Deadfellas – The Zombie Mobster Card Game

Deadfellas Zombie Mobster Card Game box cover with designersEver since picking up Deadfellas at Comic-Con back in 2012, I have brought the game with me to any sort of gaming or geeky event: Gen Con, Vegas Game Days, Wasteland Weekend, and various SCA Wars. It’s that good and is my backup go-to game for passing 10 or 15 minutes enjoyably. On a flight back from Gen Con I taught the guy next to me to play in under two minutes and soon enough horrible Italian-American accents were trading back and forth as we talked about whacking this mook or that one with cries of “Hey, I Know a Guy” and “Fuhgeddaboutit!Exile Game Studio has a real winner with the Kickstarter-funded Dead Fellas and at only $19.99 MSRP, it’s a pretty good value. For its solid game play, fast pace, simple mechanics, and cool style I give it a 9 out of 10 on BoardGameGeek.com .

Ease of Play

Cheerleader Uniform card art from Exile Game Studio's Deadfellas Zombie Mobster Card Game

Cheerleader Uniform: +2 to a Mook’s Strength

When game artist Brian Snoddy explained the game to me on video at Comic-Con 2012 in about three minutes, he really covered 95% of the game. You get three random undead mobsters called Mooks. Each has a point value represented by a bullet icon, ranging from one to three. Collect 10 points of Mooks by whacking them and you win. In order to whack your opponent’s Mook, you need to equip one of your own with a blue Vehicle card, a red Weapon card, and a yellow Disguise card. Each of these pieces of equipment has its own strength (from 1-3) at the top. Add those together with your Mook’s strength and if you equal or exceed your target’s strength you win, successfully Whacking him. As a small price, you have to Ditch a piece of evidence, one of the three Equipment cards.


Gameplay comes down to Mook and Equipment management. At the beginning of every turn you draw a card from the Equipment deck, which also contains Special cards. You can play as many of your cards as you are able to and then you need to decide whether you 1.) draw another Equipment card 2.) do a Whack action on an opponent or 3.) recruit a new Mook. Special cards like Fuhgeddaboutit! allow a player to cancel a Whack action or another Special card, like an opponent’s Boost card, which could potentially allow the opponent to steal a piece of your Equipment. Another Special card called Dying Wish allows a player to keep his Mook’s Equipment cards if his Mook gets whacked

With three or four players, the game gets even better with more targets to whack. Just make sure to play up the bravado, add a little antagonism, and a lot of accents, and you’ll be in for a good time. I strongly suggest narrating every Whack and attempted Whack, to create an atmosphere of vendetta after vendetta. Let ’em know that “Big Dump don’t like seeing Joey “Coco Pops” Cotroni in his Boosted Monster Truck, so Big Dump’s gonna Whack ‘im wit’ da Rolling Pin…”

Dead Fella’s Theme: Zombies, Mafia, and… Tutus

Tiny Bug-Eyed Zombie Bug Eyes from Deadfellas Card GameI’m an unlikely advocate for Dead Fellas because apparently unlike the majority of Western males, I’m not a fan of the mafia or Tony Soprano. You could say that I’m Team Elliot Ness even. I’m also not particularly fond of zombies, but Brian Snoddy blends the two themes humorously well in his art for the Mook cards. My favorite Mook has to be the diminutive Bobby “Bug Eyes” Deluca who barely clears three feet on the lineup chart which serves as each Mook’s background. Most of Deluca’s criminal peers have eyes falling out or missing, cuts, gashes, and the occasional squid or mutation. Because Dead Fellas is such a good game, I can say without any reservations that both organized crime fans and zombie fans will get a kick out of this game, though what they’ll make of the other half of the game’s theme is beyond me.

Card art illustration of Sock Monkey for Deadfellas Zombie Mobster Card Game

The Humble Sock Monkey

What I enjoy the most about Deadfellas’ theme though is the absurdity of the Equipment cards. I still get a chuckle when I announce that Pauly “Bed Head” Bonasera disguised in his Tutu and riding his Unicycle is going to whack “Bug Eyes” with the Egg Beater. I have even foregone a more powerful piece of Equipment just for the delight of using the less powerful Biplane, Maid Uniform Disguise, or Sock Monkey. Again, without any narration, the humorous imagery of these cards is lost.

Deadfellas’ Few Choices Are Another Hit

Deadfellas also goes to show just how powerful using only a few gameplay mechanics can be when combined with quality artwork and a fun theme. While Deadfellas can play with anyone young or old, the tactical choices in it are so limited that it’s a good game for gauging how strong a grasp other players’ have of the game itself and board gaming in general with the following in particular standing out:

1. Equipment Dispersal and Disposal
The first choice any player will have in Deadfellas is which of their Mooks to Equip. There is the temptation to possibly bolster weaker Mooks with Equipment to make them less susceptible to weak Whack attempts, but it’s hard to argue with stacking 3-Bullet Weapons, Vehicles, and Disguises on your most powerful Mook to try to get as close to 12 as possible. This doesn’t reveal much about the player, but what they choose to Ditch does.

