In those moments between games, where people are sat around waiting for the last couple of people to show up so you can dig into the game you’re really waiting to play, and it’s been a boring week so conversation is running thin, there aren’t all that many games that you can set up in seconds and play in under an hour. Zombie Dice is one of them, and it’s one of the best.
How To Play
You are a zombie pursuing the living, hoping to grab as many brains as possible before you get shot to death… undea- um… until you stop. On your turn you draw three dice from the pot and roll:
Brains are your score. Put them to one side, and when you finish rolling you add up the number of brains and add them to your running total.
Shots kill you. Put them to one side too, if you have three or more after a roll then stop immediately and score nothing.
Runners just keep going. Keep them in your hand then draw more dice until you’re holding three (so if you roll 1 runner, draw 2 dice from the pot; if you roll none, draw 3, so on).
You roll until you decide to stop and score what you’ve got, or until you get shot to pieces then pass the dice pot around to the next player. Once someone in the group has scored thirteen or more altogether the end game has begun; everyone else gets one last chance to score as much as possible and beat the current leader. Once everyone has had that chance it’s game over! Highest total brains wins. There are three dice colours:
Greens are less likely to shoot you and more likely to score for you. Think of them like the average citizen, taken unawares and ill prepared to fight. There are six in the pot.
Yellows are even across the board, just as likely to fight as run or get caught. These are your police or even the military, armed but terrified. Four more of these.
Reds are more likely to shoot and run than they are to let you eat their brains. Here’s your nerd who has prepared for this since the first time he/she saw the Evil Dead, but mercifully there are only three of them in the pot.
It’s elegantly simple, there really is nothing more to it than that, and you can quite happily get through a couple of games in a few hours. The push your luck element makes it a game of baiting and encouraging, made so much more interesting by the coloured dice. Having a red runner is a bad omen for your next roll, but what if there’s only greens left to take?
Of course, simplicity makes for a rather predictable game, and most games linger with everyone sitting around ten to twelve points in the hopes of triggering the endgame with some nasty score that’s tough to beat, but of course everyone’s worked to get to the same mark which rather sucks the tension out of the situation.
Now, Zombie Dice is not complex, there’s really not a great deal of minutia and complexity to dig into here, so let’s have a gander at the expansions while we’re here.
Three new dice are introduced to the pot:
The Hunk and the Hottie, our dashing clichés who can not only save one another from your unthinking grasp but can shoot really, surprisingly well for what appear to be high-school kids.
Santa Who brings gifts aplenty. Not only does Santa have the chance of giving you twice the brains, but he can also give you super-zombie-powers! Speed to catch those pesky runners or toughness to soak up more bullets before being taken down. He might still shoot you of course.
These dice replace others in the pot, so you’re not altering the difficulty all that much but it adds a few new dynamics. That being said, their ability to save one another and make it to the end of the movie to live another day do make them rather more annoying than interesting. To be entirely honest I hardly play the Double feature, it’s rare I even add Santa despite how much easier he makes things, they’re just not as fun as Zombie Dice 3…
You’d be surprised at how much a single twelve-sided dice can be worth when it’s the right kind of dice. After your first roll of any given turn you have the option to “ride the school bus”, taking the big yellow dice from nearby, and rolling two dice alongside it. And how different things become!
When you’re on board you add the bus to every roll, keeping it as one of the three. For as long as you stay on board runners get discarded unless you choose to go after them, or unless they’re changed by one of the special symbols:
Yield turns shots into runners.
Dead End means runners get turned to brains!
Stop ends your turn, score what you’ve got unless you got shot once too often.
Tyre Marks lose you a brain and get you off the bus, but getting run over doesn’t slow down the dead. Keep rolling as normal.
For me this is the best way to play Zombie Dice, it doesn’t make the game harder or easier, it just makes it more fun, exactly what a good expansion should do. There are greater risks, like taking twin shots on a single roll, or worse; but the potential rewards make it worth hitching a lift. The biggest drawback is keeping track of the rules, it rather steps on the simplicity of the basic game in ways Double Feature doesn’t (at least not too much) but as a step up from the basic game it does keep things more exciting.
Ok, this is not a game that anyone is likely to plan to play, no one puts it on the to-do list for a night, but it’s a fantastic time-filler, or a great way to bring in new gamers because of how incredibly quick and easy it is to teach and learn.
That said, it’s fun, and cheap so it’s always worth having a copy to hand wherever you game most often. If you’re keen on Zombie Dice, or if the base game is getting a little stale, add the School Bus, maybe Double Feature if you’re curious, but frankly the normal pot may very well be a gaming essential. Oh, and if you want to give it a shot before you buy, there’s a single player app