Zombies!!! wasn’t the first zombie game. Dawn of the Dead came out in 1978, more than twenty years before and I don't even know if it was the first. But Zombies!!! managed to make a splash before zombie games became so ubiquitous. (Frankly, I blame the Walking Dead)
Zombies!!! combines map building by drawing tiles, rolling dice to move zombies and shoot zombies and using cards to get equipment and mess with the other players. Someone wins by either reaching the helipad (the last time in the second) or killing twenty-five zombies. (I guess at that point, you have successfully terrified the zombies)
I remember the GenCon when Zombies!!! was released. I hadn’t gotten into board games really. At the time, the game coming with a hundred little plastic zombies was pretty amazing. It’s astonishing how far the game industry has come as far as production values have come.
And the first game or two was a lot of fun. Thematic and pretty much never ending conflict.
But... The more we played Zombies!!!, the more disenchanted we got with it. It had what I think of as the Munchkin problem (although, to be fair, Munchkin isn’t the first game to have this issue or even the worst) A big part of the game is dragging other players down, which doesn’t actually help you out beyond them not winning. Which can make the game drag on and on and on.
A big part of the zombie genre is that the real monsters are other people. And boy does Zombies!!! deliver that in spades. However, that ultimately detracts from the game.
The absolutely killer was playing an eight-player game of it one New Year’s Eve. It took at least four hours and, by the end, we were actively helping each other out, just to see the game end. None of the eight of us involved wanted to ever play the game again.
To be fair, Zombies!!! is not without its charms. And I do believe it was innovative back in the day. However, it is a genuinely flawed game that really calls for some serious house rules. And as time has gone on, better games in almost every regard have come out.
It’s been a long time since I’ve played it and I don’t have much desire to play it again. However, it did leave an impression.