Game Review - Maul of America by Jim Dietz

Maul of America, Jim Dietz,
Jolly Roger Games, 1998.

Courtesy of Jolly Roger Games
Maul of America is a board game by Jim Dietz released by Jolly Roger Games. After seeing the cover and reading the humorous text on the box, I thought it would be worth a try, and I purchased it as a gift for a friend who is an enthusiast of many zombie, vampire, and undead movies: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, From Dusk Until Dawn, and After Dark. Unfortunately the game and the contents of the box do not live up to the $35 list price of the game.

First let me explain my expectations. I expected the game to be a campy, simple "beer and pretzels" game, with simple rules and approximately one hour playing time. That it is. The game consists of three paper boards that abut in a variety of configurations. Players move on a square grid superimposed on the board, trying to avoid the zombies that are controlled by one of the players. Zombies enter the mall and attempt to swarm and kill the player characters. Players must pick up four types of cards (food, medical kit, weapon, ammo) and then exit the mall through an exit specified by the zombie controller, presumably the one that is most difficult to reach. All well and good, just about what I expected.

However, the game falls apart in its implementation. First of all, I consider the quality of the components entirely inappropriate for a $35 game. The cardstock is too lightweight and makes the front of the cards visible through the back of the deck. This is not very good when some of the searches for goodies are supposed to generate a surprise zombie attack. The card edges are perforated and die-cut, making the cards difficult to shuffle. And for a "beer and pretzel" game, the card stock is not laminated and certainly not beer-proof. The player characters and zombies are stickers placed on generic plastic stands of which there are too few zombies to generate a giant swarm. The zombie artwork is the same for all zombies. For this amount of money I would expect plastic figures in different poses. Finally the board graphics are poor. The mall exits are drawn in by hand, and some appear to be missing. Although the text within the stores is cute, the fonts on the store text are not appealing and could use a graphic artist rerendering. The board is bereft of artwork; certainly a muted aerial view of a mall interior would be a nicer texture than just the monochromatic stores we get.

The rules also leave something to be desired. During our gaming group session, we could not find the number of hits per zombie so we assumed it was one. Luckily the Jolly Roger Games website contained this bit of eratta. We also could not figure how to fire the flamethrower, was it one roll for each zombie in the blast area or one roll for all the zombies? We also found many of the cards to be a bit unbalanced and inexplicable. The "Scene Change" card allows your character to magically teleport to another area of the mall. This is a wierd card, and I don't recall characters escaping for no reason in the movies.

Finally, aside from our own zombie groaning during the game, we just did not find the game to be that much fun. The players run around attracting zombies like bees to honey, but the strategies for both player character and zombie controller are rote and uninteresting. I wish there were more choices for the players such as hiding or springing traps on the zombies. Finding weapons is entirely up to the luck of the draw: you may luck out and get the flamethrower on turn 1 or you may never get it. It might be nice to have the time to search affect your success in uncovering an object. Because of its mall setting, I would like to see a larger variety of weapons and traps. A blood-pressure machine that traps a player for a turn or two might be fun. Finally, the combat system is a repetitive dice rolling contest, zombie wound on a 6, players skill on a 5 or 6. It might be nice to have character fatigue or facing figure into the combat. Ugh, I could go on. These rules could use a lot of work.

Even for the zombie enthusiast, I do not recommend this game. I've seen better art, components, and rules in most of the $8 Cheap Ass Games. I expect more from a $35 game in an oversized box.

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