Yep. That’s the intro for this review.
But Wait! There’s more!
You may or may not know, but @Farmerlenny recently went off and had a baby with his wife. I know, crazy, right? Anyways apparently this makes you tired and messes up your schedule. In order to keep things a-happenin’ around here, I decided to fill in the gaps and give Farmerlenny a break.
Thusly, so on, and forward, I’d like to introduce, for the first time ever, a guest reviewer for iSlaytheDragon!
@DM_Cadrach is a guy I’ve gamed with for most of my life. He introduced me to Heroclix, to Shadowrun, to Munchkin, to Pandemic. We play RPGs and board games almost weekly, and now he’s going to help fill in the gaps. I’ve had a few chances to play some games with him that me and @Farmerlenny just haven’t been able to fit in, so not only does this give Farmerlenny a breather, but we can get in some game reviews we might not have ever gotten to otherwise.
So, without further ado… the iSlaytheDragon Guest Nemesis Review of Last Night On Earth.
How it Works:
If you haven’t figured it out already, Last Night On Earth is a game about Zombies. Up to 6 players divide into 2 teams – 1 team controlling the zombies, the other team controlling 4 heroes. Teams alternate turns. Zombies stumble about, destroy buildings, groan a whole lot, and attempt to overwhelm and destroy the humans. Humans stumble about, searching for key items, fending off zombies with the closest available weapon (sometimes their bare hands), and trying to survive the night.
LNoE includes a variety of scenarios that provide different goals for the human team to accomplish. Sometimes it’s rescuing bystanders, sometimes it’s finding the keys and some gasoline so everyone can escape in the truck. There’s a manor to defend, and even a scenario where you just try to kill 15 zombies.
To assist them in their quest, humans can search buildings for items, such as weapons, useful tools (such as keys to unlock doors, or gasoline), or special abilities to help escape, or kill zombies, more easily. Zombies also have a deck of cards to draw from which block off buildings, allow zombies to move faster, rapidly add more zombies to the playing field, or create environmental effects to slow the humans down.
And of course, there is combat. While guns can be used separately (and from a safer distance), Zombies and humans fight when occupying the same square. The highest individual die roll wins that combat. Humans roll 2 dice and Zombies roll only 1; however, Zombies win on ties. Humans can take multiple wounds, while Zombies are only “fended” when out-rolled – in order to kill a Zombie, you have to roll doubles.
Humans win when they accomplish the goal of their scenario; Zombies win when they kill enough humans, or run out the turn tracker.
Last Night on Earth is perhaps the quintessential “Ameritrash” game. Layers of theme with a whole lot of dice-rolling.
Yes, dice-rolling. There’s no denying it; in LNoE, you live and die by the dice rolls. Sure, there are cards to play to outweigh that; and in many cases you can save yourself by running away or being more cautious (unless you’re the zombies; with unlimited reinforcements, there’s nothing but to send in the troops!), but you will end up in fights. You will win fights against all odds; you will lose fights when it seems like you have everything perfectly under control.
But you know what? That doesn’t bother me. Some dice games I find dull and repetitive, with little you can do to mitigate the luck if it goes against you. LNoE is all about the experience; an experience it captures perfectly, by the way.
Last Night on Earth brings you into the world of a zombie b-movie. It draws you in completely; as a human player, you are fighting desperately alongside your fellow survivors to make it out alive. As a zombie, you are thirsting for brains (and you can’t help but moan “Braaaaaaains!” as you shamble towards those tasty humans, overwhelming them with a horde of creatures…). You are in there, deep in the grime and the blood and the sweat. The fates of the dice rolls only add to this; how often in your favorite Zombie films do things take a sudden turn for the worse when all seems safe? Someone trips during an escape, someone makes too much noise, someone runs out of ammo. It’s all there, captured in this ridiculously epic experience.
