The teacher is a zombie. The janitor is a zombie. The principal is a zombie.
What's a kid to do?
Similar in gameplay to the 2013 title Zombie Kidz, this version of the game ups the ante by adding new an exciting game elements that trickle into the experience as you play.
The premise is Zombie Kidz Evolution is simple: The school is overrun with zombies, and the kids have to knock them back and close up all the entry ways to win. If a zombie is ever needs to be put on the board, but the reserve of zombies is empty, the players lose.
Mechanically, at the start of your turn, you roll a dice, and the colour rolled places a fresh zombie in a space on the board that corresponds with that colour. Then, you choose to move your kid, and either eliminate a zombie (if they are present), or seal an entryway (if there's one there).
The core rules are decidedly simple, yet when playing, you'll quickly notice that there is a surprisingly high level of strategy involved.
Ignoring the zombies and making for the entryways may seem like the fastest road to victory, but you'll rarely make it to all 4 before the school becomes overrun.
You'll need to work with your fellow players to strategise, back track, and think-quick when certain parts of the school become clogged with zombies unexpectedly, foiling what you thought were fool-proof plans.
The legacy element of Zombie Kids Evolution is in the Progress Chart, and the Missions.
Each time you finish a game of Zombie Kids Evolution, regardless of whether you win or lose, you place a cute little brain sticker on the progress chart. If the space you've placed the sticker has a number, then you open that corresponding envelope.
The envelopes contain additional content for the game, often in the form of Advanced Rules that add more depth to the play experience. These new rules begin as special Hero Powers, that give certain characters in the game special abilities, and move on to corresponding Zombie Powers, which make the enemies more pesky to deal with.
On average, there are 5 games of Zombie Kids Evolution between each envelope, and at around 5-10 minutes per game, you're given plenty of time to experience the new rules, and adjust to them before the game shakes itself up again by adding new elements.
There are thirteen envelopes in the box, so you've got plenty of reasons to keep grinding zombies out of the school with cool new powers, all the while avoiding the nastier zombies as they make themselves known. Given that Zombie Kids Evolution is designed with players aged 7 and up, the way the envelopes and the Progress Chart advance is very clever.
Even after you open the last envelope, to the average adult board gamer, Zombie Kids Evolution is probably still a little less complex in terms of rules than most of the games out there.
Because the game has a younger target audience, what's actually happening is the kids are being taught the full game over the course of dozens of sessions.
Drip-feeding rules complexity is a great way to make sure younger players (or indeed folks new to the world of board games), don't become overwhelmed, particularly when there is around 5 games between each new rules element.
While Zombie Kids Evolution can't be 'reset' in the same way some other legacy games can, what you have when you place the last sticker on the Progress Chart is a fully realised, intricate (and quick) co-operative strategy game. You can play as many games as you like once the last envelope has been opened, but Zombie Kids Evolution incentivises replay in an especially fun way.
The rulebook has a list of Missions, which function similarly to achievements in digital games. From simple milestones like “Win a game with 3 players”, to more challenging targets like “Win the game with no zombies left in reserve” or “Win a game by finishing with 3 zombies on an entryway.”
Additional Missions are also unlocked via the envelopes on the Progress Chart, so you're not in danger or running out of goals to shoot for even as you near the end of the main 'campaign' of sorts.
Given the game's younger audience, it would also be easy (and fun!) to encourage the kids to come up with their own achievements, which is a cool way of talking them through setting challenging yet achievable goals. An especially nice touch in Zombie Kids Evolution is the passport, which is a fun way of incorporating some young creativity into the game.
The passport encourages sharing, by providing a section to add people's names when they play the game with you for the first time, as well as areas to write names for all the zombies, as well as the four (quite androgynous) heroes of the game.
If you're looking for a game to play with your kids that teaches risk versus reward, elements of chance and strategy, you can't go wrong with Zombie Kids Evolution, especially that as an adult you'll still find plenty to like about the game.
As a side note, once you have a firm grasp on the rules, there is no reason why you can't play the game solo. I've got a penchant for solo board games, and particularly toward the end of the Progress Chart, I found that Zombie Kids Evolution was a rewarding and equally challenging experience as a single player.
Zombie Kids Evolution is available at your local Good Games store right now! So whether its for fun game night with the family, a gift for your kids, or quick fun game to adorn your shelf along with Rhino Hero, Zombie Kids has something for you!