….I vont to dreeenk youwerrrrr blooood nah, Like it? My vampire impression….oh, wrong undead….
…the massing crowds of grey, moaning, putrified nasties outside this hospital perimeter are definitely not vampires. They’re not dressed well enough and keep ranting on about pains or somethin…at least it sounds like pains?!
(some ambient background zombieness whilst you read)
What’s All The Fuss About?
I am about to veer sharply away from the norm here, or so it would appear to the casual onlooker, by reviewing a two player card game…but bear with me for it is not all bad news…a secret or two may yet be revealed…
A successfully funded kickstarter project last year from designer Colin….. saw a small, fast paced card game emerge from its previous resting place beneath the ground. Zombie Doctor raised the living dead…well this is not strictly true as it, fortunately, is not your run of the mill hack and slash zombie killer game.
This is a game about survival and actually features live, human medical staff barricaded within a hospital. Not a zombie in sight. No flame throwers, no shot guns or chainsaws. These are real live human beings trying to survive. Survive what you ask…where are the zombies? Why does it have zombie in the title? The answer is simple. This game’s perspective has our would-be heroes hauled up in a hospital amidst an apocalyptic zombie out break. They are not infected with the ludicrous virus and spend the entire game fighting off the effects of said virus or avoiding infection where ever possible.
This is a battle against ones self and the virus…with a large smattering of take that thrown in to the bargain.
Immersion or Subversion?
It is a card game about zombies so if you believe such entities actually exist, it is very immersive. It is actually a particularly interesting take on the whole zombie genre in that we are not fighting or killing zombies, it is not of the blood fest variety, it is about a group of frightened medically trained survivors camped out in a hospital, trying not to let infection take hold. Some of the abilities in the game, although comic gore, actually present interesting social conundrums. If placed in such life threatening situations do we have the will power to saw off our own limbs in order to survive…
do we have it in us to do harm to another to ensure our survival. The game itself doesn’t focus on this directly but the mechanics within certainly open up this as an area for discussion. The game is not heavy, nor are most of the game turn decisions but it does subtly provoke thought on our society. So in that instant this actually becomes an incredibly immersive situation beyond the game itself.
Zombie Doctor is billed as a frantic card-turning game. This in reality is not the case…we are managing a small hand of medical equipment that can be unscrupulously used on others…or, indeed ourselves, if the situation becomes dire enough to call for such drastic action. We get to amputate limbs, reattach and swap limbs or even administer miraculous healing serums to certain body parts in a desperate bid to stay alive. It’s your turn not to turn! Actually the card turning element is there and is the basis of the game…my dromatic effects fell flat on the floor amidst the discarded body parts when I disclaimed the cad turning. The card turning is more record keeping rather than game mechanic as such. Our medical alter-ego comprises six double-sided cards. To begin with we are shiny new people with clean “scrub” and doctors coats but as time progresses and we become prone to infection cards are flipped to represent the zombie virus taking hold and are illustrated accordingly to comic humorous effect. These ailments can be treated, however…they can be removed…or the morgue can be scavenged for new bits to be sewn on in their stead.
Against all rules of nature we can survive the infection taking hold of all limbs and our core….so long as it stays away from the head. Keep your head and you are victorious when all around you are losing theirs.
The basics of the game are start with a three card hand…play a card…draw a card and that is it. But it is a little more tricky than that…nothing is straight forward when dealing with the undead.
If a card can’t be played on an opponent or ones self, it must be discarded and replaced from the draw deck. In doing so, the virus has taken hold of us and we must decide which body part we wish to forego to infection. That card is then turned to reveal the zombification process…not pretty at all.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
To be honest there is only because it is a pocket sized game. The game consists of 52 cards, illustrated by Colin and finished with a linen effect. The illustrations and printing are good and the cards feel robust enough to handle , however, pointed out that (as the cards are borderless – no margin for error) some body parts don’t align up perfectly (the head of one female doctor in particular). I hadn’t paid it much attention as I am rubbish at aligning cards anyway but I thought I would mention it as I know some gamers are particular about layout.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Colin Hutton
- Artist: Colin Hutton
- Game Publisher: Gimme Games
- Playtime : 30-90 mins (solo proposes about 30 mins)
- Gangs of one: 2-4 (but will soon become 1-4)
- Age of Consent: 15+
- DOB: 2017/8
Now as it stands, obviously this is a multiplayer only game and has no solo method of play that I am aware of…..BUT here is the rather special news….Colin has been working on solo and cooperative modes for the upcoming expansion Kickstarter campaign. Not only is the world of Zombie Doctor going to get a lot larger (with many new characters, additional items and ways to play, it gets a whole lot smaller (playable by one!)
