Eaten By Zombies: In Cahoots! – A Written Review
Review #40 – For All Your Board Game News and Reviews Visit 2D6.org!
Eaten By Zombies!: In Cahoots By Max Holliday – Art By
Max Holliday and John Huerta- Published By Mayday Games
The city is overrun with zombies, HORDES of ZOMBIES, and they are after the few survivors left in town… YOU! Welcome to the 1950s zombie-infested world where the resources you can grab are few and far between. You will need to scavenge anything you can find just to survive even for a few nights; hey it worked out for Bill Murray didn’t it? In the end though, you are all going to die and become zombies! It isn’t all bad though; zombies rarely have to fuss with bad hair days or punch a time clock.
* * * * * * *
Eaten By Zombies!: In Cahoots is a standalone 2 player expansion for Eaten By Zombies, the Zombie survival card game that was released in 2011 through a successful kickstarter.com campaign. Players control a sole survivor in a re-imagined 1950’s era world where the Zombie Apocalypse is in full swing and it’s not about surviving it’s about being the last to die in this deck building game. Players will search for swag to either fight off or flee from the ever growing horde of ravenous zombies. It’s not as easy as it sounds though fighting off Zombies will add them to your draw pile clogging up your deck. Running from Zombies isn’t really a better option either, apparently screaming and running for your life makes it challenging to hold on to your precious supplies. The game becomes a balancing act of knowing which cards to buy, knowing when to fight, when to flee, and of course being the last person EATEN BY ZOMBIES!
In Cahoots can be played as a standalone 2 player game or as an expansion for the base game increasing the player count to 6 players, adding 11 new swag piles, and 5 new Zombies that just love to bring friends…
What’s In The Box
Eaten By Zombies! In Cahoots comes in a small box about the size of 3 packs of playing cards placed back to back to back. The box is made out of very thick and durable cardboard thematically designed to look like a small belt sized ammo box splattered with blood.
- 11 Swag Piles (5 cards each)
- 2 Starting Decks (12 cards each)
- 15 Basic Zombie Cards
- 13 Divider Cards
- 1 In Cahoots Zombie Set (5 cards)
All of this gaming fun can be yours for $16.95. Of course some quick run and gun scavenging could save you some……”BRRAAAIIINNNNNNSSSS”
Eaten By Zombies! In Cahoots comes with 99 quality cards made from thick card stock with a good laminate which should really add to the longevity of the cards (I still sleeve all my deck builders almost out of habit at this point but honestly this is one of those times it isn’t really mandatory). The artwork on the cards is full color, very thematic, and usually covers more than half of each card. The symbols used on the cards are easy to read and the game play effects are repeated twice on the cards using the symbols and the game text field itself. The game text on the cards can occasionally be over abbreviated making text on the cards seem to have a different effect than what is intended. A good example of this is the game card “I’ll Be Right Back” the abbreviated text on the card does explain what the card does, but it also misses a key power of the card that you will only notice if you read the full rules on the divider cards (for those who don’t have the cards handy, the card allows you to add a zombie to the horde regardless of its Attrition level, which is only stated on the divider card but not the game card itself). This is a very rare occurrence though and fortunately the divider cards completely elaborate on the effects each swag card has when played.
Divider Cards: The divider cards are very nice (even sans artwork) and elaborate on the rules for the swag cards. They also fit nicely in the box and double as dividers for your swag cards making them easy to organize in the game box. Like the swag cards, the dividers are made from thick cardstock that is covered with a thick laminate that will add to the longevity of the cards. A small side note, I don’t have the exact dimensions of these cards (they are larger than the swag cards) but they remind me of the larger cards from 7 Wonders so plan accordingly if you plan to sleeve the divider cards too. Before you start your first game I would suggest just giving each divider card a quick read over just to make sure you understand how each card is played.
