Even since The Walking Dead took the television world (and comic too) by storm, there has been a horde of zombie games released to the market. From abstract games about diplomacy to tactical mini games, there seems to be something for every fan of the undead. So we figured it was high time we took a look at the best of the bunch. We’ve waded through a mass of body parts and brain eating miscreants and come up with our Top Ten Zombie Board Games. We actually found a surprising amount of diversity among the games out there. Not every game was simply a matter of rolling dice and killing miniatures. Whether you are looking for some non-stop combat or a more survivalist theme, there is something for just about everyone. So with all that in mind, let’s get on with the list.
Top 10 Zombie Board Games
10. Zombie Dice
There is nothing deep or strategic about Zombie Dice. Even the most optimistic gamer would still label it a “beer and pretzels” type of filler game. You roll some dice, choose whether to press your luck, and eat some tasty brains. That being said, it’s also very accessible, quite portable, and a whole lot of fun. We’ve played this one from airport concourses to backyard BBQs. The nature of the game allows it to be brought out for just about any group when you have a few minutes to kill. If you are looking for a quick zombie fix, then Zombie Dice makes a nice choice.
9. Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead
I had the chance to try this one when it premiered at Gen Con many years ago and found it to be pretty enjoyable. Zombie State takes a different spin on the undead genre by putting players in charge of a world government during the outbreak. Players have access to tech trees that they can advance for their country and will be doing their best to convince the hordes that the other player’s nations are tastier targets. A more strategic than tactical game, Zombie State requires careful management and decision-making to win. Ultimately though, while Zombie State is a fun game, it’s held back by some fiddly rules and suffers from weaker players rapidly falling further behind. Still, it’s a fun game for players looking for a different type of zombie game.
8. Dark Darker Darkest
While not as unique as Zombie States, Dark Darker Darkest feels different than other zombie survival games. In this one, players aren’t trying to hole up and defend themselves. They aren’t exploring a town looking for resources either. Nope, they find themselves entertaining a mansion of a mad scientist looking for the cure for the zombie apocalypse. This game has a Resident Evil feel to it, where players are dealing with a creepy old mansion filled with zombie monsters. Dark, Darker, Darkest features a lot of combat with the undead, in a mansion that’s not only outfitted with security cameras to mess with you but is being set on fire. If you are looking for a different kind of zombie game where the odds are stacked against you and you need to be a hero, than give Dark Darker Darkest a look.
Zpocalypse is a board game where players control a team of survivors who are trying to make it in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Each day, your team of survivors will head out from their shelter and try to scavenge for supplies, guns, ammo and other necessities. In addition to scavenging, each player will be working to upgrade and fortify their base, which will get you VPs at the end of the game. And, of course, no zombie game would be complete without some old-fashioned undead slaying, which Zpocalypse has plenty of. This squad level game has some interesting, if somewhat fiddly rules, but it definitely worth checking out.
6. Dead Panic
A while ago, we reviewed the cooperative board game Castle Panic. We found it to be a fun, if not simple, board game where players must work together to save their castle. The minds behind Castle Panic have recently released a follow-up title: Dead Panic. Using similar, but somewhat more complex rules, players in Dead Panic must work together to hold off the undead hordes attacking their cabin. Dead Panic utilizes the familiar card-based/ring-based combat system that will allow Castle Panic veterans to feel right at home. Also family friendly, Dead Panic is a good choice if you have some young kids at home who want to get in on the undead craze.
5. Dawn of the Zeds
Dawn of the Zeds, from Victory Point Games, is a game to play when you are on your own. A fantastic solo game, Dawn of the Zeds has players running a town while trying to survive in a zombie infested world. The player must deal with zombie incursions, supply and ammo shortages, and hopefully finding the cure for the infestation. Dawn of the Zeds definitely falls more towards the complex games on this list, but thankfully they have a nice tutorial scenario to help you get your feet wet. What this game lacks in eye-catching components it more than makes up for in solid and engaging game play. Check this one out for those times when it’s just you vs. the hordes.
4. City of Horror
City of Horror probably wins the award for the least amount of fighting in a zombie game. That is, of course, unless you count the bickering between players that will inevitably happen. City of Horror is a game about diplomacy, negotiation, and betrayal. The city has been overrun by zombies and the players are trying to hold out in various buildings long enough to be rescued. Each player will control 3-5 survivors and must try to keep them alive throughout the 4 hours of the night. Unfortunately, there is only so much space in a building and eventually someone will have to be tossed out to the increasing hordes. This is done, of course, via a voting process among your fellow survivors. Alliances will be formed…and feelings will likely hurt. Still, City of Horror is a whole lot of fun for a group looking for something different.
3. Last Night on Earth
Last Night on Earth is a scenario based, semi-cooperative game where each side is trying to complete their objectives. In Last Night on Earth, 1-2 players control the zombies while the rest control the human survivors. Unlike many of the zombie games out there, the hordes in Last Night on Earth aren’t brainless eating machines. Being controlled by an actual player makes them a lot smarter and harder to beat than your average zombie. Last Night on Earth has been one of the best zombie games out there for a long time, partially in thanks to its great production values and solid game play. The game also comes with a CD soundtrack for added, thematic enjoyment.
2. Carnival Zombie
If you were to take the zombie theme and dump it into a euro game, you might get something along the lines of Carnival Zombie. Not that that’s a bad thing mind you. In Carnival Zombie, players are in the city of Venice when a great leviathan decides to start attacking the city. Oh, and the hordes of the undead also decide this would be a good time to go brain hunting. The players must try to survive for 3 days as they work their way out of the city. The game plays over a series of day/night cycles where players fight off the undead hordes at night and move/stock-up/heal during the day. Once players make it to one of the several escape locations; the game changes into one of 4 different ending scenarios that play out completely different than the game up to that point. Completely dice less; Carnival Zombie is a lot of fun and highly strategic. Players will have to work together if they hope to survive this undead nightmare. Finally, the “pile of corpses” is one of the coolest mechanics I’ve seen in a zombie game. It really must be experienced.
1. Zombicide (review)
Zombicide has quickly become my go to game for all things zombie related. Whether you are looking for a game that is highly thematic or something that’s filled with non-stop action, Zombicide has you covered. In this cooperative game, each player takes on the role of a survivor and they must work together to accomplish the scenario’s objective. However, as the dead pile up and the players get stronger, but so do the zombies. Using a great spawning system, the zombie hordes get more numerous and tougher as the game goes on. By the end of the game, it’s not uncommon for there to be over 50 zombies on the board at once causing the players to run for their lives. If you are a fan of the video game Left 4 Dead, then I should point out that this game perfectly captures the essence of that great video game. Finally, the new Prison Outbreak and Toxic City Mall expansions also add a lot more depth to Zombicide, helping to make it our easy choice for the best zombie board game.
Finally, there are two up and coming zombie games that I’m pretty excited about and that will most likely be making their way on to an updated version of this list at some point. The first is Zombie 15′, our Kickstarter of the Week for 2/2/2014. It’s a real-time, zombie themed board game that plays in exactly 15 minutes. I’ve been excited about this one since I heard about it from IELLO at Gen Con 2013.
The second one is Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games. I’ve had my eye on this game for a while and am looking forward to its release. The game is due out in the next couple of months, but you can check out the rulebook now and pre-order it if you like.
There you have it, our Top Ten Zombie Board Games. Think we missed one? Let us know in the comments below.