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Zombie Cinema Game Review

Posted on September 26, 2008 by Flames


Available at Indie Press Revolution

Designed by Eero Tuovinen
Published by Arkenstone Publishing

Zombie Cinema is a storytelling game of the Living Dead. It allows players to explore a world that they create based on the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. The goal of the game is to tell a compelling story of your characters facing zombies. A compelling story will always win over a character making it out alive at the end of your movie.

The rules of the game are rather simple. There are 3 types of character cards that you choose from, but there is no limit to how many you can choose, as long as your character is compelling. You then flesh out a background for your character, and can go as in depth as you want it to be. Your characters start at their starting point, and the zombie marker starts at its place. A red marker is used to show who the director of the scene is. The director sets the scene and is the decision maker for any non-character conflicts that may arise. The director lets the characters set as much of their scene as they want, and at the end of the scene, either passes the token, or moves the zombie token should no dice rolls occur. A dice roll occurs when there is character conflict. If two characters decide to roll against each other, they place their dice in the center of the game to call the challenge. Other characters not rolling in the conflict can choose to support, ally, or not participate in the conflict. If you choose to support someone, you give them your die to roll. If you ally, you roll your own dice. If you remain neutral, you roll no dice. Whoever has the highest single dice roll wins the conflict and gets to tell how the conflict ends in their favor. The losing dice rolls then move a space back, closer to the ever present zombie menace. If a characters piece and a zombie piece should fall on the same scene, the character is eaten or otherwise killed, with the player choosing how their character passes from the movie.

Once you play the game, the mechanics of it are very simple, and generally end up taking a back seat to the storytelling aspect. When actually playing this game, many different ideas were approached, and after thinking for some time about it, many other scenarios have arisen. This game has endless possibilities, but the general goal is to make it a good one. If that means your movie is a bad B zombie movie, then make it campy and cliché. If you want a great video game feel, make it action packed and full of superhuman strength and extra strong bad guys. The zombie plague can be spread any way you choose, or have its origins from anywhere you want. Viral? Alien? Supernatural? Any of these and many more are a possibility in you movie.

What I really enjoyed about this game is the fact that it pulled every player into it. Each had their own part, their own scenes, anything they could come up with. Each death scene was fitting for each character, and every player tried their best to tell a compelling story. That’s the best thing about this game; it’s easy to get hooked. My players were definitely uncertain about playing the game, and now request it be brought to any get-together we have planned, including an upcoming birthday party.

One of the draw backs to the game is the way the rules are laid out. It’s very hard for a bunch of first time players to just pick up the game and go, because several of the rules can seem complicated. Since I demoed the game at GenCon this year, I was the starting director and guided our first game. After that, my players picked up very easily on it. One way to ease into the game a bit is to incorporate house rules if need be. If your players like to avoid dice, only use them as last resort, and story tell how the zombies are moving through the movie. Are you unclear when to move? Or don’t like longer games? At the end of each scene move the zombie up one scene. There are ways to work around it to make it a fun and easy game to learn. If you are a rules person, that’s great, by all means follow them. Whatever makes this game compelling and as fantastical as you want, do it.

As far as games go, this should be on every person’s game shelf, or to buy list. The game is amazing, the developer is an awesome guy, and your players will love it. They make it their own game, so why not play it? Spread the word, infect the world. Zombie Cinema is out to make a name for itself. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what comes of this game. You should be too!

Review by Crystal Mazur

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3 Responses to “Zombie Cinema Game Review”

  1. PoodlePants says:

    It’s astonishing to me the sheer number of people that house-rule this game without proper comprehension of the rules text.

    You don’t house-rule Chess, right? What about Risk? Then WHY would you house-rule this game?

    I know that RPG players have a long tradition of broken rules that only function to move story forward if they are ignored or heavily altered, but Zombie Cinema and other Story Games do not come from that tradition. I’d recommend players try not to bring their gaming baggage to the table when they play this game.

    Reply

  2. Anonymous says:

    “You don’t house-rule Chess, right?”

    You may want to walk back that statement just a tad.

    Chess is, hands down, the most modded game… Ever. It has so many variants that even it’s variants have variants. Checkers, probably the most successful variant on Chess, started out as a simplified version of Chess for women and IT has numerous variants.

    Every board game designer who has been serious about creating board games for more then a moment has taken a stab at “fixing” chess. Board game companies laugh the piss out of themselves when someone tries to sell them a chess variant.

    Perhaps the only other game close to having the number of variants of Chess is Go. Same deal – Everyone thinks that they can “fix” or “improve” Go. Because Go’s concepts are so simple, though, it’s not terrifically difficult to tweak a rule or two and have a game that doesn’t break the moment you begin to play it. This ease of modification actually makes things worse, though, because then EVERYONE thinks that they’re a game designer and you’re FLOODED with Go variants.

    Reply

  3. Ephemus says:

    It has nothing to do with baggage. Zombie Cinema is a game that by its very nature is suitable for alteration to different genres, which may require house rules to reflect the genre. The more important question is, why would anyone not house rule any game? Or are we as players obliged to play everything as the author intended? Surely all that matters is that players enjoy Zombie Cinema? Changing certain elements or adding new elements isnt necessarily going to change how much fun they have with it.

    Don’t forget that there are lots of versions of Risk, and although they are official versions, in principle they are just house ruled versions of Risk. What difference does it make whether we house rule a game or the company designing the game house rules it?

    Reply

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