You know the old saying that “If you and your friend are being chased by a dangerous animal then you don’t need to outrun the animal, you just need to outrun your friend? Well, Zombie! Run for Your Lives!, by Russian company Right Games, plays that adage to the hilt. You and up to six other players are all running away from a zombie horde, and only one of you is going to make it out with your brains intact.
The mechanics are simple. Everyone starts with four cards. There are two types of cards: Item cards and zombie cards. Each item card has a symbol on it and there is a matching zombie card with the same symbol for each item card. You can only have one item or one zombie of a specific icon in front of you at a time, and if you have an item and zombie with matching symbols, then you use the item to get rid of the zombie, and both are discarded. There are also three zombie cards with no symbol at all, so try to avoid getting those if you can since there’s no way to get rid of them!
You pick the first player however you want. The rules suggest that the last person to watch a zombie movie go first, but that’s not necessary. On your turn you draw a card and then you either play an item card in front of yourself or a zombie card in front of somebody else. If you manage to accumulate five item cards before anyone else, then you escape the zombie horde and everyone else is eaten. If, however, you accumulate five zombie cards, then the zombie horde catches you and eats your brains. If you become a zombie, you still get to play, though. You have to discard all of the cards in your hand and in front of you and no cards can be played in front of you, but from now on, on your turn you draw a card, and then play it in front of another player. That’s all, but it doing it this way speeds the game up and prevents anyone who lost from feeling left out. If everyone except for one person becomes a zombie, than that person outruns the horde and wins, even if they don’t have five items. Pretty simple.
There is another rule, but it’s completely optional. After you draw a card, but before you play a card as normal, you can choose to play a zombie in front of yourself or an item in front of another player and then draw another card. It seems a bit weird, but I found in practice that it’s actually a nice way of getting rid of cards that aren’t helping you for another card that might. Sure, you’re hurting yourself by playing it, but if all you’ve got in your hand is zombies and you’re just one item away from winning, it could win you the game.
So, you’re probably thinking, it’s just a simple little party game, why should I spend my hard-earned cash on it? Well, for one thing, it’s fun. Granted, you have to play the game in the spirit it was meant to be played, i.e. fast and cutthroat. You’re running from zombies, don’t stop to help each other unless you have to! If you try and play the game nice, it can take forever. The first game I played took over 20 minutes because we were being nice. After that, we stopped being so nice and the games were generally done in five to ten minutes, tops. Another good thing is the quality of the product pretty high, especially the artwork. it’s bright, cartoony, and delightfully macabre. Plus, the game is just plain funny. A lot of the humor is subtle, but it’s definitely there. For example, most of the items make sense concerning which zombie they get rid of: A revolver gets rid of a single zombie; a double-barreled shotgun gets rid of two zombies; etc. But what what gets rid of the bikini zombie? Why, a mouse of course!
If there’s one thing I don’t like about the game it’s the translation. It’s pretty obvious that the translation was not done by a native English-speaker. While there’s not a whole lot of the translation that’s outright wrong, though there is some of that, like the “boots” that are quite clearly a pair of running shoes, most of the rules read very awkwardly. It’s surprisingly understandable despite the poor translation, but be aware that it’s going to be a bit wonky to read.
Bottom Line: Zombie! Run for Your Lives! Is a fun little party game. No, really, it says so right on the box, and it’s not false advertising. It really is a fun little party game. It’s easy to learn, fast to play, and just plain funny. Check it out.