Temp Worker Assassins

When I was trying to expand my collection and on the lookout for unusual games Temp Worker Assassins caught my eye. I was attracted by the art work and the premise. You are a temp working at Bureaucrat Castle and you must use items from the stationery cupboard to bring about the demise of your permanent colleagues. Your weapons range from reasonably blunt pencils to a remarkably heavy calculator. I’m such an English teacher that they had me at these modifiers.
The game is played over a week. (In game time – not in real life. It’s not an insane version of Risk!). Each day has a power up which you may choose to claim using one of your four assassins. You start out with a basic hand of stationery weapons which you must strengthen over the 5 rounds. Permanent staff carry varying scores and some stack up so for instance, a set of Zombies will earn extra points if you also kill the Water Cooler Elemental. 
During the hot-desking phase of the game you must place your assassins. You can choose to attempt an assassination; strengthen your deck for this round or future rounds; move another assassin or temporarily power up your attack strength. However, there are a limited number of opportunities to claim these actions. For instance there is only one card which allows you to move someone else’s assassin so once someone claims that, you may have to rethink your plans. In addition to this, you must balance out low value easy kills with building your deck to enable you to take on higher value targets. All before the office closes on Friday. Even before I was swept away on a wave of strategy I was already sold on the fact that they had called this the ‘hot desking phase’. Every word, every turn of phrase is considered and deliberate. For the time I am playing I am immersed in a world of bulletins, audits, compliance and compact disc shurikens. 
One of the things I enjoy about events is wandering round listening to conversations. Snatches of ‘punch it in the face’, ‘Tokyo’s infected – we need to deal with that next’ or ‘My rabbit didn’t poo in the living room…’ Temp Worker Assassins leads to some lovely conversations that must leave casual visitors to the pub wondering. ‘I’m going to use the evil pencil sharpener to add plus one to these three fairly sharp pencils…’ 
This aspect of planning and decision making appeals to me. I like being able to vary my strategy and try different ideas in different games and I enjoy the challenge of adapting within a game; as the cards you turn over for your potential victims vary so too must your strategy.  The five day (round) structure limits the time, so sometimes by Wednesday when your opponent has killed all the typing pool zombies you have to rethink your plans entirely. To think the survival of the Legal Aid Fairy is so fragile that her fate depends on a load of braindead zombies. Oh well, as in art so too in real life.
As well as the flavour text, it was the art that first drew me to the game and for me sets it apart. Each character is detailed and humorously presented; the stationery is horrifying. Even the lack of artwork is genius – the Internal Audit Ninja card features no picture, just the words ‘No image on file. (Also, cameraman missing). The reverse of the cards has artwork which is similar but distinct enough to distinguish the varying card types. 
In Brief
Plays 2-4
Time 45-60 minutes
Age 14+
By David Newton 
Art by Adam Bolton
To win: build your deck strength and kill the highest total value of workers.
Best Bits
Beautifully illustrated with killer stationery and dislikeable victims. 
After a week immersed in your killer role as a temp at Bureaucrat Castle you will never look at a stationery cupboard the same again. 
Come along to a Cards or Die event and play.
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Zombies!!! The Game.

If you’ve perused my games menu, you may have noticed that I have a penchant for Zombie games! From a young age (probably too young) I enjoyed watching all sorts of horror films. With the exception of a few well made favourites like The Exorcist, The Shining and Don’t Look Back, I have favoured trash or ridiculous storylines which zombie films have in abundance. I enjoyed Black Sheep (a film about zombie sheep in New Zealand – a twist on the 5 people get stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere trope), Dead Snow (nazi zombies who meet a sticky end, also involving a cabin – this time in the wilds of Norway) and of course, Shaun of the Dead.
Shaun of the Dead is one of my favourite films. It’s more than just a pun, it’s a brilliantly funny film. It was also, among other things, a reference to this in my online dating profile that encouraged my partner to contact me. So it has a very special place in my heart.
