Designed by Robert Butler and James Taylor, with art by Ben Milnes, Exodus is the latest Z War One game from Dice Sports. It follows on the heels of Z War One: Damnation but Exodus is a standalone game rather than an expansion. The game mechanics are different, so don’t just expect more of the same. That said, the Kickstarter campaign for Exodus is expected to include crossover packs that will allow the two games to be linked.
Exodus is a usually co-operative game where players control heroes who have to fight their way through marauding and ever-spawning zombies in order to complete the objectives set for each game. As with Z War One: Damnation, the missions are illustrated and explained using a comic book format. This is remarkably effective in setting the scene and tone of the game while providing clarity for the players. The players are on the same side, working together to achieve mission success. As you might expect, Exodus can equally be played solitaire, with one player controlling two heroes. We describe Exodus as ‘usually co-operative’, however, because it incorporates a ‘Director Mode’ option for an additional player to use a special deck of director cards to control the zombies and the way they spawn. This will tend to make an already tough-to-beat game even tougher!
The game uses 8-sided dice to determine combat and zombie spawning but this doesn’t make Exodus a dice-fest. This isn’t a dungeon crawler where you are constantly chucking dice. It’s a more subtle game of stealth and ambush with the constantly spawning zombies acting not just as an existential threat but also, in effect, as a game timer. Dawdle too much and you’re almost certain to be overrun.
Hero turn order can be varied each turn but it’s important to get it right because heroes cannot move through each other and they also block each other’s lines of sight. A hero must complete all the actions they intend to take before the other hero can take any actions; so successfully juggling turn order can be crucial. A hero can take four actions each turn but this is not as generous an allowance as it may at first seem: several activities demand two or more actions and part of the tactics of the game is knowing how best to sequence your actions to use them to best effect. For example, it takes an action to open a door, and opening a door triggers a roll that could spawn zombies in the room; so it could be suicidal to open a door as your fourth and final action. When opening a door, you really need to ensure that you have sufficient actions left to tackle any zombies you encounter or at least to close the door. Several key actions, including searching a room, demand all four action points, so you need to be securely in position at the end of your previous turn in order to search (or craft equipment or complete a mission task) on your next turn. This is where you are likely to have to have your heroes working in unison to make the most efficient use of your action points.
Action points cannot be carried forward (it’s use ‘em or lose ‘em) but you can spend two of your four action points to place your hero on alert. If you do this, then any zombie that subsequently wanders into your line of sight can automatically be fired on. Ammunition is finite, however. Even when you find more ammo, it will cost you two action points to reload. And you thought battling zombie hordes would be easy?
The version of Exodus we’ve been playing and which is shown off here on Board’s Eye View is a preview prototype with just two heroes. The game has now launched on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter includes a Dark Tide expansion that adds further tiles and zombie types as well as two new heroes – taking the player count up to four as a fully co-operative or five using the ‘Director’s Cut’.