Rules Poster: The rules for In Cahoots come on a double sided foldout poster that contains the rules on one side and a piece of artwork on the backside. On the positive side of things the rules do include a FAQ and they do a good job breaking down the layout of the cards including what the symbols mean and where they are located on the cards. The negative is that the rules either have ambiguities and errors in them or the game is now mechanically not working too well anymore. I’ll start with the most obvious error located under the “Fight” section of the rules. The rules state that if you succeed in defeating the Zombie Horde then add up your “Flee” to get your Scavenge Value. Historically the game has used your Fight Value when Fighting and Flee Value when Fleeing to get your total Scavenge Value. So either this is a major rules change or a definite error in the rules. There are also a few rules ambiguities that may not be picked up by someone who has never played the game before. While it is hinted at it doesn’t exactly specifically state under the Flee rules that successfully fleeing DOESN’T disperse the entire Horde. This is actually part of a valid winning strategy later in the game, where you have 3 or 4 zombies in the Horde, Flee from the Horde, and dump a large slobbering Brain eating mass of Zombies onto the next player (usually followed by them cursing your name out loud while you grin). There are also a few typos and other word usage errors sprinkled here and there nothing that will ruin the experience, but it basically boils down to a lack of proofreading. You will want to download the version 2.2 (I believe that is the most recent version) of the Eaten By Zombies rules and use them to learn how to play In Cahoots! The only difference between Eaten By Zombies and In Cahoots is the use of only 6 Swag Piles now for a 2 player game instead of 7 (honestly so far I am sticking with 7 but that’s just me).
Components and Presentation Verdict: 5.5/10 The game cards are thick and durable with a nice laminate which will help the cards last a long time. Unfortunately the text on the cards and in the rulebook needed another proofreading before being sent off to print which will frustrate anyone who is buying In Cahoots! as their first introduction to the game. Unless the rules for the game have changed, the rulebook has rules errors which will confuse anyone who has never played the original game before. Do yourself a favor and download the revised rules for Eaten By Zombies! it will save you a headache in the end.
How Does It Play?
Eaten by Zombies is a deck building game that gives a constant feeling of impending doom. It’s not a matter of if you will get “Eaten by Zombies” but a matter of when you will be “Eaten by Zombies”. Everyone is going to lose, you just need to make sure you are the last person standing! On a player’s turn they will draw one or more cards from the Zombie horde deck and then decide to either fight or flee from the Zombie(s) using cards in their hand. The other player(s) are not about to make your life easy though, other players can add Zombies to the horde making survival an increasingly difficult task. If you fail to fight off or flee from the Zombies you permanently lose cards from your hand, draw pile and/or discard pile. Succeed in fighting off or fleeing from the Zombie horde and you can forage for swag (cards with useful tools and abilities) from the swag piles. If you ever have a hand of only Zombies or are unable to draw back up to 6 cards at the end of your turn you immediately lose (2 player game) or become one of the walking dead out for revenge against your fellow players (3+ players when combined with the original game). In the very unlikely event that you are ever unable to draw a Zombie from the Zombie horde then a miracle has occurred, the horde has been defeated, and all remaining survivors win!
2 quick rule clarifications: Lose means to return the card to its respective Swag/Zombie pile and Discard means to discard to your personal discard pile.
Survivor/Swag Cards: Survivor cards are the main bread and butter for the game and the main mechanic for surviving the impending Zombie horde. Survivor cards contain symbols reminiscent of traffic signs found on the road and usually reiterate the card text on the cards (don’t make the mistake of adding the statistic in the sign to the amount in the card text). The possible 4 signs that can be found on the left hand side of the cards next to the artwork are a red stop sign (bonus to Fight), yellow yield sign (bonus to Flee), white and green triangle (draw additional cards), and a black diamond (adds to your total scavenge value when you successfully fight or flee from the Horde). Underneath the artwork is the cards name and the cards cost in a white circle with a red border sign. Owners of the original game will note there are only “Red Find Sign” cards in this expansion. Underneath the cards name is a brief text block summarizing the cards ability(s). Cards can and often due contain more than one sign and can be used anytime they have a sign matching your chosen action for the round. For example “Greasers Key” has a Red and a Yellow sign meaning it can be played whether you choose to fight or flee but a card like “Hide” which only has a yellow sign can only be played if you choose to flee as your action for the turn.
