Thursday, 1 November 2012

Review: Last Night on Earth


When I was asking around about what zombie games I should get in to review for this zombie themed week, one game kept on cropping up. No not Zombicide, although that was a fairly popular request too it has to be said... no, I'm talking about Flying Frog Productions 'Last Night on Earth'. I've only really ever heard good things about this game, so when I was reminded of its existence it was bound to go down on my list of games to review. I'm quite glad it did.

Product Description

Right you get 1 large central board tile that is double sided for twice the fun, or something. There are 6 further L-shaped corner tiles, 4 of which will go around the edge of the board to make up the gaming space you'll play the games on. You'll get 22 plastic miniatures, 8 unique (read zombie film tropes) heroes, and 14 zombies, 7 green and 7 red. There are 120 playing cards, split between 40 Zombie Cards, 40 Hero cards and then 20 Advanced cards for both the Hero and Zombie decks. There are also 8 Character Profile cards, 5 Scenario Cards, 6 Reference Cards, the Sun Track, loads of card board chits and tokens and a CD. Don't ask. Did I also mention you get 16 D6's? No! Well you do, although God only knows why you'd need that many

There's a fair amount of stuff in the box.

Gameplay 8.5 out of 10

Now I decided to review this months and months ago, and set about my task with real conviction.  So when I saw Will Wheaton was reviewing it on Table Top I sort of felt a bit like this. However, it's not a bad review and play through of the game and it should give you all a good idea of how the game plays, so begrudgingly here's Will Wheeeaaaaton's! Video:

So, now you're back I'll give you my thoughts on the game. Although obviously my review is instantly less cool because it's not a video... with Will Wheaton in it. He did get some of the rules wrong though, not so good now, are you Wheaton, hmm?

A game in progress.

Right, OK, off the bat I have to say that I really like Last Night on Earth. It's a bit different to the other zombie games I've played in the past because most of the ones I've played have pitched players on the same side and with the same goal. Even if in the case of some of them you were ultimately working against your fellow gamers in the end. With Last Night on Earth you are split into two teams, heroes and zombies. This does add a nice competitive element to the game, and gives the zombies a bit more of a menacing feel, because there's intelligence behind their movements. Or there would be if I wasn't controlling them! I've always liked my games to have that little bit of competitive edge, a bit of adversarial tension if you will. Sure the whole co-operative thing is cool every now and then, and beating the game as a team, "yay go team!" is I suppose nice... but sometimes you just want to be able to gloat, and rub your awesome victory in the faces of your vanquished foes. Last Night on Earth lets you satisfy your competitive urges, and for me that makes it a bit of a winner.

The character profile cards.
The other thing I like about Last Night on Earth is the Sun Track. So many zombie games, and boardgames in general, allow you to just pussy foot around as the heroes and take your sweet time solving the problems you face in your own time. Last Night on Earth actually adds a sense of peril to proceedings. You can not just sit around building up awesome heroes ready to take on the undead horde, and neither can the zombie players look to build up an unstoppable horde of the shambling dead. You have to get to it right away. Because, if you don't chances are the other team will get the drop on you and you'll be facing a desperate battle to get back on terms and win the game. Truth is, it makes you feel like you are actually in a zombie film desperately trying to survive and achieve whatever goal you've been set. Not many zombie games out there that I've played genuinely give you that sense or peril and urgency, a drive and imperative to get things done. At times it can make things feel quite desperate. So that does set Last Night on Earth apart from the rest. It also keeps play time down to roughly about an hour for each mission, which again is a really good length of time for a quick game if the mood takes you.

Some of the corner map tiles.

As you will have no doubt seen from the Table Top video, the games combat and movement mechanics are all pretty simple and straight forward. There's not really anything in the game that will tax seasoned gamers too hard. But, don't let this fool you into thinking the game is simplistic. It's not. Although combat is a 2D6 versus 1D6 mechanic, that is likely to see the heroes win more often than not, the heroes require doubles to actually kill zombies. So heroes have to beat the zombies scores and roll a double, any double will do though to kill the zombie. What this means is that invariably the heroes will 'fend off' zombies and not smash them in the face. Meanwhile a zombie if they roll high enough is likely to chip away at heroes health, as a tied roll normally results in a hero taking a wound. There are various Zombie and Hero Cards that can be played during combat to swing things in one sides favour, and weapons do help up the chance of success for the heroes, but realistically they'll be wanting to avoid getting into too many tangles with zombies. The really simple ranged fighting mechanic can help with this, but you can't rely on it.

