Feb 012012
 

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Variable game length (on average about 25 minutes)

Geek Skills:

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

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Zombies vs. Ninjas vs. Pirates vs. Mad Scientists (rinse and repeat)

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Four of the most beloved character types, Zombies, Ninjas, Pirates, and Mad Scientists, battle for control! But this is no ordinary battle! Zombies will become Ninjas, Ninjas will become Pirates, and Mad Scientists – well – Mad Scientist can become whatever they want because they are crazy-go-nuts.

Zombie Ninja Pirates is a card game comprised of 108 cards. The total deck is further divided into three specific types. These are Type cards, Action cards, and Object cards. There is also one End Game cards that triggers the, yes you guessed it, endgame. All the cards are made of thick card stock, colorful, and very easy to shuffle, but only if you cut the deck in half. Trying to shuffled 108 cards all at once requires mutant-like powers. Regardless if you have super powers of one kind or another (and what a terrible waste it would be if your super power was being able to shuffle cards really, really well), you’ll find the game to be very well produced and of high quality.

Not included in the game but suggested is some sort of recording device to keep the score. This is, for the most part, unnecessary as you will keep track of your points during the game with the cards (see “Scoring and Losing Points” below).

A Word About the Art

I have heard from several geeks that they found the art direction for the card game to be disjointed. This is absolutely the case as there are three different artists who provided their talents to the game’s illustrations. Each brings their own unique style that some have found to be unsettling. I can only imagine this is because one card will be very stylized and the next not so much. I have seen this type of art direction in other games, namely Dungeon Crawler, where the style in the card’s featured artists can swing wildly in a different direction than the cards around it. Personally, this doesn’t bother me and I greatly enjoy the variety. Just be aware of it before you site down for a game. Should be a non-issue for most, but there are those of us who have such a focused eye on art direction, the differences can be a real eyesore.

Example of the three types of cards and the three different artists featured in the game

Game Set Up

To set up the game, find the End Game card and set aside. Take the remaining deck and shuffle thoroughly. Deal out to each player, face-down, five cards each. The players may look at their hand but should keep it hidden from their opponents at all times.

Separate the deck into thirds. Take the End Game card and shuffle it into one of the three piles. Combine the three piles back into one deck making sure to put the third with the End Game card on the bottom of the deck. Place the deck of cards in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all players. There should be room just left or right of the deck for a discard pile, too.

Determine who will be the first player and begin. The game instructions suggest the player who can perform the best Mad Zombie Ninja Pirate Scientist impersonation should go first. Having no idea what that would even look like, let alone sound like, we rolled a die and let Lady Luck determine first player.

But before you play, let’s get to know the cards in your hand a bit better.

The Three Card Types

Throughout the game, the players will be managing their playing area by laying down and discarding cards comprised of three specific types. These are Type cards, Action cards, and Object cards. These card types are described in summary as follows:

  • Type Cards (green border): These cards allow the player to take on the characteristic of one of the four character types. These are a Zombie, a Ninja, a Pirate, or a Mad Scientist. A player has the possibility of being one or all four of the characters depicted on the character cards during the game, but can never be more than one of each type. For example, a player could be a Ninja Pirate, but could not be a Ninja-Ninja-Pirate, regardless of how cool it might sound.
  • Action Cards (blue border): These cards provide the player to take the action specified on the card. These actions will allow the player to alter the game in their favor and mess with their opponents. Actions cards can be exceedingly powerful and a real game changer but are limited. A player can only play one per turn and must always discard them after use.
  • Object Cards (red border): These cards can either be played by the player for points or discarded to complete a specific action. Object cards are not Action cards and do not count towards the player’s limit of one Action card per turn. Object cards can also reduce a player’s points if the player should loose or gain a Type card.

Of course, there is a reason for these three card types and that reason is to score points!

Scoring and Losing Points

Throughout the game, a player’s points will shift. Played Object cards are used to provide any player a quick overview of how many points a player has at any particular time. This is done by the way the Object cards are displayed in front of a player.

  • Card is Upright: The Object card adds points
  • Card is Upside Down: The object card reduces points
  • Card is Sideways: The Object card provides no points at this time (neutral)

Using this method, a player can quickly shift the cards in front of them to react to the game and quickly determine their overall standing when comparing their points to their opponents.

Note that whenever an Object card cancels out another Object card of the same value, +3 and -3  for example, the two cards are turned sideways.

That’s the basics! Let’s play the game already!

Playing the Game Already

A player completes the following (if able) on their turn in the order given.

  1. Player must play one Action or one Object card from their hand with the appropriate Type card if possible.
  2. Player may use 1 Object card from the table in front of them.
  3. Player may discard any 2 cards from their hand to the discard pile.
  4. Player draws back up to a total of 5 cards in their hand from the draw pile.

Example of a player’s playing area directly in front of them during a game

The first play is to pick either an Action or Object card to use. Action cards can be used when they are played on the owning player or on any opponent as indicated on the Action card. Once used, the Action card is placed in the discard pile, face-up. Object cards, if played instead of an Action card, can be used immediately with their effect and then discarded to the discard pile, face-up. Otherwise, the Object cards are played on the owning player or on any opponent. A player need not be the correct type (Zombie, Ninja, Pirate, or Mad Scientist) in order to play the Object card and any player can have more than one of the same Object card in front of them at any time. Immediately adjust the Object cards to represent their points  in front of the player by rotating it upright, upside down, or sideways.

The second play, which is optional, allows the player to use an Object card already in play or from their hand. In this way, the player is essentially getting a second action. The player can use an Object card in their hand for its effect and discard it to the discard pile, face-up, or select any Object card in front of them. This is a great way to get ride of Object cards that are costing the player points.

The third play, which is also optional, allows the player to discards up to 2 cards from their hand. These cards are placed in the discard pile, face-up.

The fourth, final, and required play is for the player to draw their hand back up to 5 cards.

If at anytime the player is unable to play an Action or Object card on their first play of their turn, or if they choose not to, they discard all their cards in their hand to the discard pile and draw 5 new cards. This ends their turn.

Endgame

Play continues as described above until one of the players draws the End Game card from the draw pile. When drawn, the card is shown to all players and set aside. The player who drew the End Game card now draws back up to 5 cards (if possible) and takes their turn. All other players are given just one more turn, too. All players should attempt to play as many of their cards as possible as this is the final round of play.

Once the last player has completed their turn, the game ends and the points are counted. The player with the most points wins!

To learn more about the game and read the rules, visit the game’s official web site.

Prediction

My little geeks love card games, especially those that allow them to cause mischief. Zombie Ninja Pirates is not what I would consider a strong player vs. player game, but there is more than enough “gotcha” cards to play on other players to make the player interaction entertaining.

The level of reading necessary in this game immediately makes it inaccessible to my 4-year-old. Being able to read the card’s text and understanding it are very important in a game like this. For my 7-year-old, his reading is getting stronger everyday and he should have no problem reading the text on the cards. He has played Munchkin before and did very well with it. Zombie Ninja Pirates is somewhat like Munchkin, but I find it to be more complex with more choices to be made. It’s still a very light game, don’t get me wrong, but there is a subtle level of strategy and tactics that Munchkin does not have. This shouldn’t be a problem, however, as my 7-year-old has played much more complicated and demanding games.

When I showed the game to my two oldest little geeks, my 4-year-old immediately recognized the game would be too difficult for him to play. This turned him off it despite me telling him we could be partners. He has of late become more independent and has become increasingly frustrated with all the things his older brother can do and he cannot. We keep telling him he will learn how to read and write and spell, but he wants to know all these things now! The best we can do is include him and help, but if he doesn’t want to even try, that pretty much puts an end to the game for him. Since I want games to be a very positive and enjoyable experience, I will not push it.

My 7-year-old was the complete opposite. He started looking over all the cards and reading the text. His skills in Pokemon came into play right away as he started to identify how the cards could be used to either benefit a player or harm the player’s opponents. Of course, he was very puzzles why there was a Mad Scientist included in the game when the title does not include the character type. I told him I didn’t know either, we both shrugged, and continued to look through the cards.

When we were done looking through all the cards, and I explained the cultural significance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (one of the cards included in the game), I shuffled up the cards and explained how to play the game. It didn’t take long, thanks to his past game experience. He did have several questions on how to get Type cards out and we went through several examples until he felt he understood it.

When he was ready to play, I shuffled the deck and dealt the cards. While I did so, I asked him his thoughts on the game.

“Looks OK. Lots of cards means lots of different ways to play. I don’t know; let’s see how it goes.” ~ Liam (age 7)

Well, not exactly jumping up and down, is he? Still, he’s open to playing the game and ready to give it a go. I somewhat agree with my little geek’s early thoughts on the game. Just from reading the rules, Zombie Ninja Pirates doesn’t sound like a very engaging experience. We’ll have to play the game to really understand and appreciate its full depth.

Final Word

Zombie Ninja Pirates is not a complicated game, but it can be frustrating to play. Nor is the game terribly deep, but it can have you really thinking about what to play next. There is this strange duality in the game that I found, frankly speaking, entertaining and so did my little geek! The game is light, but not so light that it has no weight to it. There is a need for strategy and tactics as you build your points out in front of you and attempt to trump another player’s points. For a 2-player game, it was rather cutthroat.

When I played the game with 4-players, the game took a very interesting turn. With only 2-players, your moves where fairly straight forward: hurt the other player or give yourself points. How you went about that was more important than how many points you earned or took away as you never wanted to stretch yourself too thin so you couldn’t react to the other player’s moves. In a 4-player game, it became more race-like, as all the players just attempted to make or take as many points as quickly as possible. Recall that the game’s length is somewhat variable depending on the location of the End Game card. Towards the end of the game, one of the players who had an excellent point spread in front of them attempted to empty the deck as quickly as possible by discarding their hand on their turn to draw 5 new cards. This strategy almost worked for them and would have worked, too, if it weren’t for the fact that he misjudged the location of the End Game card.

My 7-year-old enjoyed the game but also found it very frustrating at times. Getting out the Type cards requires you to play it with other cards and only if they match. My little geek was left with Type cards he could not play as quickly as he wanted to snag points. He told me he found this frustrating and I can fully sympathize. Nothing worse than missed opportunity. Of course, he was singing the game’s praises during the next game session when all the cards were working for him and he was playing cards left and right. Just goes to prove how fickle a geek’s love can really be. By our third game session, he was fully aware that the game was as random as random could be and was willing to take on whatever cards were dealt to him.

Now there’s a life lesson worth learning if ever there was one.

Game four and just look at the confidence in those eyes! Looks like he came to the table to win..which he did.

Gamer Geeks, this game gets my approval for you game elitists, but only as a light filler or quick group game before you jump into a game with more depth. This game was meant to be entertaining, fast, and not at all taken seriously. That being said, the game does require the competitive player to think about their cards, their timing, and their strategy. The tactics necessary to win will shift as the game continues and new Type cards come into play. The variable game length also makes for some nail-biting towards the end of a playing session as all the player just know the game is drawing to a close. Randomness and luck do play a sometimes significant role in how you will play, but also provides for some great surprises and fun moments in the game. Give it a try the next time you are looking for a lightweight filler or are looking for something to replace your overplayed game of Munchkin.

Parent Geeks, this is a fun and casual card game that is easily played with a mixed group of skills and ages, but knowing how to read is a must. Once you meet this requirement, the rest of the game will come pretty easy to the players. This game is also very accessible to your non-gamer friends. It’ll play like a “gamer’s” game but without the heavy requirements and commitments on the player. This makes for a fun experience for everyone and an opportunity to open the gaming hobby to new players. And with the game length being fairly short (even shorter with 5 to 6 players), you can enjoy several games in a single hour.

Child Geeks, you must be able to read before you even attempt to tackle this game. In fact, I’m going to state that reading is not only an absolute must but really the only requirement. The cards tell you what you can do with them making it easy to know what cards to play for the desired effect on the game. There is a level of complexity, however, that you will have to overcome to be  a competitive player. Make sure you always attempt to play Object cards that benefit you the most when it comes the final score and you’ll do great!

Zombie Ninja Pirates is a fun little game which is most certainly in the “beer and pretzels” category or, for our little geeks, “apple juice and graham crackers”. It’s meant to be a “flash in the pan” type of game where you plop it out on the table, play a few games, and then move on without having to exercise a large percentage of our brain. In this, the game does exceedingly well. Fast to teach, fast to set up, and fast to play. The variable ways to get points and how your Type cards influence your overall ability to get points keeps the game interesting and the very creative way of keeping track of points during the game make it easy to scan the table to determine every player’s current standing if the game should end. The end result is a fun and fast game full of geek humor that is not meant to be taken seriously, but can be seriously played. For this reason, I’ll be most pleased to bring it to my game table during my next game night and laugh when my foes crumble under the awesomeness that is my Zombie Mad Scientist Ninja Pirate named Dr. Scallywag the Third.

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.

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....

  2 Responses to “Zombie Ninja Pirates Game Review”

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