Here is the first draft of an art game I plan to make this year. I’ll have them available at Gen Con 2014. I thought of the game yesterday and the rules just poured out. I think it will be a very fun game to play and done as an art game it will look very pretty. I love a pretty game!
The zombie apocalypse is upon us! Who will survive?
Undead America is a zombie survival game set in the United States as the world goes to hell. Most of the players run groups of survivors, intent on staying alive but also maintaining as much quality of life as possible. One or sometimes two players run the zombies. At first there are not many walking dead but soon the world will be overrun by them.
Each turn the survivors gather resources, try to stay away from the zombies and sometimes fight them. It is a desperate situation because there are never enough resources to go around.
So get ready to die, the game is about to begin.
1 game board
1 turn track
1 victory point track
60 survivor tokens (6 different colors, 10 per color)
255 zombie tokens
500 resource tokens
1 rule book
1 turn token
6 victory point tokens of different colors
What you are doing in the game
Undead America is a game of survival through a zombie apocalypse. But it is about more than just survival. You have to have a life worth living. This means holding towns and cities to gain victory points. The more points you have the better your life is. In the end the player with the best quality of life wins – if any of their people survive!
While the living concentrate on comfort and luxury, the undead player (or players in an eight player game) concentrates on killing everyone. At first there are very few zombies, so they may hide, but each turn more and more zombies appear until they overwhelm the living. At that point the zombies are able to isolate and surround the survivors and then overrun them.
The game lasts for twelve turns so players need to think fast on what to do. Before you know it the world will be overrun with only a few haggard survivors left.
How to win the game: Victory Points
The living players gain victory points for living the best lifestyle. This is shown by being in cities and towns. The player gets 3 points for having a survivor in a city, 2 points for having a survivor in a town and 1 point for having a survivor in a small town. To maximize victory points the survivors have to spread out. A player need only have one survivor per town so there is no reason to double up anywhere. Living players gain no victory points for survivor tokens that are outside urban areas. because camping sucks!
Survivor tokens are never stacked. Zombie tokens may be stacked up to aid in moving them.
Definitions of cities and towns
City: Cities are marked on the map in shaded outlines that can hold five or more survivor tokens.
Towns: Towns are marked on the board with shaded areas that can have at most four survivor tokens touching the shaded area.
Small Towns: Small Towns are marked on the board as black circles. Small towns may hold only one survivor token.
How many people can play?
Undead America is a game for two to eight players and plays in an hour.
Two players: One player runs the zombies and the other runs one color of survivors.
Two to Seven players: One player runs the zombies. The other players run different colored teams of survivors.
Eight players: Two players run the zombies (dividing them equally except on the first turn when only one player gets a zombie token). The other players run different colored teams of survivors.
Placing the living on the board
Place the map on a table and give the living players 10 survivor tokens of the same color.
The players start the game by populating the board with survivors. The youngest player goes first. They place one survivor token on the board, in any city or town they like. Play then goes to the left around the table. Each player places one survivor a turn until all the survivors are on the map. Once that is done the apocalypse can begin!
The zombie player starts the game by placing a single zombie token in any city or town on the board. When movement starts happening, tokens may end up on roads in between towns but at first everyone must start in an urban area.
Each subsequent turn the zombie player gets twice as many zombie tokens. The zombie infection spreads through the general population like wild fire. Unlike the survivors, most people are not ready for the apocalypse and fall easy prey to the undead. The zombies get 1-2-4-8-16-32-64-128 in the first eight turns. After that the plague burns itself out as it runs out up new unready victims to convert.
Zombie players may place zombies in any city or town on the board so soon the urban areas will be overrun with the undead and the survivors will be cut off and surrounded.
During the zombie player’s turn they may move three groups of zombies (or two if there are two zombie players). A group of zombies may include any number of zombie tokens. The moving player may move the group as a whole break it up and move down any road to the next town or city. The zombies crowd up on the urban area and attack any survivors there. If they encounter a survivor on a road between towns they stop and fight them.
Zombies always move along roads from town to town. They never move cross country. They aren’t very smart after all.
When a zombie token or group of zombies come in contact with a survivor they attack and eat them. Count up the number of zombies present and roll that number of resource tokens. For each red rolled a survivor token dies and is removed from the board.
Zombies also get to attack during other player’s turns if they are in the same town as a survivor and the survivor does not fight them or tries to fight but scores no hits on them. The zombies roll as many resource tokens as they have zombie tokens present.
If the zombie player has multiple survivors in a town they divide up which resource tokens go at which survivors before the rolls are made. Roll each attack separately so it is clear which survivors make it and which get eaten.
The zombies have a tough task, hunt down and eat all the survivors. They do this by spreading out and surrounding survivors. Then swoop in on the cut off living and fight them to the death. It helps to have a large centrally located zombie horde that can spread out suddenly to overrun a whole area at once.
Two Zombie Player games
When eight people play the game there are two zombie players rather than one. The zombie players divide up the zombie re-enforcements so half appear in each zombie’s turn. The acting zombie player places their new zombies and then gets to move two groups of zombies (rather than three – which is what happens when there is only one zombie player). They may move and fight using all the zombies on the table. The zombie players trade off on who makes counter-attack rolls.
What are the living to do?
