Project: Dead End part 3 – Version 2

I left off last post a bit hastily. I had wanted to talk about the second iteration of the game but I didn’t get it done on time. Have I mentioned that I’m a horrible procrastinator? Yeah. Well, to make things worse, my play group canceled this week. That let me work on things a bit more in my head before sitting down to put it on paper. My wife had something to do with my daughters, so I suddenly found myself with a few free hours to put in some time.

This is where I start really looking at details. I laid the existing cards out and started to think about what changes, if any, each card needed to round out the balance issues. I knew that the deck needed some serious tweaking, so my main focus was to reduce the quantity of some cards. “Shh…” is a particularly powerful card that needed to be reduced. It allows a player to reduce the level of threat on his house while simultaneously increasing the threat on another players house. If it is a 5 point Zombie, that’s a 10 point swing! That is a much more powerful ability than say “Shotgun” which allows you to kill one Zombie on your own house, and may come with a penalty if an opponent is holding a “Noisey Neighbor.”

House and Zombie markers.

With all that in mind, the first thing I did was increase the base defense of the player’s houses to 25. The first time we played, the game was extremely short. I don’t want the game to stretch on and on, but we had effectively eliminated the last player before he even took his turn. I don’t mind wild swings like this, but my ultimate goal is making the game FUN. For me, a simple game that goes on and on is not fun but losing before you even get to take a turn just sucks! I’m not sure this number will stick either. It may be a variable based on the number of players after more playtesting, but I plan to cover the theory of that in my next post. In the spirit of full disclosure, the zombie artwork used on the player tile is not mine. I lifted that from a Google image search.

Now that I’ve looked at the major changes needed my method gets a little more scientific. I still have the cards laid in front of me to trim the count of individual cards, but on paper, I have to start thinking about the math involved. In this particular game, I have to make sure that there is enough Zombie strength to actually have an end game. Because zombies stay in play unless killed, the deck thins quickly. In a 4 player game, it would take at the very least a combined strength of 75 to kill three players and end with an ultimate winner. That number is a bit misleading though because as players die, they can shift the zombies assigned to them around meaning that I don’t need to have that full number represented by the deck. I also don’t want the deck to be over-saturated with powerful Zombie cards. One of the key play choices in the game is deciding to play cards offensively or defensively. If there are too many zombies in the deck, this decision becomes less important.

So, I didn’t take notes on this process, but this is what I ended up with:


# Name Text Zombie Strength
6 Pistol Kill one Zombie with Strength 3 or less. 1
4 Shotgun Kill one Zombie. 3
3 Shhh… Move one Zombie from your house to another player’s house. 4
4 Axe Kill one Zombie. 5
6 Barricade +4 Defense. 2
4 Noisy Neighbor After an opponent plays a GUN you may move one Zombie from your house tho their’s. 4
2 Here they come! Flip the top 4 cards of the deck. Distribute all cards as Zombies to your opponents. Each opponent may only receive one Zombie in this manner. None
4 Fast Zombie Fast Zombie cannot be killed with an axe. 3
3 Strong Zombie When you play Strong Zombie, you may destroy one barricade on that player’s house. 3
2 Wandering Zombie At the end of your turn, move Wandering Zombie to a player on your left or right. 2
2 Double Zombie When you play Double Zombie, flip the top card of the deck. If it is a Zombie card, attach it to this one. Treat them as a single Zombie with a combined strength value. 2
10 Zombie 2
4 Zombie 4

Working on card desgin in Inkscape.
After I got this all worked out, I wrote out the changes on the backs of new business cards. As it turns out, this was wasted effort. My play group didn’t meet to try this version, and when I have too much time on my hands I tend to take things a little too far. For a second test set, I shouldn’t be putting any time into card design because so many of my designs fail after a few playtests when it is revealed that the game has an inherent flaw. I’m determined with this project though, because of this blog, so hopefully it will not be a wasted effort. So, with time on my hands, I have a hard time resisting. I fire up my favorite editing/drawing sofware, Inkscape and make up some cards.

The first printed prototype, in sleeves.
The design is not particularly elegant. It is still a playtest set, but I’d like for my playtesters to be able to actually read the cards and not have to ask a hundred questions. I had a brainstorm on the layout of the double-purpose cards, but after printing them and sleeving everything, I’m not sold that it is a good design. If there was art in place, orientation may be more obvious, but we’ll see after tonight’s test. I plan on focusing my next post more on game theory, but I may do a test report in between.

Thanks for reading!

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