Tiny Epic Zombies is the latest in the Tiny Epic series from Scott Almes published by Gamelyn Games it sits 1-5 plays in around 30 mins and recommended from ages 14+. Depending on how agreeable the theme is with parents I would say mechanically younger gamers can play this.
At its core this is a zombie outbreak, objective driven survival game that sees survivor players running around a mall trying to balance completing objectives and fighting back the increasing zombie masses.
There are five play mode options: Co-Op with game controlled zombies, Co-Op with a non-team player controlling zombies, Competitive with game controlled zombies, Competitive with a player controlling zombies and lastly a Solo mode. They all largely revolve around a core set of rules that I will briefly cover.
There is some setup to complete but this is straight forward and fast it basically consists of shuffling decks, placing Mall tiles (each tile represents a store and contains 3 room) around the courtyard to from the game board, reveal objectives for the game and place zombies, issue player role cards etc.
On a survivor turn you can make 3 moves in this move set you can take the following actions: moving your character, killing a zombie, use a rooms special ability or collect items. Once all moves have been completed you search the room, this is a card reveal, cards can be items to help you or events, events happen on reveal and items get set to the side of the room and can be collected in future turns.
Zombies be they game or player managed need to check for noise, this mechanic is handled by comparing the previous turns survivor revealed search card against their location if they have matching noise symbols bad things happen… If the survivor was light on their feet and didn’t create any noise bad things happen just not as bad as it could have been, zombies are added to the board. Zombies get placed in empty rooms and if there is no space they eventually attack the courtyard barricade (also bad) and if there are no zombies left in the supply pool the survivor takes a wound (also bad), lastly a new face down card is issued to the survivor to form the search card for their next turn.
There are 3 objectives in play and completing them all is a win condition for the survivors. Objectives can be things like recovering objects from rooms and returning them to the courtyard, locating several cards by searching rooms or finding more survivors in the mall. Completing all objectives is the only survivor win condition, naturally there are more zombie win conditions.
One of my favourite mechanics is the Eaten Alive rule: each player card has a number track at the top with wounds starting on the left at zero and ammo on the right at nine, as you take wounds from bad dice rolls or events etc you move the wound tracker up and as you use ammo you move the ammo tracker down and should the trackers meet on the same number or cross over your survivor is considered to have been overwhelmed and eaten alive and turns into a zombie.
– Small box game
– Quick set up
– Easy to teach
– multiple play modes
– I didn’t find playing as the Zombie as gripping as others
I have a couple games in the Tiny Epic Series and this invokes the same level of wow there is a lot of game here for the component list / box size. I managed to squeeze my print and play demo build into an envelope and a mint tin making this my current everyday carry game and can see the final boxed version taking over that mantle. As the project continues to race through its stretch goals the replay-ability value continues to increase with more content being added as well as component improvements. The game is tough enough to make it tense but I found it balanced enough not to feel cheated, couple this with the playtime meant we play at least a couple games back to back.
*It’s worth noting the rule book / materials have not been finalised