It’s three hours to midnight, you got a house full of zombies, half a chocolate bar, an evil totem … and nobody to help you.
Zombie in my pocket started life in 2007 as a solitaire print and play title, eschewing the one sheet dice rolling system of many ‘ZimP’ opted for a tile laying exploration game as you wandered a house in search of an ancient totem to bury in the flower bed before midnight. It’s fairly easy to pick up and learn and gives a good deal of re playability through how the deck is shuffled. You might run straight into the totem, run through the patio doors on the next tile and right into the flower bed. You might run right into a dead end and have to wait for zombies to crawl through the wall to get to your tasty tasty flesh before you can head onward.
Each room you pick up a card and turn it over to reveal what happens and what you find. Cycling through the deck three times, with each time have a corresponding event seems to increase the random nature of the game making each card almost three in one without loosing the ‘in my pocket’ present in the title.
Something that can’t be said for the full fledged game that came out in 2010. This game adds a number of things, proper pieces and tiles for one. A multi player mode for another but what it looses is the ‘pocket’ nature of the first.
Sure it adds some new tiles and items to find but the main selling point, and selling is the key word seen as how the first one was free, is the 1~8 mode of the sequel and unfortunately it’s more uneven than a season of ‘Walking Dead’. They try to spice things up but it feels like playing a solo game with friends. In the solo mode you deal with whatever you find in a room pick up a tile from the pack and then place it where you want to go, door way to door way and hedge to hedge. When you play the multiplayer variant the leader role passes from person to person each round and they get to decide where the team is going to go but seen as how they are still just pulling from the deck they aren’t so much leading as getting the job of turning the card over. Yes they get to place it but this isn’t like Carcassone where you can end up with so many places to put it and in fact often you have only a choice of maybe one or two if you’re lucky. Now the leader also gets a few other chores to complete on their turn which do afford them some power such as deciding who gets any random damage left over after it has been evenly distributed after a fight or choosing who takes the hit for breaking the window and so on.
The other aspect of the multiplayer is in any fight you can opt to fight or flee. If you all fight you hopefully win and move on with the game, if you all run then you all loose a hit point but if you run and at least one person stays to fight then you get away scott free and are assumed to just meet back up with them next turn. Now the idea behind this is that the person with the most hit points at the end technically wins and anybody who dies technically looses with everybody else coming joint second. The points are dished out and in theory you can play a few rounds, it’s not a very long game, and add them up at the end to see who is the “winner”.
In practice however this didn’t really work as if you leave everyone to die you make the game a lot harder for yourself as it scales to how many started not how many are playing. In the end the games I’ve played meant that there was very little insentive to do this and we just ended up playing through to the end and quickly moving on to something else. Maybe if like ‘Dead of Winter‘ the players had objectives to accomplish like the diabetic having to end the game with the chocolate bar or cola and the angry neighbour had to make sure they got their chainsaw back. Thus players would be forced to stay and fight when they don’t want to to make sure the chocolate doesn’t get used up and players might choose to go keep routing despite time almost being up to find the chainsaw before they leave.
Though I realise that not all of these may be possible what with uncovering random tiles and moving together as one. This is perhaps the big problem for me when compared to other multi-player games like Pandemic or Legend of Drizzt. In those games and others if you want to stick together; okay, you want to scout ahead; feel free, or if you just want to ditch the lame ass party and run to the exit that’s good too.
If you’re after a good solitare game I would highly recommend checking out the print and play. If you’ve played that a few times and want to upgrade to a better looking board then feel free, I did and I don’t regret it, after all mine was only ten or so quid. But if you’re after a decent multiplayer then I’d recommend keep looking.