PostHumous Z was a one man project that took designer Nathan Little two years to complete. An entire year was spent on the mechanics and gameplay, the other was spent creating original artwork for the game, of which no small part was almost three hundred unique cards.
Little says, “I am not a ‘zombie fan.’ Some people think that I surely must love everything with zombies, have seen every zombie movie, and played every zombie game. This is not true. I think that too often zombies, while such a fantastic idea, are too often tacked onto something mediocre as a gimmick. This is why, even with all the zombies, the title of the game does not have ‘zombie’ in it.”
“Before the addition of the art, the game was just ‘PostHumous.’ I had this grand vision of every card having its own artwork, immersing the players and making all the elements in the game more manageable. But I certainly couldn’t afford to pay anyone for such a task, nor could I draw it myself. So I took the only option that seemed apparent. I taught myself how to draw, and did it all. Due to the scale of the task and the effect it had on gameplay, I felt the full-art version needed its own title. Hence, PHZ… ’cause it’s sort of like a 2 but isn’t…”
PostHumous Z is a team based zombie survival horror game wherein a small town is overrun with the undead. Having given up on the hope of rescue, a small band of cliché characters makes a break for the outskirts of town, but a vicious cunning grows in the zombies, and won’t let its prey escape that easily.
The base rules are pretty simple…
The town is made out of a modular board, which is shuffled before play. The town is then laid out with the starting safe house on one end, and the escape at the other. The players divide into two teams: humans and zombies. The humans each take control of a single character, and must get to the escape, moving through the town exploring places or rescuing ‘extras’. Characters make noise by exploring and firing guns, so will have to hide at times to cut down on their noise, lest they enrage the zombies. Meanwhile, each zombie player controls his own theme of zombies. The zombies spawn minions and use their resource of hunger, abilities, and cards to bide time, ambush or overwhelm the humans, knocking out all their life before they reach the escape.
The game ends when all the characters escape, or they all get downed, or a combination there of.
While the base rules are easy to pick up, the game has 295 unique cards that give endless variation and depth to the game. In particular, a set of three cards, a You, With, and But, is used to randomly generate each human character. So one such character might be You are the Store Clerk, With Visions, But won’t carry anything. Another may be You are the Nurse, With a sweet ass, But you’ve got a stupid kid.
Likewise, the zombies have their themes created by a They, That, and Hunger, making things like They are Zombie Midgets, That scream, and Hunger for control possible or They are Zombie Ninjas, That know kung-fu, and Hunger for destruction.
There are 900 possible combinations for characters, and another 900 for zombie themes.
Every game, each team has a random setup of strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. But those are only sixty cards. The rest of the cards are items, random events that get triggered as the humans explore the town, and plot changing H-cards that (for the humans) can reveal empowering back-stories or favorable settings. The zombies aren’t left out because they have Z-cards that can cause weapons to run out at the worst moment, graphic wounds, or summon terrible zombie bosses.
PHZ is newbie friendly. The game starts low key, just like a good movie, giving new players a chance to ‘get the feel.’ After a few turns, the game quickly ramps up, building to climactic battles with dozens of zombies, explosions, and plot twists.
Any item is weapon if you hit hard enough with it. Any non-weapon item in PHZ can be used as improvised weapon, but it has a chance to break. This can lead to some desperate and hilarious moments, with a character wailing on the zombies with a trash can lid, or a box of ammo, or a King James Bible.
The number of players scale from a desperate 1 on 1 to a full 5 on 5 war on undeath. PHZ was designed with big groups in mind, so players can expect a maxed out game to take only marginally more time than a game with a few gamers.