This week I finally get around to a long overdue Play Review, the team-based, zombie apocalypse board game, Posthumous Z.
This is a Cow is an independent games developer fully run by Nathan Little, with great assistance from his father. I was lucky enough to meet both of these gentlemen promoting their game at a local convention and to come away with a copy of the game. Although it certainly isn’t necessary to appreciate this review, I recorded an interview with Nathan which you can check out by clicking here before reading my thoughts below which come after having played the game.
Opening the box for Posthumous Z a few things stand out worth mentioning; for a independent game company self publishing a board game, this is a quality product. The company didn’t skimp on the materials. All of the cards, game pieces, and the box itself are top notch quality, feel good in your hands, and lay flat on the table without curling at the edges or bending in the box. That may seem like a comment more appropriate for an “unboxing” article, but given a recent complaint of a few major board games to come out that I’ve seen lately (bent tiles and such), I thought this was a nice touch in an independent company’s product that is worth mentioning. The game also looks good, one of the first things that attracted me to the company’s table was the choice of colors for the various map pieces. When laid out on the table in play, the entire thing looks both chaotic and pretty all at once.
Rules of the Zombieocalypse
As a brief synopsis of how game play works, the board is randomly generated each time in a pattern three tiles across, six tiles long. The human’s goal is to escape by crossing from one end of the board to the other, and the zombies must stop them. Intricate and quick systems have been worked out for generating zombie attacks and spawning, threat generation via a “noise” system, and other such details have been worked out and well honed to make play accessible and exciting. In addition, humans and zombies both purchase or find cards which grant them equipment or events to dramatically alter the course of play. The game is highly variable with hundreds upon hundreds of random characters, zombie types, and board combinations. Zombies begin play with a set number of pawns placed across the board evenly, and then beginning spawning special zombies and using their special abilities to destroy the humans. For more information on the rules, the entire guide is available online in PDF form from This is a Cow’s website, and can be accessed here.
Posthumous Z touts itself as the game for large group play by using teams of specialized and mundane zombies trying to destroy a unique team of randomly generated human survivors and supporting up to 10 players. Nathan also really pushed the concept that the game would be a low downtime experience, requiring opposing players to strategize and plan while the enemy team takes their turn. In play, I found this was not the case as much as I may have expected. While certainly we used time during the enemy team’s turn to discuss our options and reveal what cards we might want to play to turn the battle, we found that there was really only one main strategy for the humans and one strategy for zombies, at least as best we could tell. Humans should run, stay together, and move in a straight line to get to the end. Zombies should stack up where they think the humans are going first, then spread out across the board from there to cover all deviations the human team may take. In discussion with my group we struggled to find a good reason why humans should ever choose to stay back, split up, or move laterally across the board once beginning a path. We found that time seemed to be against the humans and rushing to escape was the only choice to make.
These concerns aside, the game is a blast to play. There is something exciting about seeing all those zombies on the board, both from the perspective of someone stacking up a horde or the player facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Combat favors humans early in the game, but as the zombies gather they can do some serious damage in large numbers. There’s a definite feeling of needing to “win” the game early by starting on the right foot, with just enough randomness in dice rolls and point-purchase event and item cards that can turn the game in a losing team’s favor.
There was some concern at the table over the zombie Controller and human Spotlight mechanics. Effectively, each team has a rotating leader that runs the turn for their respective team. This had little effect on the human player’s turn, giving everyone a relatively high involvement in the team save for item searching. For the zombies however, it seemed that a little too much importance was given to the Controller. Particularly in a large team of zombies, it seemed that those who were not leading the turn had just too little to do. Our group is considering a house rule to allow non-Controller players full control of their own zombies during the turn, including combat, and allowing the Controller to run his own and the gray zombies which do not belong to any individual player. We think this would have been a good rule to implement just to keep everyone a bit more active.
Apocalyptic Final Thoughts
With so many zombie themed games on the market, Posthumous Z sets itself apart by being first and foremost a team play game. It does similar things to what many other board games do in that it’s a bit gruesome, filled with comedy and movie references, and very fun to play. What other games don’t do is handle large team play so well. Though there is certainly room for improvement as mentioned above, a 5 on 5 game moves quick and you’d be hard pressed to find another game which can support that many players well. It might be a hard sell at it’s current price to someone not looking for another undead themed game or doesn’t want to gather 9 other friends (though it can be played with smaller groups down to 1 on 1), but the price is a reflection not only on the quality of the game, but the fact that it is put out by an independent developer. I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll repeat it here, this game is an absolute labor of love. Nathan has hand made all of the art for the game, impressed everyone in the RavenCon game room by running his Posthumous Z table non-stop for the entirety of the weekend, and put together a great product. There are some fantastic new ideas thrown into this board game and I’m eager to see what else comes out of This is a Cow in the future. Nathan tease’s his next project Of Mice on his website, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can bring to a role playing game. It’s unfortunate that the price of Posthumous Z may deter interested parties, but for those on the borderline of making that decision, it may help to consider it an investment in am awesome, friendly up and coming company. I give the board game a full recommendation for fans of the genre looking to pack a table with corpses… err… uh… friends.
Special thanks to Josh and Danielle for the pictures!