choosing locations compared to 6 players. With a full player count, of course, the chance of a duel (or even multiple people showing up in the same location) becomes pretty high.
Of course, aside from gauging your risk of a duel, what you’re really trying to do is use the action spaces to accomplish various tasks: early on, you’re probably just trying to get some more bullets (for shooting zombies and other outlaws) and money (for hiring more guns and buying buildings). Attempting to shoot zombies when you only have a couple bullets in your gun can be a waste of a turn (and a bullet), unless you have a streak of good luck—I had one player who just kept rolling 8s, and will forever be known as the town’s foremost zombie hunter. (The rules have since been tweaked so that’s a little harder to pull off, because your crit token has to be active in order to hit on an 8.)
Getting into a building can be immediately useful because of its ability, and valuable later on for points if you can clean out the undead. But the downside is that it ties up one of your outlaws, who remains there unless somebody manages to oust it. If you’ve got outlaws in several buildings, you may not have enough left to take an action on every round, which means you’ll be sitting out while other players take their actions. I do like the mix of costs, point values, and abilities on the buildings: some are worth a lot of notoriety but have weak abilities (or even a negative ability, like the Windmill that adds undead every round). Some have fantastic abilities that will help you in the game, but aren’t worth much notoriety.
The hunting and duels weren’t quite as fun for my group, mostly because of how luck-based it felt. It can be frustrating to have a fully loaded gun and still miss shooting a zombie because you didn’t roll the right number to hit it; worse yet, you might roll a “1” and not only do you miss the zombie and waste a bullet, but your wounded outlaw goes home and doesn’t even get the income action. (In the updated rules, if you keep your crit token active, then a 1 is just a regular miss and doesn’t wound you.) There are some zombies that only have a single vulnerability, so to hit them you’ll need to roll that number or an “8” for a critical hit, and a 25% success rate doesn’t seem great. I wish there were more ways to mitigate the luck. But if you like the random chance (and feel that shooting is usually too easy in games), then you may not mind that at all.
One mechanism that I enjoyed for its thematic touch is that when an outlaw dies, that player gets to draw an undead card and place it anywhere. Hey, it’s a zombie town—nobody stays down for long! It gives you the ability to get a little revenge: for instance, if the player who shot you owns a building, you could add a zombie to their building, making it harder for them to score points for it later. Or, if you put it in the street, it’ll block players from buying buildings until they clear it out.
Overall, I think The Quick and the Undead has some fun things going on, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the luck-based shooting, which felt a little too random for me. There have been some rules tweaks that change the luck somewhat since the prototype I played, but it seems like scoring a hit still isn’t an easy task. If that doesn’t bother you, though, and you like the idea of a wild west zombie game, then it’s worth checking out!
For more information or to make a pledge, visit The Quick and the Undead Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.