Ok, I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for the Dice Tower videos. Their opinions hold a great deal of influence over my board game decisions. If it looks good and it got a Dice Tower "Seal of Excellence," chances are high that it will end up on my wish list. Or worse yet, my shopping cart. It is for this reason that my wife probably wishes I'd stop listening to their reviews on YouTube.
Like all of you gamers out there, I am drawn to certain mechanisms in games more than others. In particular, I enjoy rolling dice. Growing up, I liked playing Yatzee with my aunt, so games where dice play in a similar fashion are among those I am most interested in. When I saw that Sam Healy, a former Dice Tower employee in whose gaming tastes I find many similarities to my own, had done a top ten dice rolling games, I HAD to watch it! Plus, I wanted to hear him say, "Bang: The Dice Game."
Some of the games Mr. Healy mentioned were those that I owned- the aforementioned Bang, as well as King of Tokyo. However, he mentioned a few others that stole my attention and had me fixated. Perhaps none so much as a zombie-killing game called Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded.
Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded is a revamped version of the original game by Richard Launius,
published by Grey Fox Games.
Now, I am typically NOT a zombie fan. I don't really enjoy zombie movies or television shows, and, up to that point, I had no zombie games in my collection. Still, the game itself seemed fun and the art wasn't overly grotesque. So, just as if I had a lumbering zombie shuffling toward me, I pulled the trigger, so to speak.
How To Play
Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded uses the Yatzee mechanic. That is, after you roll the dice, you may set aside the ones you wish to keep and then re-roll those you don't want an additional two times. But this is NOT Yatzee. In Yatzee, players only attempt to get poker-like results and things aren't trying to kill you.
Each player will choose a character and grab his/her accompanying board. Players will also receive a zombie board divided into three zones. This represents the hordes of the undead slowly, but steadily moving their way towards your character. Character boards should be placed below the zombie board signifying their approach to the characters. At the beginning of the game, players will place two zombie figures in "Zone 1," three in "Zone 2," and finally four minis in "Zone 3."
Zombie boards come with three zones. The dice results shown in the zone
represent what the players need to roll to finish off a zombie occupying that space.
The game includes four decks of cards- two smaller-sized and two standard-sized. Each of these decks serves a specific purpose. The "Loot" deck provides helpful items for dealing with zombies such as chainsaws and shotguns, but also includes items to help you heal and re-roll some dreaded results. Before the game begins, each player starts with one of these oh-so-important items at random.
The Loot deck under a zombie board.
Examples of the sweet loot you can find!
We're not quite ready to play, as we have to shuffle our first standard-sized deck- "Followers." These represent people that you find as you make your way out of the zombie-infested town. Sometimes these followers will help you on your journey. Most of the time, however, they will be an impediment to you, luring additional brain-eaters to your board or providing some other unwanted effects. But making it out of town alive is only part of the game. If you make it out, you want to make sure you have secured more points than your fellow survivors, and followers give you precious points. And, to make it more interesting, the followers that make your journey more difficult are worth the most points while the most beneficial followers only come along with a single point.
How do you make it out of town? By finding the "Town Line" in the "Location" deck. This desirable card will be among the bottom of the deck, and the more players around the table, the more location cards will be heaped like corpses on top of it.
Location cards have both negative and positive effects. You will want to only do
the positive, which requires three maps rolled.
The final deck is the other with small cards. This is the "Mutant Zombie" deck, and as long as the Mutant is awake, players will be drawing a card that is sure to bring agonizing terror and pain to you. He might load your board with more zombies, push zombies closer to you, gain more health, and even attack violently. Players will want to deal with the Mutant as quickly as possible, but deadly dice rolls and zombie boards bloated with the undead can make that a futile endeavor.
Mutant Zombie deck and a few examples of his dastardly ways.
Wrapping up the set-up requires easy access to leadership, Mutant Zombie health, and wound tokens.
Leadership, Mutant Zombie health, and wound tokens.
A Good Day to Dice
Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded comes with six dice. These are quite large and make a great sound rattling around in your hand. But these dice are not be-speckled with pips, but unique artwork that show the player what he or she will be allowed to do when the dice have spoken.
- Bat symbol- No, not THAT bat symbol, but a literal baseball bat. Keeping this result allows the player to kill two zombies in zone one. This is a great result when the horde is breathing down your neck, and rolling three or four when your zone one is crowded with non-social-distancing zombies is a great feeling. However, rolling a bat when your zone one is void of the undead is worthless and you just hate giving up a dice roll.
