With Walking Dead winding down and The Zombie Survival Guide now almost twenty years old, it seems like the pop culture era of zombies might finally be heading back to the grave for good. Or at least, for now. But despite the decomposing state of zombie content, there are still new and creative takes on the genre clawing their way up now and again. Bedeville Carnival definitely falls into this category.
What mainly sets these zombies apart is their motivation. Unlike your typical zombies who want to just shuffle around eating or zombifying everyone in sight, these zombies just want to have a nice night at the carnival. Ride a few rides, win some souvenirs, and the worst thing they’re likely to sink their teeth into is some funnel cake. But where do the undead go for late night fun? The Bedeville Carnival, of course! Unfortunately, this long-abandoned creep show of a carnival is still guarded by its owner, Mr. Carl, who is adamantly against his carnival being used as an undead playground. He’s also inexplicably the town gravedigger, so having your hard work undo itself and then cover your property in grave dirt is just adding insult to injury. Needless to say, he wants the zombies gone from his carnival and back in the ground.
Evading Mr. Carl and sending him after your opponents instead is the main focuses of the game. The carnival is a circle of creepy, tarot-sized carnival attraction cards with names like “Eyebowling” and “The Kraken’s Tentacles”. The art on these cards is top-notch, by the way, and looks like something out of a more overtly horrifying Something Wicked This Way Comes. Each turn, players must move their zombie thrill seeker to a new, unoccupied attraction to either their right, left, or directly across the circle from their current location. Visiting an attraction brings the player Joy, the game’s currency, in the form of adorable pink, yellow, and/or blue plastic skulls. Players can use Joy to purchase souvenirs from attractions to earn points toward winning the game.
Every attraction also has a thematically-linked action which the player must perform after their move and which will affect gameplay in some way. It will also create Noise. This is bad because at the end of each player’s turn, they must draw an event token from the token pool. Draw Mr. Carl, and he immediately comes running to the attraction with the most Noise. If you happen to be there, you lose a Joy and are kicked out of the park until your next turn. Mr. Carl also keeps an awful cat around named Fleabag. Drawing the Fleabag token sends him into destructive zooms that destroys souvenirs. And once the souvenirs are all gone, the game is over.
For this edition of KA Plays, I received a physical copy of the game to test and so asked my wife and son to play it with me. Normally playing games with just the two of them can be a bit frustrating as they like to both team up on me. But with an area control game full of “Gotcha!” Mechanics? What’s the worst that can happen?
First things first, we had to choose our zombie figures. My son chose the scholarly zombie, but my wife said that I could pick for her. She got the bearded, burly biker zombie. So far, I was off to a good start!
Already, whispering had begun between my two opponents. Maybe my choice of standee would come back and haunt me later. Seeing the obvious coup unfolding before my eyes, I decided I needed to do as much damage as possible as quickly as possible. I started the round by visiting the “Shark Tank”, a very poorly thought-out dunking booth which let me steal a Joy from the misses. At the end of my turn, I drew Fleabag who bounded on to my wife’s space, destroying a souvenir right off the bat. If the alliance hadn’t been fully cemented before, it was now. The wife retaliated by jumping across the board to Eyebowling which adds extra noise to attractions around it, namely mine. She then drew the “Clink” token, adding another Noise to my space and putting me in real danger of a Mr. Carl visit. My son visited “The Devilish Bull” and then of course drew Mr. Carl who promptly ejected me from the park.
But they haven’t built the carnival barker-turned-gravedigger who can keep me out, and I placed my zombie on The Glutton, a giant hot dog-shaped ride which let me move a juicy 8-point souvenir to my location. The wife jumped back across the circle to Fleabag’s location. Fleabag hates people, and so when you move to his location, you have to chase him away. This prevents you from using that location’s action and causes Fleabag to destroy a souvenir at his new location. Unfortunately, he ended up on my son’s location, destroying a souvenir there. On his turn, the kid was still able to buy a 3-point vampire fang souvenir, though, so the alliance was still intact…for now.
On my turn, I wandered over to the “Tickets to Ride” attraction where I nabbed 2 more yellow Joy markers, bringing my total to 4. At the end of the game, players can score more points for having the most Joy in a particular color and for just having lots of Joy in general, something I was definitely already thinking about. My wife continued Eyebowling, making that whole area of the carnival very noise and very dangerous. Proving that the anti-dad movement was as strong as ever, my son then used the “Great Old One” attraction to move me on to the noisiest attraction. My sigh of relief was audible as he drew Fleabag instead of Mr. Carl from the token pool. This meant, though, that Fleabag went off to destroy another souvenir. Between that nightmare of a cat and our souvenir buying, there were now 2 attractions completely without souvenirs.
My turn again, and it was tense. Only two tokens left, and I’m definitely the noisiest attraction again. I reached into the token pool bag and drew…the “Silence” chip! Lowering my attractions noise means that no matter where the wife goes now, she’ll be the noisiest and the only token left in the bag is Mr. Carl. Knowing this, she decided to punish us by moving to “The Great Old One” to make me and the kid each lose a Joy. Mr. Carl then “escorted” her out of the park. And for some reason, she didn’t show any sympathy when my son drew Fleabag and destroyed the souvenir I had my eye on.
For reasons that elude me even as I write this, the next round saw me with a target on my back. It started with me taking the risk of visiting “The Fortune Teller” and the juicy 8-point souvenir it was holding. In doing so, though, my attraction was now tied for the noisiest. Fortunately I drew the “Pirouette” token which rotated Mr. Carl towards the other, equally noisy attraction instead of mine. My wife decided to reenter the park in the “Eyebowling” attraction directly next to mine. I thought it was because all was forgiven and she just wanted to be near me, but her true motives became known when her attraction added 2 more Noise markers to my attraction. Just in case the message was too subtle, she also drew the “Clink” token and added another noise to my attraction because she’s just a peach. My son visited “Tickets to Ride” and seemed a little too happy about the 8-point souvenir there. Then, practically salivating, he reached into the bag and…did not draw Mr. Carl! Sorry kid, not today.
Success! All of my plans came to fruition and I picked up another 8-point souvenir. I then booked it out of there with my prize and enough Joy to purchase an additional 5-point souvenir on “The Glutton”. And I didn’t get out a moment too soon! I drew Mr. Carl who pounced on my previous location, sending “The Fortune Teller” to the discard pile. Wifey bought some questionable looking donut souvenirs, then drew “Clink” and gave me another Noise marker. I tried to explain to her that would make it more likely Mr. Carl would come after me, but she just fluttered her eyelashes and handed the turn to our son. He bought an 8-point souvenir (because I raised him right) before trying his luck on the “Wheel of Joy”. Disappointingly, it brought him extra Noise markers instead of extra Joy. Being the noisiest attraction meant that he was definitely sweating a bit when he drew his event token. Luckily for him, he came out with a “Silence” token and was able to bring his noise level down out of the red.
The next round was mostly positioning as souvenirs were becoming scarce. Mr. Carl did get sent to the “Eyebowling” attraction, letting us all breathe a sigh of relief. In a rather brilliant move for an 8-year-old, my son used the “Nostalgic Journey” attraction to swap my current attraction with the still-noisy “Wheel of Joy”. With 3 Noise markers, I was now tied for noisiest attraction. That is, until my son drew the “Silence” token and brought the other attraction down to just 2 noise. I’d never been so proud.
Proud as I was, being a dad means being always ready to dish out those valuable life lessons. And there was just such an opportunity waiting at “The Glutton”. I hoofed it over there, used its action to again steal a souvenir from my boy’s location, and then took a moment to pat myself on the back for my brilliantly crafted character-building moment. My wife took that moment to teach a lesson of her own: momma’s always look out for their babies. She used the “Into the Deep” attraction to move 2 Noise markers over to me, then drew Mr. Carl and got me kicked out. Again.
By this point my zombie was really good at slipping through the carnival fence, and this time I resurfaced at “The Kraken’s Tentacles”, swapping the misses with Mr. Carl and away from the souvenir she was about to buy because couple’s share. My wife had no choice but to start trekking across the carnival to try and get to one of the few remaining souvenirs. Regrettably, she drew Mr. Carl who perched on one of the souvenirs. With only 3 three remaining, this was a problem. My son visited the “Mirror of Souls” which allowed him move Fleabag to me and destroy the souvenir I had worked so hard for. Takes after his old man, I guess.
The next 2 rounds were a flurry of activity. Fleabag destroyed 1 of the 2 remaining souvenirs, and Mr. Carl kicked my son out of the park. Unfortunately no one could get to the remaining souvenir before he slipped back in right on top of that last souvenir. This allowed him to buy it at the beginning of his next turn and end the game.
As we tallied up the points, it quickly became obvious that the MSA (Mother/Son Alliance) would win the day again. The misses initially looked like she would be way behind with just 17 points worth of souvenirs. Thanks to all of her excess Joy markers, though, she jumped all the way to 25 points. I managed to cling to second place with 26 points, but the 8-year-old beat me with 32 points. Not surprisingly, they both asked to play again.
by Zane Messina
BEDEVILLE CARNIVAL NOW ON KICKSTARTER!