100 Days of Halloween: Tabletop Horror, Part 4 – Fresh Meat!
As gamers ourselves, we’re always on the lookout for new titles to add to our collection. Nothing beats that new-game-smell and the sound of the vaccuum’s *whoomp* when opening a new game box up for the first time.
And that’s exactly the type of game Tommy Brownell talks about today: New games on the market – Fresh Meat, if you will. Here are two cooperative/semicooperative games that you might not have added to your wishlist yet:
So this doesn’t sound at all like a horror game…until you realize that it is the Alien (yes, as in the sci-fi horror films) deck-building game.
This game readily accommodates 1-4 players and you can either play it completely cooperatively, or you can add in hidden agendas (Ripley has been betrayed once or twice, you know).
Everyone picks one of 10 Avatars (like Corporate Executive, Mercenary, Researcher, Medic, Scout and Synthetic). Each one has a special ability, a health total and a defense score. You use Specialists and Grunts to recruit better crew members drawn from Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection (including four different versions of Ripley).
You can mix and match the various heroes, including a deck of all four Ripleys, as you attempt to battle your way through the aliens. Other characters include Captain Dallas, Bishop, Call and (my personal favorite) Brother Dillon.
The game is set up with multiple objectives divided into three levels, with their own objectives. You can actually combine sets of objectives and characters to essentially play through the rough plot of each of the four movies or you can mix and match as you please.
A wide variety of enemies will move, hidden, through the complex (game map) and you have to search for them to find them, sometimes snagging a facehugger (which is bad) or sneaky aliens that will vanish again at the end of the turn. Each level 3 objective has a scary boss (or two) which must be dealt with. And getting killed by an alien’s not too bad. Sometimes you get to come back as an Alien character to screw with the other players (good or evil).
I am not much of a fan of the license, but this is a REALLY well done game, and I actually wish the Marvel Legendary game had taken its cues from this. Great adaptation, and a compatible Predator version is coming.
Dead of Winter
The box art sold me, and I preordered this almost immediately after seeing it.
What is it?
The best Walking Dead-style zombie board game, with zombies as a fearful element, but playing backseat to the duplicitous agendas of your fellow survivors, the harsh, biting winter and the moral quandaries the zombie apocalypse springs on you.
For 2-5 players, but playing best with at least 3, Dead of Winter brims with personality, with 30 unique characters to control (31 if you preordered). Sure, a Park Ranger, a Soldier and a Sheriff might be useful, but don’t rule out the effectiveness of a Farmer, a Construction Worker or a Cook. Even the Janitor is surprisingly useful. You can kill the Mall Santa, though.
There are different scenarios to choose from, like finding food to stockpile for the winter, needing to get zombie samples for a cure, or deciding to pack up and move out. In addition, each player has a secret agenda, which may be as simple as needing to have more survivors under your care, to needing to barricade the colony, to initiating a full blown coup of the colony. If the players suspect you are actively working against the interests of the colony, they can exile you, which can set you on a whole new path.
The board is abstracted, with a colony and six sub-boards (school, police station, library, hospital, convenience store and grocery store), just don’t get pinned down in one location and be careful, because the exposure die can be harsh and unforgiving (like when you get bitten when returning to the colony and kill three people before the cycle stops).
The BIG selling point of this game are the Crossroads cards, which are triggered by certain characters in certain situations and put you in the position to choose between the lesser of two evils.
Perhaps the Librarian sees the Library…and has to choose between staying at the Library for the rest of the game, or being too hurt by the state of it to ever return.
Or one of your characters may catch another in a compromising situation…do you blackmail them for a card from their hand? Or do you expose their hand to the table? Or you kill your zombie mother and get attacked by your zombie father? Do you run screaming from the house? Or do you risk death to put him down…and gain what amounts to a free attack per round for the rest of the game?
Easily the most unique zombie game I have ever played, and well worth owning alongside any other zombie game in your collection. The resource management of the colony, the paranoia of possible traitors, and the nervous energy when a Crossroads card is drawn make this a memorable experience that begs to be played.
Happy Halloween 2014!!
Tommy Brownell is freelance writer/editor and a tabletop gamer/reviewer. He writes The Chronicles of Rachel Strand for Equinox Comics and has worked with Savage Worlds licensees Savage Mojo, Daring Entertainment, Gun Metal Games and Third Eye Games, and has recently begun developing his own creative imprint known as Empyreal Creative, through which he is developing his own comic series, among other projects.
You can find him on the web at: http://mostunreadblogever.