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.

Badasses and Deadfellas: Ben Thompson and Brian Snoddy at Comic-Con 2012

Book cover for Badass by Ben ThompsonAt Comic-Con I encountered Badass author Ben Thompson at the Maerkle Press booth. The first volume, simply titled Badass, details 40 badasses ranging from the infamous Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard to the relatively obscure Peter Francisco and Agustina of Aragon. Peter Francisco was a Revolutionary War hero touted by George Washington as “truly a one-man army”. Or as author Thompson describes Francisco, an American who “quickly decided that he would dedicate all of his energy to punching British people in the dick and pulling out their vas deferens.” This is Thompson’s style throughout Badass as he describes various foes of the 40 badasses getting pwned left and right. Female badasses are represented as well. Agustina of Aragon, the Maid of Saragossa was a Spanish heroine of the Napoleonic Peninsular War named Agustina Zaragoza Domènech who lived in Saragossa. When her fellow Spaniards fled their positions “shrieking like grade-school girls just because a couple of French dudes were waving knives in their faces”, she took over their abandoned canon and fired grapeshot into the invaders from point-blank reducing “the bloodthirsty, stab-happy French troops” to a “smoking crater of dead-ass bitches.” Thompson also presents Soviet WWII pilot Irina Sebrova and female pirate Anne Bonny as badasses.

Author Ben Thompson at Comic-Con holding up his book Badass

Badass Author Ben Thompson

When I picked up Badass and the second volume Badass: The Birth of a Legend, I was attracted by the premise of the books as a collection of great warriors, as well as by the black and white illustrations accompanying each badass, in particular Matt Haley’s evocative work. Thompson’s in-your-face hypermodern style has been a pleasant surprise, but it has also left me picking through his prose to figure out what the real story was. While the original Badass focuses on the historical, Badass: The Birth of a Legend provides portraits of 40 gods, mythological heroes, and fictional characters ranging from Thor, Anubis, and Saint Michael the Archangel to Captain James T. Kirk, Darth Vader, Sauron, and Skeletor. A third volume in the Badass series is in the works and Ben Thompson provides a badass of the week at his site badassoftheweek.

While Thompson’s Badass series are in no way gaming products, they’re helpful compendiums to GMs who like to populate their worlds with badass villains for the PCs to fight or even for PCs to take inspiration from on that new character concept. The AD&D 2nd Edition handbook referenced historical, literary, and mythological badasses in each classes’ description, drawing upon Charlegmagne and Roland just as much as Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and Gandalf and Strider, if I recall correctly. These examples spurred me to try the Lord of the Rings saga, as well as Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar books, and to dig deeper into actual medieval history to learn more about D&D. With the Badass series Thompson has taken care of some of the drudgery of picking your way through history or literature to find the moments of true epicness that we all want to emulate in our own characters’ adventures. As it stands, Thompson could improve Badass though by tossing in a little Drizzt Do’Urden. Love him or hate him, R.A. Salvatore’s drow hero is inarguably one of the greatest badasses in the history of fiction. Thompson is no stranger to D&D and references the game in the chapter on the Greek hero Diomedes, likening Diomedes’ attack on the God of War himself, Ares, in the Iliad to “playing a game of D&D, deciding to have your character attack the Dungeon Master, and winning.”

Deadfellas

Zombie Mafia Mooks on cover of Deadfellas box artAlso in the Maerkle Press booth promoting Badass was one of its illustrators, Brian Snoddy. He is inexplicably absent from the credits in the original Badass, but illustrated Voytek the Soldier Bear who carried ammo for the Poles in WWII. In Badass: The Birth of a Legend he has many more illustrations including Moby Dick and a chupacabra. With him Snoddy had Deadfellas the Zombie Monster Card Game, which he designed along with Jesper Myrfors and James Ernest. Available since April from Exile Game Studio, the game contains 110 playing cards featuring undead Mafia mooks with the object of the game being to whack your opponent’s mooks before he can whack yours. Deadfellas is designed for two to six players and features Snoddy’s artwork on all of the zombie mobster cards.

Brian Snoddy explains Deadfellas’ mechanics and a little of his involvement in Badass in the video we recorded on July 15: