Zombie World is a card-based tabletop roleplaying game of survivors fighting against the living and the dead for their own place in the world. The game is designed for easy, quick, and intense play.
In Zombie World, you take on the roles of ordinary people caught up in a zombie apocalypse, struggling to survive day after day, month after month, year after year, in a world destroyed by the restless dead. Maybe you’re just an accountant who took up a machete to keep her friends and family safe. Maybe you’re an escaped inmate trying to keep your criminal past a secret from your fellow survivors. Maybe you’re a soldier trying to lead and protect your whole enclave in this ruined world.
Zombie World has its roots in the Powered by the Apocalypse system used by tabletop RPGs like Apocalypse World, Monsterhearts, and Masks: A New Generation, but it takes that system in new directions, using special cards to generate characters, create situations, and resolve conflicts. Making a new character takes minutes: you draw a few cards, and you’re ready to go. Every time you take an interesting action in the game, you draw a few cards that will tell you what happens to your survivor. In Zombie World, your story is about the larger group of characters more than it is about any single one of them, as you struggle, sacrifice, and strive to create a place where you and your allies might not just survive...but where you might live.
Zombie World comes with all the cards, the playmats, the rules, and even a dry erase marker—everything you need in a small box you can easily fit into your bag and play on the fly. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, or World War Z, then Zombie World is the perfect game to satisfy your hunger!
For the characters of Zombie World, their lives were pretty much like ours, and then—with barely any warning—the infected attacked. Those they bit or killed rose up to join them. The zombies were here.
Most people refer to the day that zombies first appeared as “Z-Day.” They fondly remember life before Z-Day, before it all came crashing down. Everything was so easy. They had power. Food and water. Laws.
Months after Z-Day, everyone left alive has had to figure out how to eke out an existence in the nightmarish world that surrounds them. They’ve had to struggle, and fight, and run, and scavenge, and kill. Not a single person left today has come through unscathed. They’re survivors, in the truest sense of the word.
Most of those who’ve made it this far have had to band together to survive—forming an enclave. An enclave might be a group of people living in a farmhouse, or a prison, or a mall, or a hospital, or whatever—anywhere that a group of survivors might be able to build new lives for themselves. Enclaves are both necessary—you aren’t going to survive long on your own—and incredibly fragile, full of people who've been through hell and may be hiding their own secrets.
After all, the zombies are dangerous, but everyone knows the real hell is other people.
In Zombie World, you create your character by drawing three cards—a past, a present, and a trauma—generating a survivor with a unique history, role in the community, and emotional reaction to the zombie apocalypse.
Before we go any further, there's something important you need to know—people in an enclave aren’t always the most open or understanding, especially with each other. There’s always a chance that the person you open up to today is a dangerous enemy you have to shoot tomorrow. So you may want to keep major parts of yourself secret, or at least not talk about them openly.
When you start playing, your past and your trauma start face down—hidden to everyone but you. You may reveal them over the course of play. But until you actually reveal your card, it’s not public knowledge and its mechanical effects on your character don’t come into play yet. It’s still true, though—your past was your past, whether or not anybody knows it.
When you create your character, you’ll draw just one past and just one trauma—but you’ll get your choice of two potential present cards.
Once you’ve got your character cards, you choose your stats, assigning scores to Savagery, Soul, Steel, and Survival. Each stat tells you how many cards you draw from the Survivor deck when you trigger a move—higher is always better.
After you have your stats and your identity cards, you have a few more details to flesh out like your name and appearance, and then you’re ready to go! A whole character generated in just a few minutes!
Each game of Zombie World is centered around an enclave—the place where you and your fellow survivors have holed up for safety. The exact details will vary depending upon which enclave cards you use and the choices your group makes when you set up the enclave at the start of play.
Each enclave includes a distinct set of predetermined choices for developing your particular version of that setting—complete with nearby threats and the advantages of your enclave—and two unique moves that let you use that setting’s special elements.
To start play, you and your group quickly and easily flesh out your enclave by choosing options from the provided list. Maybe your prison’s fences are strong, but you’re running low on guns and ammunition. Maybe your hospital plays home to a few police officers from the nearby city, but sits not too far from a power plant—and who knows what’ll happen there without anyone to keep it running.
The Zombie World core set comes with two enclaves ready to go—the Prison and the Hospital—and the expansions each add another full enclave, complete with new threats and advantages. The first expansion adds the Farm, and the second adds the Mall.
You can mix and match the advantages you get from each enclave to gain new resources in any game of Zombie World you play. You could have guard towers at your Hospital or a helipad at your Prison!
A typical game of Zombie World kicks off with the Gamemaster (the single player running the game, playing the world) pulling a Fate card to find out what new problems have arisen for the enclave...and you’re off!
The GM sets the scene, and you play your survivor, doing your best to survive in a zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic world. Maybe you commit yourself to making the enclave better and stronger. Maybe you hunt the asshole who got your friend eaten on a scavenging mission last session. Maybe you spend time getting to know the newcomer whose parents died in a hail of bullets when those raiders came. You choose how you play and what you do, describing your character’s actions and saying what they say.
But sometimes, when you take certain actions, a move will kick into effect. When that happens you draw a number of cards from the Survivor Deck equal to your appropriate stat, and choose the single best card of the bunch.
- You might get a Triumph, giving you what you sought and maybe more.
- You might get an Opportunity, letting you pay a single point of stress to get a full Triumph, a small cost that adds up over time.
- You might get an Edge, giving you what you sought but at a cost or complication.
- Or you might get a Miss, where things will go from bad to worse. The GM gets to say what happens when you draw a miss, and they are inclined to make life interesting for you and your fellow survivors.