I’ve rarely played through this game without things coming down to the wire. One side seems to pull ahead; but then the other rallies and makes a solid comeback. So many games have come down to a single die roll at the end; not that the rest of the game hasn’t mattered, but that things have ended up so neck-and-neck that survival depends on defeating 1 last zombie before making an escape; or killing that last human before their goal is achieved. It means that everyone stays involved the whole time; even if a hero dies (and becomes a Zombie Hero… terrifying…), that player gets to draw a new hero; a new hope for the human team.
The dynamic board is quick to setup, but creates different play areas with different buildings (and their abilities), different ways to run away, different safe spots. The cards are useful and sometimes humorous. One card, entitled “This Could Be Our Last Night On Earth,” causes two human players to lose a turn – if one is male and one is female, and they’re in the same space. It’s subtle but it’s a chuckle. And there are a variety of weapons with unique bonuses and a whole slew of useful and thematically sound cards you will encounter.
The combat mechanic, despite it’s basis on generally random luck, is actually pretty excellent. Because humans roll more dice, they have a better chance of rolling high than the zombie, but if they don’t roll doubles they just fend off the zombie temporarily, so the danger and tension is still there. Cards offer more dice to roll, killing zombies without doubles, and other bonuses that help the hurt along, but there’s still a balance there that works well.
If there’s one major complaint about this game, it’s the length. Most games last around 2 hours. I don’t think it’s inherently bad for a game to last a few hours long (after all, I play and enjoy Twilight Imperium…), but near the end of the game things start to feel like they’re dragging. The climax of the game is pretty much always great, but sometimes there’s a period of time trying to get there that feels too slow, and feels like the game should have ended 30 minutes ago. Still, if you prepare yourself for the time you’ll spend (and bring along a lot of snacks) you’ll be fine.
The production quality of the game is solid; with thick, sturdy cardboard, loads of plastic minis to represent zombies and heroes (and conveniently colorized so it’s easy to tell the difference), with a myriad of tokens not only for the included scenarios, but a few extras to throw in to do with as you please. Feel free to make up your own scenarios or include extra obstacles or bonuses. The art is also classic Flying Frog style, with heavily stylized photographic images that fit the theme well.
I will say that there are a few poorly worded cards that are somewhat unclear, and we’ve had some discussions as to what specifically happens when they are played. Frustrating, but rare.
If you don’t like zombies, you will not like Last Night on Earth. But if you’re looking for a classic zombie-movie experience, LNoE captures that feel extremely well. It’s length keeps it from being too regular at the gaming table, but it’s definitely one of our favorites.
Last Night on Earth has theme as thick as fog. Thick as fog concealing the shambling hordes of the undead to be precise. Set in a small town, the players will play as the zombies or the humans of a small town who one night look out their windows to see that they are knee deep in the walking dead.
While the game has pretty solid mechanics for accomplishing the various goals of the game (acquiring specific item cards, killing off the other team, etc) where it really shines is in its flexibility and ability to immerse you in a story unfolding in game art and flavor text. While the zombie player(s) have many… many… zombies at their disposal the human players control very few human survivors. Each human survivor has a specific model and a card with that particular survivors special ability or abilities, their name, a picture, and a thematically delicious catch phrase. With such a set up it is really easy to get a distinct image of a story unfolding with each move you make and each card played.
The game can run a little long for some, pushing the hour and a half to two hour mark, however, I’ve seen that time frame as oddly appropriate. What you really are getting out of this game is a movie. A good ol’ gory zombie flick full of all the near misses and devastating Romero-esque losses and really- getting to make those choice and feel the consequences- makes for a memorable game experience for the whole group without the almost overpowering story elements of other theme heavy games (like Android).
And in terms of the games flexibility, with the characters, the board, and even the goals randomized at the start the game has enormous replayability. And if that really wasn’t enough for you there plenty of expansions with extra optional rules, zombie abilities, character cards, and board tiles. And just for kicks Flying frog includes a host of tokens with the core game and each expansion that literally have NO rules attached to them. Once you understand the game’s basics it invites innovation and invention for your game group to really make the game your own, because at the end of the day Last Night on Earth is not about the dice or the cards or even the rules. It’s about Zombies.