Spare Parts: The Game of Undead Army Building Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 9 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Trading

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Race to the graveyard and back to be the first Mad Scientist to create your undead horde!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

When you told your peers at the university that you could reanimate dead flesh, they called you a “fraud” and “mad”. Mad? FRAUD?! You’ll show them! You’ve gathered all the supplies and equipment you need to build your own army of the undead. When complete, you’ll take over the world. That’ll show ’em who’s mad! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Spare Parts: The Game of Undead Army Building, a self-published game designed by Kevin Warner, is comprised of 54 Zombie cards (“Flaming”, “Scientist”, “Enchanting”, “Quickdraw”, “Little”, “Infectious”, “Lawyer”, “Brainsucker”, “Commando”, “Nurse”, and “Loitering” Zombies) and 44 Spare Part cards (“Lungs”, “Heart”, “Eyes”, “Brains”, “Hands”, and “Ears” Spare Parts) for a total of 98 cards. The illustrations on the Zombie cards remind me of the artistic works of Eric Powell and are very clean. The cards are made of typical card stock found in most card games and are durable.

Lab Prep

To set up the game, first separate the Zombie cards and the Spare Part cards into two different decks. Shuffle each deck thoroughly.

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Example of Zombie cards (top row) and Spare Part cards (bottom row)

Second, deal to each player 5 Spare Part cards, face-down. This is the player’s starting hand. They should look at their cards but keep them hidden from their opponents at all times. Place the remaining cards, face-down, in the middle of the playing area. This is the Spare Part draw deck for the remainder of the game. Leave room next to it for a discard pile.

Third, deal to each player 2 Zombie cards, face-up. These are the starting Zombies the players are attempting to make. They should be placed in front of their own player in a row. This area is referred to as the player’s “Lab Tables”. Place the remaining Zombie cards, face-down, in the middle of the playing area. This is the Zombie draw deck for the remainder of the game.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who should go first and begin.

Digging for Parts

Spare Parts is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn, they will take a series of sequential steps. These steps are summarized here.

Step 1: Get Fresh Corpses

The first thing every player will do is check to ensure they have corpses to work with. By default, each player has 2 Lab Tables and through the course of the game they might get a few more. If any of the player’s Lab Tables are corpsless, draw Zombie cards from the Zombie draw deck until each Lab Table now has a decomposing and incomplete body on it.

Note that the first player can skip this step (“fresh” corpses were provided to all the players during game set up).

Step 2: Scavenge the Graveyard

Once the Lab Tables have been filled, it’s time for a quick trip to the local graveyard. The player will now draw 2 Spare Part cards from the Spare Part deck and add them to their hand.

Step 3: Organ Trading

One never knows what they will or will not find in the graveyard. More times than not, players will find they don’t have the necessary spare parts required to reanimate their zombies. The player can now initiate trades with their opponents. All trades are out in the open and visible to all players. The player can initiate trades with as many or as few opponents as they like and for any number of Spare Part cards. The player’s opponents are never forced to accept any trade requests and are encouraged to negotiate the terms of any organ swapping.

Step 4: Unnecessary Surgery

Now the player returns to their Lab Tables and places Spare Parts under their Zombie cards. The number and type of spare parts necessary to rebuild and reanimate the corpse is listed on the Zombie Card. The player can play as many or as few of the Spare Parts as they like to each of their Zombie cards, but no more than what is listed. For example, if a Zombie card lists 1 “Brain”, 1 “Lung”, and 1 “Heart” Spare Part cards, the player can only place those specific Spare Parts on the Zombie card and no more of each than what is listed.

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A player is never required to completely rebuild their zombie all at once, but they certainly can if they have the cards and the timing is beneficial. In this way, players can slowly rebuild their zombies as spare parts become available. Players should be cautious, however, as zombies and their spare parts located on the Lab Tables are susceptible to their opponents. For example, some Zombie cards allow the player to take Spare Parts from their opponents’ Lab Tables.

Step 5: It’s Alive!

