Review | Dead Exit

The zombie apocalypse has arrived?  No hope of rescue?  Guess we should play a card game then.

Have you heard of Dead of Winter?  It’s a board game about the zombie apocalypse that’s influenced by the bleak world created in The Walking Dead.  It’s a hell of a game that promotes co-operative play, but also vigilance due to one of your number being a traitor out to scupper the group’s plans.  It’s a fun couple of hours if you can get a good group to play it with.

Dead Exit
Your play area looks complex at first but you get to grips with it very quickly.

“But Rob!” I hear you cry.  “This isn’t the board game section!  Why on earth are you wittering on about them?”  Well dear reader, Dead Exit is very much influenced by Dead of Winter.  I say influenced as it certainly is its own game, but it’s fairly clear where the inspiration for the game came from.  The premise of the game is that each player controls one (or more) base(s) and must acquire enough fuel, food, survivors, and vehicles to escape the zombie infested city before your opponents.  You’ll need to play your cards with care to ensure you can gather the resources you need whilst also preventing your base from being overrun by zombies.  At the same time though, you’ll want to use your turns to make the lives of other players more difficult.

Your tableau is set up with 3 spaces inside and outside your base, a trade slot to swap cards with other players, a sacrifice slot to activate certain cards, and a stockpile which acts as a victory pile.  On your turn you must take any 3 actions, playing a card and its effect, stockpiling cards, or visiting the city to get new cards for your hand.  Playing a card could allow you to claim more cards, remove zombies from your base, or mess with another player.  Whether you play your survivor/vehicle/etc. inside or outside the base, or in the sacrifice space, will change the card’s effect meaning every action is multifaceted.  For example, playing the Sniper outside your base will kill another player’s survivor and draw a zombie to your base, whilst playing it inside will kill a zombie outside your base.  Sacrificing it will kill another survivor but hands the sniper to another player.  Deciding who/what to play where and when can be the key to victory.

Dead Exit
There are several ways to make the game harder by increasing the number of bases to manage or the resources you need to win.

Visiting the city allows you to draw a card for your hand, but will result in a zombie being added to your base.  If your base becomes overrun, you lose.  This may be a calculated risk if you don’t have a card you want to play right now, but if your hand is empty you won’t have a choice meaning that sometimes you can end up a little stuck.  Seeing as you need to take 3 actions a turn, and often other players can use cards that reduce your hand, you’ll often find yourself heading to the city decks.  This means that strategy can only get you so far and you may need to rely on luck to get that final fuel card that you need to claim victory.  There are also event cards that are played immediately and tend to harm all players in some way which can sometimes throw your strategy right out of the window.  I found that these cards only stayed on te screen for a few moments giving me too little time to read what the outcome would be which was rather irritating.

There is a single player game mode in which you simply need to survive long enough to get enough supplies and escape.  This can be made more challenging by having you manage multiple bases or needing greater numbers of each supply to win.  You can even set it so that a new zombie card will be added to your base at the end of each turn (“Utter Madness” difficulty as I took to calling it).  I liked that there were ways to tailor the game to the difficulty level you want to play with rather than just having “Easy”, “Medium”, and so on.  What I would have liked though, is AI players to play against.  The tutorial is fine (although I found the voice over far too quiet to hear so I needed to read the text) but having computer players to practice against and learn different strategies from would have been nice.  This is even more relevant as there seem to be very few playing this online.  Whilst you can play this locally, I often find that local play on a PC is a less than ideal solution.  If the online community for this builds up, then there will be a lot of fun to be had.  If not, then a group of people all picking up their own copies to play online would be a good option as this is a fun game to play with others.

Dead Exit
There are a lot of symbols to remember, but there is an easily accessed reference card.

Playing with others is the key thing my mind kept coming back to whilst playing this.  I enjoyed what I was playing a lot, whether alone or against other people but I couldn’t help but feel that I would love a physical version of this game. I could see sitting around a table with other players being tremendous and (dare I say it) being as much, if not more, fun as Dead of Winter.  I’m all for digital board games, but this one would benefit so much from a real version.  If you’re able to RadiationBurn, make it happen!

In spite of a couple of very minor flaws, this is a really fun card game for a pretty low price.  I really enjoyed my experience with it and would like to play more of it (especially in person!) whether solo or otherwise.  The developers have taken a few ideas from elsewhere and built on them to create their own game with its own identity.  I genuinely hope they look into creating a physical version of this as I’d certainly pick up a copy of it.  Just don’t make me go into the city to get it…

Dead Exit is out now on Steam, and will be releasing on consoles in the future.

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