Familiar? Yes. Fatigued? No!
Ah zombies. You can never have too many zombies. Zombie games, books, movies, shows, t-shirts, commemorative plates…you get the idea. Zombies pose a very serious and sometimes scarily possible look into our own humanity. Often they can also be kind of cheesy, campy, and have more logic holes than swiss cheese, but that’s where all the fun is, right? Speaking of cheesy, believe me, before this review is over I’ll have found ways to insert no less than 3 of the lamest puns ever. Now let’s get on with the show!
Last Night On Earth is a game by Flying Frog Productions that is around 5 years old now, there are a ton of expansion packs and great stuff for the game but today I’ll just be going over the base product. If you’re into co-op, competition, strategy, undead, or a solid challenge then you’re in for a treat. Now let’s see what’s inside the box first, shall we?
Many Dead Fish In The Sea
Zombie dice, ZOMBIES!!! and Zombie muchkin all have their own place in my heart (and gaming shelf), but is there room for yet another shotgun laden, brain munching, groan-fest too? Of course there is. LNOE is a really great game that sets itself apart from the horde (1) of other zombie games out there. For one, LNOE has you competing against other players as one side will control the zombies, and the other controls the Heroes. If you end up playing with more than two players this turns into teams, making for a cool adversarial dynamic at the table. You’ll be screwing each other over left and right, which is an element that I love and one certainly lacking in a lot of the board games I’ve been playing lately.
Zombies, Heroes, Combat
The game plays basically with one player (or players) controlling the zombies, on their turn they will draw cards from the zombie deck which is full of all sorts of nasty things you can do to impede, slow, or stop the hero’s dead(2) in attempting to reach their objective. Determined by a die roll (and scenario) the zombies may spawn more each turn as well, other than that they generally move about one square at a time in search for brains and mayhem. The zombies have a lot of benefits such as being able to move diagonally through doorways and through walls entirely if they wish. Always having cards at their disposal to sway the course of the game. They also win fights on a tie, which gives them an advantage. It feels as if the Zombies possibly have one too many advantages, but more on that later.
Heroes have the advantage of rolling to see how many spaces they move, and on their turns they may forfeit their move in order to search a building they are in. Searching a building allows them to draw a card from the Hero Deck in hopes of finding goodies like dynamite, weapons, scenario items, and other various boons. If they search in a particular building, the hospital for example, they can choose to automatically gain a medkit instead of just drawing randomly from the deck. This adds a great bit of strategy, along with being able to trade items with your fellow players provided you’re within proximity of one another. Also, if a hero has a ranged weapon they may fire that in addition to close up combat on their turn. Each hero also has a few traits and abilities that set them apart from the rest, which adds another layer of strategy and flavor to the game.
LNOE uses standard dice (d6) for combat resolution and is resolved via a pretty simple mechanic: Heroes roll two fight dice, zombies roll one. If the zombie ties any of the heroes die rolls, they win and the hero takes a wound. If a hero beats a zombie on their die roll, they “fend off” the zombie but do not kill it unless they rolled a double on any of their fight dice. Cards, items, and the heroes themselves can alter these rules as each hero has unique attributes and varying amounts of wounds they can receive before falling victim to becoming walkers themselves.
The game board is modular and randomly determined each time you play, which is great and keeps the game feeling fresh. Couple this with the option to hand pick or randomize which Hero(s) you control and it really makes for no two play experiences feeling exactly the same. The bits of LNOE that are random feel right, the game board is a perfect example. A lot of games seem to throw in randomness for the sake of “fun” but LNOE does it with style and purpose. Not that the game is devoid of luck but believe me, to win you’ll need to think on your toes here. The board has all the great locations found in just about any zombie flick: the gun shop, high school, cornfields, police station, you name it. Some of the buildings offer unique benefits both tactically and via the items they can grant you if you search them.
Scenarios are essentially unique missions to play though, the game comes with 5 of them. They can alter everything from how zombies spawn, to how combat is resolved, and determine how to win or lose the game. There’s a lot of potential with this model and I’m sure there are tons of great fan-written ones floating about too. I’m sure the expansion packs bring more scenarios to the table as well. I won’t go into explicit depth of each one but I can say that they vary in difficulty for either side and are all equally fun. The “Die Zombies Die” scenario to be used as the introduction to the game does a good job of acclimating you to the rules but also provides possibly even more fun once everyone is more acclimated to the rules.
I’ve mentioned throughout the review here and there that it seems the zombies get the upper hand, but when you lay it all out in front of you and weigh the pro’s and cons of each side it really does pan out to seem even handed on both sides though. It’s a shame this isn’t the feeling you always get while actually playing, perhaps it’s the gravity of, and sheer amount of zombie cards that often get played that make it feel this way. It can also be disappointing as a hero to chuck a fist full of dice for combat (2+any bonus you might get from cards, items, etc.) and have a zombie tie just one of your die rolls and your Hero winds up as some fleshbeard’s midnight snack. Now, perhaps the expansion packs for the game have addressed things like this, or maybe I’m just unlucky.
Regardless of whether the zombies do actually have an unfair advantage – I kind of think they would/should have one and the game is a blast anyway. Games can last from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on scenario and luck. Some of the scenarios do seem more even handed such as “Die Zombies Die!” where you need to slay 15 zombies within 15 turns. While some of them seem damn near impossible like “Escape In The Truck” where you’ll need to find both keys, and gasoline for the truck, fill it up, and escape without 2 heroes being slain – seem easy? Well spending every turn searching through the deck for keys to the truck can be a real exercise in futility! Then again, this really captures the essence of the Zombie genre so, I”m not complaining in the least, just something to think about.
Bells, Whistles, Shotgun Wounds
The game comes with all sorts of markers for scenarios and marking of in-game elements, the sheen on the card decks is exquisite and extremely durable. The zombie miniatures are nice sculpts, as are the heroes too. They would be immensely useable in a tabletop RPG with zombies and/or modern day elements too so, a very cool bonus for us RPG junkies.
It comes with all the dice you need to play and the box houses everything well once you’ve torn it all apart and attempt to shove it all back together again.The game comes with a soundtrack full of atmospheric music to boot, it’s a really nice touch but we didn’t find it to be particularly “zombie-ish”. It could have very well been any old “Spooky Sounds” CD you would pick up for 99 cents around Halloween. My suggestion? Put on some a mix of some Misfits/Danzig/Calabrese/TigerArmy/Nekromantix and call it good. Be sure to kick that playlist off with “Hunting Humans” or I’ll be very disappointed in you!
Last Night On Earth is a solid game, and I’ve been dying to play it for a long time now. I’m really glad I’ve now had the pleasure and can return with a “thumbs up” “buy it” recommendation. I should also mention that it plays equally well whether you have 2 players or 6, my wife and I have played a few games with just the two of us and they are a blast. There’s a lot of room for expanding the game and creating your own stuff too, similar to the D&D adventure system board games like Legend of Drizzt which is definitely a big plus. I’m not sure on the expansions but I’d assume they can only make the game even better, perhaps I’ll get my hands on one of them and do a follow up review! I hope you enjoyed reading, and found the review helpful. Should you decide you want to pick up a copy of Last Night On Earth it’s only 38$ on Amazon and I’d greatly appreciate you using my link here so I can earn some spare change to keep on reviewing games for everyone! Thanks for reading!