After testing some in development indie games, we decided to try our hand at some of the unique card games on display at the Too Many Games convention. One game in particular caught our eye: ApocalypZe. No, it wasn’t just the “z” in the title or the images of zombies, it was the promise of a unique, complex, resource management based card game with a shocking amount of strategy and depth. Let’s just put it this way: if you weren’t convinced that we would be absolutely horrible at surviving the zombie apocalypse, you can just ask the ApocalypZe card game creators at 9 Kingdoms Publications, they’ll vouch for us.
The first thing to note about our play session with the game creators is how helpful and patient they were with us as we struggled along the large learning curve of the game. Playing with them was invaluable, as they provided insight to the ideas behind the game mechanics and helpful hints about how to last more hands then either us had a right to. According to the creators, the game’s goal is to force players to “consume” resources and place pressure on them to balance the remaining cards in their decks. Attacking is part of the game, however, unlike Magic: The Gathering and other card games, it is not the focus and can even get you into trouble (like it did with me).
We sat down at the table and chose our decks. I was stationed in a police building and Rich posted up in an old church. Each turn, players draw cards and play to one location, either placing survivors/defenders at their base, sending raiders/zombies to the opponent’s base, or — later in the game — putting forces at a scavenging location. Once a player adds forces to a location, they can only play that location. For instance, I could’ve played more survivors to my base, but instead I sent a small zombie horde towards Rich’s. Once I decided on that move, I couldn’t add more troops to defend my base or send scavenging parties out. This creates a tense balancing act in which players must decide between attack, defend, or resource management.
When one player starts combat, they decide how they attack their opponent’s base “access points.” This can take on any number of combinations: either sending raiders in groups, splitting them up, or sending them on an all out rush directed at one entrance. There are clear advantages and disadvantages to each. By sending the attackers in as a group, their attack and defend scores are added together, however, one defender can absorb the blow. If the attackers are split up, they are weaker, but force the defenders to cover more access points.
When combat is finished, the active player enters their consumption phase, in which they must discard cards as “resources” for the number of survivors they have at their base. Players can discard cards from the top of their deck or discard double the required amount from their hand. They even have the opportunity to sacrifice survivors as “resources.” This was perhaps the most stressful management during the game because players quickly realize that beefing up their defenses will make them consume more cards, however, neglecting defenses will allow their opponent an easy way to attack their base. The game ends when one player has no resources left to consume. This means games can sometimes go until each player only has a few cards left, as it did during our game.
With only a few characters left, I began eating the survivors and launching desperation assaults on Rich’s outlandishly fortified church (I mean, really, what church has a chain link fence, searchlights, a research lab, and a thuggish group of bat wielding lunatics?). Patsy the heroic police officer, who once held off one of Rich’s zombie hordes by herself, was the last to fall at my base. As the creators put it, when you have to sacrifice Patsy, you know you’re done. And so it was true, Rich sent one last attack that would’ve forced me to consume resources, unfortunately, because none were left, I lost the hard fought game.
If the descriptions here make the game sound intense, complex, and full of depth, that’s because it is. My mistakes were in focusing my early forces on attacking Rich’s heavily fortified base when I should’ve focused more on scavenging. That’s the beauty of the game, however, is that it creates a sense of being stretched thin. It truly engages players to think as actual survivors would have to by balancing attacking, resource management, defending, and scavenging. After nearly an hour and half, Rich and I had made it through the ApocalypZe, and although we weren’t the greatest survivors, we definitely came out of it with something not usually associated with the end of the world…smiles.
If you want to find out more about the ApocalypZe card game, you can check out their Facebook page, or their website. If you’re looking to pick up a copy of the game (and we highly recommend it for strategy card game fans), it is available right now from anywhere card games are sold. But, for those that need it now, here’s the Amazon link.