The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us, are you strong enough to survive? Prepare for heroics, start barricading, and arm yourself with weapons. But most importantly, get a-killing. If you don't kill all the zombies they will certainly kill you!
Last One Alive from Ares Games (www.aresgames.eu/) is a dice-chucking push-your-luck game for two to five players from Champions of Midgard designer Ole Steiness.
Players: 2-5 Ages: 13+ Game Time 15-30 minutes
The setup is simple. First, each player chooses and takes a character (no special abilities just different artwork), a reference card and a hero token. The dice pool is placed within easy reach of all players and the item/barricade and Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) tokens go into the bag. Each player draws a token from the bag - item/barricade tokens go onto their character card (a player can choose between facedown barricade or face-up item), whereas ZA tokens increase the apocalypse level for each one drawn. It is possible from this that you increase the ZA level at setup.
Chose a start player and play in turns, proceeding clockwise. On a player's turn, they roll four dice of their choice, plus a number of zombie dice equal to the apocalypse level (the game starts at one and each ZA token drawn adds a further die).
The dice types a player can choose between are as follows:
Barricade dice (3) - let you build up your defence.
Item dice (3) - allow you to find items
Shot dice (3) - allow you to shoot zombies
Zombie dice (10) - make zombies appear.
For resolving the dice, ambush results are placed in front of the active player, whilst any zombie results are sent on their merry, brain-eating way to the player on the left.
The other dice are then resolved by the player in the following order:
Item dice - any item result allows a player to draw an item/barricade token, which is placed on their character card so that it shows the item face
Shot dice - each 'bang' symbol can eliminate either a zombie ambush or a zombie symbol
Barricade dice - a barricade result allows players to give the player to their left one of the zombie dice in front of them.
Items can be used at the appropriate times during a player's turn. I'll not go into all of them, but examples include a chainsaw that allows you to ignore all ambush results and a radio that allows you to roll two additional dice.
Once all the dice have been resolved (with the exception of those assigned to another player), they are returned to the collective pool and the player must ensure that they only have a maximum of three item/barricade tokens on their character card, discarding any excess items (of their choice). Alas if a player still has either zombies or zombie ambushes in front of them, their character card is turned to the zombified side; they are overpowered by the zombie horde and are out of the game as a victim of the apocalypse (note that there is a variant where you have three lives).
As the game title suggests, the game ends when one player is the last one alive. That player is declared the victor, for they have survived the apocalypse!
For a two-player game, I feel that the Survivors variant is a must. In this variant, players have three lives each. Each player places a life marker on each of the zombie face spaces of their character cards and loses a life when they are overpowered. Being overpowered can be prevented by using the medkit item. When a player loses a life, they gain a hero token (it allows you to reroll any dice of your choice, and can also be gained if you kill at least three zombies).
For this variant, the game ends either when one player is eliminated, or the third Zombie Apocalypse token is drawn. For the latter, each player calculates their score - each remaining life counts as two points and each barricade token remaining on their character card counts as one point. If there's a tie, whoever has a hero token wins, or victory is shared if there is more than one player with a hero token.
I'd put Last One Alive into the amuse-bouche category of games. It's not one for filling your whole game night, but rather more one to warm up a game night or for when you're waiting for the last player to arrive.
The gameplay is slightly reminiscent of Steve Jackson's Zombie Dice but has more table presence and tactics, and offers more direct competition. I like that there are some tactics in choosing which dice to roll. For example, it can be useful to roll a barricade die instead of a shot die to give you the choice of moving a zombie die in front of you to another player, but this runs the risk of you rolling an ambush instead. Or you can choose to push your luck and roll lots of zombie dice to try and overpower your opponent, whilst risking getting ambushed yourself.
I did enjoy my playthroughs, but as a serious gamer, it's not really my cup of tea, as I prefer strategy over luck (particularly as I still don't seem to have redeemed myself in the eyes of the dice gods...).
It plays better at higher player counts (offering greater satisfaction to the player who is the last one standing), but does have the downside, as with many player elimination games, that players that are knocked out might be a little bored. Whilst this is not a huge problem in such a quick game, additional rules beyond just the variant of an eliminated player being able to roll a zombie die would have been nice, with an eliminated player becoming a zombie and posing a real threat.
Also, rather than just assigning zombies to the player on your left, making it entirely dependent on where you sit at the game table, I would have prefered players to be able to choose their target (although I appreciate that this often results in one player being the victim that everyone piles upon). It might also have been nice for there to be some asymmetric gameplay with optional character abilities.
The box suggests it is suitable for players age 13+, but could easily be played by younger players, as it's not too complex.
The in-game artwork from Laura Neri is simple and has a colour scheme that is befitting for a game about zombies, and I love the cover art by Francesco Mattiloi: a zombie hand thrusting through some earth, with dice looking like they may have been thrust by the creepy hand, whilst a moustached man in a short-sleeved shirt and bow tie wields a chainsaw from behind a gravestone ready to pounce. The epitaph is the game's name with the L embellished with a zombie's hand.
The price point of around £19 is about right for the quality. The cards are of basic stock with a glossy finish and can easily be sleeved with room in the box should you wish. The synthetic, black token bag with the game's title printed in a white font is of good quality, and the custom dice are sturdy and chunky with inviting colours, no complaints there. However, for a game that is centred around dice rolling, it's a shame that the interior of the box is just bare cardboard rather than illustrated so that it would feel like a proper dice tray.
The game as a whole is also lacking when it comes to accessibility. The blood drop life markers are tiny and fiddly and the text in the rule book is quite small. Worst of all, the reference cards leave you wanting to reach for a magnifying glass, which really isn't great for when you are first learning the game and want to know what each and all of the tokens do.
If you like dice-rolling games and zombies, then Last One Alive is worth checking out. It can be a decent filler game between heavier games and can have some laughs from terrible or statistic-defying dice rolls. Whilst I enjoyed playing it and would happily play it again, it's just not one that would be a go-to if I just fancied a quick game.
Your resident Word-nerd