Semi-cooperative Zombie Escape: A Preview of Zombie Tower 3D

Zombie Tower 3D

The three-story game board instantly captures your imagination and interest, but the 3D tower is a lot more than just a gimmick: it’s a core part of the mechanics and gameplay of Zombie Tower 3Dnow on Kickstarter.

All the players need to escape the zombie-infested tower together, but only one person will be declared the winner. It’s not always easy to know who to trust, especially when you have no idea what’s really going on in the other parts of the tower.  

Gameplay

Each player has their own section of the tower. You may not look at another player’s part of the board. The only contact you have with other players’ characters is what you communicate verbally and the cards you can slip through slots in the tower walls.

Each round, players draw cards that reveal which rooms zombies and survivors will appear in. Each player then has three action points which they can use to move their character, use item cards, heal, or search a room. There are a number of actions you can take that do not use up any action points: picking up and dropping survivors and passing and picking up items through the slots in the walls.

In order to escape the tower, players have to collect specific items and then all assemble in the same numbered rooms in their respective areas of the tower.

After players take their turns, the zombies move either towards the survivors on their floor or, if there aren’t any, towards the player's character. If a zombie ends its turn with a survivor, the survivor will become one of the living dead. If the zombie ends its turn with a player's character, you receive damage equal to the number of zombies present. However if you have some survivors with you, you can choose to drop them and sacrifice them to save your own skin.

If any player dies, everyone loses the game.

At the start of the game, everyone is dealt three secret objectives. These usually involve having a specific item at the end of the game or having more than two rooms on fire or caved-in. If the players successfully make it out of the tower, each player counts up the number of survivors he’s rescued and the victory points from the objectives he’s completed. The player with the most points wins the game.

Zombie Tower 3D Components

Review

Semi-cooperative games are hard to pull off, but Zombie Tower 3D succeeds admirably. Keeping the player characters largely isolated from one another fosters the feelings of everyone fighting their own battle and makes you more inclined to put your own needs above that of the group’s. Choosing what information to impart, and never knowing if the other person is being completely honest about the situation on their side of the board, adds an interesting layer of strategy and doubt. There is also an interesting lack of focus on attacking the zombies. The right item cards will give you the option to fight them, but just as often you’re strategizing on the best way to get out of Dodge and using survivors to lure them away from you.

Search cards are divided by floor and some of them bring trouble. Sometimes your search will cause a cave-in or fires will erupt, or zombies attack. But in a unique twist, these cards are clearly marked on the back: ‘Danger.’ This means players know when the next search card will bring trouble. Even some of these dangers can be utilized to your advantage, as cave-ins will block zombies from reaching you while fires will burn anyone or anything that ends its turn in it.

The tower concept is fantastic. The fact that it hides players’ actions from each other means that it’s more than just a fancy set piece, and slipping item cards through the slots in the walls is a lot of fun and really evokes the feeling of being in a survival movie, with characters passing much needed supplies to one another. Also included with the game is a helpful list of which items can be found on which floors. As a general rule, items for your personal objectives tend to be on the first and third floor, while the things you need to escape the tower are on the second. This means you have to juggle your need to escape with your need to win.

The components are well-made, but it took us a couple of attempts to put the tower together. It did feel like something that would get easier as you got used to it, but the rulebook could also use clearer instructions (and maybe a helpful diagram) for the building process. It can also be a little difficult to find a table to play on, where you won’t accidently see each other’s play area.

All the rules are quite simple to learn and leading the zombies on a merry chase is lots of fun. So if you’re interested in a board game that is as enjoyable as the board is unique, be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign.

Pros: Great use of semi-cooperative mechanics, simple rules, fun strategies used to avoid the zombies

Cons: The tower can be difficult to build, hard to completely avoid seeing your opponent’s portion of the tower 

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.