ZOMBIE MANIA is a Reiner Knizia game for 2-5 players aged 8+ It is published by NORIS Spiele and it appears to be a fun remake and rewritten revision of a Knizia game called GHOST DICE; it certainly has a resemblance to other games as well. It is what we at GGO generally regard to be a filler game, either a session opener or closer, or a game you play when you are waiting for the rest of your players to arrive. It is also a fun game to play with younger players and family members who aren't looking for a deep, meaningful experience.
There are five Player Boards that show various Town Buildings. Each player is given, or chooses, one of these - there is no difference between them other than the physical visuals. The only tile that is different is the sixth board - the Cemetery. The players face their own boards in front of them with the Cemetery in the centre. Depending on the number of players Zombies are placed on each Player Board; the idea of the main game is to be the first player to remove all of the Zombies from their home building. There is an alternative game where before the start of play a number of Rounds is decided. Once this number of Rounds is complete the players add up the number of Zombies they have left and these are Negative points - the lowest negative wins. The third way to play is very similar to the second except that at the end of each Round the players "score" their boards, again each Zombie is a Negative point. At the end of the pre-determined number of Rounds the player with the lowest Negative score is the winner. Each way of playing is a different fun experience so I recommend playing each way a few times until you decide which you like best - this could well be a tie as these variations are, as I said, all fun.
The player chosen to go first rolls the dice, all 8 of them. This is where the game takes on a very well known mechanic, used in games like Yahtzee, Greed etc. The player MUST put aside at least one Zombie from the roll. If they haven't rolled a Zombie their turn is over. As long as you can put a Zombie aside you can also put other symbols aside. (As long as you put a Zombie aside each roll you can set other symbols aside.) You need also to put 2 RIP Tombstones aside for without these you cannot score any points on the roll. The rules that come with the game are in three languages but not English and the English translation I found online was for GHOST DICE; these rules are similar to ZOMBIE MANIA but not exactly the same. Because of this I translated the rules from French into English using Google Translate. This means the way we play may not be exactly correct, but it doers work. I found no note that said you do not score anything at all if you fail your die roll after putting dice aside, therefore we allowed players to score from the dice they had saved previously if they failed to roll a Zombie. This encourages players to go for the best score they can and makes also for a more challenging game. However, it works just as well if you call a failed roll the end of the player's turn (which it always is) but any dice already put aside are lost.
By collecting same symbols - at least two plus two Tombstones - you score, and the way you score is by losing Zombies from your Buildings. If you roll and save correctly you can add these to the buildings of other players, thus making it harder for them to win. Because this is a die rolling game it is luck based without any skill. This isn't a bad thing, it's what makes it fun by creating the electric atmosphere of rolling the dice and hoping for the correct result. I say there is no skill, but there is some thought required in as much as you have to know what symbols to save and when/if to re-roll the dice you have already collected, thus changing your direction as to what you are after. There isn't a lot of game here, it's quite typical of a Knizia throw-away game, but this makes it easy for younger players and boardgamers who are used to the traditional English boardgame style of game. What you have to remember on your turn is that you need 2 Tombstones and then you need pairs of other symbols but in front of all this you need at least one Zombie.
The artwork is an unusual mix. The Zombies look like cartoon comic characters but the building tiles look more like more like they belong in an animated television show. It's a shame that Herr Knizia didn't add another game variation where the various tiles have different abilities. I know this may expand and extend the play and I haven't had the time or intuition to create anything myself, but I, and many of my playing friends and family, feel there is more of a game to be found in here if we delve deep enough and use a little brain power. Still, that's all for another day. Many players will be drawn to this game because it is called ZOMBIE Mania, but it would be the same game and just as much fun if it was called Fruit Market or Farming (with tiles to match the theme of course - no point calling it Farming and then having Zombie tiles). In all fairness the game has absolutely nothing to do with Zombies (except the Zombie tiles), Ghosts, Sheep or Fruit, in fact it is a classic abstract game which can be themes to virtually anything. The fact that ZOMBIES are the flavour of the month just adds to the interest. It plays well, looks good and is fun for all, no matter what age. We have played and enjoyed it many times with players of a wide spread of ages so despite it being a basic dice game it has re-playability and mild addictive qualities.