By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
— Since Dominion proved to be such a popular game, deck building as a genre has been created and is ever expanding. The challenge has been for game creators to come up with something fresh that would make the game stand out among the others.
One game that has succeeded on all counts is Eaten By Zombies by Mayday Games. The game is designed by Max Holiday. The idea is to be the last person not to be gobbled up by a hoard of rampaging zombies. The game is designed so that avoiding that eventuality is very difficult and even a three- or four-player game will be over without going on a long time.
This innovation isn’t the only one in the game, though Holliday didn’t have innovation as a big goal when he set out to create it.
“I didn’t set out to design something ‘fresh’ or new, I just wanted to design a game that I would want to play,” said Holliday.”I’ve been in love with cards and card games since I was a young sprout so naturally deck building was a great fit for my first design. What I love about deck building is that each player has their own supply of cards and they gain more cards from a general supply. And I love Zombie flicks. Being my first game I didn’t just want the game to be like the other two deck builders I had played (Dominion, Thunderstone). I wanted the game to feel like something not just another game of the same old, same old. The dread and fear of getting eaten alive by an ever growing swarm of the undead, gave me a ‘feeling.’”
Players will collect guns, other weapons and supplies to make it easier to survive. Those cards are added to the players hand when acquired so that they can be used right away. Most deck building games put purchased cards into a discard pile that are then cycled into the players hands after a period of time.
That’s a bit unique to the genre as is the fact that when a player falls to the horde, he or she becomes a zombie and starts the playing the game a bit differently with a new set of goals.
“It is rare for a Zombie Player to win but becoming a zombie is a punishment for not having the best supplies not a reward,” said Holliday. “It can be done; it’s more likely the earlier the first player dies off.”
Eaten By Zombies can be played as a two-player, but then the first player to become a zombie ends the game and he or she never gets a chance to play as a zombie. The main winning condition is that the last player to still be human wins.
The response to the game early after its release has been strong. “(It’s been) overwhelming, is about the only way to describe it,” said Holliday. “I’m still not convinced that any of this is real. I’m just some schlep who wasted most of his twenties hiding in holes of deep, dark depression and nearly didn’t make it out alive. After my little sister died back in 2004), I stopped looking for work and hid from life, I only started poking my head back out a few years ago after my little brother passed away. I went back to school got a job teaching again, and in my spare time through together a game I liked.”
Like most deck builders, expansions are planned.
“There are a lot of things I started working on and decided to scrap at the last minute just to keep the game small and easy to learn,” said Holliday. “So yes there is a lot of stuff still to come. The first expansion I have planned is a two player standalone game, that you can add to the existing game to add more players; this should be out after the first of the (2012) year.”
The game’s packaging in innovative as well. It comes in an ammunition box.
“ It was something I had planned to do for a long time; in fact I had to beg/convince Mayday to even do it,” said Holliday. “One of us tossed out the idea of getting surplus ammo cans and just sticking the game in that. Admittedly not the brightest idea, I went down to OfficeMax bought some supplies and built my first box. It’s taken about 10 revisions to get it to the stage it is now but everyone seems to like it so I think it worked out.”
With the popularity of both the zombie films and TV programs and now Eaten by Zombies, it has indeed worked out.