Review: World War Z Board game

World War Z Board Game from University Games will let you play as elite military or CIA personnel, racing against time to prevent a pandemic zombie apocalypse. It’s no secret that I liked the movie and I’ve been known to write a zombie story or two myself, so the genre is interesting to me and like I said, I thought the movie was pretty good, though it was nothing like the (much better) novel.

I bought World War Z – The Game and after reading the rules, played it with my son, Spencer. Just to be clear, this is an old-school board game with dice and people sitting around the table, conversing and interacting, analog style. This is also a cooperative game, so all of the players are united and playing towards the same goal of eliminating enough zombie hordes that the human race survives. If a player dies, he becomes a zombie and then plays in opposition to the remaining human players, which is an interesting take on the traitor element that is used effectively in Shadows Over Camelot and Battlestar Galactica.

The game board is a map of the world divided into zones, not unlike what you see with the game Risk, but the resemblance to that classic ends there. There are also cards, polyhedral battle dice and cardboard counters. There are rules, which outline the actions a player can take each turn. It doesn’t really matter what actions you take though, because everything will come down to a dice roll.

Each player is given randomly dealt a Role Card, and these roles are not balanced. During your turn, you can move to a new part of the world. You can equip a combat card, showing a weapon. You can battle a zombie horde in an occupied zone, and you must escalate the threat by drawing a threat escalation card to determine how the zombie threat grows.

WWZ-rules and cardsWhile playing this game, there was a surreal sense of scale – we are working on a global map as elite military or CIA, but armed with a crowbar or baseball bat? I mean, the game has an aircraft carrier where you call in strikes on a map zone that takes out just as many zombie hordes as a player swinging a Louisville Slugger? More than that, the outcome of everything comes down to a dice roll. There is almost no strategy involved and a typical turn consists of moving to a zone and attacking zombies, over and over. You could leave all the pieces in the box and just roll the dice to get the same level of enjoyment out of the game as playing it by the rules.

While it hardly matters, considering the simplistic and bland rules – the component quality is poor. The cards are bland and have square corners, the board is uninspired and the cardboard counters are thick die-cut, but off-center. Overall, it is a shoddy box of sadness.

I bought this game at a discounted price, and I should have taken that as a sign. In reading the back of the box, it sounded like this might be Pandemic with a zombie theme, and there are elements of the game that are like Pandemic, such as the player roles, but it is a feeble imitation at best, rushed to market without enough play-testing to cash-in on a summer blockbuster movie’s release.

Every gamer worth his salt knows that movie tie-in games suck. It doesn’t matter if they are video games, board games or role-playing games – they are all bad with only the rarest exception. Really, they are worse than just bad. Movie tie-in games epitomize capitalism at its worst. They violate the memories of a movie we enjoyed. Rainbows fade to gray and unicorns castrate themselves with their own horns, breaking their necks in the process, to escape the badness that is a movie tie-in game. It’s very, very sad.

Games like this are to be avoided, but sometimes a soldier needs to step on the landmine to let everyone else know the danger present. That’s me, this time. Kaboom!

My rating for World War Z – The Game: The Z stands for ZERO, which exactly the score I give this game on a scale of 0-5. Stay away. Far, far away.

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