Zombie Dice is the award-winning dice game from Steve Jackson Games. In it, you play a zombie and try to collect (eat) the most brains. The game comes with a cup (cardboard with two plastic lids for each end) and thirteen dice (and instructions – because selling games without instructions would be very silly – that said, if anyone put out a game with no instructions, it would probably be Steve Jackson Games).
The game is played as follows. The winner of the previous game, or the person who can most convincingly moan “BRAAAAAAAINS!”, goes first, they shake the 13 dice in the cup, then (without looking) they select and roll 3 of those dice. Dice that show brains or shotgun blasts stay on the board, while dice that show footprints go back in the cup. The player can stop at any time to end their turn and collect their points (brains), but if they get a total of 3 shotgun blasts their turn ends with zero points collected for the round. Put all the dice in the cup and pass it to the next player. When a player reaches thirteen (or more) brains at the end of their turn, finish the round and whoever has the most brains wins. If there is a tie for first, then those players play one more tiebreaker round.
In our play, being only two players, we decided that simply the first player to 13 won, that way we wouldn’t have to keep track of which one of us went first so we’d know if the other person got another turn. Also, I totally forgot that rule when we played. (Wife: Cheater!) I didn’t cheat. (Wife: But we played without you telling me all the rules!) And? (Wife: Just sayin’…)
Anyway, we settled on playing a best-of-three series. We used the results of playing Life last time to determine who went first. (Wife: And I won at Life.) She went first. (Wife: Yay me!) On her first turn, she rolled three dice five times, ending her round after getting a second shotgun blast and scoring 4 points. I then rolled twice, getting 2 brains the first time and then two blasts on the second and quitting. Her second turn netted 2 more brains in four rolls, quitting when she got her second shotgun blast. For my second turn, I got 1 brain, one shotgun blast and one footprints on the first roll; on the second roll I got 3 brains (Wife: You suck!); on the third roll I got 3 brains again (Wife: You really suck!) and then I quit, scoring seven points for the round – more on why I quit despite only having one shotgun blast later. 2 brains and two blasts on her third turn. 2 brains and two blasts on my third turn as well. On her fourth turn she rolled twice, 2 brains on the first and 3 brains on the second, bringing her total to 13. (Wife: I win!) Only if you stop. You can keep going. (Wife: Nope. I like winning.) I know.
Round two… Despite her winning the last game, she let me go first (Wife: It’s because I’m awesome.) just so that I could see what it’s like to go first (Wife: And because I’m awesome.) and to shake things up. (Wife: Because if I went first, I’d just win.) That too. For my first turn, I got myself two brains and one blast on the first roll, then one brain and two feet on the second, and finally one brain and two blasts on the third. (Wife: Score for the human race!) I exit the round with no points. (Wife: Ha ha!) Laugh it up. (Wife: I will!) For her first turn, she rolls three shotgun blasts, and stops laughing. (Wife: I hate the humans.) Not so funny now, huh? (Wife: Just take your turn.) My second turn is looking good, I’ve got five brains and one shotgun blast, I’m about to stop when I decide to chance it, and get two more blasts. (Wife: The human race strikes again! Ha ha!) So, it’s only funny when it happens to me? (Wife: Yes.) Noted. She racks up 4 brains and stops when she gets two blasts. (Wife: 4 to nothing! I am winning!) Then on my turn I get 6 brains before stopping with two blasts. (Wife: I am not winning.) She gets 2 brains, then I get 2 brains. She gets 1 brain, then I get 3. She gets 2 more brains, and so do I, but my 2 brains happen to be the two I need to get 13 and win the round. (Wife: Come on, humans, kill that zombie!)
Round 3… You see, in a best-of-three series it’s always nice when the first two rounds are split because then you get to play the third round. (Wife: Duh.) Well, it’s better than someone winning the first two rounds and just trouncing the other person into the dirt. (Wife: Unless I win, in which case it is awesome.) And when you lose? (Wife: I don’t, because I win.) Round three goes like this: 2 brains for her, 1 brain for me, 3 for her, 4 for me, 2 for her, 4 for me, 3 for her, 1 for me, and then 3 for her. (Wife: I win!) She wins. (Wife: I win two out of three!) The match goes to her. (Wife: And I rub it in your face!) And I glare at you. (Wife: And I smile.) And I cave. (Wife: And I do a victory dance!)
I love the simplicity of this game. The rules are uncomplicated, and scoring is easy. You can pass the cup around while still having conversations. In that way, it is a very social game. I plan to take this with us to Dragon*Con this year to have available for random games. I also might pick up the expansion, Zombie Dice 2, and a Zombie Dice Bag.
Another reason I like this game is that as simple as it is, there is also deep strategy if you pay attention. (Wife: You paid attention?) Yes. (Wife: But you lost.) Yes. (Wife: I’m going to go grab a nap while you get into boring math stuff. See ya!) As I was saying, there is a little more to the game than just rolling dice. Back up there in round one, I had a turn where I got 7 brains, 6 of which came from rolling 3 brains two separate times, and then I stopped. Here’s why. The game has 13 dice, each of them with brains, blasts and footprints on their sides, but they are also colored green, yellow and red. The green dice, of which there are 6, have three brains, two footprints and one shotgun blast, so a 50% chance of rolling a brain and a total 83% chance of not rolling a blast. The yellow, of which there are 4, have two brains, two feet and two blasts, so 33% brains and 66% not-blast. And the red, of which there are 3, have one brain, two feet and three blasts, so a 17% chance of a brain and a 50% not-blast. That means a red die also has a 50% chance to roll a shotgun blast. On my 7 brain turn, I had 8 dice on the table, 7 brains and 1 blast, and none of them red. That left 5 dice in the cup, 3 red and 2 yellow. I stopped because I felt that as awesome as it was to roll three brains twice in a row, there was a pretty high chance I might roll two more shotgun blasts and lose all those points.
Of course, knowing probabilities doesn’t always help that much. Smart people will sit at a craps table in Vegas losing all day long, or slowly winning small amounts, but then someone will come along who doesn’t know any of the math and will take the house for thousands. A case could be made that I lost round one because I thought myself out of taking the chance and getting more than 7 brains on that particular round.
Man, 0. Wife, 2.
(Wife: I’m back now. I win again! Victory dance!)