The treads on Brock’s wheelchair crunched softly over the grit and debris as the four teenagers slowly crept through the alleyway behind the Arcade. They heard low moans coming from Main Street just a dozen feet away. Prisha cautiously crept to the mouth of the alleyway to scout, her scarf wrapped around her face to hide her silhouette. She spent a moment peering into the dim light before making her way back to the group. “There’s zombies all over the streets, but I saw a clear path to the building in the middle of the square. If we make a run for it, I think we can collect supplies from other buildings as we go.”
Cosmo nodded his head in agreement, the tails of his headband wrapping around his neck. June spoke up, “When the cemetery and the school were cleared out, we thought that we’d be done. The other teams did a great job, but now it’s up to us to take care of this area.” Cosmo added, “We still aren’t sure how the zombies made it here without being seen. How can this a horde this large have made it here without our noti…?”
Just then the four teenagers heard the shrill squeal of metal and watched in horror as the manhole cover at their feet began sliding to one side. As dozens of shriveled fingers grabbed the edge of the hole they knew they had their work cut out for them. They dashed out of the mouth of the alley, determination in their eyes. They wouldn’t let the town down, they couldn’t.
Zombie Teenz Evolution Overview
In Zombie Teenz Evolution a new group of Kidz have discovered nests of zombies in the sewers and the town square and have made it their mission to clear out the hordes of undead no matter the cost. Rather than having to lock gates or doors like in 2018’s Zombie Kidz Evolution or 2013’s Zombie Kidz, players have to travel around the town square collecting crates of supplies from neighboring buildings, then returning them to their home base in the middle of the square. Collect four crates and the game is won; if you’re ever overrun by zombies, you lose.
If you’ve played either of the first two games in this series, then you’ll be familiar with almost everything in this one, and you’re welcome to skip to my almost spoiler-free final thoughts. If this is your first time hearing about a Zombie Kidz universe game, then read on.
Zombie Teenz Evolution Gameplay
Zombie Teenz Evolution is a cooperative legacy style family game in which 1-4 players attempt to clear out the undead from a city block. As players progress through the campaign, winning or losing individual games, stickers are added to your trusty Zombie Hunters guidebook. At certain points along the sticker track, players will be allowed to open numbered envelopes which reveal special abilities, new characters, new rules, and plot twists that help or hurt. Some envelopes display a letter and these can be earned by completing groups of achievements.
In a nice addition, the designer has introduced a narrative element which immerses players into the gameplay. Some envelopes contain comic panels that also go in the guidebook. As these panels are revealed, so are the reasons why the characters are in this situation.
A Throw of the Dice
Turns in Zombie Teenz Evolution are simple, roll the included dice to determine where zombies will attack that turn. If you’ve played previous Zombie Kidz games you’ll note the addition of the new black die. When the game first starts the black die is largely blank, but it won’t stay that way for long…
The white die faces have spaces matching the buildings at each corner of the game board. Roll that color and you’ll place a zombie onto the sewer space of that same color. Additionally any zombies already on the sewer space of that color will advance towards the nearby building. If any zombies make it into a building it will become “overrun”. If a building is overrun then you’ll place an “overrun tile” on top of that space, and that zombie horde will leapfrog to the next clockwise building and overrun it, or continue leapfrogging until it finds an empty building.
If the white die lands on a ? then a card is drawn and immediately played from the event deck. Most of these events are bad: all zombies advance, zombies of a certain color become radioactive, etc.
Work Work Work
Players can then take their actions: Move one space, attack a zombie horde (knocking it down one power level, or defeating it and removing it from the board), or transferring a crate from one space to another.
Unlike previous Zombie Kidz games, players win the game by moving supply crates from buildings in the corners of the board to the building in the center. Moving crates into the center of the board requires two actions, performed in cooperation with another player. To move a crate another player must either hand the crate to you, or receive the crate from you. This means you’ll need to coordinate movements with other players, all while preventing the advancement of the zombie hordes threatening the town.
Without revealing specifics, numerous special abilities will be revealed throughout the game. If you read my review of Zombie Kidz Evolution you might remember a criticism I had of that game. Some characters received special abilities early in the campaign, while one specific character didn’t get theirs until close to the end. Since my sons and I were always playing the same characters that meant my oldest Evan was left out, which was a big disappointment to him.