The survivors have a rough time in Undead America. They have on one hand the need for comfort. They need to be in towns or cities to gain victory points but they also need to stay away from the zombies and possibly even fight them off. The living players control ten survivor tokens of a single color and as many resource tokens as they gather to help them survive. At the start of each player’s turn they need to decide what policy they want to follow that turn. A policy determines what they may do.
Harvest Resources: The player may not move any of their survivor tokens. Instead they stay put and systematically gather resources. The player collects 10 resource tokens. They may fight any zombies in the town with them.
Forage: The player may move half of their survivor tokens (round up). They are quickly gathering resources as they move so they only get 5 resource tokens. They may fight any zombie tokens in the town they are in or that they encounter on the move. If a survivor starts a turn in a town with a zombie or in contact with zombies on the open road, they may move around them to the next town with their move.
The player is allowed to move one group of zombies that has four or less tokens. They move down roads to the next town.
Move fast: The player may move all of their survivor tokens but does no collect any resource tokens. They may fight any zombie tokens they encounter on the way. If a survivor starts a turn in a town with a zombie or in contact with zombies on the open road, they may move around them to the next town with their move.
The player is allowed to move one group of zombies that has four or less tokens. They move down roads to the next town.
The living need resources to survive in Undead America. Resource tokens represent food, fuel, weapons and medical supplies. A resource token is a wooden cube with one side colored red. Players will roll resource tokens as dice to fight, evade, and save themselves when hit.
Resource tokens are always in short supply. The living players will never have enough. Deal with it! Use them sparingly. Run rather than fight whenever you can. In the end the zombies will overwhelm the world, your job is to survive.
The zombie player uses resource tokens to attack with but they don’t store them up. Instead they pick up resource tokens equal to the number to zombie tokens present in the attack and roll them.
Survivors move along roads just like the zombies. Moving tokens go down roads to the next town encountered or until they meet zombies who stop them. If a road has no towns on it (like interstate highways) a survivor may go a long way in a move, but moves on minor roads in congested areas can be very slow due to all the small towns in the way.
Players may choose to stop movement on the road between towns. If they do they are considered to occupy the whole road between the towns. They encounter any zombies that are also on that stretch of road.
When a survivor is in the same town as a zombie token or horde, or meets them somewhere on the road, they may fight them. The living player decides how many resource tokens they are going to put into the fight before the resource tokens are rolled. They roll the tokens all at once. For every red rolled, a zombie token is destroyed and removed from the board.
If a player scores no reds in their attack the zombie player gets to roll an attack. If the attacker hits even one zombie though, the zombies do not get an attack. Zombies also get an attack if they are in contact with a survivor that does not fight back. These zombie counter-attacks are only on the moving player’s survivors, not any other color survivors present. They stand by and watch as you die!
Fighting other survivors
Living players may choose to attack other player’s survivor tokens. These attacks are rolled just like attacks on zombies with each red killing one survivor token. If an attacker scores no hits, the defending player may roll a counter-attack.
As twisted as it may seem for survivors to fight one another, it may happen because of victory points. If a player has more victory points than you, they will win the game, but they have to have at least one survivor left alive to win. This means it might make sense in the last desperate days of the apocalypse to turn on one another.
If a survivor is moving down a road toward a zombie filled town they may try to evade the zombies instead of fighting them. The player decides how many resource tokens they want to roll. If they roll a single red they may move around the town to the other side or move cross country to another road.
Which roads a survivor may jump over to is determined by the open space to either side of the road. The player may move a survivor token over any length of open ground to reach another road. Movement is bounded by the roads but movement is blocked by rivers and lakes (which may only be crossed by bridges).
If the zombies attack a survivor and score a hit the survivor is killed and removed from the board. The hurt survivor may try to save themselves by rolling resource tokens. The player decides how many tokens they want to roll and rolls. They save one survivor token per red rolled. The survivor remains in place and is not removed from the board.
Other living players may give resource tokens to the acting player to help them out. The moving player decides how they want to use the resources, including keeping them to use later.
Scoring Victory Points
At the end of each living player’s turn they add up the number of victory points they scored that turn. This is recorded on the victory point track. At the end of the game, the living player with the most victory points, who has at least one survivor token left alive, wins the game.
The zombies win if they kill every last survivor.
The zombie player keeps track of the turn track. They start the game by placing the turn token on the turn track and getting their first zombie. They start each turn by advancing the turn token and collecting their new zombies. They do not get any more zombies after turn eight. The last four turns of the game are about hunting down the remaining survivors.
Killing all the zombies
It is theoretically possible to kill all the zombies. It is a statistical near impossibility but it is possible. If you gather all the resources in a seven player game and score a kill with almost every dice rolled, you can do it. It is very unlikely though. Better to look out for your own self-interest and run.
Influences on the game design
Undead America is designed to be an art game. This means it is a one of a kind, handmade piece of art that you can play a game with. The box, board, playing tokens and even these rules are meant to be beautiful. It is a joy to play a pretty game.
The actual game player is influenced by classic board games like Fox and Geese, Go, and European resource management games. In Fox and Geese, the geese player adds in more and more geese while trying to surround the fox to kick them to death. Meanwhile the fox maneuvers around trying to eat the geese by jumping them. Go is a game of area control done by the placement of game tokens. Again you win by surrounding your opponent. Euro Games are about managing limited resources to accomplish a task.
I hope you enjoy the game, both as a play experience and as a work of art.