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The Drink: Corpse Reviver #15

1 oz lemon juice
1 oz gin
1 oz triple sec
1 oz Cocchi Americano, Lillet Blanc, or similar

Shake vigorously with ice (this drink is strong! do you see those ingredients!?)

Add a dash or two of absinthe (optional)

Garnish with a star anise pod for ultimate beauty (also optional)

Our Review

Rough Start

Before you begin to play any game, you have to set up. Sometimes this is as simple as shuffling a deck and setting it in the center of the table. Sometimes it involves building cardboard structures, sorting tokens, creating a variety of decks, or writing character backstories.

In my opinion, the longer the game takes to play, the more complicated it's okay for the set up to be.

For example, if you're playing tic-tac-toe, the set up should not be much more complicated than drawing 4 lines on a piece of paper. If you're playing an epic game of Eldrich Horror, it's acceptable to have 12 distinct decks and a beautifully organized merchant shop and super specific rules for setting out the clues.

Zombie 15' does not follow this. Each game takes a maximum of 15 minutes to play. And each round takes a solid 15 or so minutes just to set up. So, unless you have a very nice butler who sets up your board games for you, you're going to spend about half your time setting up the game. You need to create the horde deck according to some particular rules, depending on your scenario, and each player needs to set up their character with their starting items. And that's all fine. It's the map that is really the time-suck. Each map has upwards of 25 tiles that need to be carefully identified and laid out according to the illustration in the scenario book. If you do it properly, you have to look at the tiny label on each tile and match it up with the text in the scenario book to get exactly the correct map. You can get away with not doing this and just making sure the road looks right and the search areas are in all the right places, but I am always afraid that I've messed it up when I go that route.

I have heard that there are some helpful cheat sheets online that make set up a little easier. But either way, you definitely need to put in some work to play this game.

Don't Give Up!

BUT, if you can get through the set up and your friends haven't left yet, this game is actually great. You only have fifteen minutes to rush your way through this challenge, so get ready for some frantic zombie bashing. Plus, there is a great soundtrack to accompany the game, sprinkling sirens and the faint rumbles of the distant horde into the background of some already tense music. I'm definitely going to need this soundtrack on repeat in case of the real zombie apocalypse. It will help keep me on my toes.

Those fifteen minutes will be a tense balance of strategizing at top speed and just bashing zombies as quickly as possible, then yelling "YOUR TURN" at the next player. This game definitely has a significant stress factor. So be prepared for the constant awareness that the seconds are ticking down until the time is up and you and your teammates join the ranks of the zombie horde. Even at the beginning of the game, when fifteen minutes feels like a long time, you have to rush to squeeze in as many actions as possible before you, inevitably, hear that next zombie growl and more zombie figurines spawn on your face. 

In any case, after an intense quarter hour of near panic, that victory can feel oh so sweet. 

Unless you lose. In which case, sucks to be you.


The strategy in this game is kind of interesting because of the constant urgency. This game is complicated enough that, on each of your turns, there is probably a best move. And experienced strategic board gamers will be sorely tempted to try to find and execute this best move. (*cough*Jordan*cough*) Weirdly, in Zombie 15', that is rarely worthwhile. The best move is actually whatever you can do really quickly while still progressing the game.

So trying to figure out the optimal way to use that fourth action on your turn is a bad idea. If you don't already know what you're doing, you should either pick something right quick or just skip your action. I actually really like this because it is so different from other strategy games where just not using one of your four actions would be pretty dumb. Here, it might save you from having the zombie horde box dumped on your head. 

Which, by the way, is no joke. The heroes in this game are all teenagers! Definitely ill equipped to deal with a horde of zombies. Much better to let my teammate deal with it. They can take it. Hopefully...

In Contrast

Let me just pause for a second and talk about some games that aren't Zombie 15'. The other real-time, soundtrack games that I'm experienced with are Space Alert and Escape: The Curse of the Temple (or as I like to call it, Temple Run: The Board Game). Each of these games has a different philosophy in their implementation of real time board games, and I think those differences are actually pretty interesting.

