Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Board Game Review: Hit Z Road

Hit Z Road is a board game designed by Martin Wallace and published by Space Cowboys.

Hit Z Road has players each taking the role of a group of survivors trying to get across the United States amidst the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. It is largely a push-your-luck dice rolling game with some elements of resource management.

Each turn has three phases. First, several routes are laid out. This is done by drawing from a deck of cards that becomes increasingly more difficult, and creating four routes of two cards each. Players may look at the routes; since the cards, and the order they are in, are random, different combinations of cards can make routes of differing difficulty.

Each card has several elements, not all of which are included in each card. There are Resources. Resources come in three types: Bullets, which allow you some risk-free attacks; Gas, which allows you to bypass a conflict; and Adrenaline, which helps kill extra zombies and save survivors. You simply pick them up. Cards may also have special abilities and victory points. Finally, there is usually a number indicating how many zombies will be attacking.

Players bid for turn order, paying what they have in resources of any kind for the final bid.

Then, each player chooses a route--so if you bid first, you get first pick of the routes.

Each player then resolves their route in the order indicated. Resources are simply collected, and special effects are assessed as needed.

To fight the zombies, a player first decides if they want to spend any Bullet resources for a ranged attack. Every Bullet resource they wish to spend allows them to roll two dice; unlike the melee fight (which we'll get to shortly), all negative effects can be ignored.

After the ranged attack, the player rolls dice equal to the number of survivors they have for their melee attack.

The die results are:
  • Casualty: One of your survivors dies unless you spend an Adrenaline token.
  • Blank: No effect
  • Opportunity Kill: You may kill a zombie if you wish to spend an Adrenaline token.
  • Kill: You kill a Zombie.
  • Bonus Kill: Combines the previous two: you kill a zombie, and can kill a second with an Adrenaline token.
Occasionally you may be required to roll a Horde die on the more difficult cards; these dice replace the blank side with a Horrible Death, which causes a survivor to die with no chance of saving them.

A player continues to roll dice until either all survivors are dead (and they are out of the game), or all the zombies are dead. Then, the next player chooses their route, and play continues until all routes are taken. A new round then begins.

There are a few other minor rules--there are tokens to pick up that grant bonuses or penalties later in the game, and as players are eliminated some of the routes become more expensive to take. There are also bonuses for the end of the game for the player who has the most of each resource.

Play continues until all players but one are eliminated, or the players reach the end of the deck and then the player with the most victory points wins. 

Here's What I Like About The Game:
  • Push-Your-Luck games are one of my favorite genres of games. It adds elements of luck, but there's a certain level of strategy and risk assessment involved. This game does it nicely, especially with how Adrenaline works--there are plenty of opportunities to use it, but you have to be judicious since there's a finite supply of it.
  • The game gets more challenging as the routes become harder and harder. It's deceptively fun, as you watch all the resources dry up and the zombie count gets bigger.
  • The aesthetic of the game is pretty good. It's clearly inspired by Fallout--right down to the bottle-caps-as-currency. The junky, reused feel of the game makes sense given the theme.
  • The game is just the right length of time. It doesn't drag out, and even though there's player elimination, it's unlikely to happen until towards the end of the game. 
Here's What I Didn't Like About The Game:
  • While the graphic design of the game is pretty cool, there are some places where it's hard to read or make out what is going on. 
  • Some of the rules aren't particularly clear--while it's pretty obvious you end the game with the deck runs out, there's no rules that actually states as such. Most of the rule omissions are easy to fix, but it's a little frustrating.
If you like push-your-luck style games and/or zombie games, this will probably be a good pick for you.

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