Axis & Allies is one of those gateway games that lures people who’ve enjoyed the likes of Risk into a slightly more involved and complicated affair. With a big board with a world map on it, lots of counters and surprisingly straightforward rules, it’s somehow slipped into the same selection of ‘classic’ household games such as Cluedo and Monopoly.
Of course, a simple simulation of World War Two isn’t enough for your modern gamer. After all, the market is flooded with games like this, and what you really want is something that changes the flavour of a game from a semi-historical strategy game into something spookier. Hence Axis & Allies & Zombies, which is all the fun of the classic game but with added horror.
The game plays pretty much like straight Axis & Allies. Allocate resources and buy units, move them across the map to attempt to invade another player’s territory, roll dice to represent combat, then perform non-combat related manoeuvres, place new units and collect any income. The money you get from turn to turn is based on how much land you grab, of course. Technological advances come via lucky rolls.
The big twist is of course, the zombies. Though this ‘creeping doom’ mechanic could have been any number of things, the undead seem to fit the grim subject matter very well. As play progresses, the board fills up with the walking dead. There’s a special events deck of cards that give the undead a sort of AI. No one player can control these rotting horrors, though there are ways you can herd them toward the enemy. One of the tech advances is a zombie control device, another lets you ship zombies to another territory. Not only do entire bits of the board become hostile, it also limits your strategy. Cause too much bloodshed and you’ll get zombies everywhere.
Subtle changes to the core game also make the game more dynamic; every scrap of territory is worth controlling, and resource management has become a little bit more simplified. This is good because you’ll need lots of firepower to take down the zombies. Somehow gameplay isn’t slowed down; this is still a two to three hour game.
The result is a more dynamic game with more alliances popping up during play. Enemies will have to work together if the zombies get too much, it seems. The game seems to have swung firmly into aesthetic as well; the box art is appropriately scary, the little plastic zombies look great, and the rest of the components are just as fun; we particularly like putting the little planes on the little aircraft carriers.
Overall, Axis & Allies & Zombies is such a fun idea we are surprised they didn’t come up with it sooner.
AXIS & ALLIES & ZOMBIES / PUBLISHER: AVALON HILL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW