Dawn of the Dead Boardgame by SPI, a classic game of Zombie Mayhem


Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

SPI Publications is/was one of my favorite game publishers from the grand old earlier era.  You might be thinking “well, DUH, they put out some of the best wargames known to man in a fifteen year period, and you make no secret of your love of wargames, so…”  To be honest, the wargames were fun, but really, not every one of them was great.  Some titles were perfunctory and kind of slipshod.  Some were downright dogs.  I was more of an Avalon Hill fan for historical titles.  However, in one area, SPI was a contender with almost any other publisher for a while, and that’s goofy titles.   You know what I mean.  The games where you wonder.. who approved this oneThe Creature that ate Sheboygan, John Carter, Warlord of Mars.  The Wreck of the B.S.M. Pandora. Barbarian Kings.  Albion, Land of Faerie.  The Sword and the Stars.  Citadel of Blood. The Return of the Stainless Steel Rat. Demons.  Delta Vee.  HMS PandoraARES Magazine.  Attack of the Hive.  Cool little folio games (and boxed games too!) that weren’t serious and had tons of entertainment value, if not the greatest production values.

Dawn Box
Dawn Box and Back Blurb

One of the greatest of the mid-range, flat boxed “goofy” games was DAWN OF THE DEAD, published on the heels of the successful George Romero movie of the same name in 1978.   DAWN didn’t pull any punches and it sure wasn’t subtle.  It recreated the movie’s central conflict in boardgame format and it did a superb job of it.  The game was published in what I call SPI’s “half sized” bookcase box, with a folding map, one counter sheet depicting a horde of zombies and a handful of survivors (Peter, Roger, Steve and Fran), plus a few status markers (berserk, destroyed, super-zombies).  The game’s central theme was to recreate the “clearing” of the Shopping Mall that the central characters of the movie have to go through in order to have a safe place to hole up from the zombie menace.  It’s a great game.  Not a perfect game by a long shot and almost dated by today’s standards of game design, but it delivered on my investment handily.  We had been doing something VERY similar to Dawn of the Dead (the boardgame) using SPI’s old SNIPER game (another game that makes me scratch my head now and wonder why I loved it, but I did, so there).  We would turn the “dummy” counters into Nazi Zombies and have rules for zombie generation on the old SNIPER town map.

Sniper Map
That Crazy, slant-angled SNIPER! map from the late 70s.

When DAWN OF THE DEAD (the game) came out, we were pretty excited to play it, though oddly enough, not AS enamored with it as we were with our own home rule version of Zombie-SNIPER.  So it goes.  It played well, and it holds a niche in my heart with Time Tripper, John Carter and Swords and Sorcery for being a great SPI Fantasy game. (This game and many others were sadly lost over the years).   For years, there was a sort of “look the other way” downloadable version on the internet.. somewhere.. and I never took advantage of it.  Dunno why.  I guess you just can’t recapture the same experiences of your youth.

Now, I’ve discovered (from Boardgamegeek, naturally) a link to a new, redone version of the game that brings a modern graphics treatment to the old mapboard and counters.   This looks intriguing.

Redone boardgame sporting new graphics

A Website named WITCHMASTER CREATIONS has put up a re-envisioned boardgame up on the web for download.. that’s new graphics for the shopping mall, new zombie counters, new player counters, everything. And they are using some of TWILIGHT CREATIONS graphics, with permissions. Given that I have a ton of their zombies laying around and my love of the Zombie genre in general, I might have to give this a try, say, with 15mm zombie fighters. We’ll see! I’m a little caught up in the gaming nostalgia, lately, what with re-imagining my old BATTLESUIT game in 15mm SF miniatures. It might be fun to recreate this experience one more time.

DAWN OF THE DEAD at Witchmaster Creations. Check it out!

Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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