Review: Zombie Dice 2 Brings Double the Brains, Double the Fun

Roll the dice. Eat the brains. Don't get shotgunned. That was the mantra of Zombie Dice two years ago when it burst onto the gaming scene as a short, fun, and easy to learn dice game that's all about eating brains while avoiding the three-strike rule of shotgun blasts. [Original review]

It was the epitome of casual fun "push your luck" dice gaming, yet somehow, Zombie Dice faded into the shadows as other dice games observed the model for success and ran with it. But like any good zombie, this game just won't stay dead.

Zombie Dice 2 is about to release, adding a distinct flavor of zombie movie cheese to the mix. Prepare to meet some hero characters: the Hunk, the Hottie, and Santa Claus himself. Will they be enough to re-establish Zombie Dice as king of the dice games? Read on the for the full review:

Just the Facts:

Players: 2+

Playing Time: 10+ minutes

Age: 10 to adult

Publisher: Steve Jackson Games

MSRP: $7.95

Release: April 2012

The Gameplay:

On each turn, a player takes three dice from a tube of 13 and gives them a roll. The player sets aside any brains and shotguns rolled, and is then faced with a decision: should they continue to roll more dice, or should they cash out their points (brains)?

The goal is to roll as many brains as possible and then quit before they roll three shotguns. It's three strikes and you're out, so if a player gets a bit too greedy and hits the magic number, all brains rolled this turn are lost. Once a player manages to bank 13 or more brains, though, players will wrap up the current turn and award victory to the zombie who has eaten the most brains.

Now that you know how to play the original game, it's time to take a look at the new expansion. My biggest concern was that new Zombie Dice might go too far in adding complexity. Nobody like an over-expanded game, especially one that succeeded primarily because of its simplicity, but Zombie Dice 2 avoids that stigma. In fact, the new rules are so simple that the entire game is practically explained on the back of the box.

The new dice can be added in thee different combinations to play out unique zombie flick-inspired themes. First up is the "Big Summer Action Movie" starring the Hunk and the Hottie, each receiving their own dice.

The Hunk is an even more dangerous version of the dreaded Red die from Zombie Dice, sporting two normal shotguns and one ultra-deadly double shotgun face. With high risk comes high reward, though, and the lone brain from the Red die has been replaced with a double-brain face.

The Hottie has a danger level halfway between the standard Yellow and Red dice. She has two shotguns, the same number as the Yellow, but one of the brains has been replaced with feet. This means you'll be re-rolling the Hottie more often than not,  but with a good chance she'll end up hitting you with the shotgun.

Both of these dice replace standard Yellow dice when they are added to the game. The only real twist here is that even if you roll a brain on the Hunk or Hottie die, a shotgun roll from the other character will "rescue" their partner, sending that die back into the pool.

The second movie theme included in Zombie Dice 2 is "Santa Claus Meets the Zombies," where one Green die is replaced by a special Santa die. The jolly fat man has one brain side, one shotgun, and one set of footprints. The other three sides are all unique symbols only seen in Zombie Dice 2.

The first of the unique symbols is the double brain, which of course represents brains from Santa's bag of gifts, not his own grey matter. The next is the energy drink, which automatically turns all Green die footprints rolled this turn into brains. Lastly, the helmet lets zombies continue rolling until they receive a fourth shotgun blast.

For the full zombie movie double-feature experience, players can add all three dice into the mix, creating "The Direct-to-Video Sequel." If they choose to do this, then rescue rules come into effect for all three character dice in the tube.

The Components:

  • 3 Custom dice
  • 1 Rules sheet

While there is not much to say here given the short list of components, what little bits I have to share are all positive marks for Zombie Dice 2. The dice are made to the same exact standard as those from the original Zombie Dice, with just with a dash of color added and some new symbols appearing on the die faces.

The rules are printed on a concise double-sided sheet of paper that also manages to work in plenty of zombie jokes. And if you're worried about all of this fitting in the original Zombie Dice tube, well, don't. There's plenty of room, so you can stash this expansion and still be able to tote the game around at conventions.

Final Thoughts:

At the end of the day, only one question pertaining to this expansion really matters: does it make the original Zombie Dice more or less fun? I'm happy to report that Zombie Dice 2 definitely improves the base game.

Earlier, I had mentioned that the original Zombie Dice began to lose its shine after time. It was supplanted in my mind by Martian Dice from competing publisher Tasty Minstrel Games, which I felt had better pacing and just a tad more strategy. There was slightly more to consider each turn, and it prevented players from "going for broke" too often.

Specifically with the Hunk and the Hottie dice, the difficulty of Zombie Dice is amped up just enough that you aren't likely to have players rushing to end the game prematurely. Instead, you'll get a proper buildup of tension as players flirt with collecting thirteen brains, coupled with a few cool moments when the special new die rules come into play.

Zombie Dice was king of the "while you wait" dice games when it hit back in 2010. I had it in my back during all of the summer conventions and didn't hesitate to break it out when sitting around or waiting in line. As con season begins to roll around again, Zombie Dice is making like it's name sake and rising from the dead. Zombie Dice 2 is an easy recommendation that will revive the original for just a few bucks, so look for it to hit store shelves later this month, or in early April.

MTV Geek provided a complimentary review sample of this game.