The intrepid kids managed to secure the school from the zombies—now it’s time to work on a zombie cure!
What Is Zombie Teenz Evolution?
Zombie Teenz Evolution is a cooperative legacy-style game for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It is available now from Iello Games (which also has a local retailer finder) for $24.99. Although the characters in the game are “teenz,” according to the title, the game is kid-friendly and is appropriate for younger players; the theme includes zombies, but they are more cartoony than scary. Although the game is a sequel to Zombie Kidz Evolution, it’s a standalone game and not an expansion, so you don’t need a copy of the first game to play it.
Zombie Teenz Evolution was designed by Annick Lobet and published by Scorpion Masque and Iello, with illustrations by Nikao (game) and Rémy Tornior (comic book).
Zombie Teenz Evolution Components
Zombie Teenz Evolution is a legacy-style game, which means that as you play through the campaign, you’ll open up envelopes to introduce additional components, and there are stickers that will be applied to things as well. Unlike some legacy games, none of the game components are destroyed over the course of play—the only thing you throw away are the envelopes and sticker backing sheets. My review will avoid spoilers, though I will talk about the type of things that are introduced without giving too many specifics, because a lot of the fun is in the discovery itself.
Here’s what comes in the box:
- Town board
- 4 Overrun Building tiles
- 4 Ingredient crates
- 2 dice (1 white, 1 black)
- 4 Zombie Horde tokens
- 4 Hero standees
- 6 Event cards
- 10 Evolution envelopes (numbered)
- 4 Achievement envelopes (marked with letters A–D)
- Sticker sheet
- 11 plastic bases
The town board shows a top-down view of a large intersection—a school in the center, with four different buildings in the corners. (It’s a bit of a weird intersection if you look at it closely—how do the cars drive in this space, exactly?) Presumably the school is meant to be the one from Zombie Kidz Evolution, though it’s illustrated here as a single room. Each of the buildings is drawn without a roof so you can see all the fun little details inside.
The overrun building tiles fit over the buildings, showing the same scene, but now filled with a horde of zombies—and each one also has a trampoline, the zombies’ clever plan that lets them get to the next building without having to travel through the streets (where they’re an easier target for the kids).
Everything is rendered in a style that looks like something from a 3D animated movie—the zombies, the kids, and the buildings are cartoony, but also look solid. There are four kids, including one kid in a tricked-out wheelchair, armed with various gear like a suction-dart gun and a pool cue. A fun Easter egg: one of the kids is Mia London, as seen in Mia London and the Case of the 625 Scoundrels, though she’s picked up a hot-sauce-gun. There are also some fun pop culture references mixed in that appear later when you open up the envelopes. The standees are die-cut so that they’re all custom shapes, allowing for the kids to be very different sizes and shapes.
The zombie horde tiles have one featured zombie in front of a bigger crowd, and each one is color coded to go with one of the sewer entrances and buildings. A couple of the zombies in the background are familiar from Zombie Kidz Evolution, too.
The ingredient crates are little plastic crates (open on the bottom)—you’ll have to apply the stickers to them yourself. Since the rest of the components are mostly cardboard, the crates add just a little bit extra and stand out on the board a bit more.
The two dice are a little larger than standard: the white die has four colored icons on it corresponding to the zombie hordes (and the buildings they’re going after), plus two question marks; the icons are printed on it. The black die is, mysteriously, entirely blank, so you know there’s something coming later for that.
Without revealing the contents, you can tell that the envelopes have different amounts of contents—some are noticeably thicker than others. That, plus the fact that there are quite a few more plastic bases than there are characters, told me that there would definitely be something more showing up later.
The rulebook itself has a lot of space in it for stickers: it starts off with three panels of a comic about the kids and zombies to set the stage for the story, and then has three and a half more pages with empty panels for stickers. The rulebook lays out the basic rules of the game, and then has several more pages of Advanced Rules and Missions that are mostly numbered blank spaces for stickers to come later. The back cover of the book has two tracks: accomplishment badges and a progress track. Each track has various spaces that are labeled with an envelope number or letter, indicating when you can open the corresponding envelope.