Zombie Cards: Braaaaiiinnnnnssss… Wait sorry about that. Anyways Zombies are the main antagonists in the game, check that, the other players are the main antagonists, they just use the Zombies to do it! Zombies have 2 statistics, Level is listed on the top of the card in red on top of a blood splatter and Attrition is listed on a one way sign on the bottom of the card. The Zombie’s Level is the Fight value you must meet or beat in order to kill that zombie. The zombie’s Attrition is the total Flee value you must meet or beat in order to successfully flee from this zombie and the number of cards you must lose if you fail to Fight or Flee. You cannot add a zombie to the Horde if there are already a number of zombies in the Horde equal to that zombie’s Attrition value (for example if there are already 3 Zombies in the Horde then a Zombie with an Attrition of 2 could not get added to the horde by other players but one with Attrition of 4 could). In Cahoots also adds in 5 new special unique Zombies, 4 of which have a “Reveal Sign” which is a white and red sign with an arrow on it. The first time each turn when a Zombie with the Reveal Sign is added from the top of the ZOMBIE DECK (not when added by a player), immediately draw an additional card from the top of the ZOMBIE DECK and add it to the HORDE. This is only performed once each turn.
Divider Cards: The divider cards serve a couple purposes, the most important is that they fully explain the abbreviated rules on each and every card in the game. Usually this is superfluous but occasionally for cards like “I’ll be right back!” this is mandatory. The dividers are also taller than the game cards and make great dividers if you own the base game and keep all your cards in the base game box. Each player has a divider for their chosen survivor that has a game turn break down on one side and a Zombie player turn break down on the back side (used only for 3+ player games).
Before play can begin players must decide which 6 swag piles they will play with (this is a change from the base game which uses 7 swag piles for a 2 player game). While it isn’t stated in the rules I would recommend having at least 2 fight card swag piles (the base game kept pretty close to at least 50/50 split between fight/flee cards usually favoring fight cards).
Shuffle the 15 basic Zombie cards to form the “Zombie Horde” (add in the 5 special Zombies if you really like a brutal game that probably will not last much past the first day).
Each player chooses a survivor, taking that survivor’s turn summary card, and then shuffling their chosen survivor’s 12 starting cards to form their “Safe House”. Quick note here all Survivors have the exact same basic 12 starting cards (5 Fight – Heavy Stick, 5 Flee – Hide, 2 draw – Sandwich) the only difference is in the artwork used for the card.
Each player then draws 6 cards from their Safe House to form their starting hand and the game is ready to begin.
Rulebook Turn Summary.
Note: I am assuming that there are errors in the rules poster included with “In Cahoots!” that or the game has changed and is now broken which I seriously doubt. So if you are following along with the rules poster do note I am taking most of the rules from the “Eaten By Zombies” base game rulebook.
• Reveal the Horde – Turn over the top card of the Zombie draw pile. You turn over an additional Zombie card during this part of the turn for every time you have to reshuffle the Zombie discard pile due to the Zombie Draw Pile being empty (most players thematically refer to this as the start of a new day each time this happens). Yes this means eventually you will be revealing 2 Zombies, then 3, then 4… I have never seen a game get to 5. The opponent(s) will then get the opportunity to add Zombies to the horde from their hand. The first Zombie drawn is placed next to the Zombie Draw pile and is considered the “Oldest Zombie”, additional Zombies are placed to the right of the “Oldest Zombie” forming a line.
• Before playing any cards, you must announce to the other player(s) if you are going to Fight or Flee.
- Play any Swag from your hand that you wish to with Draw or Fight signs
- Kill Zombies – Total your fight from all cards played, if your fight total is greater than the Level of the last played Zombie (Zombie furthest in line away from the Oldest Zombie), you defeat that Zombie, subtract its Level from your total Fight Value, and compare the remainder to any remaining Zombie(s). Continue comparing remaining Fight level to Zombie level until either there are no longer Zombies in the Horde or you do not have enough remaining Fight to defeat the next Zombie in the Horde.