Heroes unite!!!

It just feels like a balanced and well thought out as a game. The way the zombies spawn means that there is normally a nice consistent amount of the undead in play, which gives the zombie player a resource to manage and the heroes a stable foe they actually have a chance to outwit. But, there's always the possibility that there might be a surge in zombies at anytime, so steering clear of those spawning points might be wise. The stereotypical cast of zombie slaying heroes have enough flavour to them to make them play uniquely, and each have a role to play in the group dynamics, but they're not so different that you need to 'build' certain groups to complete the games scenarios. They just add a bit of choice and spice to proceedings. The fact that their character cards are small enough to be unobtrusive is also a major bonus. The tight playing space is a real plus for two reasons. Firstly it confines the action and keeps things manageable, there isn't a need to store buckets of tokens anywhere and play remains neat. Secondly it really helps focus play and gives the slow moving zombies a chance to pin those pesky humans down.

The scenario cards.

The other thing I need to point out is that like Zombies!!! yesterday, Last Night on Earth has a number of expansions that build on the core game. Which, is a good thing as the core game does have a slightly paltry and disappointing 5 missions only. Growing Hunger for instance adds four new heroes and plague carriers for the zombie hordes. There's obviously new game cards, tiles and 3 new scenarios to play. Meanwhile Timber Peak is either an expansion for Last Night on Earth or a standalone product in its own right. It adds new play mechanics such as fire, and more importantly an experience mechanic that lets both the heroes and zombie hordes get better as the game progresses through the four scenarios contained within the game. There's also Survival of the Fittest and a Hero Pack that adds four new heroes to the fray. What I'm trying to say is that Last Night on Earth has already expanded well past the initial box set to offer more growth. Many boardgames out there, particularly zombie games don't seem to offer that expansion side of things. So while the core game remains thoroughly entertaining in it's own right it is the sort of game that if you get into it, you can get more out of it. Is it the king of zombie games for me? I'm not sure. It is right up there though.

Detail 8.5 out of 10

The miniatures in the game aren't the most detailed you'll ever see on a table top, they're not even the best you'll see in a boardgame. But, they more than serve their purpose. The Heroes are all instantly recognisable when on the table, and they do have a bit of that kitsch zombie character about them, and the zombies look like zombies. They aren't however the sort of boardgame pieces I'd be in a hurry to paint. The card components though are amongst some of the best I've yet seen in a boardgame. The chits are all on a really nice thick card stock, and are highly glossy and are quite grubby finger resistant, they've taken a fair bit of punishment at the hands, or should that be paws, of my cats and still seem perfectly OK to me. The game cards are also really hard wearing, and are on really stiff and durable highly glossy card. There are no signs yet of there being any dog ears or damage to the edges, they are however a real pig to shuffle as they seem to become attracted to each other, and for some strange reason I keep getting static electric shocks off of them. Can anyone out there explain to me why the hell that is? But back to the game components, the artwork is all shot in classic zombie movie style and adds a really nice vibe to proceedings, which if the components weren't so well constructed might be lost. It's a lot darker and more realistic looking than Zombicide for instance, it all evokes a bit of that George A Romero magic. There's even that music CD that was included in the game... although it does, some of it, sound a bit like the Gathering on an 80's Casio keyboard, which isn't a good thing!

The rulebook present everything nice and clearly.

Quality 8.5 out of 10

The miniatures are all cast well enough, there's no mould lines or miscasts, and the plastic they're made out of is more than suitable and durable for use in a boardgame, where lets be honest you're likely to just chuck the components back into the box. The card components too as I said above in the detail section, is all of a high quality. The map tiles are all on think sturdy card, and the detail on them is well printed and it's all well defined. There have been no issues with dodgy printing and colour runs. Likewise with all the chits, tokens and other card components, which are also well constructed, sturdy gaming pieces. The playing cards, although a bit of a pig to shuffle properly, are arguably the best playing cards I've had in a game in terms or durability. There really isn't anything to grumble about in terms of quality... well apart from that CD, but you don't have to play it.

Price 8.5 out of 10

You can normally pick up a copy of Last Night on Earth for around £39.99 in most places, and if you shop around you might find it retailing as low as £34.99. Which, I happen to think is a pretty good price for what you get inside the box. Now the problem you'll have is actually finding a sodding copy of it for sale anywhere after Will Wheaton has raised it's profile to levels that will probably ensure it's sold out everywhere. So good luck with tracking a copy down.

