Goblins Vs Zombies is Jack Darwid’s second published game (after the baroque Adventure of D but before the far more streamlined Soccer 17) and reflects a designer honing his craft.

The crowdfunding campaign launched back in 2013 promising a “fun Tower Defense card game for 1-3 Players.” It delivers tower defense in spades, with plenty of mechanical touches familiar to anyone who happily wasted their youth playing flash games.

What about the fun? That may depend on your tolerance for pain. Goblins Vs Zombies is a tricky nut to crack, overflowing with hordes of zombies that ruthlessly punish poor decisions – in other words, exactly what you want in a coop game.

Beneath some rough edges and a few quirky design choices, there’s clear love and affection for the genre. It’s an impressively deep game just looking for the right group of players.

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Theme

This is a game about goblins and zombies and the crazy things they do.

In the default cooperative mode (solo and competitive variants are also included), players control goblin villages facing a zombie outbreak in the local graveyard. But these aren’t Tolkien’s goblins or George A. Romero’s shuffling undead.

This is a zany, cartoon battle with more than a passing resemblance to the sprawling Plants vs Zombies universe. Attacking zombies come in a total of 24 flavors – such as monk, ninja, pirate or thief – while defending goblins wield firecrackers, slingshots and rockets.

So is it a game for kids? That depends. Are you willing to handle the (significant) bookkeeping for them?

Mechanics

For such a small game, Goblins Vs Zombies comes with a lot of rules to consider.

A typical zombie card includes: name, image, health points, unit type (flying, ground or invisible), a couple of opaque keywords for unique actions, and maybe a few icons representing other qualities – as well as a dice symbol that interacts with other units once it’s discarded.

It’s all very simple after the first few rounds, but you’ll need to keep the instruction manual handy for those keywords. For example, the Wizard Zombie –

Grave / Forest: {Ambush + Flee) / {Wait}

Seem like a programming language? With so many different units, this allows for a lot of interesting interactions, but it also makes for a non-intuitive learning curve.

Once you’re at the top of that curve…

Goblins Vs Zombies provides a tense, fast-paced little battle with tough, meaningful decisions all around. Despite a paucity of direct player interaction, the fact every turn really matters will generate plenty of table talk.

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Components

Goblins Vs Zombies isn’t (quite) ready to play straight from the box. There’s about a dozen clip art tokens that need to be cut out and seem to have no visual relationship to the rest of the game. This budget vibe touches everything – it isn’t a premium product.

The artwork leans on Plants vs Zombies in a way that seems daring given the game’s mechanical similarities. And the iconography would also benefit from a few weeks with a more experienced graphic designer (something that would smooth out the learning curve, incidentally).

However, in my view, none of this is a problem because (a) the game itself actually is cheap and (b) it’s designed and printed in Indonesia. After three years living outside Jakarta, I can confirm Indonesia does not have a booming tabletop industry, so anything that fosters the country’s community should be applauded.

Terima kasih, Pak Darwid!

What do others think?

Goblins Vs Zombies is rated 6.6 on BoardgGameGeek, and seems to have been received favorably by reviewers.

Despite all those things the game has great charm and with few small tweaks I enjoy it a lot and will definitely keep it.

Georgi Dimitrov

 

After my first play, I can safely say this is a keeper.

Rudy Van den Broecke

 

Goblins vs. Zombies is a neat, unique little game that is a fulfilling addition to the underutilized tower defense genre.

Scott Coggins

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Conclusion

Goblins Vs Zombies is a difficult, hectic, deeply thematic game. It delivers a lot of fun at the expense of some persistent bookkeeping issues (move the cards, check the cards, don’t-forget-that-thing) but manages to rise above its clear video game lineage to stake out its own space in the tabletop world.

3.5 severed zombie heads out of 5.

Number of Players: 1-3

Playing Time: 15 mins / player

Age: 7+

Country: Indonesia

By: Jack Darwid

Price: 17.99€ at NiceGameShop