If the player has the correct number and type of Spare Part cards required to completely rebuild a Zombie card, it’s reanimated and joins the ranks of the player’s undead horde. Some Zombie cards have a special ability that is triggered when it’s completely rebuilt. This special ability is identified with a check off mark on the Zombie card. The ability is read out loud and completed, if possible. The Zombie then goes into a separate pile owned by the player, face-up, referred to as the “Zombie Army” and any attached Spare Part cards go into the Spare Part discard pile. A few of the Zombie abilities include:

  • Destroy any completed Zombie card in 1 player’s hand, Lab Area, or Zombie Army pile.
  • Discard any remaining cards in your hand, if you want, and draw 3 Spare Part cards.
  • Choose any incomplete Zombie card and steal 1 attached Spare Part card which must be immediately attached to any other incomplete Zombie.

Note that some Zombie cards do not go into a player’s Zombie Army pile once they are completed. These Zombie cards have an “X” listed under their name and will be accompanied with informative text that describes where the completed Zombie goes. For example, when the “Scientist” Zombie card is completed, it becomes a new Lab Table which allows the player to collect 1 more Zombie card during step 1. Additionally, some Zombie cards have special abilities that are always “on” and will be triggered whenever the condition is met.

Step 6: Discard Leftovers

The last action the player takes is discarding any Spare Part cards from their hand until they have no more than 5 cards. Note that the “Loitering” Zombie card can be placed in a player’s hand and counts towards the player’s hand size limit. Unfortunately for the player, the “Loitering” Zombie card cannot be discarded during this step.

This completes the player’s turn. If the game has not yet been won, the next player in turn order sequence now goes starting with step 1 noted above.

Winning the Game

The first player to collect 6 or more zombies in their Zombie Army pile wins the game and takes over the world.

House Rules

Two House Rules were created that greatly improved the game’s play and appeal to our players. Unfortunately, these new rules are not part of the original game and any enjoyment the players had using these rules was not considered when it came time for individual group endorsements.

Parts is Parts

This House Rule allows players to play any Spare Part card they want on their Zombie cards, but the Zombie card can only be completed when the specific number and body part type is present. When this House Rule is played with the Hidden Lab House Rule, it allowed players to place unnecessary Spare Part cards to their Zombie cards to throw off their opponents. Additionally, this House Rule states that players can only trade Spare Part cards that are visible to the table and played under uncompleted Zombie cards. Hand size limit is still enforced and any Spare Part cards attached to a Zombie card are placed in the discard pile when completed.

Hidden Lab

This House Rule simply states that Zombie cards currently on a player’s Lab Table are placed face-down and only turned face-up when the right number and type of Spare Part cards are attached to it or a special Zombie card ability is triggered.

To learn more about Spare Parts: The Game of Undead Armies, visit the game’s web page on the Game Crafter.

Prediction

This game is going to have some problems. From just reading the rules, I can already tell that the Gamer Geeks are not going to enjoy it. Too much information is made available to all the players at the table to suggest the trading aspect of the game play will be of any interest or even usable. This will make the game nothing more than drawing cards and playing them as fast as you can. That would be fine if  that was the game’s intent, but the Gamer Geeks are more than smart enough to realize that Spare Parts wants you to play it differently. The Gamer Geeks will see this as a fault and might even go so far as to suggest the game is broken.

For the Parent and Child Geeks, I think this game will get mixed results, at the very least. The game play is very straight forward and casual, which will appeal to both of these groups. I don’t know how well the zombie theme and spare body parts will go over with the Parent Geeks, but I’ll be giving them the cards prior to playing the game so they can determine if the card illustrations are appropriate for their Child Geeks. If they are, I don’t think teaching the game to the Child Geeks will be a problem. In fact, I’m going to predict that Spare Parts will be enjoyed the most by the Child Geeks and only mildly so by the Parent Geeks.

Teaching Spare Parts is simple and quick. Just make sure you inform your players to really read each of their Zombie cards so they understand how and when any Zombie card abilities are triggered. And that’s pretty much it as far as teaching the game goes.

The game does require reading, but cards can be read for younger Child Geeks without breaking or ruining the game for them. All that is necessary to play the game is matching colors and symbols. This makes the game playable for younger Child Geeks, but I’ll leave it to them to determine if they want to play. For example, when I showed the deck of cards to my 6-year-old, he didnt’ want to play because he thought some of the Zombie cards were a bit too scary. My 9-year-old had no problems with the illustrations and was eager to play.

