Board Game Review: Mall of Horror

Given that Halloween is just around the corner, I’m in the mood to post about things scary, spooky, and well… backstabbing, cut-throat board games.

The setup for Mall of Horror is classic George Romero zombie apocalypse. Various groups have headed off to the mall to hole up, and hope they can survive long enough before they are rescued. They are surrounded by the living dead and it is only a matter of time before zombies burst through flimsy barricades to eat one of the survivors.

The game is pretty simple. You have a certain number of pieces on your team, each with special abilities, and worth a set amount of points. You simply want to survive long enough (i.e. be one of the last few eaten) until the survivors are rescued. The person with the most points wins.

There are several rounds to the game. Players chose a member of their group to run through the mall and hide in a certain location, the only problem is each location can only hold a certain number of survivors. If you can’t get into the destination you want, you have to hide somewhere else.

Also some destinations have special abilities. The security station can allow one player to look through the security cameras (and find out where the zombies are moving). The parking lot holds a supply truck where players can pick up various tools to barricade locations, or weapons to take out zombies. After the survivors settle in, the zombies move according to a random die roll. If you are lucky, you’ll have few zombies at your location. If you are unlucky, the zombies burst into a section of the mall and then the real fun starts.

The zombies will feast on one player. Afterwards they are sated for a bit and wander off, leaving the remaining survivors. Who gets eaten is decided by a vote from the players at that location. This is a particularly gruesome aspect of this game. Want to man the security cameras? Want to loot the truck? Want the other guy to be thrown to the zombies? No random die rolls, everything in the game is decided by vote.

Each player is given a voting wheel that has all the player teams. To vote, they just secretly rotate their wheel to the team they want. Each survivor at a specific location gives the player a number of votes (some, like the ‘guy with the gun’ are worth 2 votes). Have enough votes on your side, and you get things your way.

What results are rounds of vicious deal making and backstabbing. Need some help raiding that truck? Sure. But you gotta help me vote that other guy gets thrown to zombies at the grocery. Get ready for some under-the-table deals and be ready to up your negotiation skills.

Granted a player can be eliminated, but that doesn’t mean they get to sit out waiting for a winner. Each round they get to add another zombie to the mall (likely busting through a location, resulting a survivor being zombie food). Also for each tie, they get to decide the winner.

The Good – A relatively rules light game. With very nice components and nice art work. Quite a bit of randomness is in where the zombies move, so there is a lot of replayability. Plus the game is all about interaction with each other. The only solid strategy is being good at negotiation.

The Bad – The player pieces are a bit lack luster (basically stickers on wooden wheels). Too bad they do not match the quality of the zombie pieces. Also, given the kill-or-be-killed mentality, some people may not like the game.

The Verdict – This is a game not for the thin skinned, nor the easily bruised ego. I think it is a game best played with friends. I would not drop this down at a dinner party full of strangers and expect a fun evening. However, having your pals over for some beer and pizza, all the while cheering as someone has a member of their group eaten by zombies, well… it’s just a lot of fun.

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