Friday, January 26, 2018

Quick Review - ZORP (Zombie Oblivion Response Pack) - Kickstarter Preview

ZORP (Zombie Oblivion Response Pack)Designer: Carl Sommer
Publisher: Wonky Rhino Games
2-4p | 20-120m | 12+
Quick Review - ZORP (Zombie Oblivion Response Pack) - Kickstarter Preview

There are a lot of zombie games out there, and I mean a lot.  Aside from farming or medieval fantasy, it's possibly the most saturated theme out there.  People either love zombies or hate them, and if you love them you probably really love them.  Zombies are a perennial theme because they offer so many gameplay possibilities, from cooperative survival to real time apocalyptic competition, resource management to hard hitting combat, even social deduction, as seen in my previous review for Zombifection.  With so many zombie games out there anything new really has to be special to stand out from the crowd.  My game group tends to like zombie games (Last Night on Earth seems to make it to the table fairly often), so when I was contacted to review ZORP (Zombie Oblivion Response Pack), a game where one player controls a horde of zombies and other players race to acquire a limited supply of the cure to the zombie plague, I said sure.

ZORP is an asymmetrical, competitive zombie survival game for two to four players.  It takes about 30 minutes (20-120 as listed on BGG) and is for ages 8+ (12+ according to BGG).  It was on Kickstarter in October 2016 for $35, including US shipping, but didn't fund. I'm not sure if it'll be back or not.

NOTE: Yes, this review is being posted over a year late, but I told the designer that I couldn't recommend his game (spoiler) so I would wait to post it until after the Kickstarter since he insisted on running it anyway, against my advice.  I've decided to post this since I did spend the time to play the game and write up the review.  I honestly hope that Carl spends more time with ZORP and sees his dream to fruition.  It's obvious that he put a lot into the game and I think with some extra effort he can come up with a game to be proud of.

ZORP is a simple game. One player controls the zombies and the other players control the survivors.  The object of the survivors is to find a cure to the zombie plague, which is located across a zombie infested parking lot from them.  In three and four player games there will be one less cure than humans, so someone isn't going to make it.
There are two cures at the other end of the parking lot in a four player game.  Someone's gonna die!
One of the most interesting things about the game is the design of the game board for setup.  The game can be played with a completely random setup, or for a balanced setup there are three recommended layouts for two, three, or four players.  During setup a number of events and weapons will be added to the board, based on the number of players.  If using a recommended setup, these each go in an appropriate row on the board, on a space marked with, depending on the number of players, skid marks, oil stains, or cracks in the parking lot pavement.  Players start at either sewer covers or construction cones, depending on the player count.  This is a great way to mark starting positions without cluttering the board up with non-thematic elements.  Each player also starts with a random weapon.  Then the zombie player adds zombies to the board according to some placement rules, and you're ready to start.  

All the characters, zombies, events, weapons, and more are all cards of different sizes and shapes.  Standees and tokens would be nice though.  It would allow the game board to be smaller and make the game feel more compact.  The prototype board is currently 24" x 24", which feels unnecessarily huge.
Setup for a four player game.  The Weapons and Events go on the oil stains with four players.
Once the game is set up, the first of nine rounds begins.  Human players take turns going first.  On a human's turn they get three actions, in any order, to move, move, and attack.  To move, the human can move one space in any orthogonal direction.  Landing on a weapon or event tile reveals the tile and any event is resolved immediately.  To attack the player activates one or two weapons they are carrying.  Each weapon has an amount of damage inflicted, range, coverage, and amount of ammunition.  The first weapon used has full ammunition and any secondary weapon has half its ammunition.

When zombies are hit they lose one strength for each point of damage.  Zombies can take one to three points of damage, depending on what level they are.  If a zombie doesn't take enough damage to destroy it, it will become a lower strength zombie, so a level three zombie that takes two points of damage will become a level one zombie.  Destroyed zombies are saved and count toward points at the end of the game.
Three levels of zombies become less mobile as you damage them.
Each type of zombie moves in a different way, ranging from one to two spaces in a straight line, or with a single turn.  If a zombie ever reaches a space occupied by a human, that zombie is destroyed and becomes a zombified human.  Zombified humans take their turns after humans and can only do one thing - move up to three spaces.  The goal of zombified humans is to collect (but not use) as many events and weapons as they can before the humans get them.  Each event or weapon acquired is worth points at the end of the game, so it's possible for a zombified human to actually win still.  It's also possible for a zombified human to become fully human again!  Some events and weapons 'trigger memories' that cause the character to revive.
Heading out to find some weapons to kill some zombies.
After the humans and zombified humans take their turns the zombie player takes a turn.  Each zombie moves one or two spaces, more zombies are placed, and then a zombie event may occur.  The number of new zombies and if an event is played are determined by drawing a card and the specifics vary depending on the round and number of players.
Zombies get to move and try to turn some humans.
The game ends when all the cures have been recovered or after nine rounds.  If no players get any cures then the zombie player wins, but if any humans recover a cure then scores are tallied.  Each zombie killed is worth one point and a cure is worth ten points.  Zombified humans score one point per zombie they killed prior to being 'turned', plus five points for every event or weapon collected.