“Looks like an easy and fun monster building game.” ~ Liam (age 9)

Let’s play Spare Parts and see if we are able to create a  fun game or we are just left with a bunch of useless leftovers.

Final Word

The Child Geeks rather liked the idea of building a monster and enjoyed how easy it was to do so. Each of the Zombie cards was passed around before the game to ensure that all the Child Geeks understood what each zombie needed and what they did once they were built. This was, however, unnecessary to game play and was primarily done to satisfy the Child Geeks’ curiosity. All of the Child Geeks demonstrated perfect understanding of the game and how it was supposed to be played. Of all our groups, the Child Geeks traded spare parts the most. I would also say they traded incorrectly. Too often, I observed Child Geeks trading Spare Part cards they knew their opponents needed. While it was very nice of them to trade, it wasn’t a good move strategically speaking. Giving your opponent an advantage or a lead is never the right answer when playing a game. Regardless, the Child Geeks enjoyed Spare Parts and the game play. One Child Geeks said, “What I like most about this game is building my monsters!” And, really, that’s all the Child Geeks did. Winning or losing wasn’t part of their equation or goal. All that mattered was having fun with each other at the gaming table as they created their undead army. All the Child Geeks voted to approve the game.

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My little geek carefully considers a trade I have proposed for some fresh braiiiiinnnnnssszzzzzz….

The Parent Geeks had mixed views about Spare Parts. A number of them found the game to be a perfect balance of casual and social play with a theme they enjoyed. Others found the idea of the game and the theme to be OK, but thought the game had very little social play in it. According to one Parent Geek, “I understand that the game designer wants me to trade cards, but I see no reason to.” Very true. A player need not ever offer a trade or accept one and still be able to play competitively. All trading does is allow players to get the Spare Part cards they need to get their zombies off the slab and into the streets faster. Which is exactly what you do not want your opponents to do. This made most games an exercise in simply drawing cards and playing cards. And that was about it. Again, some of our Parent Geeks found the game play to be “just fine”, while others left the game unimpressed and uninterested.

The Gamer Geeks were not impressed with Spare Parts and found the playing sessions to be way too long for a game with so little depth. The game’s length can be attributed to the Gamer Geeks refusing to trade with each other. None of the Gamer Geeks found the trading aspect of the game to be needed or even usable. According to one Gamer Geek, “Why would I trade with anyone if I knew exactly what they needed to win? More over, why would they trade with me?” Most games with the Gamer Geeks ended with a whimper and eye-rolling since it always came down to lucky card draws. The few cards that allowed players to mess with each other were enjoyed, but the game was not. One Gamer Geek said, “An interesting idea that I don’t think was executed very well.”

I personally found the game to be full of good ideas, but failed to impress. I enjoyed playing it with my little geek, but not my peers. The game fell flat, especially the trading aspect. While I understand the premise of the trading action, I do not believe it’s necessary or usable in the game. I would never trade a Spare Part card I knew my opponent needed. Players always know exactly what their opponents need because the Zombie cards they are working on are face-up in front of them. Including how many Spare Part cards are currently attached and what is required to finish. Yes, a player could be holding their Spare Part cards in their hand, but the hand size limit forces you to play cards. There is little incentive to hold Spare Part cards back except for a few Zombie card abilities and that leaves little opportunity (or reason) to keep information hidden from your opponents. Playing the Zombie cards face-down in front of a player fixed this and made trades worthwhile, but never necessary.

I strongly suggest you play Spare Parts with at least 3 players. Playing the game with 2 players is not very entertaining. When playing with 3 or 4 players, games become more interesting and more competitive.

In the end, I would say this game has some good ideas but the current game play provides too much information to the players to make the trading aspect of any use. That waters down the game to nothing more than simple actions and card placement. The few Zombie cards that allow you to poke at a player are interesting, but ultimately lack any real benefit to the game play. The zombie theme is there and the zombies that can be built are entertaining, but the game never really comes to life at the gaming table.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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