- If you succeed in killing all the zombies in the Horde, Scavenge for some Swag and place it into your hand – Total up the Fight of all cards played (not remaining Fight but the total of all cards played and yes you can do some overkill here for extra Scavenge), add in any possible Scavenge Bonus from cards played (“Torch” for example adds +1 to Scavenge), and this is your total Scavenge level to buy cards from the Swag Piles this turn. Unlike most deckbuilding games purchased cards go directly into your hand not into your discard pile.
- Clean up and place killed zombies into your discard pile – Only killed Zombies go into your discard pile, any Zombies you failed to kill remain in the Horde until the end of your turn.
- If you do not kill ALL THE ZOMBIES in the Horde, lose cards to Attrition and disperse the entire Horde – You cannot Scavenge (buy cards from Swag Piles) if you failed to kill all the Zombies. Add up the total Attrition from Zombies still in the Horde and then lose that many cards from your hand (cannot Lose Zombies this way) or from the top of your Safe House (you CAN lose Zombies drawn this way).
-Play any Swag from your hand that you wish to with Draw or Flee signs
-If you flee successfully, Scavenge for some Swag and place it in your hand – Total up the Attrition of all Zombie(s) currently in the Horde. Your total Flee value must be equal to or greater than the Attrition of ALL the Zombies in the Horde. Unlike Fighting where you compare your total Fight to one Zombie at a time, you must compare your Flee to the entire Horde. Escape all of them or fail completely.
-Clean up – All played cards go into your discard pile.
-Lose cards to Attrition whether you flee successfully or not – If you successfully flee total the Attrition for the Horde, Divide by 2, and round up to see how many cards you must lose. If you fail to Flee from the Horde Lose cards equal to the TOTAL Attrition value of the Horde. Unlike Fighting if you Flee you CAN choose to Lose cards from your Discard Pile too!
-Dissipate the bottom (oldest) zombie if successful or disperse the entire Horde if not – Very important Distinction here and part of the later game strategy. If you succeed in Fleeing your opponent has to deal with your Horde minus one Zombie, plus the Horde he/she has to Draw on his/her turn, plus any Zombies you can add to the Horde (when applicable).
• Draw back up to six cards
The game ends when a player dies in a 2 player game, in a 3+ player game, players turn into Zombies until there is only 1 player left who is declared the winner. You die whenever you need to draw a card but have nothing left in either your Safe House or Discard Pile and the surviving player wins.
The game can also end if a Survivor ever reveals a hand containing nothing but 6 zombie cards. In this case the Zombies win and both players lose (in a 3+ player game this means any/all Zombie players actually win).
If you ever need to reveal a Zombie and there are no Zombie cards left in the Zombie Deck and the Zombie Discard pile, the game immediately ends. Do not finish the turn you both win!
A sample game might look something like this:
Dean and Nancy have just started a game and it is Dean’s turn. Dean has 6 cards in his hand, 1 Hide, 4 Heavy Sticks, and 1 Sandwich. He turns over the top card of the Zombie deck and reveals “Heather Davis” one of the new Special Zombies unique to “In Cahoots!”. Dean has to draw a second Zombie and gets a group of Rollerblading Level 3 Zombies. It’s looking pretty grim already for Dean on his first turn, he is facing a total of 5 Levels worth of Zombies with a total of 4 Attrition. Nancy doesn’t have any Zombies in her hand to play so it’s up to Dean to announce Fight or Flee! Dean definitely doesn’t stand a chance if he Flees, so Fight it is! Dean plays the Sandwich to draw 1 card from his Safe House and gets a Heavy Stick! Dean plays the Heavy Stick along with the 4 he currently has in his hand for a total of 5 Fight. Dean compares his 5 Fight to the furthest right Zombie Rollerbladers Level of 3 defeating them and leaving a remaining fight of 2. Luckily his fight of 2 is enough to defeat the Level 2 “Heather Davis” so the entire Horde is defeated and will be sent shambling off to Dean’s discard pile during the Cleanup Phase. Dean now has a total of 5 Scavenge (his total fight at the beginning of the phase +/- Scavenge bonus which none of his cards in play have). Dean then Scavenges the Swag piles for 2 “Greaser Keys” and 1 “I’ll be right back” and adds them directly to his hand. Dean performs his Clean-up Phase and then draws back up to 6 cards ending his turn.
