In keeping with this weeks spooky Halloween feel, we were send a couple of horror themed board games to try out. The first of which is ‘City of Horror‘.
City of Horror is a board game, where you’re trapped in a city being attacked by zombies. The object being to be the player in the best shape went the rescue helicopter arrives to save you. It’s a follow up to the earlier ‘Mall of Horror’, except this time, it’s set in a city (as the title rather suggests!) Having not played the game in it’s previous incarnation, I can’t do a comparison, but I’m told it’s fairly similar, but with the edges rounded off.
So, City of Horror comes with a play board, which displays the city, and is constructed with a diamond shaped ‘crossroads’ piece in the middle, and various buildings around the outside – Hospital, Bank, Church, Armory, and a Water Tower. Each area gives some sort of advantage to the players, except for the crossroads, where you have no shelter, and are more likely to end up as a tasty braaaiinnns snack for the hordes of undead.
Setting up the game is quite long winded. First, someone is picked as ‘first player’. Then each player selects a number of random ‘characters’, which have various horror movie staples, from blonde bimbo, to priest, to geek (fat kid with a lightsaber…) Each have their own unique skills which can be used to save themselves from becoming zombie lunch, or give them an advantage over other players. Each character has a card which tells you what points they’re worth, and have a character piece which you place on the board. You then select which buildings you’d like to place characters to start in. Each player then takes a set of ‘action cards’. These contain additional actions or weapons which can be used against the zombies or fellow players.
Enter the zombie hoard…
The zombie hoard are controlled by randomly picked ‘invasion cards’, which tell you where, and how many, zombies invade each building zone. Each zone has rules determining how many zombies need to be there before they attack.
Once the board is set up, and all the characters and zombies are in place, you can start to play round one.
Playing The Game
1. First, any characters stationed on the Water Tower, have an overview of proceedings, and so get to see the next invasion card before its played. This gives those players the advantage of knowing where the zombies will appear, and they can work that into their survival strategy.
2. Next the players secretly pick movement cards, which display which location they want to move to.
3. The zombies invade! – And are laid out according to the invasion card. These cards also tell you where to drop ‘supplies’ which give extra points and, stop characters dying from zombie infection.
4. Movement – All the movement cards are then revealed, and ‘first player’ moves their characters, then the next player moves. There are a limited number of slots in each building however, so if you’ve chosen to move somewhere and there’s no room, you get booted to the rather more insecure crossroads.
5. Location resolution – Each location has it’s own rules which determine if the zombies attack, and if you can pick up supplies, such as antidotes (which are needed before they’ll let your character onto the helicopter). And if the zombies are crashing through your door, you have to decided what you’re going to do about it, which brings us to…
6. The Vote – This is the braaaiiinnns of the game. If the zombies attack, a character at that location has to become zombie lunch… But which character?.. This is where the vote comes in. Players vote who should be thrown to the zombies. Each character has 1 vote. So if a player has 2 characters in one location, and everyone else has 1. Chances are that player with 2 will get their way. However, action cards can alter this. In some cases, by sticking a gun to the head of an opposing teams character, and ‘suggesting’ they vote your way, but players can form alliances, and gang up on other players, so be prepared for some heated discussions/argument. For example, if your playing with friends & family, do you side with your wife, and make your best friend zombie chow, or if can your friend sweeten the deal, and make you decide your significant other should become an undead happy meal? Things could get quite ugly!
In the event of a tie, whoever is ‘first player’ that round gets the deciding vote. Players can also use there character’s ‘special ability’. This lowers their value, giving you less points if they do make it to the chopper at the end, but could save their skin right now, which maybe more important. For example, the ‘pregnant woman’ character can ‘give birth’, which gets her 2 votes instead of 1, but halves the amount of points she’s worth. Then if it stops the other players throwing her to the zombie hoard, that could be worth it… But you might have made an enemy of the player who’s character does get eaten, and that could be detrimental to you down the line. It’s a delicate negotiation. Players can also trade food cans (picked up at the crossroads, and worth a random amount of points) and antidotes with other players in an effort to change their minds.
At the end of the 4th invasion round, the rescue helicopter turns up to air lift any survivors to safety, but only if they have an antidote on them (don’t want them ‘turning’ back at base, and eating the other survivors i guess!) Each character is worth the amount of points on their card (which is higher if they haven’t used their special skill). Food is also worth points. The player with the highest points wins.
There’s a couple of points with the game design that bugged me. The first is the character card design. Instead of putting the characters special abilities on the cards themselves, they’re all written up in the rule book, which means you have to refer back to it each time to check what they can do. It’s an odd design choice, and if you’re playing with 6 players, could make life far more difficult than it needs to be. Also, it’s a game with LOTS of cards. We just had cards everwhere! I can’t help thinking, there must be a better way of cutting down the amount of cards, counters, and other bits of stuff you have to have out on the play area. I didn’t find the rule book massively user friendly either, as it references some things before they’ve appeared in the game. It could do with a better step-by-step guide.
The box says 3 – 6 players, but personally, i’d say you want a minimum of 4 to make it interesting. And bear in mind, it’s a game which will likely cause some heated discussion. Deciding to feed the brains of your Significant Other to a zombie hoard, may find you sleeping on the sofa. ;) It’s a game that very much depends on the personalities of the people you’re playing with, as it can be potentially very backstabbing and quite brutal, rather than out-and-out fun.