In my early solo days, I wasn't drawn to the idea of zombie games, just as I wasn't interested in watching zombie TV series (The Walking Dead, that is). I was under the impression that a game needs to present you with a variety of enemies to stay compelling. Zombie games only pit you against zombies, with the occasional super-zombie thrown in to raise the difficulty. As I grew more accustomed with the gaming world, my tastes changed. I am no longer averse to the ever-hungry undead, especially after playing Hermann Luttmann's Dawn of The Zeds (second edition). During the quarantine, I started watching The Walking Dead too...
Even though I could have bought the 3rd edition of DotZ, I instead decided to acquire the second, 'snob' edition, as JW mockingly calls it. That is because thematic games connoisseurs (Geek Gamers, Christophe Jannin) insist that the second edition has the grittiness that this kind of game needs in terms of visuals. The illustration of the 3rd edition is too polished and cartoony, thus causing exsanguination of the theme. The older version also comes with bitten zombie counters and the puzzle-piece map we've come to love from the heyday of Victory Point Games.
But let's get to the meat of the game. Following the standard States of Siege format, the heroes are initially situated in the Town Center, and must do all they can to defend it from the onslaught of zombie hordes from all four sides of the map. Civilians also fight the zombies who invade their villages thus lending a helping hand. Supplies and ammo are scarce, and not easy to find. Even if you manage to clear the map for a while, nasty event cards bring more and more zombies in. Heroes usually get a meager 2 or 3 action points, which are never enough when all villages are overrun. Most actions are resolved via dice rolls. When a fight takes place, you consult the appropriate ranged or melee table to apply the hits to both attackers and defenders. Losing a hero is too easy: one hit point makes them weaker, two hit points kill them.
I played twice, and needless to say, I lost pretty badly. I haven't yet tried the advanced scenario, still struggling with the normal difficulty. Even though dice rolls dictate everything, you have to make tactical decisions every turn: who to send where, when to search for supplies, which character to sacrifice. The designer has said that he wanted the game to be hard to win, to give the player the sense of desperation they would feel in a zombie apocalypse. And indeed, there are many 'you gotta be kidding me' moments here. Makes covid-19 look boring by comparison.