World War Z is a fantastic book by Max Brooks. It reads as a bit of a documentary about life after a the great zombie war. It’s a fantastic story and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who likes alternate reality fiction.
This month the World War Z movie also makes its way to the big screen for your zombie killing enjoyment. A true summer blockbuster movie, it has little to do with the Max Brooks book other than the name. I haven’t seen it so I can’t tell you if the movie is any good or not. What the movie did do was inspire the World War Z board game. Is World War Z: The Game a cheap movie tie in or does it have the depth to stand on its own? Read on to find out.
World War Z is a cooperative, area control game for 2-4 players that will play in about 45 minutes. The game plays best with any number of players.
What do you get when you take a little bit of Pandemic and mix it with some Zombie States? You get the inspiration for World War Z: The Game. In World War Z, players are soldiers trying to hold back the every increasing zombie hordes. Each turn a player will move around the globe, equip weapons and battle the zombies. Through the use of some combat cards and lucky die rolls, they will work together to keep the invasion in check. If they can hold them off for long enough they will win the game.
Sigh…OK. I had some high hopes for World War Z. Well maybe not high, but at least mid level. Unfortunately the components in World War Z are fairly disappointing. With the game you get a large game board that represents a map of the world. The map is color coded into different regions to aid in movement and zombie battling during the game. This is probably my favorite component in the game. It does remind me a little of Pandemic’s game board, which isn’t a bad thing. However, things go downhill from there.
University Games has forgone using the standard miniatures for their board game and instead went with generic plastic pawns (to represent the players) and round, cardboard tokens to represent the zombie hordes. Why they felt the need to take board gaming back a decade is beyond me. If I had to take a guess it was to control the cost of the game. Still, after playing many different games with zombie minis, this feels like a cop out. I would have really liked to see some miniatures to represent both sited. The game feels somewhat incomplete with what we have instead.
The game also includes some color coded dice and 2 decks of cards. While the cards do include some images from the movie, they unfortunately are made of cheap quality card stock and probably won’t hold up long to repeated play.With some Kickstarter titles going all out with their components, World War Z is put to shame with what’s included in the box.
How To Play:
Game play in World War Z is pretty easy and I’m guessing it might have been simplified to appeal to the mass market. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just not overly deep.
After setup, each player will take their turn in a clockwise manner until the round marker reaches the end of the progress track. Turns play as follows:
1. Move – Move your pawn to an adjacent region or spend one of the aircraft tokens to go anywhere.
2. Equip – Players may equip up to 2 weapon cards. These cards give you bonuses in combat and are also your hit points.
3. Battle – This is the heart of the game. The human player always rolls a six-sided die for combat. After they roll, they add in any bonuses from combat cards or roles. The horde will then roll a die based on their strength (d6, d8, d10 or d12). If the player’s roll equals or beats the zombie roll, then they win the battle and the horde strength is reduced by 1. They can then battle again, using the hordes new, lower die, until it’s destroyed or they choose to stop. If they lose a battle, they must discard a combat card. If a player ever runs out of combat cards they die and become a zombie player.
I should also point out that if a player wins at least 1 battle on their turn, they may draw a new combat card (only 1 per turn).
4. Escalate – The player draws a threat card and, most likely, zombie hordes on the map will be increased somewhere.
After that, the next player takes their turn in the same manner. The game ends after a predetermined number of rounds (based on the amount of players). If at the end of the last round, there are 10 or fewer hordes of strength 3 or 4 then the players win.
I went into World War Z with what I’d describe as cautious optimism. The subject matter makes for a pretty easy game (there are about a million zombie themed games out there already), but I was also wary because it’s easy to throw out a licensed game and bank on the source material to sell it.
World War Z probably falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum for me. The game itself is not bad, but it also is not very deep. The majority of the game comes down to playing your combat cards and rolling a die. If you like a game with randomness, then you will really enjoy World War Z. For me, it was a little hard to stay excited during the game. I felt very limited by the actions on my turn. If I went to an area with weak hordes, they would be easily killed and then my turn felt a little wasted. However, I didn’t feel like I could take on the tough hordes until I drew the better weapon cards. Plus, a few bad die rolls will get your character close to death. At that point all you can do is battle weak hordes until your cards have been replenished. With only 6-8 rounds a in a game, it feels dumb to have to spend a few turns building back up your weapon cards.
Speaking of weapon cards, I was a little disappointed in the variations of them. There were maybe 10 different cards in the whole deck and I would have liked to see more variety. I liked the differences in some of the weapons and some of the tactics cards were great, but you will pretty quickly see the same cards over and over.
The turns in World War Z are a bit of a double edge sword. They rules are simple enough that anyone can play the game, but they also will suffer from repetition. There will also not be a lot of variation on what you do on your turn. Move, roll, draw. The dice rolling and randomness do add a bit of tension to the game, but it also can feel somewhat anti-climatic, especially with the mediocre components. It’s hard to get excited about killing a round token with a number on it.
The other issue I have is with the game is the randomness of the game end. We had one game pretty well in hand, but on the final turn we drew a card the increased all the hordes in a continent by 2. That pulled us from squarely from the winning threshold to instantly losing, all due to one unlucky card draw. We all felt that ending was really cheap and a dumb way to lose. If you are going to play World War Z you have to accept that moments like that will happen.
The good news is World War Z is not a long game. You can get a game in 30-40 minutes easily. The short play time makes a game with a lot of randomness a lot easier to stomach. If World War Z took 2 hours to play I’d be much more angry at losing on the last card draw.
What I really think World War Z is then, is a filler game with some larger components. The strategy isn’t going to be deep enough to sustain very many plays, but the easiness of the game’s rules makes it very accessible. This is a game you can easily play with your non-gamer friends and I think that was the goal of the publisher. I think this may also be a good game to play with someone with younger kids. As I have no little ones running around, I was not able to test this theory. But anyone who has seen the movie can pick up this game and get a decent game experience. For board game veterans who have already cut their teeth on Pandemic and Zombicide, I feel like this game will not hold their attention for more than a play or two. World War Z is a game with a lot of mass market appeal and probably not aimed at fans of “designer board games.”
What really holds the game back for me though is the low quality components. The publisher did a good job of making the game affordable, but they clearly sacrificed some quality to do it. So while World War Z is far from a bad game, it will probably not be much more than a filler game on your tabletop. If you are a big fan of the movie or looking for something other than Martian Dice and Guillotine to be your next filler game, then it’s worth checking out. For anyone looking for a deeper game play experience, there are hordes of other similar themed games you’ll enjoy more. Pun intended.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $26
Final Score: 1.5 Stars – Could have used a bit more depth and much better components. Clearly a movie cash in.
• Components could use a major upgrade
• To much randomness
• Repetitive game play
• Not much variation in the cards