The designer Annick Lobet deftly sidestepped that hurdle in this game by revealing special abilities which are untethered to specific characters. That means players can select whichever special ability they want for that game. And in fact in Zombie Teenz Evolution there are more special abilities than there are players, so you’ll have to decide which ones your group needs for any game. If you’re aiming to achieve a specific goal then you might pick one group of abilities over another. This is a great addition and really helps increase the tactical nature of the game over previous versions.
What is Hidden Shall Stay Hidden (unless you click it).
This section containers spoilers, primarily for parents. If you’re interested in spoilers, special abilities, etc. just click the text below.
Zombie Teenz Evolution envelopes contain some of the following:
- Special Abilities
- Firecrackers – throw firecracker tokens onto the board. If on a future turn the black die reveals the “explosion” face, any zombie in that space is immediately removed from the board.
- Robotic Arms – perform the “transfer a crate” action for free once per turn.
- Jetpack – move to any space on the board
- Barricade Kit – Place a barricade between two spaces on the board. This prevents a zombie horde from advancing a single time. Remove the barricade afterwards.
- New characters
- Dog – players gain control over a dog which can be moved independently of any character and can attack zombie hordes
- Boss – an undefeatable zombie “hulk” which moves around the board causing craters in the sidewalk. Players who move into a crater are trapped unless they spend a move action to repair it.
Over the past ten years or so, “Legacy” games have been making their way through the gaming landscape. These are games that reward, no entice, players into playing a game multiple times by slowly revealing bits and pieces of different rules, new gameplay or components, or even entirely new characters for your use. Sometimes these new features are given to you at milestones (like your forth game) or because you lost three times in a row. Often these changes are beneficial, but sometimes they can be penalties. 2018’s Zombie Kidz Evolution, from Scorpion Masque and IELLO, took a relatively unknown game, 2013’s Zombie Kidz, and turned it into a masterpiece of simple and compelling gameplay for the family.
2020’s Zombie Teenz Evolution really is another “evolution” in gameplay from Zombie Kidz Evolution. Not only has Ms. Lobet changed the underlying goal of the game (locking doors vs transferring crates) but she layered on the complexity so that the game really feels like it’s evolving along with you. And she’s done it in a fun and playful way, by introducing the changes along with comic panels that illustrate the changes so that younger players have a frame of reference.
Zombie Teenz Evolution maintains the simple turn structure of previous Zombie Kidz titles, but by adding in the black die, allows for hazards to randomly reveal themselves. Because of the randomness of the die rolls, your best laid plans might go awry, or be executed flawlessly. But because turns are quick and game duration is relatively short even if you lose you’ve only spent 5-10 minutes. And since the campaign system rewards you a sticker after every game (win or lose) you’re always advancing towards the next envelope. And just like in Zombie Kids Evolution, you’ll also get stickers upon completing individual achievements.
Huge kudos to the designer for addressing the issue with player abilities which surfaced in the previous game. As I mentioned already my son was disappointed because his character didn’t receive a special ability. But by separating the characters from the abilities players can not only play the person they most relate to, they can also contribute to the team in their own way.
I’ve often said that playing through Zombie Kidz Evolution was the best gaming experience I’ve ever shared with my three sons. And unfortunately that still remains true, but not because Zombie Teenz Evolution is a lesser game, but because of our changing player dynamics. My kids are all 2 years older now than they were when we played the previous game. One of them is almost a teenager, while the other is just going into middle school. They still love the game, but they also love arguing and bickering, fighting over who gets what power, and sometimes even refusing to play if they don’t get their way. Unfortunately this means that the experience I hoped to replicate with my sons didn’t quite come to pass. We’ve still greatly enjoyed this game, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone. But I’ll always have that memory of times past, and that’s hard to eclipse.
Should you get Zombie Teenz Evolution? Absolutely! It’s a delightful family game with some great plot twists, nifty gameplay, and delightful 3-D style artwork. It’s great for kids of almost all ages and it’s definitely something you’ll want to play again and again.