It’s been several years since Asia was struck by a new version of bird flu. All attacked people lost most cognitive functions, their skin changed its color, it cracked and virus caused increased aggression towards people. Tests revealed, that it responded well to smell of human blood. The media began to nickname this disease as „zombie flu“ and we were stuck with it. Progression of the disease has stopped, when we made necessary precautions. Today, hundreds of devices across the globe hold these people behind bars. It’s time to consider ethical issues of this all.
Several organizations are fighting for zombies freedom and one of them managed to surprise the guards at one of the facilities in the British New Hampshire just yesterday. Gurgling human wreckages crept through the streets and mayor declared the emergency, because they are trying to get to a local factory. Special units are far away, so its up to the workers to defend their employers and their own lives. And you are among them.
But you still do not know, that your skin is green and you are a goblin. All this applies perfectly to the game Zombies! Keep Out published by Privateer Press company. This is, how their hot new product is called and has just started to appear in stores. Its author is David Carl, illustrations were prepared by by Manny Trembley. And because all goblins have united against undead threat, also players will have to cooperate in order to repel attack of their enemies. This game is fully cooperative and its either all or none win type of fight.
And look of the game gets you insterested on first look. Presence of zombies is already on cover, but it has plentiful of colors, dominated by green and red. We are not accustomed to such a pallette, when it comes to undead games. The picture shows a wall, where zombie is climbing with a faraway look in its eyes. Up on the roof, armed goblins are waiting for them to come. They are not afraid to use all the technology they know, including lasers and other guns.
Box itself is quite small, as it proclaims, that is does not have anything but cards in essence of entertainment. The more curious you are, when you put off the lid aside and learn, that the bottom of the package is stuffed to the brim. You get closer to contents of the box by removing twelve pages long rulebook and square folded game board, showing the courtyard in front of the goblin factory with windows, doors, cellar and balcony. The yard have fields numbered from one to twenty, which zigzags its way up the lanwn from place, where zombie penetrated your property. Every place has a colorful arrows leading zombies forwards. At first glance, it looks a bit like a digital game Plants vs Zombies (from this comes also title of our review).
Under the medium-sized game board, you find sheets with small bites cartons, roadblocks and game progression token. Since this is a little game, we were waiting it was only the cards, that will be showing it all. But besides deck with cards, there is one more surprising thing inside – miniatures.Colorful characters of undead, where gray represent runners, blue are leapers, yellow creepers and red color have brutes.
This, however, brings us back to three types of cards. Largest and smallest pile belong together. Contraption cards show a list of components, that players need to complete some device. For its completion, you will get not only the bonus, but also ability to turn the card and press the button (= start device).
Necessary components for these devices are hidden in a pile of 55 cards. But they are alone interesting at the same time, because they are divided into three parts – not only part type, but also a pair of action fields, which will allow players to defend against a particular undead or repair their barricade. The last deck of forty cards is called Terrible Things and that’s what it also offers – three steps, that will support zombie side and their constant desire for brains.
Which brings us to the end of this list and we can start to prepare the game by placing game board to center of the table. Individual parts of the building will each receive one invention card, which can be built by goblins. Players randomly select five of fifteen available cards during preparation, others will not be used in the game. Each card gets completion token, which starts at the initial field. Path winds across eight spaces of components needed for completion. Parts of the house then get a certain number of barricade tokens (six to ten), that will protect players against corrupted breath of undead.
All enemies miniatures begin match in the lower part of the board, where you will find a blue pool. Its a little authors visual pun, because its a pool of zombies at the same tim. From there, players then take a few zombies and put them in the first two rows in the back yard. This means, that first attack is ready to go, but players should be able to defend themselves. Therefore, each gets some cards into his hand, depending on the total number of players. Now everything is really ready for the game.
Although they all have a common goal and will work together, everybody acts alone, alternating in rounds. Any such move begins with the least pleasant thing – unveiling of a new terrible things card, showing, whats in store for heroes inside the house. Defenders are not allowed speak to each other during this decision-making. Acting player does not show card to his colleagues and must alone choose one of three options on the card and carry it out.
The choice is always between base adding the undead, that clearly defines type of newcomer, zombie shambling toward the house and biting the player. From time to time, card may also include other things, such as discarding cards, because goblins broke the subject or barricade can go down.
Some cards can also offer a shift of the undead. Each of the undead has its own goal – while jumpers want to get to balcony, scarecrows goal is the basement and brutes go straight for your front door. Only runners do not care, where they run and always go in straight line towards the factory. Board helps you with the shift, using arrows on the spots.