Simplicity of the Rules: 8.0/10 Excluding the errors in the Rulebook and following the rules as intended, the rules are fairly easy to grasp especially for anyone who has experience with deckbuilding games. There are a few minor rules exceptions such as Fleeing allows you to Lose Attrition from your Discard Pile while Fighting does not, Fleeing Successfully doesn’t disperse the Horde but failing to Flee does for example. Most of these minor issues become second nature and are very easy to deal with if you simply follow along with the rules step by step the first few times you play.
Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly?
As a father of 2 future board gamers, a large concern of mine is how secure am I in letting my eldest son play and or rummage through a game box. Granted, BGG and board games themselves very clearly tell you a minimum age, they don’t tell you exactly why that minimum age was chosen. My hope is to arbitrarily tell you why I think this age range was chosen for this game and then hopefully give a few ideas I might have for a game to make it easier on the young ones. Finally I will close with what seems to be the “sweet spot” for number of players and if the game has solo rules I’ll comment on those too.
In Cahoots! lists as a deckbuilding game for 2 players’ ages 13+. The game combines card drafting, deck building, and hand management mechanics with a Zombie theme to create a quick playing fairly simple to grasp game. Turns play fairly quickly and decisions rarely become paralyzing. The subject matter on the other hand is definitely rooted firmly in the teenager and older crowd – these are brain devouring, blood covered, and flesh craving undead after all. The images on the cards are very thematic including blood splatters all over the cards for thematic effect and the images while comedic are hardly kid friendly. From a Zombie Football Player rushing a bloody decapitated head down to the end zone to a one eyed decomposing humanoid scaring a mother and her child these are not exactly the images you would like the young ones seeing.
Gameplay wise an 8 or 9 year old could easily grasp the game but the imagery keeps it firmly rooted in the 12 and up range. There just isn’t a way to cover up the images without a visit to your local sticker shop and an hour or so of your time.
Family Friendliness Verdict: 5/10 As a 2 player game with a more adult theme this game is firmly rooted in the category for teenage sibling enjoyment or perhaps a single parent with a teenaged child. If you do have the original game and mature teenagers this can easily be a quick fun filler family game just as long as everyone is ok with the subject matter.
In Cahoots! is a 2 player standalone game that also doubles as an expansion for the original Eaten By Zombies. While the game has always been playable even with the base game by 2 players, it is at its best as a 4-5 player game. A 6 player game gets a little bit too chaotic and really cycles the Zombie Horde very quickly. 3 Player games are weighted against a Zombie win making the first player to lose feel like they are just controlling a speed bump to the other players fortunately the core enjoyment of the game is still present making 3 players still enjoyable. As a 2 player game though the enjoyment of the game is going to be dependent on picking the optimal Swag Piles and luck of the draws. 2 player games can end pretty quickly with one bad draw pretty much spelling an unrecoverable end for one player. This doesn’t mean that In Cahoots! is a bad game, it just means that after playing so many 4-5 player games, 2 players felt anticlimactic and seems to miss the “take that” feel you get with multiple players. The average game will take about 10 minutes per player topping off at about 40ish minutes even with 6 players.
* Good quality cardstock used for the cards
* Fun thematic artwork
* Quick playing game that offers a different approach to player elimination
* Great party game with “Take THAT!” mechanics
* Great as an expansion to the original game adding new Zombie and Swag mechanics
* New Zombies can really ramp up the games difficulty
* Zombies! No seriously Zombies! Everything is better with Zombies!
* The Rulebook and Swag cards need editing
* Great expansion but limited as a standalone game
* Randomizing Swag Piles just doesn’t work
* 2 player game becomes a race to be the first to Flee from a large Horde
* You cannot play a 6 player game without using the new Zombies
But Is It Fun?
