Pyramid Magazine Review
Reprinted from October 27, 2006 issue

Zombie Rally
Published by Snarling Badger Games
Created by Adam Loper & Peter Spahos
54 black & green cards and rules; $5.95

This has all been a big misunderstanding.

You think of them as evil, watery-eyed, subhuman freaks raised from the grave by some unnamed source of malice, and set to eating the body and/or brains of any hapless passersby they chance across. The zombies, it turns out, are simply exercising, because when you're dead and decaying you need all the workout you can get to stay fit and trim. This shuddering event is known as the Zombie Rally.

The object of the game is to be the first zombie to run, shamble, hop, or crawl across the finish line.

Players -- two to six maggot-infested shells can join -- are assigned a hand of cards, and everyone agrees on a number of steps for this race. The more steps, the longer the race, but the default is 30 steps. Someone grabs pencil and paper (backing up a step, someone has to supply paper and pencil) and keeps track of everyone's steps and which limbs they retain.

Everyone takes a turn playing or discarding cards. Some are simple movement cards that let you hulk forward one, two, or three hesitant steps, and these are marked beside your name so you know where you stand (or lie) in the race. If you can't get any movement cards, you can discard three non-movements to take a step. Others are attack cards that let you attack your competition. These have a range listed on them, telling you how far from your current position you can reach. If you want to Kick someone, for example, the range is one: You can attack anyone next to you (e.g., both of you are at step seven) in the race and anyone directly in front of (step eight) or behind you (step six). Some of the cards allow you to attack and move at the same time, like Trip-n-Move; its range is only zero (so you have to use it on someone you're neck and rattling neck with), but you force them to lose a turn while advancing a step yourself. The attacks with the best range require you to play two cards in concert. And then there's the dreaded Cartwheel of Carnage . . .

When one of these attacks connects (assuming you don't play a defensive card like Duck), it knocks off some of your valuable, desiccated limbs. Losing arms limits some of your attacks, and losing legs slows you down. You can still use movement cards, but you may not make full use of some, crawling or hopping as you now are. Sooner or later someone drags themselves to the finish line and becomes a ghoul (apparently zombies are happy to have any sort of goal in unlife), leaving the rest to place or show (if the other players still care).

The illustrations are deceptively unpretentious; like Kovalic artwork, you don't realize how hard it must be to make something so simple come out so evocative -- or vice versa. The little zombies suit the tongue-in-cheek (through-the-cheek, out-the-other-side) feel of the game to a T. The graphic design conveys information quickly, and it's one of those rare instances where you would have been willing to see the stats reduced in size just a wee to see a slightly larger picture. The cards are thin things made from whatever that over-thick construction-paper-like stock is called -- if you ever played the first edition of Give Me the Brain, you know the stuff. They feel a little too thin but given that play isn't as fast and furious as that game, the problem isn't with the stock's weight but its texture. The cards aren't easy to shuffle and won't be until you've had the chance to handle them quite a bit.

Some games have cards whose effects are negated by other cards, and some get to the point where you can't make any headway. This isn't one of those games. It's well-balanced as far as the selection is concerned, and while you may be able to, say, reattach a severed limb, that kind of thing doesn't happen very often. Play is quick -- less than half an hour in most cases -- and if you don't want a full evening of racing, it fills the gaps between other games nicely. It's not as good with only two players (why unleash the awesome might of the Cartwheel of Carnage on one dude?), though with two the marathon gets pretty tight. It's hard to get too far out in front, leading to a, uhm . . . dead heat.

A charmer of a game, Zombie Rally is a simple idea with a coy execution. With an easily customized length and a hungry appetite for both brains and house rules, it satisfies the hunger for a quick repast.

--Andy Vetromile

 
 
 
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