Like most great diseases, the game Zombiepox has had a period of incubation and mutation. The genetic material for the game germinated in Pox: Save the People. According to Tilfactor’s website, Pox was designed as an educational game in coordination with the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative in order to counter misinformation about vaccines. I had the opportunity to play Pox and was impressed by the mechanics, especially for a game that was designed for educational purposes.

What the game lacked were the design elements that would appeal to the wider commercial audience that would be looking for a game off the shelf. It wasn’t infectious enough.

Thank goodness for the current zombie culture war. Pox: Save the People gets a new protein sheathe and a fresh entry into the population. Zombiepox!!

For a cooperative game, the setup and play of Zombiepox is remarkably simple. The game consists of a game board (a grid of 81 people), chips to mark the people (vaccinated, infected, zombified), and a deck of cards that tells you how the infection spreads. The rules fit on a single, folded sheet of paper.

The game starts with 2 zombies in the middle of the board. Each player’s turn starts by drawing a card and following the instructions. Cards tell the player how to spread the zombie infection and how many may be vaccinated or cured. If a person on the board is ever surrounded on all sides by the infected, that person becomes a zombie. Six of the 81 people on the board are babies who are especially susceptible to the disease. They become zombies on contact with the disease.

Players set a goal at the beginning of the game and play until the disease can no longer spread (WIN!) or the players’ goal has been exceeded (LOSE!) The hardest challenge is to limit the epidemic to the two original zombies. Six zombies is the maximum.

Vaccinating and curing people is the strategic aspect that keeps the game rewarding and frustrating. The vulnerable babies cannot be immunized and it costs more to cure infected than it does to vaccinate the healthy citizens. These decisions and complications become more difficult to juggle as the infection spreads.

Zombiepox is Major Fun for its simple rules, surprising strategy, and replayability. It also works as a good introduction into cooperative games. Those who have played cooperative games like Forbidden Island will recognize the basic elements of those games in Zombiepox. If you have been weaned on those games then you’ll see Zombiepox as a good vector for getting your friends into those other, more complicated games.

Who knows, a few more iterations and a mutated strain of Zombiepox might just threaten the position of Pandemic as the alpha cooperative disease game. Maybe.

1-4 players, ages 12+

Zombiepox designed by Zara Downs, Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman. © 2012 Mary Flanagan, LLC.

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