- Gun symbol- A gun is far more efficient than a bat, but it isn't as effective. Sure you can kill a zombie in any zone (or you may choose to shoot the Mutant Zombie instead), but only one. The gun is more versatile, but not as deadly.
- Run symbol- Oh, the run symbol. This allows you to push a zombie back one zone. If you decide to push a zombie from zone three, you can do one of two things: play nice and put the figure back in the reserve, or play as truly intended and plop that walking corpse on the zone three of the neighbor to your left. If you do choose to play with the mean/correct way, this is the only deliberate player interaction the game has.
- Backpack symbol- Ending with a backpack result has different meanings depending on how many you keep. Ending your rolls with one backpack allows you to take the top card from the loot deck, which is beneficial in a tough spot. However, keeping two backpacks gives you the ability to take the top card in the "Followers" deck. This could bring a helpful ability your way, or it could be a painful (but potentially point profitable) inconvenience as you seek that town line. If you manage to keep three (or more) backpacks, you may draw the top two Follower cards and choose to keep one while discarding the other.
- Map symbol- These results are how you get through that Location deck and find the Town Line. Each location card has a bad result and a good result. Which result you fulfill depends upon how many maps you roll. One map forces you to draw a location card and do only the bad result. Rolling two map symbols requires fulfilling the bad result first and then the good result. If you somehow manage to keep three or more maps, you resolve only the good result. Rolling one is terrible, but it does whittle down the location deck and gets you one step closer to that all-important sanctuary of Town Line.
- Zombie symbol- These are most feared result of all six sides! Not only are you unable to re-roll a zombie result, you also must load that many more figures on your zone three when you end your turn.
Very nice dice. The colors work well with the overall art scheme.
Optimism: Seeing the Corpse as Half-Alive
Zombie results are painful, but there is a bright side. Potentially. Each character has a unique set of combos that are only triggered when you roll a certain combination of dice, including zombie results. These combos, which come in minor, major, and super, are unique for each character, so who you choose is definitely important. My personal favorite, the Army Vet, has weak minor and major combos, including using two zombie results and a gun result to kill two zombies instead of one, but his super combo is quite powerful- the zombies in zone one will not advance AND you are able to kill every zombie in any zone of your choice.
The base game comes with five characters. If you want more options, you'll have to pick up
the 5/6 player expansion. It provides two new characters with very different combos.
These combos come in handy in a bind, and it does offer some relief from rolling a plethora of zombie results. In fact, I've seen players, when in a tough situation, actually TRY to roll a zombie in order to execute a special ability that will help them in the short term. Surviving to the next round is worth having a few extra zombies to deal with later. Perhaps it is a little like stealing-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul, but it can give you some momentary breathing room and can ease the burden for a turn or two while you accumulate items to help eliminate your zombie foes and hope for better results from those fickle, fickle dice.
All characters come with three combos of varying strength- the stronger it is, the more zombies it takes.
On the back of every character card is a little something to help you better understand your character.
It is absolutely unnecessary, but it is fun nonetheless.
Each player must deal with three phases during his or her turn: Action Phase, Mutant Phase, and the Advance Zombies Phase.
- In the Action Phase, a player will roll his or her dice deciding which results to keep and which to re-roll. Once the player is satisfied, or after rolling a total of three times, the results are fulfilled. Players may also use any loot cards they have previously accumulated.
- Once applicable, the Mutant Zombie will take his turn. The player will draw the next card from the top of the Mutant Zombie deck. This card will have some diabolical consequence for that player and perhaps every player depending on the card drawn. This phase only occurs if the Mutant is awakened through a negative result on a location card or a player rolling five or more zombie results (which has never happened in a game I've played).
- The undead will creep forward in the Advance Zombies Phase. Zombies will shuffle down one zone. If any zombies make their way onto your character board, you will take an equal amount of damage- one wound for each zombie who has reached you. If you have a follower, you may allocate the damage to that person instead of yourself. After moving zombies one zone down, players will place three new zombies in their zone three plus one for each zombie result rolled during the turn.
Once a player has successfully completed all three phases and remains alive, play passes to the left.
A basic two-player game set up.
The end of the game will occur when one of three things happen: the Mutant Zombie is out of life, the Town Line has been discovered, or when a player bites the dust. Whichever occurs first, the game is instantly over and the player who has the most points, determined by the amount of health you have left plus points on the back of Mutant Zombie and leadership tokens as well as the awarded amount any follower gives, is the winner. If the end is triggered by one of the players becoming one of the infected, that player is also eliminated from victory. The remaining players will total up points alone. If you're playing a two-player game, the lone survivor would be the victor.
