One of the fun elements in tabletop gaming is the “screw your buddies over” element. It probably is the sole reason most of the members of the CDT game group play games. Quite frankly, they are masters at it. If there is any element of a game that allows players to mess with each other these sickos will wait until the perfect moment and unleash hell. Provided you are not on the receiving end, it is very amusing. So how do you think they would get on with a game where screwing everyone else over is not just available but is vital to your staying in the game? You guessed it; CDT has the future Card of the Dead world champion team in residence!
Card of the Dead is a zombie themed card game for two to five players from AEG. The game consists of a pack of fifty six cards which contains three different types. Zombie cards represent the undead horde trying to nibble your fleshy bits and are placed in front of you as soon as they are revealed, Action cards allow you to travel or do things to thwart the zombies whilst Event cards require the players to resolve certain instructions as soon as they are revealed. The game is played in rounds and the object is to either be the last person standing or escape from the zombies. This, as always, sounds simpler than it is. To escape you need to play cards worth enough travel points to escape – in a five player game this is five. You also need to do this before you have five zombies in front of you or you are dead. This is where the screwing your friends over comes into play. The action cards can be played either as a travel point or an action to remove zombies from in front of you. Some actions will destroy a zombie outright and some will move them to one of the other players. As you may have gathered from the intro, the CDT gaming group quickly discovered that sometimes it’s easier to shift your zombie onto another player giving them more than five and eliminating them from the game. Card of the Dead quickly becomes a frantic balancing act to try and maintain a low level of zombies in front of you whilst building up travel points.
The flow of Card of the Dead’s is similar to smaller card games like Fluxx and Love Letter. Each player has a starting hand and on their turn they draw one card from the draw pile and play one card from their hand. If the card drawn is either a zombie or an event card, it is played immediately before the payer can play the card from their hand. The thing that speeds a round of Card of the Dead along is that just over half of the fifty six cards in the game are zombies. When you factor in that up to 15 of the non-zombie cards could be in players hands at the start of the game, the chances of drawing a zombie are more than fifty-fifty. This creates a genuine moment of tension as you draw a card on your turn. It is a stroke of genius that also brings the survival instinct in the players to the forefront. This “kill or be killed” mentality is what turns most of the rounds into the most raucous backstabbing fun you’ll have since playing Munchkin as you feed your opponents to the zombie horde.
Card of the Dead is a small game. It is small enough to fit in your pocket, small enough to play in thirty minutes and will have a small effect on your wallet. Where it is not small is in gameplay value. Card of the Dead ranks up there with the amazing Love Letter – its quick and simple and will have you coming back to it again and again.