A zombie-themed game may seem like an anomalous choice for us to feature in the Board's Eye View Countdown to Christmas but you don't have to have elves and reindeer to have family fun. Tho' the theme may be mildly macabre, these are cartoon zombies rather than the stuff of nightmares and Ares Games' Last One Alive is a fast filler-length game that all the family can play.
In Last One Alive, Ole Steiness has designed a push-your-luck dice game in the mould of the perennial favourite Bang! The Dice Game (dV Giochi). The 2-5 players each choose a character card. These don't have any distinguishing powers or capabilities. You each take a 'hero token' (looking suspiciously like Rick's sheriff hat from The Walking Dead) which can be surrendered at any point to allow you to reroll one or more dice. Players also draw one item token from a bag. The tokens display one of several different weapons and other items on one side and a barricade on the other. At set up, you choose which side you want to use. If you choose a barricade, it means that you can pass a zombie die to the player to your left (in effect, putting their character's life at risk rather than yours). If you choose the item side then it can be played to modify or enhance your dice roll. Some of the tokens in the bag display a zombie icon. If you draw one of them, either in set up or at any point during the game, it raises the apocalypse level, which means increasing the number of zombie dice that players have to roll.
It's the dice, of course, that are all important, and the game utilises four types of custom six-sided dice. The 10 black dice are zombie dice: one side is blank but the others show one or two zombie icons or a zombie ambush icon. The three red dice display 'bang' icons for shooting zombies: again, one side is blank but the others show one 'bang' or two, or a 'bang' and cumulative reroll. The three white dice have an items icon on four sides. These allow you to draw another token from the bag. Again, one side is blank but the other shows a zombie ambush icon: scavenging for items is not without risk... Finally, the three yellow dice show a barricade icon on four sides (draw a token but use its barricade side), one blank and one zombie ambush.
Any dice showing zombies are placed in front of the player to your left (yes, we told you this was a 'take that' game) but any ambush icons stay in front of you. Your character will be eliminated if you don't roll a means of dispatching the zombie(s) at your door...
On your turn, you must roll one zombie dice per apocalypse level - so just one black die at the start of the game, unless any of the players happened to draw an apocalypse token during setup. In addition, you choose four dice to roll from any of those available. You may try to build up your defences or add to your arsenal of helpful items, and you will probably want to roll a red die if you are already facing zombies at your door. You can, however, play aggressively and roll extra zombie dice among the four dice of your choice. There's a 4:1 chance that the die will adversely affect the player to your left rather than you!
This makes for a short but lively game that you will probably want to extend a little by playing with the included optional rules that give each character three 'lives', especially as part of the excitement of this game is the steady escalation of the threat level. Tho' you're facing a zombie apocalypse, the name of the game is Last One Alive so you're actually trying to get the zombies to eliminate the other players and they are doing the same to you. If you'll forgive the Spoiler, you're playing like Shane in Season 2 of The Walking Dead. But tho' this is a 'take that' game, it's light-hearted, as underlined by the cartoon art from Laura Neri and Francesco Mattioli, so it provides plenty of filler-length family fun.