Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Last One In

Game: Last One In

Publisher:City Gate Games

Designer: Mark Taylor

Year: 2018


Last One In is a zombie survival card game, where players compete to rescue civilians, while flooding their opponent's town with zombies. Everyone plays both Zombies and Civilians. The winner is the first player to rescue 50 civilians or inflict 100 zombies on their opponent. There are tons of special effect cards to confound your opponent too.

The game can be played as a 1v1 two player game or with variants for competitive play with 3 or 4 players, and a 2v2 team game.

We do not typically like zombie games, in fact we do not own any in our rather large collection. However, we do enjoy clever 2-player hand management card games, so we decided to give Last One In a chance.



Gameplay

At the start of a game of Last One In you will draw 5 cards, 2 from the deck of buildings, and 3 from the town deck before creating a market of 5 face-up cards from the town deck in the center of the table. On your turn you will play a building (if you don't have one in play) and then draw a number of cards depending on the building your played. These cards may be from the open market, or blind from the deck, and depending on which building you have in play you may get more cards for choosing one or the other.

After drawing cards you can play cards, you can play 3 cards a turn, one civilian that you add to your building, 1 zombie which you add to your opponents zombie horde and 1 neutralization card, which allows you to fight off your zombie horde, or to attack your opponents building and kill their civilians. On top of these effect many buildings, civilians and zombies have special abilities that allow you to enhance your attacks or defend yourself from your opponent. After this you will discard down to 6 cards, with any cards discarded this way becoming zombies to be added to your horde.

If you manage to exactly fill your building then you are able to move it to the safe zone, the people inside being permanently safe from all manner of undead monsters. The game ends in a win if you have 50 civilians rescued into safe houses, or as a loss if your become overrun by a horde of 100 or more zombies.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

There is certainly fun to be hand in Last One In, the core decisions can be interesting, such as choosing between playing large houses that are hard to fill but have good card draws, with easy houses that grant you few cards. There is also fun to be had in the take that nature of the game, every turn you will be playing zombies to attack (assuming you have some) and you have to balance out trying to slay zombies with trying to prevent your opponent building up safe houses quickly.


Where this all falls apart is in the cards themselves, needing to exactly fill houses has resulted in a load of cards which have between 1-5 civilians allowing you to top up and finish off houses. This is fine, but when they are in a deck that also contains 10s and 15s it's hard to be happy when you draw a 1. The zombies are no better, sure some of the smaller zombie cards have abilities on them, but none are quite so powerful as the decoy, which lets you send a zombie horde back to your opponent, and they come in sizes of up to 20. Decoy cards are so common that you are scared of playing big zombie cards less they come straight back at you with more buddies on top! Drawing the right cards is by far the biggest secret to winning the game.

The other main issue is the length of the game, getting to 100 zombies or 50 civilians simply takes to long. A single game of Last One In outstays it's welcome by a good 15 minutes, you can play with less civilians and zombies needed to win, but at that point I'm house ruling the game, which isn't fair for a review, and also speaks to a lack of balancing in the decks for a certain game length. Last One In simply lacks any spark, any special something to make it stand out from a crown, and when you are a zombie game, you really need something to make you unique.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

There's a lot to like about Last One In - the hand management is interesting and makes you plan a turn or two ahead, as well as focusing you on what to take from the town centre to ensure you're not slowed down with wasted turns an opportunities. The decisions about when to play zombies on your opponent can also be interesting because it can often backfire. If you pay enough attention to your opponent you can also be very clever about when you play neturalisation cards against the rather than to help yourself. I also like that you can give yourself a choice of buildings to play with, so you could try for a one or two building strategy, which is risky in terms of being attacked, or instead fill lots of small building, but is slow but more defensive.

Last One In has some interesting mechanisms, but overall it just feels so antagonistic and painful at times. There is undoubtedly luck in what cards are in the town square or what cards you draw from the top of the deck. The person who draws a 10 civilian card to complete their size 10 building is no doubt far better of the the player with 1,2 and 3 civilians cards who has to complete over multiples turns. I've also been in the situation of being one civilian card away from winning for about 15 minutes and only drawing zombie cards whilst my opponent eventually manages to claw back and win.

The zombie theme was very incidental, which was fortunate for us, but may be off-putting for someone who is motivated to back the game for its theme. Ultimately I just found the game frustrating and the balance of luck vs. game length just wasn't right for us.

The Good
  • The hand management is interesting from turn to turn.
  • There are some interesting choices including whether to kill your own zombies or your opponent's civilians.
The Bad
  • Playing to 50 civilians or 100 zombies is just too long.
  • The zombies don't often seem to feature in the full-length game as a loss condition.
  • The value of zombie and civilian cards is so variable that sometimes luck of the draw will just be in one players favour.
The Verdict
4/10 Last One In has some interesting hand management mechanisms, but for us it has too much random luck, too much take-that and outstays its welcome at the table.

Last One in was a preview copy provided by Mark Taylor at City Gate Games. It is live on Kickstarter now unitl July 3rd 2018.

You can find out more about the game in the preview on Youtube.

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