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Tabletop Tuesday (on Wednesday) – Grave Business

In ages long past, The Master taught you the dark secrets of undeath. You could no longer perish, and as long as you had fresh body parts available, neither could your servants. But now The Master has fallen and his body parts have been scattered to prevent his resurrection.

In these dire times, one has to look after his own. You are a necromancer with the need for more treasure and more body parts to build zombies to get more treasure. Unfortunately for you, your necromancer brethren have the same idea! Who will emerge as the most successful necromancer? Will The Master rise again? We shall soon see!

Grave Business combines a fun theme of body part collection with strong action-selection and majority-control mechanics. The result is a well-themed and fun game of zombie goodness. It offers a unique combination of action and majority-control mechanics that result in quite a few important decision points. The most important, of course, is what to do with your zombies as the object of Grave Business is to gather the most valuable loot and body parts from the graveyard.

To start, you’re digging up body parts and using them to construct new zombies (or earn points for you less-aspiring necromancers out there). That macabre theme comes across well in the eye-catching artwork and the gameplay and the graphical touches here and there do a fine job of making the game even more straightforward. All possible actions are portrayed in shimmering runic script, while a few of the more specific rules are depicted as reminders along the board. However, we did experience some issues with the rules that we occasionally found hard to follow.

Gameplay setup is quick as easy as well. Each player is given 10 body parts, which together comprise 3 zombies. Each zombie is placed in a shuffled, face-down stack; body parts will later be drawn from those piles. The corpse piece and treasure tiles are shuffled together and 1 tile is placed face-up on each space in the graveyard board. On his turn a player may take one action for each of his zombies. He designates an action by placing the zombie face-down on an action space (face-down so that you won’t know the zombie’s majority control power or how well it can defend itself). The zombie won’t be revealed until the end of the round or until it’s attacked.

On his turn a player may take one of four actions (dig, steal, grab, or attack – described below) for each of his zombies. He designates an action by placing the zombie face-down on an action space (face-down so that you won’t know the zombie’s majority control power or how well it can defend itself). The zombie won’t be revealed until the end of the round or until it’s attacked.

  1. Digging lets a zombie dig a row, column, or individual space of the 4×4 graveyard in order to collect treasures and body parts. He’ll be contending with other zombies for the individual spaces in the graveyard at the end of the round.
  2. Stealing lets a zombie steal from the vault (where treasure is contained) or lab (where body parts are contained) of another player.
  3. Grabbing lets a zombie’s owner become the first player for the next round.
  4. Attacking lets a zombie try and remove another zombie from his action space. It happens immediately, unlike the other actions. Combat is fought by turning over a body part from the stack of tiles that makes up the defender. If it does damage, the defender loses and is removed from his action space; else he gets a counter-attack. If a zombie has lost half of his strength, he falls apart (and is removed).

The game ends when the graveyard can’t be filled. If one player has managed to gather the three “Remnants of the Master” tiles, he wins the game. If not, the player with the highest value of treasures in his vault and unused body parts in his lab wins.

TombstoneThe quality of game component’s in Grave Business is top-notch and the artwork is whimsical, but evocative. Each individual player board is of a different zombie background (Egyptian pharaohs, zombie cheerleaders and linebackers, etc.). As with most games, Grave Business is entertaining the more players you have with more strategy and tact involved than if you only had two players. Overall, the game is a fun delve into the macabre world of amateur necromancy though be sure to have the rules close at hand because they can be a bit muddled at times.

I give the game a horrifying 4 reanimated corpses out of 5.

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