In Zombie Kidz Evolution (2018), you fought to rid your school of the roaming zombie teachers and bar the gates. Zombie Teenz Evolution (2020) continues the story: The school is your safe base but your town is still in danger of being run over by zombies. You have to find the antidote!
You start out easy
The board shows an aerial view of the town, divided into spaces with the school at the centre, surrounded by roads and sewers, and a building in each corner. The players have to work together to bring crates from these buildings to the school. This is where the antidote can be created before the zombie hordes overrun all four buildings.
When you first open the box, the rules are pretty simple:
Each turn, you roll to see what the zombies do. If the die lands on a colour, the corresponding horde may spawn, or move towards a building. If it lands on a question mark, you read an Event Card.
Event Cards can be good for the heroes (no horde moves for a turn) but are usually bad (more than one horde spawns or moves).
If a horde reaches a building, that building is overrun and the zombies build a trampoline. They can use this trampoline to overrun the next building if they move again before you defeat them.
Once the zombies have moved, your hero can perform two actions: move to another space, attack a zombie horde, and/or move a crate. You can only move to adjacent spaces, and a crate has to be moved from one hero to another.
You lose if all four buildings are overrun, and win when all four crates have been moved to the school.
With the rules quick to learn and the components few and easy to set up, the barrier to start playing is very low. The first games are short, less than 30 minutes, which again makes Teenz a very non-intimidating game to get into.
And then it gets you hooked
At the back of the rulebook is a progress tracker. After each game, you place a sticker on this tracker, and after enough stickers, you get to open an envelope with new content. This is where the “Evolution” part of the game title comes in: The rules evolve the more you play.
New heroes and powers are introduced to give you more resources, new types of zombies and Event Cards make sure that the stakes are constantly raised.
The game is designed to reward repeated play. It is also designed to reward varied play.
In the final pages of the rulebook, you find the missions which let you place more stickers on the tracker if you win the game in a certain way (using a specific hero power, for example). This gives you more envelopes, and many envelopes contain even more missions.
The evolution of the game happens gradually, which is helpful for players who get overwhelmed or impatient with a lot of rules. The individual envelope only introduces a couple of new things each, and they always build upon rules you already know.
This, of course, changes if you introduce a new player to the game. However, unlike in big Legacy games (such as Pandemic and Betrayal), where you change rules and destroy components permanently, in Teenz you can always go back. If a sticker is placed on a component, it is only ever on one side, the original version can still be played with. And though Event Cards are sometimes replaced, they are never destroyed.
This means that at any point you can strip the rules back to a setup where the game was both a little simpler and a little shorter.
Moreover, you can mix and match the rules as you see fit, making the game easier or harder for the heroes. This high level of scalability makes Zombie Teenz Evolution not only very replayable by the same group, but highly suitable to be shared with a wide range of player types.
Art and Components
The art suits the theme really well with its bright colours and cartoonish style. Zombie Teenz Evolution is a game aimed at children and the art reflects that. The zombies are threatening, but they are more goofy than creepy. There is no gore and any violence in the imagery is stylised and comedic. The heroes are children, the zombie's adults. As you play, you feel like you're the main characters in a cartoon show.
The rule book is well laid out in simple statements and with several pictures to illustrate them. Most components are of smooth, good quality cardboard of a decent size.
My only criticisms of the components would be that the crates, while well-sculpted, are quite sharp around the edges. And some of the smaller stickers can be a bit fidgety to handle and easy to drop. Fortunately, the game comes with more stickers than the track has room for, so it’s not the end of the world if one is lost.
Zombie Teenz Evolution works perfectly well as a standalone game, but it is also a very good sequel.
A lot of the actions and mechanics are similar to Kidz but changed enough to make Teenz a distinct experience.
As the zombies can move now, the threat is constantly changing. A horde may have spawned in a space next to your hero, but by the time it's your turn, it could have moved and now be both out of your reach and closer to the buildings. The addition of the Event Cards increases the threat even further.
This is all before considering all the new hero and zombie powers that Teenz introduces. Some of these can even be moved over and used in Kidz, if you have both games. The game developers, Scorpion Masqué, have tips and extra missions on their homepage for doing just that.
Teenz also adds a new aspect to the Legacy-style side of the game: A narrative.
Every time a new hero or zombie power is discovered, or a new ally joins the party, you get stickers with pictures that show how those powers were created, how the heroes met the allies. These stickers can be put into the rulebook to form a short comic. Chronicling how the zombie invasion is going so far.
The story elements do not influence play as it would in, for example, Pandemic Legacy. Zombie Teenz Evolution is not a linear, narrative game. But the little bits of comic add flavour and context, which is an enjoyable new dimension to the game.
Zombie Teenz Evolution is an excellent cooperative game that is easy to learn. It plays quickly, invites repeated play, and can be scaled to a large array of difficulties depending on the players. Teenz can be enjoyed equally by adults and children, and it plays well even down to two players. A fun game for everything from a lunch break to an afternoon.