The central map tile.

Overall 8.5 out of 10

There's no question that Last Night on Earth is one of the very best zombie games on the market right now. It's had much of the recent marketplace to itself though, and we've got Zpocalypse on the way, and of course Zombicide has landed. The question is this, has this old dog got enough tricks up it's sleeves to see off the young pretenders to its zombie crown? For me the answer is yes. You see the extra expansions have moved the game on from the core game, and developed it into a far more interesting product line and simply put a more rounded game. It has RPG and environmental elements galore now. Plus there is the adversarial element to the game that sets it apart from many a zombie games out there. I guess for me it's still got a place on my gaming shelf, and I do have a soft spot for it. I guess it comes highly recommended by myself, and only narrowly misses out on a covetted Approved by Cats award because I'd liked to have seen a few more scenarios in the core box. As things stand though, of this weeks products so far this is the king of the undead hill. Peace out!


  1. Superb review, nice breakdowns - very helpful. Been meaning to play this for an absolute age. I felt the same way when I was going to post a Munchkin review of sorts (not that we need another one of those), I might unshelve it next year

    1. Last Night on Earth is honestly a brilliant game. Mechanically I've found very little to annoy me, which trust me is a big deal for me. There's normally something in a game that ticks me right off. As for Munchkin, I just don't know about the game anymore. The mechanic was simple, it was fun and it was disposable. Every subsequent version of the game has really just pasted a 'theme' over the top of a worn out mechanic. It's time to stop flogging that dead horse.

  2. I completely agree. This game has been one of my solid go-to's for gaming with my friends, gamers and non-gamers alike. The cards are so well made and tough that I dont sleeve them and I ripple shuffle...and I sleeve EVERYTHING and I only ripple shuffle Poker cards! I think everyone should play this at least once.

    1. Yep it's probably becoming a go to game for us too. Just so much fun, piss easy to set up and easy as hell to play through. It has got the balance of complexity and ease of play just about right, plus the time it takes to play through a game is long enough to keep nerds happy, but not so long that no-nerds lose interest. Brilliant.

  3. Aa excellent review! Of what sounds like a great looking game.

    1. It is an excellent game. I just wished that the game had more scenarios in it. However, there are plenty of nut jobs out there who have devised there own scenarios and been kind enough to publish them on the net.

      Also cheers for the compliment, it's much appreciated.

  4. Frontline you continue to do a great job of reviewing games and increasing community, /salute.
    I found the game rather meh, boring and slow. Since I played my first game of Last Night on Earth I have had the chance to play Zombicide and that is what I hoped Last Night on Earth, really needs an acronym, would play like. Maybe I'm comparing apples to oranges here. Even my wife, who's favorite board game is trivial pursuit, found the game slow and clunky. We enjoyed the time spent playing the game, but it's not the first pick from the board game library.

    1. That's interesting because although I found Zombicide a hoot, I have some concerns with it. The thing is though the object of the two games are very, very different. LNoE is a more considered game, while Zombicide is more just kill zombies. The mission objectives are secondary really to killing hordes of the undead. Whereas in LNoE the objective is the main thing and the Zombies should be just an irritating speed bump. Two very different types of game and more importantly I think it'd be unlikely that somebody would love both games. I happen to really enjoy the confrontation element of LNoE and I enjoy Zombicide because my friends do.

    2. PS my review of Zombicide is coming up in about 2 mins if schedule works!!!

  5. Thanks for the review. I'll admit I'm not what you'd call a true zombie fan. I'm a "creepy alien" guy myself.

    Still, it might not be a bad idea to get one of these zombie games to play with some less wargaming minded friends. This looks like a contender, but knowing myself I'll be rereading this weeks articles a few times before deciding.

    1. I'm not really sure what a true zombie fan is. Do I like zombies? Yeah they're cool and I enjoy all the crappy horror movies based around them, and the computer games, and the... well you get the picture. However, there are other things I prefer over zombies too. It's just that when the mood takes me there's nothing quite like a good zombie game.

  6. I was looking at Invasion from Outer Space at a con a few days back and was tempted. It seems to be the same game but with Martians attacking a circus. Anything that has a PC named "Jojo the dancing bear" with a miniature bear wearing a tutu seems like a solid buy.

    1. I've only really seen 'Invasion from Outer Space' at a distance and have absolutely no real knowledge of the game or product. However, it gets thumbs up from me for having a bear named Jojo as a character and actually having a miniature of a bear in a tutu as well. Awesome! :P