With Halloween fast approaching, I figured it was an appropriate time to review Last Night on Earth. In this review, I’ll be covering the game and all of its expansions. Since it is an older game (released originally in 2007), I won’t be covering every aspect of the game and its expansions, but I will talk about some of the gameplay elements and what new mechanics the expansions have brought.
Last Night on Earth is a game from Flying Frog Productions for 2-6 players where one or two people will play the zombies while everyone else will play the heroes. You always use four heroes, so in a two-player game, one person will be the zombie player and the other the hero player, controlling all four heroes. There are multiple scenarios that have the heroes trying to accomplish a task, such as getting gas for a truck to get out of town, or killing a specific number of zombies within a set number of rounds. The zombie player is usually trying to stop the hero player by killing four heroes or preventing her from achieving her goal before the set number of rounds expires.
You’ll set up the board by taking the center tile with the appropriate side for the scenario you are playing face up, and four L-shaped corner tiles to place around the center tile. These are randomly selected. Both players will place their starting heroes and zombies. The locations the heroes start at and the number of zombies can change based on the scenario.
The zombie player will take his turn first. He will be able to move zombies, attack heroes, and play cards that can assist in making lives for the heroes bad. At the end of the zombie turn, it’s possible even more zombies will come out, but you are limited by the number of zombie figures.
The hero player will also move her heroes, search for items, fight zombies, shoot zombies, and play cards. The hero cards allow her to either equip items such as gasoline, guns, keys, etc. or play events such as being able to look for a specific item or having townsfolk assist with taking out zombies.
Combat comes down to a combination of dice rolling and card playing. The zombie player only rolls one die, his zombies can only take one wound, and can only play one card during a fight. However, he does win on ties and the card he plays can potentially give him more dice, cause extra wounds, or even turn the hero into a zombie.
The hero player rolls two dice, can use her equipped hand-to-hand combat weapons for extra bonuses, can take two-four wounds depending on the hero character, and can play as many event cards as she wants. However, your weapons can potentially break, meaning they’ll be discarded. You also need doubles to actually wound a zombie. For example, if a hero player rolls a 6 and a 2, and the zombie player rolls a 5, even though you beat the zombie, you only fended it off. The hero player would have needed two 6s in order to wound it, therefore killing it.
Once the hero player is done with her turn, the round track will move down, and the zombie player will go again. This will continue until the end of the game is reached either by the hero or zombie player meeting his/her winning condition or the round track reaching zero.
This game is great. It really captures the feeling of a B-horror movie. This isn’t Zombicide where you’re going to have potentially 50 or 60 zombies on the board at the same time. The most you can have is 14 (21 with one of the expansions and a couple of scenarios). The artwork adds to this because it has pictures of live actors in makeup acting out the scenes that go with the text on the cards. Some people don’t like that it isn’t original artwork, but I feel original artwork wouldn’t work as well with the feeling of a small middle-of-nowhere town being overrun by zombies. You can see some of the typical plot points with pictures on the cards of a movie like this, such as one person making a final stand against a bunch of zombies, or the teenager arguing with his father who is the town sheriff.
The different scenarios also help with the theme. For your first play, it’s recommended to play the Die, Zombies, Die! scenario, which requires you to just kill a certain number of zombies. Once you’re used to the game, you’ll have all different types of scenarios. You’ll have to defend a manor, go after and destroy zombie spawn zones, and save townsfolk. The expansions offer other scenarios such as burning the town down, getting the radio at the Radio Station up and running to call for help, stocking up on weapons and supplies, just killing heroes as the zombie player, and trying to survive as heroes until sunrise. You’ve pretty much seen all of the above in lots of zombie horror movies.
Let’s Face It: These Days You’ve Gotta Have Expansions
I mentioned expansions and there are a bunch for this game. Each expansion usually adds more scenarios and cards for both sides. Growing Hunger added more board tiles to use and heroes to play. You can even have the zombies use weapons themselves with Survival of the Fittest. New components were added such as the ability to build barricades, the ability to upgrade your heroes, and even fire that can spread around the map.
Timber Peak, which introduced fire and other mechanics, is a standalone expansion. This means you can play it mixed with the previous content, or just play it alone. Blood in the Forest added tiles that have nothing but trees, as well as two new types of zombies, Feral Dead and Behemoths. There is just a ton of content. You can even find scenarios online to download from Flying Frog’s website, including two Halloween-themed scenarios.
All of this new content means some new ways to play. Zombies can autospawn instead of having to roll to see if they spawn. Heroes can become zombies when eliminated instead of just being removed from the game. Heroes can start with more cards. There are scenarios where you will use eight corner tiles instead of just four.