In Cahoots is a great expansion to the base game offering new mechanics through 11 new Swag piles and 1 new Zombie set that brings friends to the party. Of the 11 new swag piles 5 are fight cards and a couple offer a glimpse at future mechanics coming in future expansions including wounds and more. New cards allow you to Scavenge on another players turn, manipulate your discard pile, and add Zombies with 1 “Attrition” back to the Horde. Each future expansion for Eaten by Zombies will also introduce a new set of Zombies with a new ability which should really keep things interesting. The game is very quick to play, has fun “Take that” mechanics, and does offer variety in replay using different swag pile layouts. I also like how player elimination is handled when played as a 3+ player game. Instead of being removed from the game you join the Zombie Horde and actually can still pull out a win.
From the artwork, to the cardstock, and even the nice thick box you can definitely see an attention to quality. The counter to this though is the lack of proof reading before the final game components were sent off to press. Typos are something I can grumble about yet eventually live with but outright rules errors leave you scratching your head. It does mar what would have been a quality package all around.
As a standalone game 11 Swag piles will grow stale fairly quickly especially since the game is not at its best with random Swag piles (this goes for the original game and the expansion). The game plays best with half your swag piles being “Fight” cards and with only 5 fight cards it will start repeating fairly quickly. While the new Swag cards do change up the game play some, as a 2 player game it still comes down to a race to see who can dump Zombies on the other player first. If one player can time playing “Ill be right back” with a couple Zombies they have a good chance of pulling a win. This creates an odd feel to the game that may be a turn off to some players when played as a 2 player game. Occasionally you will be just forming your “Master Plan” and then suddenly a couple Zombies appear in the Horde and you are defeated. This is definitely a reactive game versus a game of master planning. I like reactive games and really appreciate the seat of your pants act now mechanics but I do understand that this kind of game does not sit well with all gamers. This does get mitigated some the more players you add and I have had the most fun playing 4-5 players. This isn’t your typical friendly multiplayer solitaire deck builder, it’s all about the Zombies devouring your opponent and once a couple Zombies are in the Horde it almost happens too quickly.
The new Zombies add a new level of challenge to the game. 4 of the 5 new Zombies bring a second Zombie to the Horde with them from the draw pile when drawn. It can be pretty devastating especially if that second Zombie is a Level 8 Zombie and your opponent decides to add a Zombie or two to the Horde The new Zombies can be added to a game of In Cahoots to raise the difficulty in a 2 player game and they can also replace the set of 5 standard Zombies added per player in a 3+ player game. One small note not mentioned is that the only way to combine this game with the base game and play with 6 players requires you to use the new Zombies. In Cahoots only contains 1 level 8 Zombie and the basic rules state that you need 1 full set of 5 Zombies per player beyond 2. I am not sure this is an oversight I really think the new tougher Zombies help to keep the balance in a 6 player game.
In Cahoots! is a great expansion to Eaten By Zombies adding new mechanics that keep the game interesting and changing things up slightly with zombies who come in packs and new Swag cards that allow you to interact in new ways. I would call In Cahoots a “No Brainer” (the Zombie jokes almost write themselves) for anyone who has the original game especially at $16.95. Unfortunately I hate to say it but it is best as an expansion versus a stand alone new game. The price is right but you get so much more for $25.95 if you buy the base game, doubling your swag cards, player count, and the previously mentioned better rules (including suggested Swag piles for better gameplay which In Cahoots does not have). If you are looking to get into Eaten By Zombies spend the extra $9 for the original game, if you want to expand your game play pick up In Cahoots! the negatives are easy to look past for anyone familiar with the game.
Overall Final Game Verdict: 6.75/10 Standalone 8.25/10 Expansion If you own Eaten by Zombies and enjoy it, stop reading and go buy this expansion! You will not be disappointed. If you are on the fence about the game I would suggest you start with the base game for the extra options at a minimal extra cost of only $9. Eaten By Zombies and Eaten By Zombies: In Cahoots together are only slightly more than $40 which is a good price for this aggressive deck building game which looks like it will only get better with time.
Michael V K
Latest posts by Michael V K (see all)
- D&D: 2nd Edition AD&D Core Rulebooks – Premium Reprints Released! - May 24, 2013
- Smash Up: The Obligatory Cthulhu Set! - May 24, 2013
- D&D: 1st Ever Mobile Game Announced! - May 24, 2013
- The Dominion War – Star Trek Organized Play! - May 24, 2013