The box itself is a little bit deeper than the Zombie Kidz Evolution box, though it has the same medium-sized footprint, so if you have both games, they stack neatly on top of each other. As you open the envelopes, the large well in the plastic insert will fill up with more components, but the square well for the envelopes will end up mostly empty except for some tiles and cards.
How to Play Zombie Teenz Evolution
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to move all four crates from the buildings into the school before the buildings are overrun by zombie hordes.
Place the board in the center of the table, with the corresponding crate in each building. (The crates are functionally equivalent, but thematically have different ingredients in them for the zombie cure.) Place one zombie horde tile on the sewer space of its color, and the other three in a line to the side of the board. Set the overrun tiles and the white die nearby. Shuffle the event cards and place them nearby.
Each player takes one hero and places it in the school. (In a 2-player game, place a third unused hero in the school as well.)
On your turn, you roll a die to activate the zombies, and then take 2 actions.
The die roll will indicate which color zombie horde to activate, or to play an event card. If a zombie horde that isn’t on the board is activated, place it on its sewer space. If it’s already on the board, it moves clockwise to the next available space (indicated by the footprints coming from the sewers).
When a zombie horde reaches a building, the building is overrun and you place the matching overrun tile on it, showing the horde of zombies (and the trampoline they built). If the building is already overrun, then the horde bounces on the trampoline directly to the next building clockwise, overrunning it.
If the die shows a question mark, then draw and play the next event card. Some event cards have a trash can icon—these are removed from the game when played instead of discarded. If you run out of cards, shuffle the discard pile to form a new deck.
After activating the zombies, you may do 2 actions from these choices (including doing the same action twice):
- Move to an adjacent space.
- Attack a zombie horde in your space, removing it and placing it next to the board.
- Transfer an ingredient crate: if you are adjacent to another hero and one of you has a crate in your space, you may transfer the crate between the two spaces. (In a 2-player game, there’s always one hero in the school that you can pass a crate to.)
There are two ways the game can end:
- If all four buildings are overrun, the players lose.
- If all four crates are in the school, the players win.
Playing Through the Campaign
The gameplay I’ve described above is pretty simple, but it’s not called Zombie Teenz Evolution for nothing: as you play, the game will change. Each time you play the game—win or lose—you get to add a brain sticker to the progress track. Each time you reach en envelope space on the progress track, you get to open the indicated envelope, which will include some new rule stickers to add to the rulebook, new comic book stickers to continue the story, and potentially some new components to add to the mix. You may also get a trophy sticker if you completed a new mission, helping you to fill up the progress track more quickly (though you may only earn one trophy per game, even if you could have completed more than one mission). There are a handful of missions when you first start, from the very simple “win a game” to the more challenging “win a game with no overrun buildings.”
The missions are also listed in groups of three: when you finish all three in a group, you get an accomplishment badge, which goes on the other track. These will let you open up the other set of achievement envelopes, unlocking some other surprises.
Zombie Teenz Evolution is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Zombie Teenz Evolution
Last year, I gave Zombie Kidz Evolution our GeekDad Approved seal—I really enjoyed playing through the campaign with my kids, filling out the progress track and opening up envelopes to see what we would be adding to the game. So we were pretty excited to dig into Zombie Teenz Evolution when my review copy arrived, and I was curious how similar the game would be to the previous one.
While the theme and appearance are somewhat similar, the two games have enough differences in the gameplay to make it a distinct, separate game. For instance, in the first game, your primary action was moving, and then attacking a zombie or locking a gate happened automatically if the circumstances were right. Zombies spawned into the various colored rooms and piled up, eventually overrunning a room so you couldn’t enter it. In ZTE, you have to spend actions to attack zombies or move the crates, which means your two actions each turn can feel more limited. There are fewer zombie tokens (because each represents a horde) but they spawn and move based on the die roll. As with ZKE, the goal requires teamwork: there you needed two kids present to lock the gates, and here you need two kids nearby to pass a crate.
