Check out my d4 DICE review
Player count: 1 – 2 players
Play time: 60+ minutes
Designers: Gerald Kielpinski
Card Z is a cooperative, dice rolling zombie survival game. The game is scenario based with each scenario having map layouts and objectives. You play as a character with a heroic action, loot and a backpack. The map is made up of cards that are laid out in particular fashion depending on the scenario.
The game is play over a number of days, or turns. Each day has three actions phases, dawn, day and night, this is followed by a reckoning phase in which each character must eat to avoid starving.
Players have a 1 scout and 1 retreat move. If no encounters are present then it is a “safe” location. If an encounter is revealed then the Battlefield is set up. This is a separate board hex board in which encounters take place. Survivors will move through the battlefield, fight zombies and potentially gain loot. Combat is dice based and the results can be affected by weapons or skills. If a location is cleared you can gain the rewards and the location becomes safe.
Players will move through the map locations, gathering loot, dealing with encounters and eating food, until either the players win the scenario or die trying.
Card Z is a fairly meaty game. There is a lot of aspects of the game that I have not covered above but hopefully that introduction was enough to whet your appetite.
There was a lot of things that I enjoyed about Card Z and I want to highlight that I was playing with a prototype copy and rules.
Card Z is gritty and it is tough. This is not a game where you can run in to a mass of Zombies, guns blazing, swords slashing and hope to survive. It is very much a survival game. Encounters are brutal and can take you out in one foul sweep. I like the different “type” of zombies you can encounter – regular, fast, slow, rigor mortis zombies as well as feral dogs and human enemies. They all have varying stats, move and “bite” values which changes how you approach and deal with them.
The weather can have an impact on your die rolls and is something else that needs to be accounted for and dealt with. Players must eat to survive or they starve and are penalised on their die rolls. As well as combat encounters are determined by a die roll. There is a fair amount of randomness in the game which can be punishing. You can get unlucky and end up with a number of tough encounters. But you do have a retreat action you can perform once per day. So there is some mitigation.
The battlefield map is a cool element that I really enjoyed. It focuses the gameplay into a specific location and area for the combat. It can make for some puzzling combat gameplay as you try and out manoeuvre and position yourself in to the optimum location. There is a lot too the combat including rules around walls, ranged or melee weapons and loud noises attracting zombies. You can charge, push and impale enemies in melee combat as well as using rapid fire, gun jams and losing arrows/bolts for ranged weapons. Combat feels more focused, more tactical and more puzzly than it appears. You can plan out your combat sequences and moves but the die roll can still be punishing.
Card Z is definitely a “different” kind of zombie game. It is very much a survival game and it is fairly unforgiving and hard. But what it does do is create stories. Stories like the time you got mauled by the feral dog whilst trying to hit it with your bat. Or the time you shot a zombie clean in the head but attracted a load more. Or the time when you just needed some food and managed to scavenge for a few scraps and a tin can. It is not for the feint hearted.
I did fine the rule book hard to get to grips with at first but there are some very good tutorial videos online which helped (https://baecard-z.com/). Bear in mind that I did not have the finished rulebook. If you are after a different take on a Zombie survival game then check out Card Z on Kickstarter.
You can check out the Kickstarter for Card Z here
Please note: Card Z was provided as a review copy from MantiGames