Sunday, August 12, 2012

Partial Co-Op Zombies!: Last Night on Earth (2-6 players)

"Last Night on Earth continues to be our go-to game for quick, fun and easy play."

Last Night on Earth is a partially cooperative game of zombie survival for 2-6 players ages 12 and up. The game is easy to learn, fast to play and even comes with its own soundtrack. The basic box set comes with five scenarios, eight heroes and multiple map configurations, giving it high replay value.

What's a Cooperative Board Game?

Cooperative board games allow the players to work together against a timeline built into the game's mechanics. Each cooperative game handles the timeline concept differently, but this allows the players to work as a team to achieve a goal instead of working against one another. Cooperative games are gateway games for people who have only played Parker Brothers-style games. They are also excellent introductory games for younger players.

Partial Co-Op?

Most cooperative games give options for adversarial play: Shadows Over Camelot spices the game with a potential traitor, while Pandemic has a Bioterrorist expansion. Last Night on Earth fits into what I call a Partial Co-Op category because it splits the players into teams if there are more than 2 participants.

2 players: 1 player plays zombies, 1 player plays four heroes
3 players: 1 player plays zombies, 2 players play two heroes each
4 players: 2 players play zombies, 2 players play two heroes each
5 players: 1 player plays zombies, 4 players play 1 hero each
6 players: 2 players play zombies, 4 players play 1 hero each


The game starts by picking a scenario. In the basic game, four heroes are trying to kill fifteen zombies, while the zombies are trying to kill two of the heroes. If the heroes don't kill their quota by sunrise, the zombies win. Other scenarios include rescuing townfolk, escaping in a truck and defending a manor house at the center of town.


The double-sided central section of the map has an open field on one side and an abandoned mansion on the other. Four L-shaped maps are chosen at random to frame the central map. Each of the L-shaped maps have buildings the heroes can loot, like the police station, gun shop and hospital. Since there are six of the L-shaped maps to choose from, not every building will be available in every game.

The hero player(s) then chooses four of the eight characters to play. Characters are typically chosen at random, though the zombie player may allow the hero player to choose his team. Each of the eight heroes has 2-3 special abilities that set them apart.

The four teenage heroes take less damage than the adults, but have a special ability called Youth which allows them to skip their movement phase to heal a wound, making them quite durable (as long as a herd of zombies aren't nearby).

The upper right corner of the hero's card tells you where the hero starts on the board. If the hero's starting building isn't on one of the four L-shaped boards you're using, the hero starts out in the open. Heros begin the game with no weapon or equipment cards (unless specified on their card or by the scenario), but can give up a move action to search when they're inside a building. Searching allows a hero to draw a random card from the Hero deck, which include weapons, townsfolk, special actions, fight cards, Faith, and more. Heroes who start the game in the center of the board get one bonus starting card.

The eight characters in the basic game include:
  • The Sheriff: has easy access to pistols
  • The Track Star: faster movement
  • The Football Star: can tackle zombies and keep running
  • The Sweetheart: has luck on her side
  • The Farm Girl: melee weapons break less often in her capable hands
  • The Drifter: can scrounge items faster than others
  • The Nurse: can heal other characters
  • The Priest: Immune to certain cards and can prevent evil things from happening, but takes damage doing it.
The zombies are all the same, though the zombies' player can use Zombie Cards to give their minions increased speed, durability, or other powers for one turn. The zombie player also has access to cards like "Heavy Rain" and "Bickering" that can slow down heroes or even make them lose a turn.

On the Table

Movement is particularly interesting in LNoE. Zombies move only one space, but as you can see by the board, the spaces in the center of the board are larger than around the edge. Heroes move 1-6 spaces. Heroes enter or exit buildings through doors. Zombies, however, ignore all walls--it's assumed that they burrow through the floor, smash through windows, etc. Also, any number of miniatures can occupy the same space, no matter how big the space is.

The combat system in LNoE takes a little getting used to. Heroes roll two six-sided die (2d6) when fighting zombies in hand-to-hand, while the zombies roll only one die. The individual numbers on each die are compared (not the total of both dice) and the highest number wins (zombies win ties).

A 'win' for the heroes means they don't take any damage from the zombie, while a 'win' for the zombie means the hero takes a point of damage. For example, the Sheriff rolls a 3 and a 5 while his zombie opponent rolls a 4--the Sheriff manages to hold off the zombie, but does not do any damage to the zombie. If the hero roles doubles that are higher than the zombie's roll, the hero does a point of damage to the zombie (normal zombies can only take one point before 'dying'). In the above example, if the Sheriff had rolled a 5 and a 5, he would have killed the zombie. The mechanic makes surviving zombie attacks likely, but killing them without a weapon difficult, leading to dramatic combat dynamics.

Not all weapons use the same rules (firing a revolver requires a single die roll to determine hits, misses and running out of ammo, while a shotgun requires two separate rolls). The baseball bat can be used to add an additional die to the hero's roll. This ability can be used multiple times in a fight, but the hero must roll to see if the bat breaks after each additional die. Effectively, you can keep beating on a zombie until either they're dead or the bat breaks. Pitchforks don't add dice, they allow the hero to re-roll any number of their dice once per combat. The crowbar allows the hero to win on ties.

In another game, the range of weapon effects might feel unnecessarily complicated. Because the basic mechanics of combat in LNoE are relatively simple, it only takes a game or two before the combat becomes intuitive, fast and dramatic.

Final Verdict

After over a dozen plays, Last Night on Earth continues to be our go-to game for quick, fun and easy play. Each game feels different and new scenarios continue to be added online. With games averaging 60 minutes, Last Night on Earth is a solid game for casual play without too much time investment.

LNoE is one of those rare games that is just as fun for two players as it is for six, making it a great game for couples who like to have friends over for the occasional game night.

Several expansions are available including: Growing HungerSurvival of the Fittest, and Timber Peak as well as supplements and miniatures sets.


Please remember to support your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) whenever possible. Many FLGSs have demo copies of their most popular games available to flip through. They may also have game nights, tournaments and open demos as well.

Living in the San Diego, California area? Visit my favorite FLGS: Game Empire. You can also check out gaming organizations like the San Diego Board Games Group, the College Area Board Games Group, and Geek Girls of San Diego.

Living in the Owensboro, Kentucky area? Check out my new favorite area store: Big Bang

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