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Good Dog, Bad Zombie Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look:

Hoomans are good. They throw sticks and give belly rubs. Since the dead ones came, Hoomans are hard to find. The smart and noble doggos moved to Central Bark, a defendable paradise at the center of everything. Missing ear scratches and the taste of hairless skin, the noble doggos decide to search the ruins of civilization for Hoomans to protect and cuddle.   

Good Dog, Bad Zombie is a thematic cooperative game where you take on the role of brave and faithful doggos to help the Hoomans survive the zombie apocalypse. This isn't like Mice and Mystics where you play as personified animals with weapons. In GDBZ, you're a dog. You can do what dogs can do, like sniff, bark, lick, etc. It turns out those skills work surprisingly well against zombies. 

Designer: Evan Rowland, Brian Van Slyke
Artist: N/A
Publisher: Make Big Things
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Good Dog, Bad Zombie. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


Rules and Setup:

Place the three boards in the center of the table so that Central Bark is in the center and the cliffs and river are at opposite ends. This is where dogs will run around to various locations searching for humans and eliminating zombies. A few zombies will be placed on areas at the beginning depending on your player count and chosen difficulty level.

The three stacks of square cards in the bottom left are Scents. They are event cards that happen when you "Sniff" a cube. You shuffle them and make three roughly even stacks with the numbered area up. The top scent of each of those stacks tells you where to place the yellow scent cubes on the game board.

The Feral Track goes to the right of the Scent cards. Place a tracker on the space that corresponds to your player count. This tracks your relationship with humans. If they get to be more trouble than they're worth, the dogs go feral and everybody loses.

Energy cards are shuffled, and each player draws two. The rest are placed near the board. Energy cards make you able to do better actions like Herd, Bark, Chew. and your special ability. Your hand limit is five.

Hooman Town goes above the main board. It starts out empty, but Hoomans are added as you rescue them throughout the game.

Finally, each player takes a player board, and the dog standees are placed in Central Bark.

The whole process takes about five minutes. The rulebook is currently six pages of large print and pictures. It's extremely concise, despite being full of jokes. Normally, I hate it when rulebooks try to be funny, but this one is really well done.

Theme and Mechanics:

GDBZ is an immersive dog-mind experience. Every single detail is saturated with flavor. It wouldn’t really surprise me if it was designed by an actual dog, or maybe a kindly werewolf. I mean that in a good way.

Each dog has a special ability that can be triggered by their Good Doggo card. For instance, Lupin can Snuggle (move to any dog, then Lick them and yourself). This translates to teleporting to any space with another dog and both of you drawing two Energy cards. This is a massively powerful ability nestled in an adorable thematic cocoon. Regular movement is one space in any direction. A lot of cards let you move 2-4 spaces, but cards go quickly. Stopping to Lick can be very dangerous when the zombies are closing in.

Some cards grant you an extra action, so it's possible to string a bunch of cards together to have an epic turn when you really need it. Many cards have special symbols in the corner. Here's a breakdown of things the Energy cards do:

Another thematic aspect I loved was the Scent cards. There are eighteen locations where a scent cube might end up. Each location has three unique cards featuring encounters that suit the location. Many require you to roll a d20 to determine the outcome. For instance, if you go to the "Treasure Cave" (the pet store), you might find a human or get distracted by all the dog food or squeaky toys. At the "Worst Place" (the Vet), you might interact with cats. The three gameplay outcomes are always either:
1. Roll to gain/lose cards
2. Roll to place a Zombie or Hooman on the board.
3. Simply place a Hooman.

It sounds limited when phrased that way, but the imagination put into each encounter makes the commonality almost invisible. It's all extremely well-balanced and thoroughly playtested.

Game Play:

This plays like a simplified Pandemic. You're moving around the board, suppressing threats, and trying to survive long enough to rescue six humans. The dice and action cards add a bit of luck, but there's still a lot of strategy and coordination required to win. The difficulty is very scalable. For a harder game, simply start with more zombies on the board.

On your turn, you will work toward reducing the zombie threat or trying to rescue humans. If you are in a location with a cube, you can Sniff by drawing the corresponding card and dealing with its effect. The cube moves to the space indicated on the card beneath the one you drew. If you find a human, you have to lead them back to Central bark while avoiding Zombies. Once they reach Central Bark, draw a Hooman card, gain the bonus, and place them in Hooman Town. They are safe for the rest of the game.

If a zombie and human ever occupy the same space, the human dies and the Feral Track moves up. In this event, draw a Hooman card and see who died. Each character is unique. For instance, Antwan is a mechanic with a good singing voice. When rescued, he Throws Ball (you may move anywhere). There's not a lot of info on the cards, but there's enough to make you go, "Aw, he seemed nice."

Each turn, you get to make two of the following actions:

Run - move one space in any direction.
Lick - Allow any player to draw two cards.
Act - Play a card. Most of the good stuff is on Energy cards.
Sniff - Interact with a Scent card in a place where there's a cube.

The center of the board is Central Bark. The eighteen spaces (nine on either side) are places where Humans might be. The ends of the board are the cliffs and ocean. If you can herd the zombies there, they will fall off a cliff or be sucked away by the tide. Zombies are stupid. You can also kill them with Chew or Good Doggo cards.

After performing two actions (or more if you play a paw card), roll a d20 and place a zombie on the corresponding space. There are eighteen spaces a zombie might spawn. On a 19-20, you roll around in the mud because it's a joyful, zombie-free day. If a zombie already occupies that space, place the new zombie one space closer to Central Bark. Every time a zombie would be placed in Central Bark, the Feral Track moves up. When it gets to 10, you lose.

The main object of the game is to rescue six humans before the Feral Tracker hits 10. The tracker moves up whenever a human dies, a zombie gets to Central Bark, or when you have to discard but have no cards.

Artwork and Components:

I'm playing a prototype, so I can't tell you much about what the end product will look like. The artist on BGG is listed as N/A, so I'm pretty sure they're redoing the art. I like the art, though; it makes me think of children's storybooks and birthday cake.

The Good:

This is a fun, light game. It's perfect for when I'm in the mood for something like Pandemic, but I don't feel like dealing with Pandemic.
Great gateway/family game.
The execution of theme is off the charts.
It's Kickstarting, so there's likely to be a bunch of improvements to what is already a solid and well-balanced game.
They already have two expansions available. “Weird Smells” adds a new set of Scent cards to the city, changing up what you sniff and how you react!
“Unlikely Allies” adds 4 new playable characters, rescued from the city and adopted into the pack: a goat, a cat, a baby pig, and a parrot! They come with unique powers and prove that no matter where you come from, you can still be a good doggo.
You can try out the PnP version here.

The Bad:

There are some odd thematic/semantic choices. For instance, Bark can move zombies away from you, and Herd can't move more than one zombie. Nothing too bad, though. I wish there was an advanced game where zombies spawned more frequently but you could Herd through spaces with other zombies and take multiples out with one action.

Final Thoughts:

This is a great gateway/family game. I tend to go for heavier games, so I'd prefer 15-20% more complexity.  That said, I enjoyed this game a lot.

Players Who Like:

Dogs. Zombies. Light tactical games. Pandemic. Cuteness. Call of Catthulhu.

Check out Good Dog, Bad Zombie on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/238182/good-dog-bad-zombie    https://www.facebook.com/makebigthings   https://twitter.com/makebigthings  

Stephen Gulik - Reviewer

Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.

See Stephen's reviews HERE.
Good Dog, Bad Zombie Kickstarter Preview Good Dog, Bad Zombie Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by S T Gulik on March 13, 2018 Rating: 5

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