Hit The Infested Road
Tripwire’s contributing writer Patrick Kennedy takes a look at zombie board game Hit Z Road…
Hit Z Road
Zombie games are a dime a dozen nowadays. Great if you love zombie games like me! But there is a genuine question on how to make zombie adventures more interesting than the last. I’ve played quite a few games that feature the undead and I myself look for some interesting dynamics to change up the formula in the next one. Hit Z Road might just make the undead appealing for just another round.
The first thing I should really cover for Hit Z Road is its pretty darn nifty artwork and pack-aging. Hit Z Road doesn’t bash you over the head with it being a game about zombies as so many others do. It instead cleverly guises as a run of the mill, 1950 are game about traveling across the states. But rather more interestingly, it gives us another story, about someone finding this old game and altering it for the zombie apocalypse.
Small changes have been made to convert this family-friendly, all American Family board game into something dirty, dangerous, and just a little creepy. First, the name Hit Z Road was originally Hit the Road. The slogan “As seen on TV” describes how there is no more TV due to zombies and is the general 1950’s stylisation, which is now weathered and worn out due to years of exposure. It’s simple, yet there’s something incredibly interesting about the makeshiftness to it.
The pieces, cards, and tokens are all really nice and are aesthetically charming. Everything feels as though it’s been crafted with care and a fantastic level of detail is implemented. While not the most innovative, it is very well presented and looks quite different from other zombie games on the market for the most part.
So this is a game for between 2 to 4 players and the main objective is to survive a “road trip” across zombie-infested United States. Not only that, but players will have to use their surviv-alist skills in order to declare themselves the most awesome and victorious out of the group. This is done by obtaining “Victory Points” which are rewarded to those willing to risk life and limb against the undead.
The main items in play are the scenario cards, resources, and followers. Resources come in three forms, Ammo, Gas, and Adrenaline. These all play a vital role within the game as Am-mo is used to kill zombies from a distance, having no ammo means you’ll be going up close and personal with the hungry undead. Gas will ensure your followers can travel with you and having no gas means you’re pretty much out not going anywhere. Adrenaline is useful to healing followers if they’re bitten or as means to kill more zombies if you have a certain dice roll.
Players will venture through the campaign and have to take part in a number of scenarios, that when completed will reward players with resources, key items that can be very useful later in the game or of course those sweet, sweet victory points. The campaign is structure via these colorful encounter cards, each one presenting a different situation that has to be com-pleted and holds a number of risks/rewards.
Cards are separated into three decks, with each deck representing a difficulty level. The first is pretty straightforward and poses no real threat if you’re smart enough. However, by the time you’ve come to the third deck, you’ll most likely be grinding your teeth and shaking with fear!
Better yet, each player will have a number of survivors following them across the states. In order to remain in the game until the bitter end, you have protected and ensured at least one survivor makes it to the completion of the game. They’re pretty useful as they do help you when it comes to going toe to toe with the undead. But they need to survive; otherwise, you’re out of the game.
Combat relies on dice throws, with symbols representing certain actions such as killing a zombie, being bitten by a zombie, or being allowed a special move. Be mindful that later in the game, groups of zombies will become hordes, meaning the chance of survival for follow-ers is reduced significantly. This is handled with the introduction of red dice.
All cards are shuffled and divided into decks depending on their difficulty. Players are given a handful or followers and resources, making sure they have enough to bid and use for the early game. Each round will see a number of cards being dealt in pairs, making up a series of encounters. Depending on how many players there are, it will result in how many pairs of cards are laid out on the table. So for three players, you will have three pairs of cards laid out, each showing a different encounter.
Once this is done, players may enter a bidding war to see who can choose first Depending on how you want to play; you may choose the safest of encounters, allowing you to obtain a few resources and little risk to your followers. Or you may want to play big and claim those all-important victory points. Plus, there are cards with key items and events which may help you later in the game.
To make things more interesting in an advanced game, you may wish to turn certain cards over, keeping their contents hidden and thus, add a layer of tension and the unknown to the bidding war.
The overall setup is extremely easy and takes very little time and effort.
Hit Z Road is a lot of fun and while it may seem fairly generic with its combat, the resource management, and bidding system were the most engaging mechanics I’ve seen in any zombie game. The game encourages smart decision making and evaluating risk/reward at every step, never easing the tension but also not being too difficult. Having to constantly think about your resources during combat and then add in the bidding system makes things pretty inter-esting. Do you place a bid high enough to get an easy route, but potentially lose out on vital resources? Or do you risk it and possibly reap the rewards while keeping your resources for the late game?
Players can also change with up a bit by turning over certain cards and keeping them a secret until a pair is chosen. This is a great way to balance things for new and spice things up for veteran players. The variation of encounters is great, with a nice mix of small jobs, random benefits, and some difficult battles that lie ahead. Over, other aspects such as the bidding system, resource management, and key items you can pick up really do help break up what otherwise could be a static and tedious game.
The only small problem I would say with Hit Z Road is that some advanced gamers may find this a little repetitive. It’s a game that even a child could pick up and play with ease, so some veteran gamers may find this a little bare-bones on multiple play-throughs. But I appreciate this is a rather easy game to pick up and there are enough dynamic elements to fleshed out and make it fun.
There is also the aspect of player elimination which means if you manage to lose all your fol-lowers early in the game, then that player will be waiting a while to see who wins. This can be a rather long game, lasting from 30 minutes to over an hour. But I can see people who may have lost being engaged at seeing how the remaining players pan out in their adventure. Hit Z Road is still an engaging and intense game to watch none the less.
I can highly recommend Hit Z Road for pretty much any gamer. It’s simple to set up and understand but has some really cool mechanics and dynamics which do set it apart from a lot of other zombie games. The charming artwork, bidding system, and resource management are the main highlights and while the other elements such as combat aren’t as interesting, they’re nonetheless solid in execution and fun for all gamers, no matter what their age.
+ Awesome packaging and artwork on game pieces
+ Very simple and easy to set up and play
+ Nifty bidding system and well-executed resource management at play
– Might be too simple for advanced players
– Player elimination