There are certain things that can make almost anything better. Most foods are better with salt. Most action movies are better with slow-mo. And most games are better with zombies, even when the game is as simple as chess. It’s that last idea that forms the basis of Lurch! The Zombie Chess Game, from Creative Mountain Games.
Lurch! comes as a twenty-one page PDF with everything you need to play. Ideally, you’ll already have the 8x8 chessboard, and ideally some zombie miniatures or other counters that you can designate, but if you don’t the game takes care of that (see below). There isn’t really a need for bookmarks here, but they would have been nice.
Visually, the book has a simple feel to it that complements its game design – chess, of any stripe, is not a game that demands an ostentatious presentation. There are a few black and white pictures of zombies presented throughout the book, and one or two even have captions, but nothing that your printer shouldn’t be able to handle. Similarly, there are a number of diagrams that showcase how various moves work, something I was quite grateful for.
As it’s presentd, Lurch! is a fairly simple game – certainly moreso than mainstream chess – as all of the zombies (playing pieces) are identical, and each piece can only undertake one of four possible moves (though you can move up to three pieces per turn). There is a way to make your basic zombie into a clever zombie, which is the equivalent of getting a pawn turned into a queen, but that’s about it…except that it’s not.
If the above sounds simple, then rest assured that it is, but that’s also just the foundation of the game. The beauty of Lurch! is that it’s highly customizable, so much so that the book not only presents three different advanced rules, but also twenty-six “scenarios” each of which are also variant ways to play.
The beauty here is that each way is modular, and while some of them are mutually exclusive, most can be mixed and matched. Hence, what sounds like a very simple game can quickly be made into one with quite a bit of intrigue behind it. I also enjoyed how each scenario is presented alphabetically by name, which leads to some rather amusing titles (“Foosball Zombies”).
Following a brief note on sportsmanship – which seemed rather unnecessary (and can be summarized as “be a good sport”) – there’s an interesting note of making Lurch! a game that’s played in the game world of your role-playing game. I enjoyed that idea a lot, and it’s clear that Creative Mountain Games knows who their audience is likely to be. I particularly enjoy the thought of this becoming the game of choice in a zombie-apocalypse setting (“zombies are just everywhere these days”).
Some quick notes are given on constructing a game board and pieces, which are helpful but not anything that shouldn’t be obvious. Still, it was nice to have it overviewed, as it shows a cognizance that this isn’t quite a game that’s playable out of the proverbial box…unless you have a good printer.
The remaining pages of the PDF virtually everything necessary to construct a Lurch! game. Specifically there’s a board (or, to be more precise, half of one), and a lot of zombie tokens, in white and gray-scale (so as to denote which pieces belong to which player). Nicely, there are tokens for every different type of zombie discussed in the book, as well as a few tokens to mark spaces on the board for those scenarios that call for the board to be altered.
Overall, Lurch! is a very fun game if you’re bored with chess but still a fan of it. Being exceptionally quick and easy to learn, and having many different ways to play, makes this a very entertaining game. Perhaps its one flaw is that it’s limited to precisely two players, no more and no less, but considering its parent game that can’t really be helped. So put aside those dusty old rooks, bishops, and pawns, and sit down to a game of Lurch! Because everything’s better with zombies.
[5 of 5 Stars!]