Student Bodies is a cut throat zombie game designed by Michael Grenier and Matthew Regney. Published by Smirk and Dagger Games, it’s recommended for two to five players ages ten and up. I would say that the cut throat style of play in this game leads to a slap in the face kind of motif.
In Student Bodies you and your peers are faced with the dilemma of escaping the highschool during a zombie apocalypse. The problem is that there are so many zombies you first need to get to the chem lab and create an antidote or in game terms find it. Then you have to make a dash across the campus to escape out the front door after dodging a shambling mound of zombies without getting bitten. Don’t worry too much about being bit, if you’re turned into a smart zombie and can still win by eating other players, which I find to be a rather fun and redeeming factor when there are more than two players.
The game board unfolds to be about 24 inches long. It has three main parts to the board, an exit, a lab and a hallway. The board is covered with large hexes so you can easily move. I think the choice of hexes is part of what makes Student Bodies work. If they would have went with a standard graph your movement would have been hindered.
To set up the board draw two cards for the “Hallway” , make sure the arrows on the card face away from each other, and make the board match the picture. The items need to match the picture will be zombies, beaker tokens, corpse tokens, and obstacle tokens. At this point I place one exit and one lab set up card on those two locations. I also place 8 zombies aside for my reserves. These 8 zombies are used exclusively for setting the lab and the exit (4 for each). When a players enter the lab or the exit you flip the card in that location and populate that section of the board.
The game has a built in method of varying the difficulty level, this is managed by the construction of the zombie deck. Each zombie spawn card has a difficulty level in the lower right hand corner, the lower the number the easier the challenge. You select the difficulty level by using the chart on page 11 of the rulebook. Once you build the deck shuffle it and set it to the side.
Each player chooses a character and the appropriate character card. They then follow the instructions to generate the character. This includes placing health tokens and drawing one item card.
The game is largely driven by the cards. The zombie deck controls the flow of the horde. They are pretty easy to read. But basically each zombie card spawns more zombies and or gives all zombies and action. The item cards are essentially weapons the players characters can carry, some are single use and some are not. It’s important to note that many item cards have activation requirements like the use of stamina. Some cards have the more than one ability on them and you choose which to use when the card is played.
With card combinations and some luck there are a variety of tactics you can employ, one which is rush. It’s a defensive maneuver gained by a card that basically allows the character to move “through” zombies untouched. One of the cooler things about Student Bodies is that things can get knocked down.
What I found to be different was that players use cards for combat and zombies use dice. I think this makes the game a little bit in the favor of the players, but keep in mind you don’t have allies. That’s right your friends are really meat shields.
The Smart Zombie is one of the more unique mechanics of the game. If a player dies they’re is a chance to be a Smart Zombie. I like games that have a redeeming factor like this. Smart zombies don’t follow the “AI” that the rules dictate to zombies.
What Do I think.
Lets start with what I dislike. The game can be repetitive. There is a lot of doing the same thing over and over. The smart zombie is cool, but it still feels like I’m playing a character. I wish it had more oomph in the change.
What I Really Like
Unlike many zombie games Student Bodies is as cut throat as you want it to be. This, in my opinion, is really where the replay ability comes from. That lingering question is always “Should I help them?” I honestly have the most fun with this aspect of the game, which truly plays into the tactics of do I push, run, or spawn the zombie at this door. And even though I wish the Smart Zombie was a little different it is still one of the cooler aspects of the game.
Student bodies is a light hearted community game that can be as cut throat as you would like be. I have had fun playing it every time we have played, and it’s not my favorite genre of play. I have watched my children play it with their friends. The high school band is truly entertained by this game, and I find watching them to be very much like a sit com.