Zombie Dice is by far my most played game over the past few years. I have not yet found a game that can compete with it in its combination of fun, theme, portability, short time frame, and expandability from two players to as many players as you want. Even though the game is just a bunch of dice, people often get really into the zombie theme.
Basic stats: 2+ players (unlimited number), 10 mins, ages 10 and up
Zombie Dice is great as a two-player game. I’d say at least half of my plays have been two-player games with Sean. But I think Zombie Dice is just as good or even better with more players.
I started playing games with my coworkers back in January, and the first game we played was Zombie Dice. Everybody liked it so much that our team now plays Zombie Dice at least once a week, usually on Wednesdays.
In fact, we like it so much that I got a second copy of the game to keep at work, and I brought in a zombie duck from Archie McPhee as a trophy. The winner each week gets to display the duck at their desk. My coworkers also made up a tradition called “word on the duck” where the winner attaches a vocabulary word to the duck with a post-it.
Zombie Dice is a fairly simple push-your-luck game, but the theme and peer pressure really get people into it. Players are zombies trying to get human brains and avoid being shot. On your turn, you pull three dice from the dice cup or bag (we use a Crown Royal bag) and roll them.
Brains are good, shots are bad, and feet mean you reroll that die if you decide to keep going. The idea is that brains are human brains that you ate (mmm…BRAINS), feet are people who got away, and shots are people who defended themselves and shot you with shotguns. You can survive with two shots from shotguns, but three shots kill you and make you lose your turn (and all points gathered that turn). After each roll, you decide whether to roll again or bank your points.
If you decide to keep rolling, you reroll any feet from the previous round, plus as many dice from the bag as are needed to make a total of three dice being rolled. If you have no feet to reroll, you pull three dice out of the bag and roll them. If you get three shots on one turn, you lose all of your points for that turn.
Sean and I played Zombie Dice as recently as today! Here was his first turn:
Here was my first turn:
The green dice each have 3 brains, 2 feet, and 1 shot, so they are the safest to roll. The yellow dice have two of each symbol. The red dice have 3 shots, 2 feet, and 1 brain, so they are the toughest. There are 13 dice total, with a breakdown of 3 red, 4 yellow, and 6 green.
The rules for the game say to pay attention to the first player to roll, and then when someone hits 13 points, the rest of the players in that round get to roll and try to beat that score (meaning the players who haven’t yet had the same number of total turns). This is kind of a pain rules wise, and it also puts the starting player at a disadvantage.
To solve that issue, Sean came up with a house rule that we always use at home and that we also use at work because it seems to improve the game. Our rule is that when one player breaks 13, every other player then gets one more turn to try to beat that score. If the challenger only ties the score, then the player who originally got that score wins. In other words, challengers must beat the score, not tie it, to win.
The funny thing about our house rule is that it encourages people to hold at 12 rather than breaking 13, because you want to have a significant lead over everyone else on your final turn. If you hit 13, every other player gets to roll again, and if another player is at 12, that player will probably overtake you and win–and you won’t even get another turn.
So our house rule can make the game go more like 20 minutes in a larger group, but it’s fun to pressure and heckle other players at that point. Overall, it seems to improve and slightly lengthen the game when a large group is playing. It also simplifies it slightly because you don’t have to pay attention to who rolled first. You just have to pay attention to who broke 13 first.
If you somehow manage to roll all 13 of the dice on your turn and can keep going (which is rare but has happened a few times), you keep track of your score and throw the dice back in the bag and keep going.
So far, I have not found another game that can challenge Zombie Dice in its niche. For what it is, Zombie Dice is fantastic. I haven’t found another game with this combination of advantages:
- Small and portable
- Durable–can get wet or dirty; no pieces to worry about protecting from the elements
- Plays equally well with 2 and with 10+
- Easy to teach
- Nongamers and gamers enjoy it
- Encourages silly peer pressure and heckling, at least when played in groups
- Theme is surprisingly strong for a handful of dice
- Inexpensive (about $10)
I am a big fan of Zombie Dice, but I am on the lookout for other games that hit most of those advantages, just for variety. So far, I haven’t found anything that really competes with it. Hive hits a lot of the criteria but notably lacks the expandability to more than 2 players and is weaker on the theme and silliness. I have some card games that can play more players, but they tend not to be so durable. I am definitely interested in recommendations for this sort of game!
I have played Zombie Dice alone with Sean in all sorts of settings, at work with coworkers, at family events, and even with curious strangers at pubs! We even played Zombie Dice at the top of a mountain! I have played it 75+ times and am not at all bored of it, which is saying a lot, since I tend to like variety.