And Zombie films are not just important in my life, they have persisted in our culture for years. Since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968 the zombie trope has been ever present. It’s curious because as the easy satire of Shaun of the Dead highlights, the stories are similar, the characters fall into predictable roles with predictable behaviours and yet it is still a popular (if niche) genre. The films have often been used as a comment on consumerism and modern life; I wonder whether that is part of their timeless appeal. The comments Romero was making back then are still just as relevant today. Consumerism, the ethics of it and its role in our lives still preoccupies many people.
Zombies themselves have a special appeal. Shaun of the Dead even ends with people keeping zombies as companions – like a dog but a bit bite-ier! Their slow movements and blank faces make us feel we can definitely triumph in a battle against them. Perhaps the promise of a victory which would save humanity, alongside the glory which would accompany it, appeals to our heroic (while slightly cowardly) side.
And when (not if!) the zombie apocalypse comes will you be ready for it? I have had many discussions about plans for the zombie apocalypse and where would be a suitable place to fight them from. I knew someone who said she wouldn’t go out with anyone if they didn’t have a zombie apocalypse plan. When you’re down the Winchester, having a pint and waiting for it all to blow over, you just need to hope Cards or Die are there with what is becoming an extensive selection of zombie games to help you come up with some strategies!
When I saw Zombies by Todd Breitenstein for just £2.99 in a charity shop I wondered straightaway if it was a bargain or a dud. I’d never heard of it and it was still shrink wrapped. Inside the box there were 100 tiny, plastic zombies and that was ultimately what swung it for me! I mean you can never have too many tiny plastic zombies and until now I didn’t have any. It was packaged like a video which had confused both the person labelling the game and the lady on the till and was boldly labelled ‘This one’s a no-brainer’ so I brought it home with me.
In Zombies you win by being the first to either defeat 25 zombies or reach the helipad and escape. The mechanism for adding zombies is very easy: for named buildings it is written on the card and for other cards you just place the same number of zombies as there are roads. You move by rolling a die, pausing to battle zombies by rolling a die, then you move the zombies by… you guessed it… rolling a die. Every turn you place a tile making sure all roads join other roads, if you place enough dead ends then you can not escape and must continue until one of you has defeated 25 zombies.
At this point, I felt that it was going to be a glorified roll and move game, entirely down to chance. Actually, there is more to it. And I don’t mean the teeny weeny zombies although I’ll be honest, they have swayed me.
There are other elements too – bullets which can be used to boost your die score, 3 hearts which represent your lives and are used to continue fighting a zombie. More of both of these can be collected as you move around the board, placing you in a stronger position to fight. You can move zombies at the end of your turn – this is again dependent on a die roll. At this point you can move zombies towards you or towards your opponent.
There is an element of push your luck here too. If you choose to fight while you are low on life and bullets you can find yourself back at the start. You respawn with 3 bullets and 3 lives but you lose half the zombies you defeated. And to add insult to injury you round up! So if for instance someone (it could be anyone) had 15 zombies, 1 life and 1 bullet and she thought ‘Ha! I’m invincible- I laugh in the face of death’ then died, she would lose 8 hard earned zombies which seems distinctly unfair. Especially as the dice that come with it are rubbish and only roll 1s.
There are also event cards. You start with three and can play them at any point in the game – using them to bolster your plans or scupper your opponent’s. The ability to discard unwanted cards at the end of your turn means you can get rid of cards that don’t fit with your strategy. I say strategy, it’s more Go For Broke than Go! But there is enough strategy to maintain interest and the cards add to the fun. For instance ‘we’re screwed’ or more accurately ‘You’re screwed, I’m winning now!’
We really enjoyed it and while we were playing the bar man came over and said they have it at home and often play. It turns out loads of people have it and enjoy it. It was just a well kept secret… until now….
Throughout the game you must weigh up whether you are strong enough to battle or whether you should try to avoid the zombies and make for the helipad, collecting hearts and bullets as you go. Sacrifice the right event cards to collect more useful ones and you might just make it, or at the very least put up a good fight. And when it’s all over you can still enjoy a pint and a toastie down the Winchester, hopefully none the worse for your adventures.