Theme and What is it?
Martin, his sister, and their parents set off on a family vacation last summer. They headed down one of the oldest highways in America. Just a slow burn down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Shortly after embarking on this adventure they discovered something was very wrong. The now barren wasteland of America was rot with the undead and an innumerable amount of misfortune. During the time spent trying to survive the trip to the West Coast Martin and his family had to scavenge for gas, ration food, and make ammo for long range zombie extermination. Lucky for us, Martin decided to create a game made out of different knick-knacks and game components to remember his family’s trip. Now we can all experience the ruthless struggle Martin and his family had to endure traveling across the country one hot summer; during the apocalypse.
Since this is a game designed by “Martin” Wallace, it makes me curious what those old family photo albums might look like?
Hit Z Road is a competitive game for 1 to 4 players. Each player chooses a color and takes that colored survivor and bidding marker. Then everyone takes 4 grey survivors and 4 of each resource tokens (Adrenaline, Gas, and Ammo). The game is broken up into 8 rounds that escalate over 3 levels of difficulty.
Rounds have 3 different phases, Planning, Auction, and Encounter. During the Planning phase, the first player draws 8 cards from the deck and places them face up in 4 rows of 2. These are the “Paths” in which a player will try and make their way through to gather resources and fight zombies. Certain cards that make up the paths will be more beneficial than others, offering different resources and different amounts of danger with zombie hoards you will be forced to fight. Some cards will offer victory points that you will need to win, as well Special tokens that may or may not help you later down the road. Next, during the Auction phase, players will bid for initiative to see who will have first pick at what path they wish to take. You may keep bidding in turn order to increase your bid until all players have passed. When bidding on initiative you will have to pay the cost in resources according to the number you are willing to pay. The higher the number you bid the higher the initiative you earn. Since the resources that you use for bidding are the same ones you use to fight zombies it is crucial you manage you resources carefully between bidding and spending them on survival. In the Encounter phase players will choose the path they wish to take and resolve all the events on both cards along the path. You resolve a card in 3 steps. First, take the resources in the top left of the card. Second, complete the Event text on the bottom. Third, fight zombies according to how many there are in the bottom right. Fighting zombies is done by dice rolls.
The Adrenaline, Gas, and Ammo resource tokens are used for several things in the game. Adrenaline tokens are used when fighting zombies. If you roll any Adrenaline symbols on the dice you can spend them to take out more zombies. They can also be used to negate damage to your survivors if they are to be killed. Keep in mind that if you lose all of your survivors you are out of the game. Gas tokens can be used to skip cards on the path you choose. But remember, skipping cards discards them completely and you do not receive any resources or victory points. Ammo tokens are used before you fight zombies to get a long range shot at them without the consequence of injuring your survivors.
If you somehow make it to Los Angeles the player with the most victory points wins the game.
I was sucked into the game immediately with the theme of the game – from the box, right down to the components. The bidding wars start very quickly, as soon as you see what you could potentially be up against. The fear of being stuck with a path that would literally eat your survivors alive had everyone frantically and carelessly bidding to go first. It became very apparent that our priority to spend loads of resources to go first was a very bad idea. Instead of managing those resources like we should have, it left us scrambling to keep our heads above the waves of zombies.
Quality of Components and Insert
The direction they went with the components is very smart. Because this is a game that a boy named Martin made during the apocalypse, the components are made to look like anything he could find and make use of. Tokens are made to look like old bottle caps or poker chips with little drawings taped to them. The cards are transformed from other games like Dixit and Ticket to Ride with photos taped to the other side. Name tags, punch cards, and old licenses represent initiative markers. All these details bring a charm to the game that marries the theme so well. The game also comes with zombie themed meeples; they are adorable!
The art direction is gorgeous. From the family photos to the swarms of zombies you encounter, everything is really beautiful and add that layer of immersion the game needs to bring you back from admiring the cute pieces to realizing the dangers you are about to face. The instruction booklet is made to look like it was drawn by hand for added effect and is really well done. The box art looks like an old board game that was modified using marker to alter it. There is a bit of humor with a mix with of striking imagery to show you the perils ahead that blends very well.
Through all of the games we play of Hit Z Road there is always so much laughing that ensues. Watching your friends have no choice but to take the best of a bad situation in the cards available to them makes for a good time. Now that might make this sound like a “take that” type of game, but it isn’t. How well you can manage your resources really impacts how well you do. So, if one player goes all in with their resources laughing manically at what he or she thinks is the perfect move, only to suffer the consequences of their own fate, it just makes for such a comical situation. It’s a game about taking risks and knowing when to play conservatively.
Difficulty and age range suggestion
This game is so easy to learn. You can play this with absolutely anyone, provided they don’t mind the zombie theme and some graphic images, but nothing too bad. One thing to keep in mind since some people do have a problem with it is the fact that there is a player elimination aspect. You can be out very early on in a game and have to sit out until the game finishes. This can be annoying to some. However, I don’t mind it so much in this game because of its player interaction. The game will punish you for not managing you resources. Going big can sometimes leave you with very little options on later turns if you are not careful.
This game is a fabulous light weight game. I also think it’s a great game to introduce to people who would be more intimidated towards resource management and euro games. One of my favorite parts of the game is the bidding mechanic. It’s almost like playing a game of “chicken” with your friends to see who is willing (or able) to throw down the most resources for initiative. It took us few plays to realize that you have to be careful, especially early on, with your resources or you will be treading water on a sinking ship fast. Players will try and take advantage of the fact that you will not be able spend many resources in the bidding phase; which will leave you with few options, however sometimes the worst choices aren’t so bad. The game has great player interaction with lots of fun decisions to make. Just be careful, sometimes your opponents can be just as brutal as the zombies.