These past two weekends, I had the good fortune to play in several sessions of a godsbedamned fantastic board game called Last Night on Earth. I’ve been told by a handful of people that this game went out of print, but everyone and their undead grandmother seems to be getting brand new copies of it lately, so I’m unsure if that scarcity is in fact true. Either way, come hell or high water, I’m getting myself a copy of this.
I first got to play it at Guardian Games last weekend during the May of the Dead zombie celebrations. I only managed to get int a couple of turns, because I was busy dealing with Cannibal Contagion and socializing with a lot of awesome new people. But the few turns I did play quickly seduced me into wanting more.
An old gaming buddy of mine was in town this very past weekend, and we all met up at a friend’s house last night for an evening of beer and board games. As a nice stroke of good fortune, someone showed up with this game in tow, and we got in two good six-player sessions of it before I had to leave. There was a lot of stumbling here and there as we got used to some of the more specific rules, but for the most part, everyone took to the game very easily and we all had a blast. I figured I would take some time today and write up a review-like post on my experiences.
Game Premise and Mechanics
From the very first time I played it, it reminded me of a more professional and better-balanced revision of the zombie game Maul of America. Both Last Night and Maul are your classic stories of a group of strangers stuck in a secluded location, surrounded by a hungry zombie horde. To me, the main difference is that Last Night seemed to have the benefit of a heckuva lot more playtesting and professional design than Maul, and it certainly showed in the final product.
The flow of both games are quite similar, right down to the move-search-shoot turn flow and the one-square-shamble zombies. The game is split into two sides: 14 zombies (maximum) and 4 heroes. Depending on how many players are there, up to two players will split the zombies between them and up to four players will take on the individual heroes. There are a good number of predesigned heroes for this game, based on classic archetypes from zombie movies. Each hero has their own mini-figurine game piece and a full-color card with all their pertinent unique information. I’m glad to see that all the characters were represented artistically by actual people, with stylistic photographs on all their cards and game reps.
The game goes back and forth between the zombies and the heroes, and I really enjoyed the more strategically-encouraging free-form flow of the turns, in which the heroes can act in any order they wish. Just like in Maul, zombies and heroes alike can draw special faction-specific cards, with the heroes getting items and one-shot empowerments and the zombies getting a wide assortment of abilities that let them screw with the heroes. Some of the powers and the rules relating to these cards could use a bit more clarification, but most of them were very easy to understand and use.
Each session took between and hour or two to play, which was perfect for the location and the company. I love a good fiddly-bits board games that can be played in less than two hours, even with a full table of players. This game definitely fits that bill, and worked well despite all but one of us having never played it before.
The Epic Movie!
Our second session last night was just plain epic. We actually played it with five hero players and two zombie players, and I think having the fifth hero might have unbalanced it just a bit. But regardless, the game ended two passes before nightfall, and was non-stop intensity right from the get-go.
In fact, the whole session played out like a pretty awesome zombie movie. It started with Billy and Sally, alone together in the high school, realizing their passions for one another and just jumping each other, the rest of the world be damned. That’s when the Nurse and the Stranger busted in, and they all set to fortifying the school and raiding the principal’s closets for hidden weaponry. Meanwhile, we frequently cut back to scenes of the lone Sheriff, running desperately through town, skipping from house to house, searching for supplies and the keys to that old jalopy in the middle of town.
In the end, the heroes were molded into a trauma-hardened group of vigilant survivors, who worked together to get everyone to the truck and out of town, including the bitten-and-infected Sheriff… perhaps that is the foundation for a sequel?
As you could tell, I love this game. I’m making a point of getting it as soon as I can, and I’d love to try out the other different game scenario variants. I can see this one becoming a staple of my future Board Game Nights.