Zombie State : Diplomacy of the Dead Review

Zombie State : Diplomacy of the Dead Review is an interesting board game that has players controlling continental nations in a battle to end the Zombie plague.  The game starts out in catastrophe and keeps getting worst, with players having to decide which countries to sacrifice to conserve limited resources and actions.  Zombie State is a fun game that takes just a little too long; but still worth trying out.

Appearance:  Okay, this is my largest gripe about Zombie State.  It has one of the worst graphics I’ve ever seen on a board game.  The world map is horrendously designed; with colours that are hard to read and worst to look at; while the rulebook looks like a first year Graphic Design Student knocked it out.  It’s bad.  The only saving graces  are that the quality of the components are great (the tanks/armies are cute) and the well thought out player aid.  That’s about it.

Rules/Ease of Learning: Zombie State is broken into a few different phases in each turn – starting from receiving resources & actions (known as Freedom Points); random events, the Zombie Action Phase, Player Action Phase & Upkeep Phase.   Of those, the meat of the game is in the Zombie & Player Action Phases.

An interesting take on the action points is the ‘Popularity Track’.  As players lose regions; they remove the dice that indicate the population of that region onto their player aid Popularity Track.  The track indicates the number of actions a player gets a turn as well as the number of armies they can draft.  So, as players lose more regions, their options reduce.

In the Zombie Action Phase, the Zombies Eat, Move & then Fight in that order.  Eating is relatively simple – one Zombie token eats one population and creates another Zombie.  Movement is more complicated; with Zombies moving towards the highest population regions first in groups.  However, not all Zombies move together; 3 then 2 then 1 to regions with populations of descending amounts.   At which point Combat occurs; with armies and zombies canceling each other out.

In the Player Action Phase; players can research technology; generate new resources, create and move armies and use any technologies that are appropriate.  The focus of a the player’s decisions are here – which technologies to research, where to build armies and whether to move or fortify the armies, what regions to evacuate or abandon if possible.

It’s worth noting that because players fight zombies; they have almost no direct interaction with other players.  Most of the interaction is via deciding how to deal with the zombie movement, mostly by channeling the zombies into another player’s region.  However, you can’t send armies into another region nor can you ‘steal’ resources.

In the last phase; the mutation markers move ahead.  Acting as a game timer and a zombie mutation & outbreak timer; the mutation track just makes things worst for everyone continually.

Overall, the game takes about 10 minutes to teach.  None of the rules are particularly complicated for a gamer; though there are quite a few details.  The hardest part to learn / understand is the numerous technologies that are available and how zombie movement occurs.

Gameplay: Zombie State is fun to play.  In the beginning, the game starts out with zombies in 2 regions and multiplying.  It just gets worst as the next turn, another outbreak occurs and in 2 more turns, another outbreak.  Within a few rounds, you have multiple zombie outbreaks that are chewing through your population.

Of course, you only have a limited number of resources; so you have to decide to either slow down the zombie plague by sacrificing expensive units or focus on researching technologies to win.  Stay focused on or the other path too much though and you’ll end-up over-run by the zombies.  The crux of the game is figuring out when to switch between the two paths.

Like any other good game; there’s a lot of choices but unfortunately, there might just be too many in Zombie State.  Between analyzing where the Zombies are moving; the decisions on the technology track and the allocation of armies on the board; the beginning few rounds are slow.  Players are all engaged during this period for the most part; but after 3 – 4 hours players begin to wear down.  While the later game is faster as there are fewer actions and fewer regions to concern yourself about; by this time player fatigue is catching up.

Lastly, there’s a bit of a  problem with player elimination.  After 2 – 3 hours; its certainly possible to see who the winner (or potential winners) are.  Quite often, there’s a few players in the lead and the others are stuck behind, either due to bad luck or bad decisions.  Unfortunately, there’s still at least another hour or two left of gameplay at this point; and while there’s still a lot of fun left, it is a bit of a let-down for the players stuck behind since there’s really no way to turn it around completely.

Conclusion:  Zombie State is a lot of fun; don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a Risk game as players aren’t fighting each other, instead they are combating zombies.  On the other hand, the game does suffer from a high play length and player elimination.  It’s still a game I’d keep in my collection to take out once in a while.