The Walking Dead Card Game

14 Jun

In the board game world, there has been a long history of cheaply made media tie-in games.  We all remember those poor roll and move games that littered shelves in the 1980s (and if you don’t, may I direct you to the Flip the Table Podcast, where they revel in those kinds of games).  In recent years, however, there has been a bit of a break in that tradition.  We’ve gotten high quality games in the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel universes, as just a couple examples.

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The Walking Dead Card Game is a glorious return to the world of cheap media tie-ins.  However, instead of making a throw away roll and move game, they’ve attempted to bring a classic German card game to an American audience.  The results are wildly mixed.

The Walking Dead Card Game is 2 games in 1 – both being variations of the game 6 nimmt! by Wolfgang Kramer, so instead of talking about the Walking Dead, I’m going to talk about the original game for a while.

In 6 nimmt! each player is dealt 10 cards.  4 more cards are dealt onto the table, making four rows that cards will be played to.  Turns are taken simultaneously.  Each player first chooses a card to play onto the board, then once everyone has chosen, they are all flipped over.  That’s when the chaos begins.  Each card is placed in numerical order onto the board.  Once a row gains its 6th card, the player that played that card takes the row, and the card they played starts a new row.  Each card in the game has a number of penalty points listed on it.  The player at the end of the round with the fewest points wins.

6 nimmt! is a very luck driven game, especially with more players.  The original 6 nimmt! plays between 3-10 players.  I personally love playing it with 4-6 players.  I find that number still allows for some chaos, but there’s still a semblance of control there.  With 10 players, though, there’s almost no way to control what’s going to happen, and your play that looked perfectly safe before the round all of a sudden gets you a handful of cards.  It does provide some laughs as long as the players don’t take it seriously at all.

So, let’s get back to The Walking Dead.  I did say it was 2 games in 1.  The “Survival Mode” is 6 nimmt! exactly.  There’s not a single rule change.  Where this game sets itself apart is in the “Hero Mode” game.

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In Hero Mode, you are trying to do the exact opposite of 6 nimmt! in that you are trying to (re?) kill as many zombies (collect as many cards) as you can.  Each player (this version is only 2-6 players) is dealt 15 cards, and a Hero card.  These Hero cards are 1 time use rule breakers.  They allow you to have your card played down first, regardless if its number.  This can be extremely helpful if there’s a particularly juicy row of 5 cards, but you don’t have anything in your hand that can guarantee it for you.  Each player is also allowed to play 2 cards at a time.

Allowing players to play up to 2 cards at a time is rather like playing Survival Mode with 10 people.  Tons of chaos, but the Hero cards can be very valuable if played just right.

The Walking Dead Card Game elicits many different feelings in me.  First, I’m kind of bothered that Cryptozoic went the themeless remake route for this game.  If you need any proof that there’s no regard for the source material in the game: just check the rule book.  There isn’t word one about the Walking Dead inside the book.  No setup, no references to episodes, no story at all.  Just 6 pages of rules and credits.

I know many people are fans of the show, but let’s face facts here: 6 nimmt! has already been reprinted in English twice in the past 5 years as a hurricane game (Category 5) and a skiing game (Slide 5).  There’s nothing about this game that will tie players to the source material.  Sure, your card art shows the heroes and the zombies, but all the heroes do the exact same thing.

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Second, I’m a big fan of the game play of 6 nimmt! so I applaud Cryptozoic for trying to sneak a great German game into the American Mass Market scene – although I question how many people will find the game mechanics as fun as I will, when they are expecting to kill zombies.   Third, I’m disappointed that the game was made on the (very) cheap.  The cards are not very thick.  They bend very easily.  I accidentally gouged a couple cards deeply just trying to open the cellophane.  I also find the photos of the zombies drab and uninspiring.  The photos feel poorly staged, like they were shot in between takes.

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This is about as mixed of a bag of a game as I’ve ever seen.  I honestly don’t know who this game is for.  Walking Dead fans probably won’t care too much about the game, because it’s not the zombie kill fest they are expecting.  Fans of 6 nimmt! / Category 5 / Slide 5 may enjoy it for the Hero Mode variant, but I wouldn’t ditch my brightly colored fun looking game for this dull looking set.  The game is only $15 though, so I still think it’s a good value for a good game.

Next time, I’m going to look at a very early game from one of today’s hottest game designers.  Thanks for reading.

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