Publisher: Victory Point Games
Game Designer: Hermann Luttmann
Artwork: Clark Miller, Tim Allen
Ages: 13 & up
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $65
The dead walk among us
There are a lot of zombie games available today, some would say too many and to an extent I agree. Few of these games last for long, shambling into obscurity as the butt of a joke or a wince of regret from those who bought them. However, some not only last but continue to evolve and rise to the pinnacle of the genre because they are fun and highly replayable, one of those that is consistently singled out as the go-to solitaire zombie game is Dawn of the Zeds from Victory Point Games.
Where others see the escapist shlock horror of zombies as merely a theme to paste onto some mechanics, Hermann Luttmann has given the theme respect and designed a more serious game of managing the defense of a town beset by the undead that is a hell of a lot of fun. The game has graduated from Ziploc bag to the famous VPG pizza box and is now gearing up for its best treatment yet with a 3rd Edition.
No longer is the game a solitary only experience; in Zeds 3 the game has realized its full potential with an updated scaling rules system stuffed with goodness for both solitaire and true cooperative play along with a versus mode for those sympathetic to the zombie cause.
If you’ve thought about getting Dawn of the Zeds before but missed out when it went out of print earlier this year, now is the time to jump in and join in the defense of Farmingdale in the games best version yet. The Kickstarter project has only 24 hours to go, so do not miss out!
What’s in the box?
The beta version of Dawn of the Zeds that I received for preview is nearly complete but the rules continue to be refined and developed while the art and components are definitely production quality at this stage. Unlike their other titles, this time Victory Point Games will use an outside professional printing company to produce Zeds 3, giving us a mounted game board along with die cut counters. I applaud their decision to take this game to the next level, it definitely deserves a little special treatment and it’s going to get it thanks to the support of nearly 1,200 backers and counting!
Fans of those wonderfully sooty laser cut tokens can still add those onto their pledge, so if you love their in-house counters like I do, grab them because these new tokens are bigger, beefier and sexier with some phenomenal art that surpasses the look of the previous editions by a long shot.
Farmingdale must be saved!
Dawn of the Zeds has been a staple of solitaire zed slayers everywhere; it’s the bar by which other zombie games are measured and with the 3rd Edition, Victory Point Games raises that bar even higher.
Have no fear Zedheads, VPG hasn’t reimagined this version like Lucas ruining a cantina shootout; they wouldn’t mistreat the fans of their second highest selling game in that way. What we get here is a completely reorganized ruleset, broken down into self-contained modules that build on each other, letting you learn at your own pace through the school of hard knocks at Farmingdale. This new approach streamlines the learning curve considerably, getting you into the game quickly and making the game more appealing to a wider audience while adding several new treats along the way.
You start with the basic game which covers the main mechanics of movement and combat, Event and Fate cards with only action points and ammunition being tracked in this mode while the infection rate and supplies are not. This is a quick game that stands very well on its own and plays in about 30-45 minutes; it is a perfect first step for the newcomer or for a quick game when you’re short on time.
While this mode is easy to learn, it’s still provides quite a challenge. The 16 event cards you’ll battle through in the basic game activate Zeds on multiple tracks numerous times, putting a lot of pressure on you quickly. These Event and Fate cards will test your mettle in both solitaire and the new cooperative mode, which adds simple but deadly effective mechanics to the game.
The new coop rules in 3rd Edition are both fun and all-inclusive, unlike the optional coop rules in the 2nd Edition that could leave some players idle on a turn depending on action points allowed. Now every player controls their own hero unit, gaining a separate player action for their character that stacks with the actions from Event cards. This builds an action point pool that can be used by any or all players and NPC units, giving the group wider latitude in their joint decision making.
To counterbalance this, coop mode adds two new Zeds mechanics; the Zeds Placement Pressure and Zeds Movement Pressure which produce more zombies than a happy pair of bunnies in your garden. Zeds Placement Pressure adds the extra Zeds to different tracks while Zeds Movement Pressure advances them towards the Town Center, both can happen separately or together and can really ruin your day.
The amount of Zeds placed is decided by the number of players in the game minus one, so for a four player game, this means three new Zeds units are placed and/or moved. When these cards start hitting, the tracks can spiral out of control quickly, creating Zed mobs of two Zed units together where their strength values combine!
What makes the ZMP and ZPP rules so effective is that the situation can go south really fast with Zeds overloading tracks that you had under control just a turn ago. I love these new additions because they really ratchet up the tension and induce a feeling of despair that even the 2nd Edition didn’t evoke in this manner. Well done Victory Point Games!
While the ZMP and ZPP are meant for cooperative play, they also work very well in solitaire mode for those wanting an additional challenge. If you’re finding the game a little too easy for your liking but aren’t ready to move on to the next level of rules, adding in the coop rules is an excellent way to expand your solo gaming experience.
Another neat little addition that starts with the basic game and is built on with the following advanced rules is the saving roll. When a civilian unit takes its final hit, you roll to see if that unit goes to the hospital where it can be healed over the course of the game or fails and is off to the cemetery for the long dirt nap. So even in defeat, there’s still a chance to keep that unit alive, barely.
Not only do we get the familiar hero units from before but a whole host of new ones have been added including some new town folk, Heroic Civilians. Heroic civilian units, like the vets from the local VFW or a team of roller derby girls, pledge their support in the defense of Farmingdale offering their own unique skills and strategic uses. These units help to further flesh out the overall cinematic feel this game brings to the table, as if you are truly part of a mixed team charged with the town’s defense in a bitter battle against the undead.
Once you’ve mastered the basic game, you can build on that foundation with the other modules that add a few new rules each step of the way, building to the full, horrifying experience of the final stage, the Director’s Cut. Veteran players will feel right at home with the 3rd Edition and will be thrilled with the new additions.
Not only do the rules build with each additional module but so do the Event and Fate cards, introducing new and terrifying consequences, events and actions that ramp up the difficulty in a gradual manner. Deck construction is more easily explained this time with an improved layout as well.
The versus mode is new and still being tweaked but shows great promise for groups who have a nefarious player to take the reins, directing anti-hero and anti-civilian units to actively undermine the units defending Farmingdale.
Should I back it?
Absolutely! If you’re like me and love a zombie game that is not only a challenge but offers a unique and gripping narrative each time you play, you’re going to love the 3rd Edition of Dawn of the Zeds. It’s the same game we already know and love but greatly improved with some new mechanics, options and a much easier to learn rules layout that is far less intimidating and fiddly than previous editions. Newcomers to the Zeds family are going to get up to speed very quickly.
Backing Dawn of the Zeds gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me because the best solitaire zombie experience has gotten better. The learning curve for the game has been eased dramatically, making it as smooth to ingest as it is for the Zeds to devour the villagers of Farmingdale. The new rule additions and the inclusion of a true coop and versus modes, allow players to customize how deep they want to go in their zombie apocalypse experience, having fun every deadly, dreadful step of the way. Victory Point Games said they wanted to give gamers a new edition of Zeds that would earn them a seat at the big table for Thanksgiving dinner at BGG CON with this Kickstarter, well, we better let Aldie know that he needs to add another place setting at the big table.
Dawn of the Zeds is a straight up winner, so jump in and join the fight to save Farmingdale with me in these last 24 hours. The citizens are counting on you!
Company Website: http://www.victorypointgames.com
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VictoryPointGames
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/VPGame
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.