The whole zombie thing has been doing the rounds for quite a few years now, and it takes something interesting to stand out from the crowd and prevent a game from falling onto the awkwardly labelled “oh look, another zombie game” pile. Hit Z Road is an incredibly easy to learn game based around managing resources and plenty of dice based luck in order to get yourself and your family across America to a safe ending point. Getting there won’t be easy though, and if there are a few of you trying to escape you’ll be fighting over the better routes from the very first round.
Hit Z Road works by giving players a set of possible routes to take through each of the eight rounds in the game. In a multiplayer game each player bids to take their turn first, offering up some of their resources – fuel, ammo or adrenaline – in order to have the first pick of the round’s possible routes. It’s an important moment; some routes might be laden with free resources, or interesting bonus tokens which might help you later down the line.
Others will have zombies.
The problem with zombies, apart from the obvious quandary about how to kill something already dead, is that in the case of Hit Z Road your success in fighting them is determined by dice rolls. I can see a lot of people not liking that idea, the randomness of it all, the lack of skill involved in determining whether you nail them all in one go or whether you start to lose some of your band of merry survivors. Personally I quite liked it, it kept the game light, stopped it from getting bogged down in complex maths or over the top combinations of rules and possible outcomes. You roll dice, work out whether you’ve (re)killed a zombie, whether someone’s been bitten or whatever, and move on. Simple, brutal, effective.
And if things go wrong it’s not the end of the world. You start the game with a lead survivor and a small group of other folk, and you’ll roll the dice according to how many survivors your group have left. Sometimes one will get bitten but you can spend some adrenaline to keep them ticking over, assuming you’ve kept some back. You might get a chance to escape, but doing so uses your fuel resources up so you can’t rely on that as a tactic. The only saving grace is the initial attack you can take if you want, whereby you spent some ammo to have a crack at the zombies before they get chance to attack – doing so uses up ammo, but the negative dice rolled are ignored; for that one moment you can only do damage and not receive it. Handy.
But the resources… keep in mind that this is a game supposedly made by one of the family members who survived the original trek across America to safety. The resources, therefore, are bottle tops. Not actual metal ones, obviously (although that would make an AWESOME special edition) but still, jagged edged bottle tops. They look amazing, as do the cards themselves which have been made to look like the kid who made the game converted a standard deck of cards into the cards for the game. The wooden meeples are very cool too – you haven’t seen a top notch meeple until you’ve seen a zombie.
There’s a very playable single player option as well, whereby some of the paths are partly or entirely covered. You can pick which path you travel down, with the uncovered paths costing you more resources to follow than those covered up (in fact, you actually gain resources if you try your luck with the hidden route). The right choice is crucial – charge through the revealed path each time and you might well run out of resources or miss out on some handy bonuses, but take the hidden path each time and you might end up with some brutal fights on your hands. It’s a balancing act, where risks are punished every bit as much as they are rewarded. At the end of the solo game you get a score depending on which cards you collected and how many survivors are left over – getting in the higher score brackets is surprisingly tough.
So while some might bemoan the amount of weight the dice have on the game’s outcome, I’ve been having a blast with Hit Z Road. I love the art style, I adore the components, and I really enjoy the fact I can play it with people who normally don’t care for zombie related games, given that the game itself is so straightforward to play and can be completed in half an hour or so. All in all, I’m most impressed.
Hit Z Road
Available Now, RRP £30.99
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