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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Friday Free Game: Dead of Night

Dead of Night is an isometric tactical game about surviving an onslaught of flesh-eating zombies. It's just you, your high-powered sniper rifle, and a few buddies against the never-ending tide of undead bent on devouring your brains.

The board is a simple rectangle. You begin the game with two special characters that you must protect: a medic, who will heal your men each day if he is alive, and a scientist, who will increase your damage while he's around. When the night comes, the zombies rise from the ground in a great swarm, slowly advancing towards your avatar. You can use your sniper rifle that can pick off zombies anywhere on the board, but it reloads very slowly and its damage is often not enough to take out an enemy in a single shot, so this can become a frustrating part of the game as you watch the zombies shamble inexorably through and around your defenses.

Of course, you can upgrade your reload speed and damage on your sniper rifle, but you can only stay ahead of the brutal damage curve for so long. Placement of barricades follow strange rules, so don't assume you can just hide. The land mines are cool but ultimately pretty useless. Lose either your medic or your scientist and you're on an express train to painsville, because you're pretty much out of luck trying to fight off the zombies in the later stages without them.

I only made it so far as the fifth night (10.03 minutes); five gunmen fighting in loose formation out in front seemed to work pretty well, but then they somehow managed to just avoid my defenses and swarm my sniper.

This isn't a very fast-moving game, but this just makes it more cerebral than twitchy. The slow gameplay manages to build tension instead of creating frustration. Ultimately, the game is a a turn-based resource-management game masquerading as a real-time action/tactical game, as the primary challenge is maximizing overall damage over time, balancing your expenditures between rifle upgrades, extra gunmen and strategically-placed barriers. But the design manages to achieve a nice balance between the two styles of play. Perfect for a half-hour free game fix. Play Dead of Night.

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