What is it? A Zombie-infested road trip with dice rolling and bidding for turn order
The deets: 1-4 players, 30-60min
Designer: Martin Wallace
Publisher: Space Cowboys, Asmodee
Asmodee put Martin Wallace’s latest outing, Hit Z Road, front and center in their marketing push this Gen Con. Unfortunately, even I’m at the point where I hear about another Zombie game and I just kinda shrug.
Hit Z Road differentiates itself by portraying a race across the country to find an uninfected part of the world to live. It won’t be easy getting there, though, with limited resources and plenty of obstacles, mostly in the form of zombies, along the way.
Each leg of the journey will have four different paths you can take (assuming a 4 player game), and you’ll bid for priority to choose your path using your three resources: ammunition, gasoline, and… adrenaline? Maybe it’s supposed to be food, or something. Anyway.
When it comes to bidding, your resources are equal, but when you choose your path those things will come into play in different ways. Bullets give you the opportunity to shoot at zombies from a distance, which is good because then those zombies can’t eat your group of survivors. Adrenaline is useful in the middle of combat – it can help you kill extra zombies, and it might help more of your survivors survive. Gasoline can be used to drive on by the zombies on a card, although you will give up on points.
Each path has two cards. These cards provide resources, give you zombies to fight, and reward you with points if you manage to kill zombies. There are also special abilities, some good, some bad. They might give you an item that is useful later, or a location that requires an item (say, a map to find the hidden storage bunker) to score big points. Other abilities might hurt you or force you to spend extra resources to bypass.
The primary decision space lies in the bidding phase; once you choose your path, you’re just rolling dice against zombies and hoping you roll well. But choosing just how many resources you want to spend to get your first choice is everything. Perhaps uniquely, in this game once you pass you can actually still jump back in the bidding as long as at least one other person continues to bid. You don’t necessarily have to bid the highest, either. You mark your bids on a tracker, and if a space is open in, say, second place, you could jump on that for less of a cost than it would to be the pack leader.
This is a game that I think will need a full play through to appreciate (or really determine if it’s worth appreciating). We got a taste, but just one round felt a little random. It seems highly possible that a dour series of dice rolls could kill your game quickly, and rolling well could make the game a breeze. The dice are weighted towards success, so at least there’s that.
Early on, before you’ve used up your resources, it doesn’t feel so painful to spend bullets and adrenaline, but perhaps as the game goes on these things slowly drain away. You’ve also got the unique cards you want to collect and combine, so making sure to claim the path with the card you need might become altogether more important.
Worth mentioning is the graphic design of the components. You might not notice it immediately, but everything is designed to look as if it’s made out of junk and other found objects in a post-apocalyptic world. Player order tiles are represented by permanent marker scribbled on old credit cards and used nametags. Items are taped on to old metal bottlecaps. The decks of cards are pulled from other games like Ticket to Ride and taped over, so you’ll see hints of train cards and other recognizable elements. It’s pretty clever, and adds a whole lot to the experience.
Hit Z Road should be available as we speak, so if it sounds cool to you, shamble on over to your friendly local gaming store and eat brains… I mean, pick up a copy.