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Would you rather be an ant or zombie? Pick a side, and claim the garden for your team, as there’s only room for one in this back yard.

Currently on Kickstarter, Crazy Zombies vs. Happy Ants is a strategy game about collecting food, building up energy, and going after your opponent’s queen. So just how does it play?

Gameplay

Crazy Zombies vs. Happy Ants has two sides: the zombies and the ants. Pick a team, and place your unit tiles on your side of the board. Units come in two types: workers and fighters. You have five of each unit and they are numbered one through five. You also have a queen that does not move throughout the game and is placed between two energy spaces on your side.

On your turn you must decide whether to move your workers or your fighters. You may move up to five of either, and must start with the lowest numbered one that you are moving, and move up in consecutive order. Workers each move one square on the board, and fighters move two. If either enters a weather space, you roll the weather die, which may cause it to move extra spaces.

When a worker moves onto a pond or garden space, you flip the worker over to show that it is now carrying food. The worker must then return the food to one of the energy spaces adjacent to your queen, at which point you earn an energy tile.

Fighters, when adjacent to an enemy worker or fighter, may attack. When attacking, you roll a die. If you win, it costs two energy, and the enemy tile is placed on your side of the board in the cell. If you lose, it costs one energy and your fighter is stunned until the end of your next turn.

There is a special square on the board adjacent to the cell labeled the guard shack. You may rescue your units by moving a worker or fighter onto your opponent’s guard shack square — if it is occupied by an enemy fighter, you have to defeat it first.

After you move, you draw a swarm card, read it aloud, and perform the action. Some actions may cause you to lose food, move some of your units, or move an opponent’s unit. Your turn then ends and your opponent takes a turn.

In order to win the game, you have to defeat the queen with a fighter. If you win, it costs ten energy (so you have to save up before you do battle) while losing only costs five.

Review

Crazy Zombies vs. Happy Ants is bright and colorful, with a creative theme. There’s some good strategy in how you move your pieces, deciding when to move your fighters forward, when to push your workers up, and what’s the best path to take. There is limited space and a lot of ants and zombies, so you don’t just have to consider protection for your workers and trying to stop your opponent’s, but blocking as well. Blocking is a viable strategy, but you need to avoid getting in your own way.

While there is some lovely strategy in maneuvering around the board, the swarm cards add a layer of unpredictability that plays out in multiple ways, and the dice rolls for battle and weather clouds keeps players guessing. There is probably a little bit too much luck included for die hard strategy fans, but for families and casual players it works well. Though it is a little strange that the battle dice include a reroll result, since your opponent doesn’t roll as well, so it just lengthens the battle without really adding anything to it.

The fact that fights cost energy also adds an extra layer when deciding what ants to attack, when to use energy, and when to save up to fight the queen.

The artwork on both the zombies and the ants is cute, although the cover artwork and graphic design are a bit lacking. This doesn't affect gameplay, but could affect one's first impression of the game.

Crazy Zombies vs. Happy Ants feels like a good family game, with a team mode allowing up to four players. It requires you to make tactical choices, while still being simple to learn and play, and including enough luck to keep the game balanced across age groups. Check it out on Kickstarter and decide if you’d rather be an ant or a zombie.

Pros: Creative theme, good for families, the movement rules are engaging

Cons: Dice rolls can take longer than necessary due to reroll options, amount of luck may not be enjoyed by strategy game fans, artwork could be improved 

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.