Zombies!!! A Look at the 2001 Award-Winning Zombie Board Game

Photo Credit: Brendan Jesus

Anyone who is into games, video or board, has games from their childhood that were formative in their love for them. For me, as much as I love video games, board games were really my first foray into a new consumption for horror. Every Monday, I would go to my aunts’ house and search through her endless amounts of games from Bang!, to Ticket to Ride, to the insanely fun Z-Man B Movie Card Game, and so on. These weren’t your Monopolies, these weren’t your Candylands, these were legit games that required some thought and tactfulness. Out of all of the board games growing up, there was one that always caught my attention…the one I think about weekly: Zombies!!!.

Zombies!!! wasn’t your typical game, in fact, it was quite bare-bones. This 2001 Origins Award winner for Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game, was a simple, but ultimately effective, tile-based strategy horror game that was as fun as it was chaotic. Turn after turn, the tilemap would become more overrun with zombies, fun locations, bullets, and hearts. Each new tile was a whole new possibility to tell the story of this sad little town that has been taken over by the undead. One of the things that drew me to this game was how it made me think critically. While the locations are random, due to the shuffled tile deck, it was important to keep your bearings straight.

The starting move of a round of Zombies!!! where the first tile card is placed after the town square
Photo Credit: Brendan Jesus

At the beginning of your turn, a whole new set of challenges can be presented to you. You start by selecting a tile from the top of the deck. Once selected, you will place the tile adjacent to an open street card. If there is a named location on the card you will place down the amount of hearts and bullets requested, as well as the number of zombies. If there is no named location, you will put down as many zombies as there are road access points. There are two dice, one is used for character movement, one is used for zombie movement. This is where some critical thinking has to come into play. When you roll the zombie movement die, you get to decide which zombies move where. You can box in your opponent, move zombies from critical heart or bullet tokens, or even move the zombies in your direction!

See the whole point of the game is to either collect 25 zombies or be the first one to clear out the helipad and escape. So it may be worthwhile to try and make your way to the helipad if you are close, but if you are close to having killed 25 zombies, it may be a better tactic to use your zombie movement roll to move zombies closer to you so you can dispatch them faster than your opponent. While the game may look simple, there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Be careful, though, because at any point someone can throw out an Event Card! These cards can be used at any time once per round. These cards range from the “Fear” card, where you can target a player and they cannot move the next round, to cards like the “Much Needed Rest” card, which sacrifices your movement roll for that turn, but you gain two extra health.

A look at the gas station and florist shop cards, just two of the many locations chock full of the undead
Photo Credit: Brendan Jesus

Going back to the beginning, I want to get down to why I wanted to do a retrospective of this game. Why does this random 2001 horror tile game deserve an article? For as long as I can remember throughout my formative teen years, zombies were my go-to subgenre. Shaun of the Dead was on repeat constantly and I read Max Brook’s The Zombie Survival Guide every single week in high school. It was obvious from that point that I needed to peruse something horror-related in life, but that is beside the point. One of my favorite things to do was to “borrow” a small oak tree’s worth of graph paper from math class, and endlessly create floor plans for a zombie-proof house in the middle of the woods.

There are probably 40 to 50 zombie scripts I have written, most of them blindingly similar in content, that have been lost to the trashcans of my high school. I would use these graph paper zombie-proof houses as the base for these stories, and then I would use the card from this zombie tile game to map out the structure of my script and where my survivors would go. Zombies!!! quickly became an integral part of my life, and helped me create when my mind was just not able to focus on school at all. I constantly had zombie ideas running through my head, and a lot of that is because of this wonderful game that Twilight Creations published.

You're almost there! The green character is just a few moves away from reaching the helipad to win the game
Photo Credit: Brendan Jesus

So to answer the question posed two paragraphs ago, the point of bringing a game like this back into the light is due to the effect it had on me, and, presumably, many other people. It’s simple things like a board game with your family or a zombie survival guidebook that can help someone realize what they truly want to do in life. Sure, I probably would have found my path eventually, but Zombies!!! was such a deeply formative part of that process that I don’t know if I could be where I am today without its presence in my life.

Yeah, the game is fun. Extremely fun. It’s great, now as an adult, to have a beer with my roommates, whip it out, and play a round or two, but on top of that, it holds so much nostalgia in my life. Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the extension packs! While I have not played the 17 expansions, or the three spinoff games, just Zombies!!! alone can bring so much joy and exciting gameplay. If you are a fan of zombies and a fan of board games, you really can’t go wrong with picking a copy of this up for your next gameday. Hell, grab an extension or two while you’re at it!

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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