Winning the game requires a balance between managing the zombie hordes and focusing on the crates. You need a kid inside the building to get the crate out, but if there are zombies approaching the building in the opposite corner, you have a tough decision to make: do you let that zombie just take the building so you can get closer to your end goal, or do you leave that kid hanging for a bit so you can keep the buildings clear? What’s especially tricky is that once a building is overrun, things accelerate. It takes two steps for a zombie to get from the sewer to the first building, but then each move it makes after that just jumps directly into the next building. It doesn’t take long to go from “oh, we lost one building” to “oh, we lost the game” (especially because chasing down that zombie horde that’s bouncing from corner to corner is really hard!).
The real magic of Zombie Teenz Evolution, though, lies in the evolution part of it, the way that the game changes and grows as you play it. I liked that here, as well, ZTE distinguished itself from ZKE by coming up with different types of things to add. Without specific spoilers, I’ll note that you do get more standees (as evidenced by the plastic stands) that can be utilized in different ways, and you’ll get more powerful abilities for the kids to use—but also bigger threats to face. You also get some choice in how to mix and match some of the things that get added: for instance, if it’s too hard, you could use some of the additions that benefit the players without making all the enemies harder. If you find it’s too easy, it’s possible to crank up the difficulty level too.
The growing comic book in the rulebook was a lot of fun, too, and a new feature in this title—my daughter really loved adding in those stickers to see how the story developed. Each envelope added a panel or two, and the story paralleled the new elements being added to the game, showing how the kids discovered something.
Although Zombie Teenz Evolution is a legacy game, the order that you open envelopes is always the same—while you may attempt missions in a different order than another group, ultimately you’ll read the comic book in the same sequence, and unlock things in pretty much the same order. The only difference is that the accomplishment badges (gained by completing missions) are a separate track, so that set of envelopes may be opened at a different rate for different groups. But the problem I ran into with ZKE, where some of the kids didn’t get their upgrades as quickly as the others, didn’t occur here.
One feature that I like, carried over from ZKE, is that every game gives you some progress whether you win or lose. Winning may earn you trophies to make progress more quickly, but even if you lose, you still get a little bit closer to opening an envelope. It’s easy to play a few sessions in a row, because you want to get to that next envelope space.
For those who have played both games, there are some rules on mixing the two, though it’s not quite as involved as I had initially expected. Basically it allows you to take any of the kids from either game and use them in the other game, but because the mechanics aren’t quite the same, there are some cards you’ll need to print out to facilitate that. (I do wish these cards were included, since my printed-out cards aren’t going to be as nice.) The rules do note that how far you should have made it into the campaigns before trying to combine them, so that you’ve already reached the necessary rules for using the cards and to avoid spoilers. The Scorpion Masque website will also include some monthly challenges starting in January, so I’m curious to see what those will be—probably along the lines of some of the missions.
Though the game is intended for kids, I really enjoyed playing through the campaign with my daughters, and I was equally invested in finding out what was inside the envelopes. The starting game is fairly basic, but as we added more advanced rules, the choices we had to make became more involved and engaging, and often required a bit more planning. There’s still a good deal of luck involved, between the die rolls and the event cards, but you can still often see where you’re in danger of being overrun, and the decision you have to make is between putting out fires and pursuing your win condition with the crates. There are even some specialized missions that mix up the game rules a bit and give you a different objective, though I’ll let you discover those on your own.
If you enjoyed Zombie Kidz Evolution, then you’ll definitely have a fun time playing through this campaign as well—there’s enough of a difference that it doesn’t feel like a repeat. But even if you haven’t, you can jump right into Zombie Teenz Evolution as they’re both standalone games. If you’ve got kids and you enjoy cooperative games, this is a fun legacy game that you can actually complete in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve given Zombie Teenz Evolution our GeekDad Approved* seal because I think it’s one that a lot of families will be able to enjoy together!
For more info or to order a copy, visit the Iello Games website.
(*Note: Our awards year goes from roughly November to October each year, based on when we pick our list of finalists, so ZTE will fall into our 2021 awards year.)
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.