In contrast to Escape and Space Alert, Zombie 15' is turn based, so only one player is interacting with the board at a time. For us, this meant that everybody was involved and talking the whole time rather than focusing on their own thing, but it also meant that there was more of a tendency to yell at your teammates for taking too long because you're just sitting around waiting for them to finish their turn.

Personally, I prefer the simultaneous-play approach, but each has their own ups and downs. So take your pick.

Each of these games also takes a different tack in terms of complexity of rules and strategy.

Escape has pretty simple rules, there's not much you have to keep track of, you just roll as fast as you possibly can. There are a couple of rules that you need to remember throughout, but they are all relatively simple to learn and straightforward to remember. (ie. - you may only walk through doors; black dice are sad)

Space Alert, on the other hand, has moderately complicated rules, but you don't actually calculate what happened until after the soundtrack has ended. So you have as much time as you need to figure out what went down. (Let's be honest, you probably forgot to hit the screensaver.)

Zombie 15' takes yet another approach, where there are moderately complicated rules that you need to actively keep track of during the timed portion. It's definitely more strategy heavy than Escape, and it's nice to know whether you're losing while you're actually playing, rather than figuring it out afterwards. But it's also super easy to break rules by accident, so if that's something that would annoy you, consider skipping this game. Especially while drinking...

Getting In Sync

Because there are quite a few moving parts and everything needs to move so quickly, the only hope you have of minimizing broken rules is by a major feat of coordination. You have to keep track of the growls on the soundtrack, the noise your weapons make, zombies that spawn from searching, whether items have been removed from the game or simply discarded, where your character is, if you can successfully fend off that group of zombies, whether you've used two or three actions, and how much ammo you have left in that Uzi. It's a lot. 

The rules have some suggestions about how to organize yourselves with the players on the left and right of the current player to be in charge of many of these things, but we found that to not work at all.

We ended up putting one player in charge of noise from weapons, another player in charge of growls and spawning zombies, a third player in charge of the search cards and the discard pile and each player was in charge of their own weapons. It was still really chaotic, but it did mostly work.

My one genuine piece of advice for dealing with this is to go into the game assuming that you will accidentally break a few rules. If somebody ends up taking five actions because they're sure that's their fourth action, just let it go. Maybe they did take five actions. Maybe not. Either way, it's probably not a big deal. It's probably not going to win or lose you the game. What is going to lose you the game is spending a whole bunch of time arguing about whether you've taken four or five actions. So my recommendation is to just shout "YOUR TURN" and move on. 

Story Time

The 15 scenarios that are presented in the book tell a linear story of our teenage heroes doing their best to survive this zombie apocalypse. (They probably die at the end. I don't know. I haven't played that far.) If you want to, you can play the scenarios one after the other in a loose campaign. Personally, the story mode didn't seem super compelling because so little crosses over between the rounds. You may choose to keep your ending weapons rather than restarting with your initial weapons and you get some fun extra items from any backpack tokens you picked up. But other than that, it's just 15 more minutes of set up before you can play the next mission.

I do appreciate that, if this game was going to be scenario based anyways, it's cool that the scenarios tell a story. And I really like that the scenarios aren't all just escape from the zombie horde ASAP. Sometimes you have to collect keys or gas cans as you're running. 

The Breakdown

Overall rating:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Somewhat interesting strategy at speed, but too many potential problems

🍹 - DRINKERS: Not much time to drink, and you will probably break all the rules
💭💭💭 - THINKERS: Pretty good, making the best move is no good if you take too long to decide on it
⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜ - THEMERS: Yup. :D KILL THOSE ZOMBIES!! Plus, the soundtrack is A+

Want More?

Buy Zombie 15: http://amzn.to/1XK4DOJ
Learn more about Zombie 15: http://www.zombie15.com/en/