Zombies generally move only one space at a time unless modified by a card, whereas heroes roll to see how far they can move, which can also be modified by cards or hero player powers. While some people may not like the roll and move mechanic, I feel it adds to the tension. You may get a roll of only 1 or 2, meaning you’re just not fast enough to get away from the zombies. On the other hand, you could get a 5 and get away to the safety of an unoccupied building. Of course, the zombie player could play a card that prevents you from going into the building, ending your movement.
When you’re inside a building as the hero, you can search for items. By searching, you’re giving up moving. You may need to search to find the fuel to power the generator, but that means the zombies on the board will be getting closer and closer.
I find combat to be fun. Both sides will roll their dice to see who wins. Each side can play cards after dice are rolled. This means you’re hoping the zombie player doesn’t have a card to give himself two more dice or do an extra wound. Of course, the zombie player is hoping your hero isn’t carrying an event to allow her to win on ties or have a weapon equipped that she can use to reroll over and over until it breaks, or she wins the fight. Being able to play cards after dice are rolled adds a different level of strategy then what you get when you have to play beforehand.
Generally, you want to avoid combat as the hero player. Sometimes you have no choice, whether it’s because you’re surrounded by zombies or the goal is to kill zombies. Otherwise, try to stay away as long as possible. If you get attacked by three or four zombies, that’s three or four fights you will have to win to stay alive, and you might not even kill the zombies in the fights you win. Since your heroes can only take two to four wounds, they can die pretty quickly.
There is definitely some strategy outside of combat. When zombies are in a space next to a hero, they must move into the space that contains the hero. This is called zombie hunger. While it’s risky, you could have one hero use this hunger to keep zombies moving toward him/her, allowing another hero to move or search freely. You can also shoot zombies with guns outside of combat, but you run the risk of running out of ammo, so you need to pick and choose when to use that gun.
The component quality varies. The figures are decent, and cards seem to vary a bit amongst the expansions. The cards do stick to each other upon first opening, so it’ll take a couple games for them to get worn enough that the sticking issue will disappear. The board tiles are thick cardboard but are prone to warping. All of the cardboard tokens in each release are good quality and there is a lot of variety. You have a pickup truck token to use for the Escape in the Truck scenario. There are tokens to show that a building has been overrun by zombies or you can access a sewer. There are even tokens you can use for scenarios that you create.
It’s Not All Zombies and Roses
I do have a couple of complaints about the game. The one that stands out is the zombie player will win a majority of the time. This does make the game harder to get out to the table for my wife and me. She likes playing the heroes and I like playing the zombies. However, even the couple of times we switched, the zombies still won. It is very rare for us to have the heroes win. Some of the changes made in Timber Peak did help alleviate this a bit, but still not enough to not mention it.
Another problem is that the game can play six players. Two people can play the zombies while four can play the heroes. There are 14 zombies, 7 brown and 7 green. You’ll split them up by color for each player. Each player will also get two cards instead of four. The reason this is a bigger deal then it should be is because two people play the zombies if the player count is four. So for four, five, and six players, you will always have two people playing the zombies.
This game is really a one versus all game. It doesn’t add anything to the game by having two people play the zombies as they’re just splitting the role. I would ignore this if you plan to play with four people and cap it at 5.
The final issue is the turn length. The zombie turn is usually straightforward whereas the hero turn has more decisions that need to be made, which is exacerbated there always being four heroes. This can cause some downtime for the zombie player, especially if he doesn’t have any cards that he can use.
Overall, Last Night on Earth is a great zombie game with awesome expansion content that provides countless hours of entertainment. With its B-horror movie theme, great combat system, and tense moments, I would recommend you add this to your collection. There was a 10th-anniversary edition released last year, so you may want to grab that as it contains plastic tokens instead of cardboard, updated rules, and is compatible with all other previously released content. You even get a CD soundtrack, which is a staple of Flying Frog games.
A Wife’s Perspective
I have to agree with my husband about the B-horror movie theming of the game. I love the silliness of it. However, because the game is so asymmetrical, it does not make it to the table nearly as often as my husband would like. The zombies almost always win, which is hugely disappointing given all the work that goes into playing the heroes.
Timber Peak adds some bonuses that even the game out a little bit. The heroes can “level up” and get more powerful weapons or other special powers to aid them in defeating the zombies. However, the zombies are also able to level up, which lessens the impact of the additions in Timber Peak.
Also, Chris is correct in that the hero turns are more complicated, and therefore, more lengthy than the zombie turns in general. All of the zombies have one movement (usually) and the zombie player can play up to four cards. The hero player, on the other hand, has four hero players, each of whom rolls for movement, move or search, fight (one or more times), and possibly play multiple cards.
If you want a good zombie game, I would recommend Zombicide over this game. It’s cooperative, and the player turns are of equal length and complexity.