Here is what Colin had to say when I asked about his plans for solitaire play…
In terms of solo play – The story changes slightly, so you’re actually the only person left, trying to survive for as long as possible until you can escape/be rescued from the hordes of zombies/monsters attacking you. 5 new Pain or Gain cards will be added. These new cards represent new interactions with the zombies/monsters.
Co-op also uses these new Pain or Gain cards but again, the story is different. One of you starts off critically ill (only the head and torso is healthy), so you have to not only try to revive your friend to a healthy state, but also fend off being attacked by zombies and monsters. You need to be a lot more careful with your cards and make tough decisions such as sacrificing medicine to give to your friend.
Both these variants makes the gameplay more frantic and desperate, with a game typically lasting up to 30 minutes.
The Zombie Doctor world has officially announced to the infested world that it is growing with its The Classic Horror Expansion Pack.
Initial plans are for four iconic characters (which can, interestingly enough, be mixed with the original characters from the base Zombie Doctor game, or played with as a standalone game. Pain or Gain Cards from the base Zombie Doctor game will be needed and not supplied with the expansion pack so this is not a stand alone exercise of zombie-ism.
The characters proposed are:
- Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
- The Mummy
- The Invisible Man
So very much in the Hammer House of Horror classics. They’re incredibly suitable for the game’s mechanics as they turn from one thing into another! Perfect for fans of the classics or a great addition to your horror games.
So new ways to play and some nice new additions to drive the solo game (pain or gain cards) which opens up this title to a whole new audience and makes for a very exciting small game solo proposal. So this is a space to watch to find out how this solo mechanic will look and function and I hope to be able to bring more detail as the campaign approaches. (kickstarter link )
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: As it stands it is one player pitted against others with a high self-preservation/take that feel, so there is a lot if to-ing and fro-ing (probably provides a more entertaining game experience with 3-4 players) but ultimately one person will be victorious.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: This is a very simple game that requires only the smallest if rule books…a seven page rules booklet, including the Pain Or Gain card explanations, in a Euro card sized booklet. There is no ambiguous flannel so a quick read and players are away quick sharpish.
- Lucky Buggers: No dice so no reliance on luck other than the luck of the draw…but in there lies the skill of a player, to be able to optimise even the least favourable of hands drawn.
- Highs and Lows: Some zombie games are particularly gruesome, graphic and macabre and some are ridiculously comical with the portrayal of gore (and not in a good way) but, although some elements of the game are potentially disturbing, (collecting limbs from the morgue and sewing them on to oneself) it is not presented in a detailed graphic way nor in a flippant “oh it’s just a game” way…so it has the zombie fan appeal but is child friendlyness….to a point (age 15+)
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The game itself is made op of a deck of fifty two cards so is compact and portable. The characters are made up of six cards laid out to make a body so dependant on the number of players, each player needing a space three cards x three cards, the game could easily fit onto a small pub table…and a very sensible place to play it too.
Me, Myself and I:
This was an interesting game for which I had to enlist No.2 daughter and my wife to play…we had fun with many a fast paced game and quickly bought into the easy play style. Tricky decisions do present themselves, giving us hard choices (so the grey matter can be tested before it is tasted) so it is not just a throwaway game. There is more substance to it than a zombies flesh. This is not my usual type of game, true, but it will be going into my wife’s hand bag (a bottomless storage space with many a small game that is ready to play whenever we are out and about or on holiday. It is most entertaining with no down time and, with gaming groups or families, it offers opportunity for interaction often lost with more complex, heavier games.
…but, when the solo variant makes its appearance, this presents a whole new proposition. Family will no longer be needed …whooooohoooooo……so it can be whipped at during those times a gaming itch needs to be scratched but space and/or time etc are in short supply.
Yay or Nay?
I would like to say this is fun family stuff but with the nature of its theme that needs to be very much at the discretion of the family. That said it is light, fun, frantic at times and, although armless at times, still drags itself in search of BSoMT brains for a 1d8 die roll of (5)..this die roll is only because solo players will probably not be looking for this type of game, being multiplayer only. The roll is a combination of gameplay and solo suitability…but when the solo game rules arrive, and have been tried out, I am confident that this die roll will be much increased, as its suitability, as well as theme, will hit solo players sweat spot.
…now you can stick your difibulator…I’m taking a vial of mad scientist potion…I’m not hanging round with a gammy leg…I’m going to chop it off and amputate one of your good ones, and sew that on in place of the gammy one…mwhhaaaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaahaaaa
*oh bugger! I’ve just realised why I keep walking round in circles…I’ve only gone and sewn two left legs on haven’t I?!!!
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Zombie Doctor BGG page: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/237135/zombie-doctor-zombie-card-game
New expansion BGG page: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/254250/zombie-doctor-classic-horror-expansion-pack
Zombie Doctor on Twitter: