As a roleplayer, I have a genetic predisposition towards buying dice of all sizes, shapes, colours and functions. It’s not that I need all of them; heaven’s above, no. But I can’t resist anything that has shiny, shiny dice in it (even if the dice aren’t actually all that shiny in and of themselves).
So it was I found myself attracted to Zombie Dice, by Steve Jackson Games. I’m an utter wuss when it comes to horror movies, zombie ones included, although I did enjoy “Sean of the Dead” and “Pontypool”. But it’s a dice game, so how could I not buy it? And it’s from SJG, sainted doyen of the gaming industry, who brought us GURPS, Car Wars and Munchkin, to name but an illustrious few.
What you get for your dosh is a cardboard dice cup with a lid, a set of incredibly short but perfectly clear rules and 13 dice (3 red, 4 yellow and 6 green). Each die represents a human victim that you, as the zombie, are shambling after. Shake the full cup of dice, take three out without peeking, roll them and see whether or not you’ve got juicy, juicy brains for tea (a brain), a mouthful of dust (running feet) or a shotgun in the face (BOOM!). The winner is the person who manages to get 13 brains in total.
But it’s not quite that straightforward; despite the apparent simplicity of the mechanic, there’s a great deal of tactical play to be had (AKA pushing your luck). Each of the different coloured dice has a different ratio of brains to feet to shotguns, with red being the toughest, having only 1 brain and 3 shotguns (the exact opposite of the green dice). If you’ve rolled brains or shotguns on your turn, those dice are taken out of play and you must decide whether or not you dare try for more dice. If you get three shotguns in total, you’re dead and your score for that round is nothing. It’s trickier than you think and sometimes having nerves of steel is rewarded with an amazing streak of brains. But not always.
You will need some sort of counters to keep track of how many brains you’ve scoffed throughout the different rounds; jelly babies would be quite good fun, because at least at the end of the game you could bite their heads off with a triumphant cry of “Braaaaiiiinssss!”. You might feel a bit sick if you tried that with all 13, though.
If you’re more technologically minded, or just want a taster of what’s in store for you, then SJG have kindly done both a superb free app for the iPod Touch and iPhone, and a 59p upgrade with a few more features such as multi-player gaming. The app zombies have awfully punny names and do try to encourage you to get shot, the mechanic isn’t quite so transparent and the music will drive you mental if you leave it on (perhaps that’s the point) but may I remind you, it’s free!
All in all, it’s a fast game that is highly portable (in either format), great fun and incredibly silly. So do shuffle along to your friendly local game/app store and get your fix of yummy, scrummy brains…
The first DLC for Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 was released last week. Being a big fan of the game I downloaded it on the day. So what do you get for 560 microsoft points? As it turns out, quite a lot! The Passing includes a brand new three-level campaign, a new melee weapon and gun, a new enemy and a new multiplayer mode. Not bad! But the best thing is that these new additions are all hella good.
The Passing campaign brings the original 4 survivors from Left 4 Dead into contact with the Left 4 Dead 2 survivors. One of the original survivors kicks the bucket at some point. It is unclear how this occurs but it is my guess that Valve is being deliberately opaque on this plot point due to the upcoming release of new DLC for Left 4 Dead. The level design is pretty good. It borrows from some of the other campaigns (thunderstorms from Hard Rain, collecting gas cans at the finale from Dead Centre) but also has some nice original moments like making your way through dark sewers and coming across a wedding. It also introduces crates which can contain a multitude of pills or handguns and a new enemy called The Fallen Survivor who can drop first aid packs, molotovs and pipe bombs when killed! My favourite new addition though had to be the M60. It might not have much ammo but it really packs a punch and makes taking down those zombie hoards feel all the more satisfying! Expect to fight with other players for this weapon when playing online.
Alongside the new campaign is the new multiplayer mode called Mutations. Mutations gives different gameplay modes on a weekly basis; the first being “Realism Versus” – this new mode gives a massive advantage to the zombie team and a tense, difficult fight for the survivor team! The zombies can see the survivors but the survivors are in “realism” mode which means no player or pick-up highlights and you have to be much more accurate to do damage to the zombies. I’ve played quite a few games of Realism Versus now and I die an awful lot. But that’s okay because so does everyone else! This might not be fun for everyone but I think for players who enjoy a challenge the extra tension and risk when playing the survivors is very entertaining. Same goes for when playing the zombies – it’s kinda satisfying to take down a survivor and watch the others run around desperately trying to locate their teammate in the darkness!
Realism Versus is not the only gameplay mode that Mutations will offer. It will change on a weekly basis! Valve have already released the names of some of the other Mutations modes: Chainsaws, Four Swords Men, M60s, Ultra Realism and more. I think that this alone makes it worth downloading The Passing – a new way to play every week. Some for fun and some for extra difficulty. Personally, I can’t wait to be running around with all 4 of us chainsawing zombies. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Ultra Realism is all about.
The Passing is very reasonably priced for all that it contains. It also sets the stage quite nicely for the Left 4 Dead DLC that should be coming in the next few months. If you’re a fan of this game I think you would be missing out not to download it.