Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wheaton Effect: "Zombie Dice"

I've always had a like / hate relationship with Steve Jackson Games.

On one hand, I dig (in theory) games like Ogre and Illuminati.  On the other hand I find the popularity of such overpriced, nebulous, luck-based, monochromatic dreck like Munchkin to be completely inexplicable.  Hell, I love D&D and dungeon crawl games, but any rule book that says that "disputes should be settled by loud arguments among the players, with the owner of the game having the last word" should be summarily burned.

Speaking of being burned, after paying hard-earned cheddar for both Munchkin and Chez Geek I vowed never to buy another Steve Jackson game ever again.  But then along comes Wesley friggin' Crusher with his high-falutin' board game show Tabletop and suddenly I find myself completely enamored with the press-yer-luck die-chucker Zombie Dice.

Here's the episode in question (with a handy rules overview @ the 10:25 mark):


So, when I saw that cheap-looking $15 plastic cup behind the counter at The Comic Hunter a few weeks ago, I just couldn't resist Wil Wheaton's siren call.  So I bought the friggin' thing.

Cheryl and I immediately played a few games.  In Game One I scored five Brains on my first round and then two Brains on my second and third turns.  Cheryl washed out in her first two throws but got on the board with four Brains during her third go-round.  I gained five more Brains on my final turn and stopped with a total of fourteen.  On her last turn Cheryl managed to score a whopping nine Brains before being Shotgunned.  Despite this, I still managed to hold on to the win with a score of 14 to 13.

Cheryl started off Game Two in style by rolling an inconceivable eight Brains in her first round!  I followed this up by busting on my first two turns.  Cheryl then added incrementally to her lead by scoring two more Brains on her second turn.  Like a classic Romero zombie, I s-l-o-w-l-y managed to claw my way back, picking up a total of eight Brains on my next four turns.  Cheryl had the decency to stall for a bit, going three rounds without adding to her Brain pile.  Eventually she settled down and got four more Brains in two rounds, stopping at fourteen!

Trying to beat her score in one round with only eight Brains was rough.  I rolled three Escapes twice, then two Brains and one Escape (putting me at 10), then two Brains and one Shotgun (taking my score to 12), then one Brain and two Escapes on two separate rolls.  By some miracle, I'd managed to tie her score at 14 Brains apiece!

As per the rules, this resulted in a single "sudden death" bonus round.  I felt good about pulling off a coup as Cheryl rolled one Escape, one Brain and one Shotgun not once but twice!  Confident that I could beat two Brains, my first throw resulted in one of each facing.  But then, rolling one die of each color, I somehow managed to roll one green Escape and two lethal Shotgun results!  


Just like that, it was over and I'd lost with a final score of 16 to 14.              

We then played a Tiebreaker Game.  Mirroring Cheryl's awesome start last time, I managed to bag six Brains right off the bat.  After Cheryl wiped out in her first round I built on my lead with a two Brain performance.  On her next toss, Cheryl took off the kid gloves and scored five big Brains but I quickly countered with five of my own!  With Cheryl lagging behind, I felt safe stopping at exactly thirteen Brains.      

But on her last turn, Cheryl went to work.  Her first throw scored one Shotgun and two Brains (raising her score to 7).  Next she rolled one Brain (taking her to 8), one Escape one Shotgun.  She then diced up two Escapes and one Brain on her next two turns (bringing Brain tally to 10).  She then completed an epic comeback by rolling two Brains and one Escape in two successive turns!  All told she managed to overcome two early Shotgun hits and win with a final score 14 to 13!

I knew I had a winner on my hands when Cheryl wanted to play it during our drive home next day!

"I can roll for you and tell you what you got!" she offered helpfully.

Last Wednesday we were slated to play Marvel Heroes but I really didn't get a chance to properly prep it.   As a result, we defaulted to an alternate game that Andrew had played recently.  However, on the morning of game day, I received the following sheepish email from Andrew (which bore the provocative subject line of "Damn You, Wil Wheaton"):


I have a quick filler that we could start the night off with if you guys are interested.  You guessed it, Wil Wheaton and his stupid video made me temporarily lift my anti-Steve Jackson campaign.  'Zombie Dice' acquired. 

Dave, do you mind if we squeeze it in so I don’t need to add it to my unplayed list?  Should only take 10 minutes tops.

To which I replied:

Yeah, you don’t need to bring your copy.  Wheaton got to me as well.

I really hope the fucker's getting commission from these sales!

So here's the resulting session of Zombie Dice, featuring me, Mike, Andrew and Dean...

Zombie Dice might not be a deep, strategic brain-burner (pun not intended) but it is a fun filler game.  The "press your luck" element isn't just a factor in your individual die rolls; it also comes into play when deciding what Brain count is safe to to stop at!  

So, Steve Jackson, you can thank Wil Wheaton personally for selling at least two copies of Zombie Dice amongst our snobbish gaming group and single-handedly improving our opinion of your company.  At least until the warranty is up on those cheap-ass dice cups.

Zombie Dice gets four pips outta six!

Hmmmmmm....d'ya think we'll ever see Ogre on a future episode of Tabletop?    Naaaaaaaa...

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