Final Thoughts:
Unfortunately we were not impressed with the game at all.  We found it to be very unbalanced, very fiddly with all the cards, uninspired, and just generally not very fun.  When we were finished, the first feedback I got from the other players was "well, at least it was short".

Mechanically it was simple enough and didn't present any big problems, but there was nothing interesting or innovative about the game.  It would work ok as a very casual introduction to non-traditional strategy games because of its simplicity, but the rest of the game I'm afraid would actually be a turnoff to learning more advanced games, not an invitation to discover more.  There's nothing to really draw someone in to the game; the artwork is boring, and even the attempts at humor in the zombies with sling shots, etc. just fell flat.
Everything was flat.  Flat humans, flat zombies, flat weapons, flat events, flat gameplay...
Gameplay wise, we found the movement of the survivors to be way too restrictive.  We played a 3 player game (with two survivors) and they were quickly surrounded by zombies, forcing them to detour from a direct path to the cure.  In nine rounds the survivors will each get to move 18 spaces.  The cure is 14 spaces away from the starting location, meaning the survivors can only spend one round moving off of a direct path to the cure (and one round moving back to the path).  This makes it super easy for the zombie player to prevent the survivors from ever getting the cure, especially when the zombies can move just as fast as a survivor.  (And why can a zombified human suddenly move faster than a survivor?)
Humans can turn into zombified humans... and then back to humans.  Huh?
Granted, there are some events for the humans that can give them some temporary speed boosts, but if those don't happen to come up, or only toward the end of the game, it's going to be a real challenge for the humans.  
Shoes and the car increase your movement, temporarily.
One other interesting thing about the game is that the rulebook only covers the most basic rules of the game.  It covers setup, movement, general combat, etc.  It doesn't cover how specific weapons, events, players, or zombies work (or not in detail in some cases).  All those rules are on cards specific to the weapon, event, etc.  These are common cards laid out as references for when the item appears in the game environment.  For example, if you discover a weapon on the board you'll flip over the weapon card.  You might discover that it's a flamethrower, so you'll find the main flamethrower reference card to see exactly how the flamethrower works.  No need to reference the rulebook.  I found this to be an interesting way of presenting the game rules, not necessarily good or bad, just interesting.

All of the nitty gritty rules details are on the backs of 18 different reference cards.
The game, as it is on Kickstarter does have a few minor modifications to the rules compared to what I played, but I'm not sure they're significant enough to really change the gameplay enough.  One change is that the number of zombies placed each round, and whether there is a zombie event or not, is determined randomly by cards now, instead of predetermined values for each round.  This will add some variability and unpredictability, which is great.  Another change is that some weapons and events will now let a zombified human recover and become a human player again, also a welcome update, although thematically a bit odd.  The last change is probably the most significant, although it's an optional rule.  It adds some additional restrictions on zombie placement.  With the modified zombie placement rules, zombies must be placed on unoccupied spaces with symbols on them (tire tracks, oil spills, or cracks).  This means the zombie player has to think a bit more about placement and movement, making it harder to just build a dense wall of zombies.
There's a wall of zombies for you.  Good luck yellow Andrew!
Unfortunately I don't think these changes are enough to save the game.  I'm sorry I don't have much more positive to say since it's obvious the designer spent a lot of time and put a lot of heart into the game.  Zombie games are so common that it really takes something unique to stand out from all the rest and Z.O.R.P. just doesn't have that.

My recommendation is for the designer to take the game to game design meetups, like Protospiel or Unpub events.  Get a lot of peer feedback from other game designers and take it to heart - the feedback from one weekend at a Protospiel will be worth more than thousands of playtesting sessions with just friends and family.  Work on the balancing and find an interesting mechanic that will make Z.O.R.P. unique, interesting, and memorable. Unfortunately, at this time I cannot recommend Z.O.R.P. (Zombie Oblivion Response Pack).  It may be fun for the designer and his friends, but it's not yet ready for the public.

Preliminary Rating: 3.5/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment