Please Take Note: This review of the final game might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 13 and up
- For 3 to 8 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Worker Placement & Area Control
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Encourage like-minded zombie haters to hunker down in specific locations during the zombie apocalypse
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
In this game, players must gather as many survivors as possible and stay safe while the world outside is nuked to eradicate a virus that turns people into zombies. These shambling undead continually attack the players’ small and poorly protected bunkers, and the refugees do not trust each other. It’s a game of survival and crowd-control, as players must navigate attacks from within and without.
Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse, designed by Kenneth YWN and to be published by Board Game Monster, will reportedly be comprised of one Map board, nine Character cards, nine Player meeples, 20 Refuge Unit cubes, 100 Action cards, eight Tip cards, three Zombie discs, one Doom marker, and one standard ten-sided die. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. However, the unpublished version of the game provided us contained high-quality components, thick cards, even thicker boards, and outstanding illustrations.
Zombie Apocalypse Now
To set up the game, complete the following steps. Note that the number of players in your game will determine the total number of components used. For example, the number of cards to be used as part of the game setup will be increased or decreased depending on the number of players at the table.
First, place the Map board in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all the players. Next, place the Doom marker in the appropriate spot on the Doom tracker, depending on the number of players in the game. Place two of the Zombie discs at this time, as well.
Second, have each Player select a Character card and take the Player meeple that matches the Character card color. Depending on the number of players in the game, the other Player meeples will be used as non-player characters or removed for the game’s duration.
Third, take the Action cards, shuffle, and deal six to each Player. Players now look at their cards and select two to discard face-up to a shared pile, keeping four in their hand. This is the discard pile for the duration of the game. Place next to the discard pile the Action cards face-down. This is the Action card draw deck for the duration of the game. Next to the Action card draw deck place the Refuge Unit cubes and the die.
Fourth, determine who will be the first Player. Then, in turn order sequence, have each Player place their Player meeple on one of the buildings found on the Map board. After placing their Player meeple, the last Player also places the remaining Zombie disc on a building of their choice.
That’s it for the game setup. Time to survive the zombie apocalypse mixed with an all too familiar housing crisis!
Rebuilding in Refuse
Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse is played in turns and rounds with a set number of rounds in the game as determined by the Doom marker. A player’s turn is summarized here.
Step One: Take One Action
A player can only take one action on their turn. A player’s hand size is set to a maximum of seven. If any action would increase the number of cards in hand to greater than seven, the Player cannot take that action. Each action is summarized here.
This action allows the Player to draw two Action cards from the Action card draw deck, selecting one to keep and discarding the other.
This action allows the Player to play one Action card from their hand to their play area (the open space immediately in front), resolving the Action card’s effect.
There are six total card effects in the game. These are detailed in the rules manual and identified with the effect name and an icon on each Action card.
- “Rebuild” allows the Player to take one Refuge Unit cube and place it on the Map board on the same building space occupied by their Player meeple.
- “Revenge” allows the Player to move any Refuge Unit cube on the Map board one step clockwise.
- “Rapid and Ready” allows the Player to take two additional Race actions (i.e., play two other Action cards for their effect) or can be played at any time to ignore a “bite.” A “bite” from a zombie is terrible news. Being bit automatically forces the Player to flip their Character card to the “injured” side (which at this time is a silhouette of a head with a question mark on it). On the Player’s next turn, they will not take one of the four actions. Instead, they will flip their Character card back to its “healthy” starting position.
- “Resident of Hell” allows the Player to move a Zombie disc one or two steps on the Map board clockwise. When the Zombie disc stops moving, it “bites” all the Player meeples on the same building. Like “Rapid and Ready,” the card can be played at any time to ignore a “bite.”
- “Risk” allows a player to remove two Refuge Unit cubs from a building on the Map board, or it can be played to “cancel” any other Action card’s effect played by an opponent.
- “Rage” allows a player to select an opponent. That opponent must discard several Action cards from their hand equal to the number of Player meeples located on the same building as their Player meeple. Similar to “Risk,” the “Rage” Action card can be played to “cancel” any other Action card’s effect played by an opponent.
Players may play their Action cards to block “bites” whenever appropriate. Avoiding a “bite” is automatic. To “cancel” an Action card effect, the Player must play their “Risk” or “Rage” Action card first. Then they take the die and roll it. If the rolled value is equal to or greater than the Action card number value played by the opponent, the effect is ignored. Otherwise, the Action card effect is resolved as usual. It’s also worth noting that a “cancel” can be “canceled” with another Action card played.
This action allows the Player to play one Action card from their hand to their play area. However, they do not resolve the Action card’s effect. Instead, they move their Player meeple one or two steps on the Map board in a clockwise direction.
Rest and Regroup
This action allows the Player to take all the Action cards in their play area, placing them back in their hand. The number of cards the Player takes back into their hand is immediately drawn from the Action card draw deck and placed in the discard pile.
