Zombie Dice is a luck based, dice rolling game that was first released around five years ago. Two or three expansions later, and the whole lot of expansions has been combined and compressed into the Horde Edition that we’re reviewing today. If zombies and dice are your thing, this might just be your lucky day.
There really isn’t much to Zombie Dice, even with all of the expansions released to date included. The whole game consists of one (quite nice) bag and then several different sets of dice — all but one of which are the size and shape of a standard D6 and printed in custom colours. A final, very large D20 represents the schoolbus expansion.
Essentially a party game, Zombie Dice supports from two to ninety-nine players (officially) but since turns are taken in sequence, it is realistically a party game suited for about six to eight players. The rules are very simple and teaching Zombie Dice is a doddle, whilst the setup and tear down time is practically non-existent.
On their turn, a player simply draws three dice from the bag blindly, then rolls them. In the base game, the dice are coloured with green, yellow and red markings that show brains, footsteps and blast symbols, indicating shotgun retaliation. The objective of the game is to score the most brains overall and that’s what the players will be hoping to roll.
With brains and shotgun blasts reserved, the player will decide whether to draw more dice and roll again or not. The risk factor here comes from the dice, with amber and red dice being progressively more dangerous than green (or in effect, rolling shotguns on these dice is more likely.) Take three shotgun blasts and you lose your whole turn, but play it too safe and you may be left behind players who have gained more brains.
Whenever the player chooses to reroll, they will draw up to three dice and roll them, once again hoping for brains. This process may be repeated any number of times, but as the shotgun blasts mount up, the risk factor increases. Adding the expansions into the equation increases both the risk and the potential reward.
The first expansion in Zombie Dice: Horde Edition introduces two new dice — the hunk and the hottie. The hunk adds the possibility of scoring double brains, as well as the risk of being double shot gunned, whilst the hottie introduces double brains and two sides that show shotgun blasts. A further, Santa themed expansion adds a red die, which has several (mostly beneficial) effects on it, including a helmet that defends against one shotgun.
Whilst these two expansions work in the same way as the base game and simply expand upon the possible dice rolls (and some minor rules variation about the themed dice rescuing each other) the final expansion is quite different. The school bus die never goes into the bag (because it’s a completely different shape) and offers some hugely variable outcomes.
Thematically, the school bus die represents a whole bus load of brains — and shotguns. These are indeed two of the possible outcomes that can be rolled, as are multi-shot and multi-brain faces, but there are also numerous other dice faces that add their own rules and variations to the game. This die can be rolled in place of any normal die, but doing so must be declared before rolling.
And that’s it really. Zombie Dice: Horde Edition is a fast, fun and fairly frantic experience that begins with new players wondering “is this it?” And ends with everyone around the table having a blast. Often referred to as a beer and pretzels kind of game, the dice rolling and push your luck mechanisms of Zombie Dice: Horde Edition work exceptionally well with a light-hearted set of players who are as focussed on enjoying the company as they are the game.
The Horde Edition extras add only relatively minor additional rules and features by the standard any other game would set, but because Zombie Dice is so simple in base form, these iterative (but still very minor) increases in complexity feel well balanced as well as keep things interesting. Personally, I like to play with all of the additional square dice, but I can take or leave the school bus expansion.
Whilst Zombie Dice: Horde Edition is by no means the biggest, most complex or most sophisticated of games, the simple push your luck mechanics and familiar, broadly appealing theme make it an attractive title. As a filler or a way to end a more competitive game night, or as something to wheel out at a smallish party or during a half time break, it makes for an excellent addition to any game shelf.