A player can have a Disguise in his hand already and choose to Ditch the existing Disguise from the Mook who just capped someone. If that Mook survives the round, it’s a simple matter of equipping the new Disguise from hand and repeating the beatdown. This is an effective tactic, but one which I have seen a number of opponents neglect.

The Special card Fugazzi poses its own choices, both in how to pronounce it (Brian Snoddy insists that it’s Foo-gay-zee, while many English speakers go for Foo-gah-zee) and how to best utilize it. The card takes the place of a piece of Equipment, but is a fake, having zero strength. After successfully Whacking an opponent’s Mook do you ditch the zero-strength Fugazzi because it adds no strength to resist opponents’ Mooks or do you ditch something more powerful because the Fugazzi is versatile and allows you to possibly meet the three-Equipment variety condition for a Whack action more readily?

Zombie Mobster Hugo The Hat Nitti playing card missing brain

No Brainer: “The Hat”

2. Target Selection and Elimination – One of the few other choices in the game is which Mooks to target. Most of the time, this is a no brainer (which is fortunate for Mooks like Hugo “The Hat” Nitti): always try to get as many points from each Whack as you can. The exception is targeting a weaker Mook who has Equipment cards on him just to kill him preemptively and waste your opponent’s Equipment cards.

3. End of Turn While there’s nothing tactical about ending a turn, it’s another good clue to just how attuned a player is to the game’s rules. As soon as your opponent’s drawn a second Equipment card or a new Mook or performed a Whack action, he or she’s done. That’s it. Because of this the game’s designers were being quite generous when they list game length at 30 minutes. Cut throat zombie mafiosa can get it down to 10-20 minutes easy.

All card images are copyright Exile Game Studios and used without permission for review purposes.

Big Angry Monsters From LVCE 2013 to Kickstarter NOW

Board game prototype of Big Angry Monsters with creator Anthony Carillo at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Carillo with a Prototype of Big Angry Monsters at LVCE

One of the unique opportunities the 2013 Las Vegas Comic Expo afforded its attendees was the opportunity to play a brand new board game, long before the public will get a chance to play it. Las Vegas resident Anthony Carillo brought Big Angry Monsters to the Expo on Saturday and has now brought the game to Kickstarter. Big Angry Monsters will be familiar to any kaiju fans: rival monsters rampage through a city, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. It’s been done before by Privateer Press’s Monsterpocalypse and this new game’s Big Angry Monsters sure have the look and feel of IELLO’s King of Tokyo characters, but Carillo has managed to combine other gaming mechanics and crisp character designs from Jared Moratis of BeastPop Artworks into one cohesive package. The game is fast, furious, tactical, and fun.

Carillo is seeking to raise $20,000 on Kickstarter to fund the game’s manufacturing from Panda Game Manufacturing in China with a deadline of December 16. For $50.00, US backers get a copy of the standard edition of Big Angry Monsters, plus a Kickstarter exclusive monster, the Pollo Mutado, as well as all stretch goals. Several top-tier pledges allow for the creation of new Monsters designed by backers with $1000 to design an exclusive monster and $1500 for a monster that will ship with every copy of the game.

The Big Angry Rules of Big Angry Monsters

Giant purple Ape monster named Dave with handlebar mustache for Big Angry Monsters

Big Angry Monster Dave the Ape, A Former Smog Technician

As for the rules of the game, at its core, Big Angry Monsters is a game of grid-based combat using six or seven dice to resolve movement, attacks, and defense for the cardboard monster standees. The various kaiju battle in a randomized island city and can only regain health by destroying the surrounding environment. Unlike King of Tokyo, the dice in Big Angry Monsters do not allow a monster to heal, but do allow for a drain energy attack on your opponents’ monsters. And also unlike King of Tokyo, there is only one path to victory: a player wins by knocking out all of the opponents’ monsters.

Along the way though monsters gain experience and can actually level up, which unlocks special Super Moves attacks like Suplexes and Throws. With a Suplex, gained at Level 2, your monster can lift up an opponent’s monster and smash it down onto a neighboring building for additional damage. Attaining Level 3 opens up the option of Throwing a rival monster up to 2 squares away. Additionally when a monster maxes out its level, the player then gets an additional d6 to roll.

The Rulebook Prototype and Art Direction

Monster artwork of mutated chicken with sharp razor talon hands and large tail called Pollo Mutado for KickstarterWhile the rulebook prototype brought to Las Vegas Comic Expo back in late September had a number of typos, it provided a short selection of solid rules. Carillo turned to Erik Pepper to co-author the game’s introduction and Pepper and Carillo have knocked the ball out of the park. The introduction is light, humorous, and will get any players quickly into the spirit of the game. As for the game’s artwork, while the base monsters were designed by Jared Moratis, Anthony Carillo has turned to another monster creator, Squeedgemonster, to fill in the remainder of the game’s artwork including Power Cards and Location Tiles, as well as the Pollo Mutado Kickstarter Exclusive.

All Big Angry Monsters artwork copyright Anthony Carillo and used with permission.