While some cards determines the place of deployment, another time players can freely decide, where they put new miniature. More zombies may stand on one spot, but you need to be careful, because once their number gets to three, they begin to push each other and move forward, so there are at most three characters in each place. Once someone reaches the house, hre removes one barricade token. Together with endless barrage of enemies, defenders do not have time to spare.
Wave of attacks is increasing uncomfortably and decision of the player is more difficult. But after monsters turn, it finally comes chance for the defenders to do something. Active goblin can now play one card from hsi hand. But it is necessary, that its type exactly matches on of parts, that machines needed to complete. Players can then move completion token one place forwards, which eventually gets to eighth frame. As a reward for defenders, there is a bonus waiting and some machines also enable players to push a button and trigger some action.
But in addition to building, a player can do other actions during his turn. But he can always choose only one. Is it possible to draw a new card or repair the barricade. At the beginning, we said that these cards contain also zombie pictures. Discarding such a card allows goblins to attack that type and number of zombies and to remove them from the board.
The raid continues until players complete three machins on the root. By accomplishing this, their efforts end up victorious. However, very often may can a situation, that defense fails and undead break into the house. Once inside the door or three barricades are torn down, game results into a common failure.
Zombies: Keep Out tells the story of a factory, that is surrounded by undead horde. Meat and brains attracts them, luring them inside, but clever goblin jack-of-all-trades can not be doublecrossed so easily. They can repair and build anything, just give them a good manual. And so begins a race against time and onslaught of zombies.
In description of the rules, we have not mention something really important: we will explain now, how bite tokens operate. Whenever a player gets a Horrible Things card with a bite option, he can protect buildings against an onslaught of the undead, and get a zombie bite token instead. Such encounter with zombie teeth means, that virus begins to circulate in his body and he slowly starts being one of them.
And this is, when a special rule comes into play, that has a major impact on collaboration with others. The more bite tokens a player has, the more limited are his activities. Initially he only has to grunt and is banned from trading with other players. With second token gained, he loses ability to construct machines and begins to be a burden for others. However, major breakthrough occurs with a third tokens, that you really do not want to get. He is now not allowed to perform Terrible Things of his choice, but he must randomly select one by raising one, two or three fingers before revealing the card. Such a zombie also has completely lost its ability to speak.
Unique approach to cooperation makes Zombies: Keep Out a great game, that has not a problem with dominating player, who tells everybody, what to do. This is especially noticeable at the beginning of the turn, when rules prohibit players to show their card to others, even after doing the action. No one knows, what the other two unselected options were. This means, that they can not criticize you for picking wrong choice. This also applies to cards, that players are holding in their hands. They can show them to others asking for advice only, if they really want to.
It is fast enough and game remains fun in all the number of players as it is usual for cooperative games. The difficulty is well set here, but players can also use the simpler option for beginners or younger players. Then there are also two other modes with a reduced number of barricade tokens, which are significantly harder.
Chance decides at the beginning of the match, how fast you are able to build your first device. This can greatly help or hinder players in their defense. In doing so, although zombies start at the same positions every time, game remains variable thanks to devices, that goblins builds on the roof. But also due to Terrible Things cards drawn from a shuffled deck.
Inclusion of miniatures in this box is pleasing to the eye, because game looks really nice with them. Plus it has hilarious illustration of the goblin world. Overall, the game is made with precision to the last detail, everything is big and clear.
Zombies: Keep Out is therefore a hilarious game, that is suitable for beginners. It has no challenging rules and it provides way to enjoying specific sounds, with which players mimic their transformation into an undead state. But it will not disappoint even demanding players, who can try to complete the game on a higher difficulty. Zombies: Keep Out is a nice addition to the family of cooperative games and also to undead genre.
Zombies: Keep Out puts players in front of endless waves of zombies rushing at the house. One killed undead is immediately replaced by other and resisting seems futile. But players thankfully have a lot of parts and instructions. By following them and using items in predetermined order, they can make powerful weapons. One or two machines slow undead down, but only three can really stop them. At the beginning of each turn, a player must turn a card and independently decide, which of the three Terrible things he wants to carry out. On the basis of this, zombies can move or new ones can appear. Only after this follows the possibility to liquidate some of invaders or repair the barricade. The game is exciting from the first second and brings players a lot of experience during common defense. But a bit of bad luck at the beginning may influence the course of the game, because undead numbers are increasing at a rapid pace. Players can also be bitten in the defense, which contributes to an atmosphere greatly - contagion gradually reduces their communication skills and decision-making. The game is great especially for beginners, but thanks to the adjustable difficulty levels and good cooperation mechanism, it will delight even the demanding. Zombies: Keep Out is because of all this a pleasant surprise on the scene of cooperative games.