If you ever engage with zombies directly, then you’ll have to deal with the Bite Deck.
You’ll only ever draw a single card at a time, and you might wind up safe and sound! But the card might tell you that something in your environment breaks. Or that more zombies arrive on the scene. Or that your current problems are wildly exacerbated.
And if you’re unlucky, you’ll draw the single Bite Card in the deck—and then you’re bitten. Your death is guaranteed; it’s just a matter of time.
The Bite Deck only gets reshuffled if the Bite card is drawn—meaning that the whole enclave can only go so long before someone falls to the dead.
We're all familiar with great zombie movies and great zombie TV shows, and we all know how widely they vary in structure, cast, and form. Zombie World has the flexibility to accommodate both kinds of story!
Zombie World is designed for many different group sizes, from just a few (2-3 players) to a full table (7-8 players). To accommodate different groups, the game adjusts itself. When you have more players, there’s less setup so you can get straight to the punch—after all, you’ve got plenty of protagonists already. When you have fewer players, you have more time to build the setting, creating more antagonists and allies to flesh out the cast.
Similarly, the game is designed for both short and long term play. Single session games of Zombie World play like the best, most intense zombie movies (28 Days Later, Night of the Living Dead, etc). But you can also delve deep into the stories of your enclave over multiple sessions, like creating your own zombie TV series (The Walking Dead, Z-Nation, etc.).
Either way, Zombie World is lethal. The cast will change, one bite at a time. If your survivor dies, you'll create a new one in a few minutes, and get back into the game with an all new character. Anyone who survives will get fleshed out stories as they change and adapt to their harsh new reality. And in the meantime, you’ll build the enclave, improving it, defending it, gaining new advantages...and if necessary, abandoning it and starting anew.
Zombie World comes in a compact box, with everything you need to play!
Here's an initial version of the playmats that come in the box:
The playmats are laminated so you can easily write on them with dry erase markers during play!
We're offering two expansions for Zombie World!
The core game gives you all the rules and materials you need to get rolling with these dynamic expansions—just add the new cards to your existing decks and you’re ready to go!
We have some awesome stretch goals ready for you, as we journey across this ruined land towards Refuge. What will we find?
To keep this simple, you have three reward tiers to choose from:
Want to pick up another copy of the core game? Or one of the expansions? Here’s a list of the optional buys for Zombie World.
We're happy to ship Zombie World anywhere in the world! Thanks to our international fulfillment partners, backers in the EU, CA, and AU won't pay any customs or VAT on any of their shipments.
We will be charging shipping as we fulfill each item. YOUR PLEDGE DOES NOT INCLUDE THE COST OF SHIPPING. We use a pledge manager to collect information and handle add-ons and pre-orders, but we will deliver each physical item by sending you a coupon for our webstore; you pay for shipping when you order the book. Each coupon will be valid for one year.
Estimated Shipping Costs
- Domestic Shipping: For USPS shipping, we expect to charge $5-10 per package. We’ll have upgrade options to USPS Priority, UPS, etc.
- EU/AU/CA Shipping: We work with fulfillment partners in the EU, AU, and CA. The cost to ship a package through these partners is $10-12. We will offer upgrade options that include tracking, priority, and more.
- Everywhere Else: We expect shipping everywhere else to be roughly $12-15 per package. We will offer upgrade options that include tracking, priority shipping, etc., but upgraded shipping will probably start at $40+.
"Zombie World is a feral evolution of the Powered by the Apocalypse system, driving zombie post-apocalypse stories from the first tense moments to the end of every session. Character creation is a snap: a flip of a few cards and you're running. And run you will, because that Bite Deck wants to take out your ankles then work its hungry way up your struggling body to finish you off, and bring you into the horde." - Rich Rogers
"I really loved how quickly you could make varied and surprising characters. The mechanics around hidden and public information, and revealing secrets was interesting and created interesting tension. As you built up a community together, you didn't know what, if anything, could cause the person next you, to suddenly shift and show something you never knew they had in them." - Yoshi Creelman
"In the Zombie Apocalypse, it doesn’t matter how you survive but that you survive. Who you survive with doesn’t matter, as long as you’re alive- right? Same with this game and same with who you get to play. Here’s the thing about roleplay sometimes, you are going to pigeonhole yourself. For diversity sake, you’re going to need to consider playing someone other than your usual subjects. It brings a whole new outlook on how AW works. Zombie World forces players to branch out and probably hope for the worst instead of the best? If you’re looking for a happy ending, this may not be it. You want drama, horror and the unexpected? You got it with some grueling undead on the side." - Ariana Ramos
"After playing Zombie World at Metatopia, I was hooked. It hit every emotional beat that I have always wanted in a zombie show that has never really been delivered while giving the very real feeling of being on the edge of disaster. Our community felt real, threatened, and on the brink of tragedy. Each character felt genuine and dynamic, while faced with intense decisions that drove the fiction forward in meaningful, engaging, and beautifully upsetting ways. I've been waiting two years to get my hands on this game and I can't wait to play all the best parts of zombie fiction with a nuanced, brilliant system." - Kate Bullock
Risks and challenges
This is Magpie Games' tenth Kickstarter, and we've got a long history of fulfilling projects, including Urban Shadows, Masks, Bluebeard's Bride, and many more for other folks (frex: 7th Sea: 2nd Ed). We've got a good grasp on how to get stuff designed, written, illustrated, shipped, and fulfilled.
The largest problem we've encountered is delays. We've taken all the steps we can to deliver this project on time, including finishing the core design and getting the cards laid out in advance of this Kickstarter. We'll keep backers informed at all times about what's happening with the project. Our commitment is always to the quality of our work, but nothing makes us happier than shipping games!
- (26 days)