Zombie Kidz Evolution

Designer: Annick Lobet

Artist: Annick Lobet and Nikao

Publisher: Le Scorpion Masque

From left to right: Andy Philips, Sarah Matt, Ben Williams and Karen Takahashi. Yep, my kid named them all! (Photo credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

The prerequisite for a kids game has to be length. Short, short and shorter still. It doesn’t matter how good a game is if it can’t be completed within a certain time span. It’s a fine line between capturing a child’s attention and then losing it after. Now, some kids will be more durable and can sustain a longer game, but the short time span also takes into account parental needs. You don’t need a one hour long game on a school night. You need a fun game that can squeeze in between brushing teeth and changing into pyjamas. From this perspective, Zombie Kidz get an”A”. The game is also fun to boot.

I am not a fan of legacy games, especially the elaborate ones. I enjoyed My City but even then, I thought it dragged toward the end. So the legacy aspect of Zombie Kidz works very well because the base game is simple. This means even a small rule change will have a large impact on the base game. The rules in the base game is simple: defend the school from a horde of Zombies by locking all the front gates positioned in four corners of the board. To lock the gates, you need two kids to be in the same entryway. Once all four locks are in place, the game is won. Otherwise if the hordes overrun the school, the team loses.

Like all co-ops, players work together with each person taking a role of a character, a school kid actually. Each round, a die is cast and depending on the roll, a zombie is placed in one of the five color-coded rooms within the school. One face on the die is a blank with nothing on it. If rolled, the players do not place any zombies. After rolling the die, players then activate their character to move between classrooms or stay put. Regardless, up to 2 zombies can be eliminated by a character if after the movement, the character is in the same room as the zombies. Turn then passes to turn next player and game play continues until either all four gates are chained up or if all eight zombies are placed on the board and there are no more zombies left to add to the board when required to do so.

As you can imagine, the turns are blisteringly quick and there is very little down time. Sure, you may have to ponder your next move, deciding where to go next. But, your options are always going to boil down between 2-3 locations. Most of the time, your best options are pretty clear even though sometimes, decisions must be made. These decisions can be consequential but much still depends on the die roll. You can plan as much as you want, but when the die is cast, all bets are off and you just hope the zombies are placed in a strategic area that can be easily eliminated.

There is one very important rule that generates all the tension in the base game. If a room is infested by 3 or more zombies, characters can no longer enter the room. This rule provides a challenge for players as you basically don’t want a room to be infested because once that happens, it becomes a one-way zombie trap: zombies go in and they don’t come out. Then it becomes a race against time to complete the mission before all the zombies are on the board.

I think it is smart that the publishers converted the game into a legacy as the base game is too simple to sustain long term play. Included in the box are 14 envelopes that are opened when the game reaches specific milestones. We have opened up 4 envelopes thus far and the game has become slightly more challenging, but also balanced by some special powers. Since the base game is quite straightforward, I am thrilled that the game has increased complexity. Thus far, we are about 1/4 into the game and the game is still fast paced and fantastic. It has captured my kid’s imagination. With adults, the game has just enough to keep you curious about the envelopes. We shall see what happens when we reach the end of the journey.

1/2022: SPOILER ALERT! In between writing this review and editing it, we completed the game. It took us roughly 39 tries to complete the game from start to end. It may seem a lot, but the games really flew by. Overall, the game is a great family co-op with young kids. We loved it. There aren’t a lot of new rules from the base game, but things do get complicated quickly when each character and zombie type gains a new power. With clones appearing on the board, the game can get messy, crowded with alpha player issues. Fortunately, the game does scale pretty well from 1-4 players. The brilliance of the game has to be that sticker progress chart and opening of envelopes. My kid adores that part of the game and earning trophies. They really crave the sense of progression. Win or lose, you get to place a sticker. We frequently sit down and play chunks of the game just to reach the next envelope. Brilliant way to catch a kid’s attention with stickers. Now that the game is over, there are some advanced scenarios in the last envelope. I am curious to see if the game still has legs even after we complete all the main objective.

Kids Corner

7 years 1 month: A fantastic Christmas gift. My kid enjoys it and so do I. This is a perfect legacy game for a family. It is not hard but it has some kick to it. We had to play a few times even at the early scenarios. The early game takes 10-15 minutes to play. Now, the moves are pretty obvious and most of the time, it will boil down to where the zombies are placed. The hardest part is that my kid tends to move toward the zombies to kill them and it is much tougher to teach them about risk taking and probabilities. We now opened up about 4 envelopes and the game does get slightly more challenging, especially with the rules. If your kid still cannot grasp the basic concepts, then I would totally avoid those envelopes. Overall, the game can sustain my kid’s attention. However, I did catch my kid zoning out a little between games. I think because this is a coop, the alpha player can rear its ugly head. Especially when playing with a little one. It is important to let the kid take the driver’s seat occasionally and figure out their own moves. I am still occasionally guilty of dropping way too many hints or just orchestrating moves. Have to remind myself to hold back. If anything, if you have a child in the group, think of it this way: you can see this as an extra challenge to overcome during game play. If they suggest an inefficient move, you can go along with it and see if it is possible to rescue or make a come back. It will certainly be more challenging. I also have to point out that my kid absolutely love the stickers and progress chart and getting trophies. There is something inherently pleasing about placing stickers on a track and opening up envelopes. She loves that part and I wouldn’t deprive them of this activity. As for the “Zombies” being scary, they really aren’t. I don’t think my kid thinks of them as undead, but rather just as cute monsters. So it feels more generalized which makes it less scary.

Final word: Great! (family)

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