We continue with our Halloween entries with the best zombie boardgame ever. This is not up for argument. I have spoken.
First published in 2007, Last Night on Earth is a boardgame that pits a Zombie master (or two) against a group of players. Objectives vary from something simple as killing a specific number of zombies, to destroying a cursed tome, to going around town to interrogate different townspeople to find the necromancer. The rules are simple, based on rolling 6-sided dice and playing cards for gear and special abilities. There’s a cooperative element between the player characters and a competitive element between the players and the zombie masters (zombies masters?).
Hearing the description now, it doesn’t seem like anything special. Zombie games are a dime-a-dozen nowadays and anyone who’s been playing boardgames for the past few years have heard and played games like Dead of Winter and Zombiecide. What makes Last Night on Earth so special?
I’ve always been a gamer in one way or another. Out of all the types of gaming, role-playing games and boardgames have proven to be the most enduring. Back then, at least in my experience, boardgames and rpgs were the type of games that would get you weird looks from your friends when you ask them to play. They’d sooner grab a game controller or an actual basketball than play boardgames, and they’d sooner play boardgames and jump in the river than play RPGs
It’s a rare game that could get folks to play a boardgame and role play at the same time, with little to no prodding from me.
Photocaption: several years and pounds ago
It never fails. Once we get a game going, players would fall into their characters as easily as putting shoes on. Whether the table was with newbies or veteran boardgamers alike, the player who has the Prom Queen would act like the prom queen and get scared and hide. We had one player who would roleplay the Priest as a PTSD-suffering Vietnam vet and would spout scripture as he smites (smote? smitten?) zombies. The Jock would die first.
Just like a typical 80’s zombie movie.
And therein lies the secret of Last Night on Earth. The rules, and the theme of the game encourages role-play without underlining it. People do it naturally because it makes sense and it makes the game more fun. Everyone has seen zombie movies one time or another and almost everyone is aware of the tropes and the themes of a zombie movie. Whether it’s a serious gory-one like Dawn of the dead or a comedy like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. Everyone finds common ground and everyone ends up playing their role.
----and as a zombie master, it’s up to you to reward or punish that. I’ve mentioned before that scares and screams are few and far between when it comes to boardgames, but Last Night on Earth can crank up the tension and produce some nail biting moments. Zombies can suddenly sprint, or break through walls or an empty room can suddenly turn into a moshpit of zombies with a young journalist trapped inside. Separation and isolation often means death.
Again, like a zombie movie.
As the guy who most often gets stuck being the zombie master in our games, the sheer hilarity of getting to play the titular Last Night on Earth card under the right circumstances cannot be beat. Some of you may know what the card does but I’m not spoiling that for the others :)
The production values for the game are also appropriately cheesy. Instead of drawn artwork, they photograph actors in costume, giving the game a B-movie feel. The components are modular, with the base box allowing for multiple configurations and scenarios, which you can also add on to later. The players and zombies are represented by miniatures which are competently sculpted. The player figures can sometimes be easy to confuse with each other but I found painting can solve that problem
There’s a lot of playability in the base box as well. Like I mentioned, there are several scenarios ready to play but the game also encourages it’s fans to customize and create their own scenarios. One game we had, we were looking for the necromancer who was spawning zombies in the map. We interrogated every townsperson until we found out that Old Betsy, the dog was the necromancer.
I’m not afraid to admit that I played Last Night on Earth until I got sick of it. The new releases then started to look really sexy. The miniatures of Zombiecide, the grit and moral dilemmas of Dead of Winter distracted me for a bit. But as I played those other zombiegames, I felt a little hollow. There wasn’t a lot of character in the heroes of Zombiecide. Dead of Winter tried so hard to be Walking Dead that it was mean for no reason. I found myself realizing that I already found the perfect zombie game in Last NIght on Earth
There’s a bit of sadness in that though. That you found the best game on your first try.
But maybe, it won’t be the case for you, or maybe it’s time to revisit this old gem.
Last Night on Earth isn’t on our shelves right now but you can get it through our Pasabuy service. Just reach out to us and we will help you out.
Stay spooky, wag kang creepy.