Having wasted my New Year's Eve playing LEGO Heroica with my family on New Year's Eve, I decided to follow it up by wasting New Year's Day playing a different boardgame with friends and family. This time, it was the zombie survival game Last Night on Earth, which a friend of mine bought at a local game store during their after Christmas sale. I saw Last Night on Earth played back in November, when I got together with some people to spend the afternoon and evening playing boardgames. However, I never actually had the chance to play it myself until yesterday.
The game uses a randomly generated map map up of five cardboard pieces depicting buildings and terrain. Half the players take the roles of "heroes" and half take the roles of zombies. The heroes all have names and special abilities and are chosen randomly from a collection of cards. Each hero also has a plastic miniature that represents them on the game board. In our game, there were four heroes: Johnny, the high school jock; Jenny, the farmer's daughter; Becky, the nurse; and Jake, the drifter. The zombies also had minis, too, but no personalities or special abilities.
Weapons and other equipment can only be found by giving up a movement phase and spending it "searching" in a building. Searching is represented by a random draw from a deck of cards. The result might be a piece of gear, but, more than likely, it's an event card that gives your hero some situational benefit (like "Just a Scratch" that negates a wound by a zombie). There are a large number of cards and only a few weapons, so, unless you spend a lot of time searching or get very lucky, odds are you're going to spend most of the game running away from zombies into various buildings and hoping you get a useful weapon.
The chainsaw is the only truly good melee weapon and it's, in my opinion, too good. The game was winding down to the last few turns and the heroes had lost half their number. Things looked terrible for them -- until Becky got lucky and scored the chainsaw. In short order, it was all over for the zombies. I actually felt bad for the zombie players, because they'd played much better than the heroes and a single card turned the tide quickly and decisively. That struck me as unfair and an opposite manifestation of the problem I had with the other weapons.
To be clear, the advanced rules introduce many more complications and I'd like to give them a whirl sometime. I get that the game is -- and should be -- slanted in favor of the zombies, at least initially, but, from what I experienced yesterday, I think the success of the heroes relies too heavily on the luck of the draw. Now, obviously, I don't mind randomness, but I think Last Night on Earth is too random, to the point where it's impossible to form an effective strategy against the zombies. That, plus the fact that most weapons aren't particularly effective, hampered my ability to enjoy the game as much as I'd hoped I might. But, as I said, I intend to play the game a few more times before I render a final verdict.