Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saturday Night Board Games: ZombieZone, Monsters Menace America, and Alhambra

We'll usually get together and play board games on Saturday night, and the games are usually decided based on whoever is playing. It was just myself and fellow Fruitless Pursuits contributor, George Tagmire, so we went for an unusual mix. We playtested a prototype, tried out something we've never played before, and closed the night with an easy and familiar favorite.

The first game we played isn't even a game yet. We playtested a game that I've been developing, called ZombieZone. We've tested it many times before, but this was much better because I just got my prototype copy in the mail. Instead of playing on a modified Scrabble board, we had a modular board made up of 4 8" x 8" pieces and some wooden zombie/human tokens (with awesome temporary google image art). The board pieces can be assembled any way you would like and adds fun pre-game customization and additional strategic possibilities.

ZombieZone is a roll and move battle game that puts the humans agains the zombies. In previous versions, the zombies would almost always win very early on, but months of balancing has finally paid off. Last night, we ended up with a 1 vs. 1 duel. The zombies still won though.

Monsters Menace America
We were in the mood to try something new. I picked up Monsters Menace America at a used board game auction last year for $12. We've never tried it out mostly because it looked a little intimidating. It's actually fairly simple.

The components on this game are really nice. A massive board, full color monster pieces, tiny tanks, planes and rocket launchers, high quality monster tiles with plastic scorekeepers on the sides, and hex chits. I definitely got my moneys worth at $12.

As for the gameplay, it was classic battle game style with a few genre-related twists. Players control both a monster and a military and they're trying to stomp cities, and destroy the other monsters. The box said 90 minutes, but it moved very slowly.. even with just two players. I think it was partially because it was our first time and we weren't sure about all of the rules, but also because we were surrounding the monsters with so many army units that it was impossible for them to move around.

After about 2 hours we called a truce and moved on to the next game. It was getting late, and we weren't getting anywhere.

Our final game of the night was Alhambra. It was so calm compared to the head to head battling of the previous games. We've played it before and only needed a quick rule refresher.

Alhambra is a really cool tile-based German board game where you purchase and assemble buildings in your own "Alhambra". It moves very quickly as players can only take one action during their turn (take currency, purchase a building and build, or move a building tile).

This was the first time we ever played with two players. Something felt a little off though because the scoring mechanic really works best with 3 or more. In most scoring rounds, the 1st and 2nd place player will get points, and we were always the 1st and 2nd place players. About 2/3 of the way through the game, I happened to glance over at the rulebook and I saw the special rules for a two player game..

There is an imaginary third player, called Dirk. Dirk doesn’t build an Alhambra, but he does collect building tiles. Dirk doesn’t take game-turns.

At the beginning of the game, draw 6 tiles for Dirk and set them aside – make sure they’re easily visible to both players.

During scorings, Dirk also receives victory points for building majorities. He doesn’t get points for an outside wall.

We totally forgot about Dirk! (naming the fictitious player after the designer is such an odd concept) So I suggested changing to those rules and dealing out Dirk's (still weird!) tiles because we were just digging ourselves deeper into a hole. The scoring was odd, and there was no way the game could change hands. We would both get more and more points together, but whoever was winning would continue to win. George refused to change because he "based his strategy on the amount of tiles left in the bag. It wouldn't matter at all though because I was way in the lead.

In the end, I won by a lot. Next time we'll read the directions first. But in all fairness, it's hidden all the way at the end of the rulebook. After playing I decided that I really want to try some of the expansions, and I need to buy the Alhabra Big Box. It seems very Carcassonne-ish in it's expandability, since it's very basic in concept with tons of room to build on.


  1. this was the most hilarious blog I've read in a long time! that crab-claw man should be something to be in a costume-party-contest!!!!
    Got anymore fellas in that gameboard!?

  2. ZombieZone's looking great!

    We have Monsters Menace America in our board game group collection, seems like it wasn't so hot though?

    And I like Alhambra a bunch. It is a quiet game that you wouldn't play twice in a row, but it's nice. The two player version works well though.

    I'm interested in some of the expansions, but not till we've played the main game a little more.

    Great post!

  3. Thanks Grug!

    I wasn't too into Monsters Menace America, and after seeing the prices it brings online, I'm probably going to sell mine. After one play through, I felt like it was just a big beat em' up, move around and battle game.. which I feel funny staying as I'm also developing a battle game. But ZombieZone is a little more abstract, and we had a lot more fun playing it.

    Monsters Menace America is very nicely done, and would probably be a blast as a group.. but the pacing of those games really kills me. Especially when you're investing a few hours in it.

  4. nice blog. i know its an old one. But i´m totally intertested in your game Zombiezone. Looks nice and clean. Do you have it finished? May you send me a pdf with rules and bits? I´m more than happy to give it a try myself :)
    best wishes