For example, if the Player has four cards in their play area and takes the Rest and Regroup action, they will first take the four cards in their play area back into their hand. They would then draw four cards from the Action card draw deck, placing them immediately into the discard pile.
Step Two: Shuffle the Discard Pile
If the Action card draw deck is depleted during a player’s turn, the currently active Player takes the cards in the discard pile, shuffles them, and places them face-down to create the new Action card draw deck. Next, the players move the Doom marker one space closer to the “doom sign” on the Doom tracker. Finally, all Zombie discs move one step clockwise on the Map board, biting all the Player meeples in the same building as the moved Zombie disc.
Beating the Apocalypse
The game continues until one of the following conditions is met.
- When any player has a set number of Refuge Unit cubes on the same building as their Player meeple (determined by the number of players), all players with a Player meeple occupying the same building win the game.
- When the Doom marker moves to the “doom sign” (an exploding mushroom cloud) on the Doom tracker and no building has the required number of Refuge Unit cubes, all the players lose the game.
Visit the Kickstarter campaign to learn more about Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse.
The Child Geeks enjoyed themselves, finding the game easy enough to learn and enjoyable to play. One Child Geek said, “The game is easy to learn, and I like the art on the cards. I thought it would be hard to save people, but it was pretty easy to move them around. What wasn’t easy was avoiding the zombies that kept walking by, biting me, and then walking away again.” Another Child Geek said, “This was a fun zombie game. I didn’t have any problem surviving, and it was easy to try to win because all you have to do is make sure you are with as many refugees as possible.” It’s worth pointing out that the Child Geeks saw the Refuge Unit cubes as “people” instead of safe locations within the buildings. When all the refugees were safe, the Child Geeks voted and approved Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse.
The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game, finding it casual and quick. As one Parent Geek put it, “This is a great little game that has little to do with rebuilding, a lot to do about moving people around, and getting used to the idea that zombies in this game’s world are casual biters that never stick around. I enjoyed it and thought it was a fresh new take on this type of game genre.” Another Parent Geek said, “Normally zombie games are violent or gruesome. This game was neither but still provided the same zombie dangers as other games. I’d bring it to our gaming table again and enjoy it with the family.” When the last zombie came by for an awkward bite before shambling off again, the Parent Geeks voted and fully approved the game.
The Gamer Geeks found the Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse to be OK, but not great. One Gamer Geek said, “The game plays well enough, but I found it too easy. All I have to do is ensure I have enough cubes next to my meeple. Which also happens to be the same number of cubes my opponents need. And since this is a cooperative, we all win. The hardest part of this game was trying to make deals with players. Now I did find that fun.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A good game for a filler or a different approach to zombie survival games. I didn’t think the game was all the difficult, but it challenged me to think things through and come up with elaborate plans with my opponents.” When the last city was nuked, the Gamer Geeks took stock of what was left and couldn’t decide if the game was worthy of their table or not. This ultimately resulted in a mixed endorsement from our gaming elitists.
Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Appocolype is what I would consider a solid filler game. It lacks the depth of play I would look for in a game when I want a challenge but has more than enough decision-making to flex my tactical and strategic thinking. Gameplay is swift, the outcomes are apparent most of the time, and you always have something to do. This is to say, players are never backed into a corner. This was a nice touch as it kept the game moving even when players weren’t getting to the goal they wanted.
The semi-cooperative element of the game was an interesting design choice. All it takes is two or more players working together, locking out their opponents, to win the game. Cabals and clicks are quickly formed in Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse, much more “us versus them” than I initially imagined. It worked but felt awkward throughout, as it was apparent when players were teaming up, and you couldn’t do anything about it if you were locked out of their team short of making a team of your own.
This, in turn, created an interesting dynamic throughout the gameplay that had players creating teams, breaking teams, working with multiple teams, and being reasonably passive-aggressive throughout. I had never played a game about the zombie apocalypse, and survival taking this approach before. Nevertheless, it was an interesting take on a well-known genre that worked.
Thematically speaking, the Action cards are not worded in a way that makes you think you are playing a zombie game, with the one exception being the “Rebuild” Action card. This shouldn’t be considered a negative towards the game as the theme and narrative help pull the players into the gameplay. In the case of Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Appocolype, the gameplay is not impacted, but the lack of immersion kept the game from being an experience I felt fully involved in. For most of the game, I felt like I was arranging cubes for my meeple. Which I was, physically speaking. The lack of a strong theme and narrative made that process functional, and as a result, my level of engagement suffered.
Overall, I am most pleased with Rebuild Refuge: Zombie Apocalypse and look forward to getting it to the table with new players soon. The strategic and tactical elements of the gameplay are there, but the genuine fun comes in trying to talk others to work with you instead of working with someone else. The only element of the game you could count on was the zombies, which never failed to give players a quick nibble. The complexity lies in how you play the cards … or, more importantly, when.
Do sink your teeth into this game to see if it satisfies your hunger.
This is a paid-for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus were financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek, which cannot be bought except by those who own their private islands and small countries.