There’s no denying that zombies continue to shuffle their undead way into mainstream media/entertainment content, be it the latest computer game, popular television series or board games. With the latter you will find a few notable zombie themed games deserving of your attention, such as Zombicide or Dead of Winter to name a couple of examples.
As a fan of battling the undead in such games, needless to say my interest was piqued when I heard about Zombie Tsunami. I’m not really sure what I was expecting from the name, other than perhaps that zombies have learnt to swim or manipulate weather conditions. I was however pleasantly surprised to discover that this was a quick-fire fun-filled party game, where your aim is to protect your loveable sponge-bob-esque zombie critters from annihilation, so that that they can continue on their merry way to obliterate the arguably-less adorable in-game humans.
The game, from Lucky Duck Games, is a great filler or party game, since it has a quick play through of 30 minutes (or less once everyone is familiar with the rules) and scales well from 3-6 players, and is arguably better with more players. Your aim is to have the most zombies survive by the end of the game. The mechanic which makes this game interesting is the social deduction/negotiation element (which I will elaborate on later). I must also say that I am a big fan of the cartoon-ish art-style of the game, and the cute little zombie cubes, which interestingly, also act as dice during certain phases of the game.
Zombie Tsunami - The Guts and Bolts
Each player starts with two zombies, three coloured gems for voting, and a secret bonus objective card which enables them to gain extra zombies during each round if they are able to fulfil their objective. There are seven different secret bonus cards available, including two cards which go together as a pair, meaning you score your bonus if you are able to correctly work out which other player has the corresponding card.
To have the most zombies at the end and ultimately win the game, you will need to acquire as many zombies as possible, keep your existing zombies safe, meet your secret objective, and protect your humans from bombs (as all humans retained are converted to additional zombies at the end of each round).
Zombie Tsunami has three rounds, with six ‘Street’ cards being revealed per round, which dictate the different events in the game. This is a total of 18 possible events during the game, which are all resolved pretty swiftly. A designated player reveals one of these Street cards one at a time, and all players resolve the action before the next card is drawn. There are additional opportunities on the board, in-between cards, to either gain a coin, gain a zombie, or purchase ‘Shop’ cards with your coins, during the shopping phase.
The Street cards consist of things like:
- Gaining a coin, a zombie, a human, or instead - bombing another opponent’s humans.
- Navigating a ‘Jump’.
- Overcoming an Obstacle.
The shopping phase will allow you to purchase cards which have different functions, depending on which shop cards are drawn during set-up, but these include purchasing bombs, humans, zombies, or even stealing an opponent’s objective card, among others.
When navigating a jump, this is where you roll your zombies like dice to see which of them survive. Each ‘jump’ card will have a number which dictates the maximum number of zombies you can lose, unless it has an infinity symbol, meaning that you could lose an unlimited amount. All zombies within the quota that land face-up, will be lost. If you are unfortunate enough to lose all your zombies, you can take one from the supply, meaning no one will ever have less than one zombie.
The Z Team
Now we move on to the most interesting street card, which is the obstacles. This might be a car, a bus, a tank or even a plane that you must overcome, but to do so – you must form a team. You may recall me mentioning three coloured gems that you are given at the beginning of the game, and this is where you put them to use.
In order to overcome the obstacle, you must form a ‘team’ and the combined total number of zombies in players’ possession within their team must equal or exceed the specified number on the card, otherwise, you’ll lose zombies. What I love about this is that deception, backstabbing and bluffing is actively encouraged, and the rules even state you can physically show an opponent how you will be voting….and then vote another way, if you so choose.
Your voting may be influenced by your secret objective, or the number of zombies you possess. If you have a lot, then you’ll want to try and avoid forming a team with players that need your zombies to get past the obstacle. If you have hardly any zombies, you’ll be desperately trying to convince someone to team up with you so your zombies can live to bite another day.
At the end of the game, there is a final optional jump where you can essentially risk as many zombies as you like, to try and gain extra zombies. This means that even if you’re not winning by this point, you can have one last desperate attempt at all or nothing in order to try and win the game.
To Kill a Zombird
There is also an expansion called Zombirds, which introduces some sort of pet/mascot which gives players an additional special ability, as well as throwing another secret bonus objective card into the mix. It also introduces ‘Events’ (not to be confused with the ones in the Street cards), which add a bit more variety to the game; as it influences your decisions, or forces you lose a coin, a zombie, or even show your secret objective card to an opponent.
The developers encourage you to introduce Zombirds immediately into the game, which I do agree with, since you’re effectively adding more chaos into a game that is seemingly built for, and thrives on that very thing. The only gripes I have with it, is with no text on the cards, we often had to keep referring to the rule book to remind ourselves what each of the Zombird and Event cards did.
The other is that the rules don’t clarify how purchasing of the Zombird cards works – as there are three cards integrated into the shop cards which allow you to purchase an additional Zombird, but it doesn’t clarify the process by which they are implemented or discarded, and therefore it would be handy if the rule book could be amended for the avoidance of any doubt.
28 Games Later
Although there is not a huge amount of depth to Zombie Tsunami, and due to the nature of dice rolling with your poor cute little zombie faces, there is a huge amount of luck to it. However, I really don’t mind this, since at the end of the day it is a fast-paced party game, and is not meant to take itself too seriously. I actually think the game would be worse off if it tried to be too strategic, as it would alienate younger players, or those who don’t often play board games. If you lose, no problem – just go again.
The fun in Zombie Tsunami is in the banter of negotiation, and the continuing chaos all the way through the game. I was pleased to get the opportunity to play this, as once we all knew the rules and had a play through, we couldn’t wait to play the next game, and it gave us a lot of laughs (as well as new enemies as a result of our backstabbery). I’d recommend giving this one a roll.