Well, zombies and pirates I suppose. Last weekend with our gamemaster out of town my gaming group decided to have a board game day instead. We started out with a team Pirates game where Pat and I took on Wayne and Chad. After that one of Chad and Wayne’s co-workers stopped by and we played a few games of Flying Frog’s Last Night on Earth. The evening was a good lighthearted diversion from an otherwise intense role playing campaign and I wanted to take the opportunity to make note of some observations regarding the games we played.
First, our Pirates game. Normally in a free-for-all someone inevitably gets teamed up on, either accidentally or purposefully. To prevent that we teamed up, having each player on a team bring all the points worth of ships, islands, and treasures that they would bring to a normal game. Chad and Wayne brought a small, powerful fleet but Pat brought three solid gunships and I brought a nicely crewed La Corse and three gold runners.
My first impression was that we were going to get slaughtered, but with the open table my gold runners made a huge impact. Those ships got us a quick lead by running to and from islands quickly, letting us place a fortress by turn three. Chad and Wayne got overconfident and didn’t coordinate, which resulted in Wayne overextending his flag ship and getting whittled down my La Corse. Pat’s gunships swooped in after loading some treasure to hammer Chad and Wayne’s fleet until I was able to use my empty treasure runners to screen Pat’s ships for their last gold delivery.
After the game we all remarked how fantastic having a fortress was. It wasn’t even the cannons that they support so much as the ability to claim an entire island worth of gold quickly as well as let ships dump off their treasure without having to return all the way to a home island. Considering as long as you don’t let your opponent sack them they effectively cost you nothing and there’s no reason not to bring a couple just in case you can build one in-game.
Our last observation was that there were certain crew types that were almost auto-includes depending on a ship’s roll in your fleet. One of my biggest complaints about Pirates is that it’s a move or shoot game – you can’t do both. Unless you have a captain on your ship that is. And helmsmen grant additional speed that can be a godsend to some of the slower gunships. Even smaller gold runners are vastly improved by the inclusion of a 1-point explorer who lets them explore wild islands for free.
After our Pirates game we switched to Last Night on Earth, which is probably best described as Zombie HeroQuest for those who remember that old Milton-Bradly board game. At first glance the zombies don’t seem to stand a chance with their 1-space movement compared to the d6 of the survivors and the weapons the survivors can find, but that’s not necessarily the case.
The zombie player gets special cards to play each round (while survivors only get their equivalent for staying put and searching buildings). These cards let the zombies move faster or perform better in combat, as well as causing traditional zombie genre events in the game; for example the Bickering card that can be played on two heroes in the same space to make them miss their next turn.
Heroes can get some weapons that are pretty nice, but each weapon has a condition for which it will run out of fuel/ammo or break – anywhere from 1/6 to 1/3 chance after each combat/use. Take for example the revolver, which can shoot a zombie from 3 spaces away (a moderate range). It hits (kills) on a 4+ on a d6 but if a 1 is rolled the revolver runs out of ammo and is discarded. In our three games, four revolvers were found. Every time a revolver was fired, a 1 was rolled. Every. Single. Time. On the other hand the few times the shotgun or chainsaw came out they caused massive damage before going away.
From a theme perspective Last Night on Earth does a fair job of mimicking many zombie genre stereotypes. Our first game had a single player killed early before the survivors organized and went on a rampage, dropping zombies left and right. However as soon as their weapons ran out and the zombie players had a good draw on zombie ability cards the tide turned and the survivors were quickly overrun.
As mentioned The event cards are very thematic – like the Bickering card above, the Shamble card that lets zombies move faster, and the Unnecessary Sacrifice card that the zombie player can play to make one survivor take a hit for another. In addition zombies are fairly easy to fend off in melee (assuming you’re not vastly out numbered) but actually killing one without a melee weapon is extremely hard.
One nice feature is that there are rules for having two zombie players, which is the reason the zombies come in two colors. As mentioned above when I played the zombie player in the first game, I took out one survivor quickly. Instead of him sitting out the rest of the game I gave him control of half the zombies and switched the game to the two-zombie-player version on the fly. I was nice to be able to keep the player involved after the death of his character.
Overall I think I prefer the cooperative play of games like Arkham Horror but Last Night on Earth was a good time. Chad mentioned he’d probably be looking into the expansions and we’ll probably play again our next board game night.