The Mutant Zombie in all his fearsome glory! A miniature would be better, but I didn't know about
Kickstarter back then. Oh, well.
This is what you will be searching for in the location deck- the all-important Town Line.
There is quite a bit to like about this game. It is a dice game that works well with two players. Other favorites of mine in this genre include the aforementioned Bang: The Dice Game and King of Tokyo. To adequately play Bang, you will need five players minimum. The box might say three, but you lose much of what makes that game so great. King of Tokyo does allow for a two-player game, but it ends up being a luck fest. Who can make it into Tokyo first and hold on.
Since there is little player interaction in this game, unlike King of Tokyo, it works well at two players. It's quick, but engaging. It allows players to problem solve on their own on how they are going to manage their predicament. Nice players can offer suggestions to others, but it is not required. Personally, I get invested in the other participants of the game. Do I want to win? Sure, but it's a better game, to me, when I'm looking out for the others as well.
Despite the zombie theme, the art is well done. It's just cartoony enough to not be macabre. This isn't The Walking Dead or a George A. Romero zombies- it's more akin to Thriller zombies, upbeat and colorful with a pinch of horror. You do get a sense of anxiety as wave after wave of the living dead inch closer and closer to you. A half-dozen or more zombies sitting in your zone one, their acrid breath steaming like fog, can make things quite tense. Ah, but that is enjoyable in this game!
The zombie figures are bright and comical. Which suits me just fine!
There is an unexplainable enjoyability in this game when you pull off the perfect maneuver and clear out an entire zone of zombies just when it appeared you were ankle deep in your own grave. Getting those dice to fall the right way at the right time brings a smile of relief, shouts of joy, and a moment to wipe the sweat away. You'll deal with the extra undead later. For now you're alive and ecstatic!
The Not-So Good
When it comes to the balance of whether this game is alive and fresh or a rotting corpse, the scale definitely swings more to the living side of things. It is not, however, perfect.
Set up takes a significant amount of time. I have my tokens stored away in small containers I purchased at the Dollar Tree which helps in set up and tear down, but you will still be required to properly prepare the Location deck, and shuffle the other three. Those small decks don't shuffle easily, either.
There seems to be a lack of variety in the followers you will find on the cards. The deck seems to be littered with "Infected So-and-So" who are consistently adding extra zombies to your board and come with the caveat that, if they die, they become a zombie in your zone one. True, they have different names and artwork, but it would have been nice to see a bit more creativity. The same can be said for cards in the other decks as well.
Some followers are definitely better than others. The rule is- the more they help you in the game,
the less points they are worth.
Good outcomes on Location cards can be ho-hum, and it seems unfair to continually draw wound cards from the Mutant deck each turn. I've played games where I've drawn, in successive turns: "Take a Wound," "Take a Wound," and "Take Two Wounds." This wouldn't be quite so bad if you didn't have five health. I did still manage to win that game somehow.
I won't really focus on luck, because I truly believe there is just as much luck in drawing cards as rolling dice. And while it sometimes doesn't seem so, I think that the luck of dice eventually evens out.
Boards will be filled with zombies. There are over seventy-five in this pile, and we've
come very close to running out of figurines in a four-player game.
There is a solo mode, which I believe would be interesting to try out, but it only available for purchase. It does not come in the box. That is definitely a bummer.
Run, Fight, or Die offers players an incredibly fun, tense, and fulfilling experience. The artwork isn't going to cause nightmares to those with younger family members, and the colors are comic book-y fun. Rolling the custom dice is entertaining and the fact that even when you get a handful of zombie results you can try for one of your combos makes it a nice compensation. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this game is that my wife loves it. She doesn't like the theme and she doesn't like complicated games (and she would consider this complicated), but Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded is one of her absolute most-requested favorites. To me, that speaks volumes loud enough to wake the dead.
Despite the theme, this game is surprisingly family friendly.
+ Good even at two-player count
+ Colorful, not grotesque artwork
+ Unique characters/character combos
+ Provides opportunities for problem solving
+ My wife loves it! (Personal, but applicable)
- Lack of variety in the cards
- Set up can be time consuming
- Solo mode not included
What To Look For Next: A Spotlight on Terrier Games, Electronic Elements in Board Games
Since I started my journey in modern board games I fell in love with the push your luck mechanic. There's something about chucking dice and making tactical or strategical decisions with the outcome. Another one that has been a favorite with all the groups I've played with is Celestia. Which I also got based on a review by Sam Healy (miss his reviews in the dice tower). Awesome post and awesome game by an awesome reviewer!!ReplyDelete