Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
Back in what feels like forever ago, a small game company released an innovative coop game called Carnival Zombie. While not without its issues (the rulebook being a major one), I found it to be a very entertaining game that made its way to my tabletop quite a few times. However, it has long since gone out of print and fans have been clamoring to get their hands on this zombie killing title. Well now they have their chance.
Carnival Zombie is back with a brand-new edition with more streamlined rules and buckets of extra content. We recently got our hands on a Kickstarter prototype and are ready to report if this new edition is worth your gaming dollars. So, let’s get to it.
The core game of Carnival Zombie tasks a group of survivors with fighting their way out of a zombie infested Venice. The game takes place over three day and night periods, cumulating in a grand finale. Each player will control one or more survivors (6 in total), each of which as their own unique weapon, day power, and night power.
Every round has a day phase, followed by a night phase. During the day, the players get 4 hours to do one action per hour. Different actions include:
- Move: Move the group to an adjacent location (this can take one or more hours from the group).
- Rest: Heal 2 stress
- Build: Place 3 barricades into storage to be used during the night phase
- Search: You’ll find either a survivor, an item from your deck or a zombie who gives you a stress and then an item
- Reanimate: Bring a fallen survivor back to life.
The day phase ends after the 4th hour and the survivors must now hunker down and prepare for the zombie onslaught. The night phase takes place on the tactical map. The survivors set up in the center (the refuge), surrounding their position with as many barricades as possible. Their location may also contain some obstacles and fortifications.
The night lasts a total of four hours, and each hour will see zombies and/or bosses spawning at the outer ring of the map and advancing forward their speed. Each survivor then gets one action, either moving to a new position in the refuge or attacking. Attacks never miss in Carnival Zombie. Each gun has a rating of a number of attacks, damage per attack, and range. Target an infected and remove them from the map. Easy right?
Well, what’s unique to Carnival Zombie is the Pile of Corpses. Every infected removed (they are all cubes) must be dropped onto the Pile of Corpses. Easy at first, but as more cubes pile up on there, it gets a bit trickier. Should any cube fall and touch the table, it’s immediately respawned!
Once the survivors have each taken their action, the infected will attack. First, they destroy barricades. Once those are gone, the survivors take stress for any damage taken. Too much stress and they are knocked out.
After the third hour of the night, the survivors must exit the map. They pick a direction and make a dash for it. They can assault one infected each on their way out. Any remaining contact will damage the survivors.
After the 3rd day, the players must be at one of the finale locations to escape the city. These are all very unique and play out differently than the core game. Players can opt to leave the city by boat, airship, or the bridge. Alternatively, if they find the Holy Hand Grenade, they can try and take out the leviathan directly in a battle finale (good luck!).
It’s been quite a while since I’ve played Carnival Zombie and, diving back in, I think this one has aged pretty well. The core gameplay alone is still solid fun and provides quite a challenge. I love the dual phases of each round. The day will have you preparing and gearing up, while the night is the showdown with the infected. And lest you think things are too easy, each night players will have to deal with a number of undead bosses who each have their own special rules. These really do a good job of throwing a wrench into your character’s plans.
For those who already own Carnival Zombie 1st Edition, I think this will be a worthy upgrade. Not only are you getting MUCH better components and rulebook, but there is an expansion included as well. Players can now head over to Milan once they’ve left Venice which provides a whole new map and set of encounters to tackle.
On top of that, the game also includes a number of scenarios in the box, each of which will change the way the game is played. They each have special rules and goals which will cut out some of the core rules and focus on others. Such as Dr. Gorini’s Experiments which only takes place at night and requires players to stack the pile of corpses in specific arrangements at the end of the night. Overall, Carnival Zombie: Second Edition has a crazy amount of replay value.
The Kickstarter campaign has already unlocked a number of miniatures that will be added to the game. They are based on the artwork from Jocularis, who I think did a great job on Carnival Zombie. The graphics are thematic and fit the tone of the game perfectly.
The only thing I saw missing from the prototype I had was a solid player aid. There is one big one in the box, but it would have been nice for each player to have their own that outlined the steps of each phase, and their characters special powers.
Speaking of, I loved how each character has their own item deck. As you can only expect to draw a handful of item cards each game, this helps make each game feel a little bit different. My only gripe with the characters is that there is no way to play the game with less than 6 characters. Having to control 3 characters each when there are only 2 players isn’t the best. But thankfully they are not that complex. And as each character fills a specific niche in the game, I can understand why all six need to be present.
Update 4/11/19: According to update 17 and 18 on the Kickstarter page, the stretch goal for player scaling has been unlocked. So this issue seems to be resolved. Hurray!
The first edition of Carnival Zombie has long been out of print and for fans eagerly awaiting a reprint, the wait was worth it. The second edition of Carnival Zombie has upgraded components, more streamlined rules, and a massive helping of replay value. There is enough content in this box to keep gamers happy for a long time. And with the ongoing Kickstarter having already unlocked a ton of stretch goals, this game just seems to be getting better.
If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, Carnival Zombie: Second Edition is currently in funding on Kickstarter. Head over to the campaign page to become a backer or find out more information.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.