Grave Business is a game by Andy Van Zandt, published by Minion Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be controlling an undead horde of zombies, which they will use to dig up graves hoping to find valuable treasures. They will also be collecting body parts to make more zombies to dig up more graves. The player who amasses the most wealth, will be declared the winner.
To start, each player will receive a player board depicting a particular necromancer. They will also receive the colored Corpse pieces that match their chosen color. The pieces will be separated by name and shuffled into a face down pile. These pieces are then placed on their player board by matching the names to the pieces. Players then receive the zombie tokens that match their player color. The player starts with the 3 zombie tokens that match the names that were just placed on the player board. The rest are placed on the necromancer space and will be used later as the zombies are built. All the Corpse pieces and treasure tiles are shuffled together and placed in a face down pile next to the board. Play can now begin.
The game takes place over 6 rounds. These rounds are divided into 4 steps. Those steps are reset the graveyard, place zombies, resolve actions and manage zombies. The first step is to reset the graveyard. This is done by distributing 16 tiles from the face down pile of Corpse pieces and treasure tiles face up onto the squares on the board. This is done randomly. These tiles will be what the zombies will be doing their best to acquire for each player.
The next step is to place zombies. This is done by placing one of your zombie tokens brain side down onto one of the action spaces on the board, the mausoleum, the start player marker or on the player board. There are lots of different action spaces to choose from. Some spaces will let you steal a piece from one of the other players while others will let you dig on a row or specific space. Using the mausoleum will let a player attack another player. To attack, a player places one of their zombies brain side up onto the mausoleum and then chooses a zombie to attack. That zombie then gets turned brain side up. The defender gets to turn over a tile from the pile that corresponds to that particular zombie. The total of the number shown on all pieces is the total damage that the zombie takes. The zombie is then placed in the “removed defender” space on the mausoleum. Some tiles are “zombie fights back” tiles. The attacker now flips his top tile over. Unless it’s a “zombie fights back” tile, the fight is over. If it is, the fight continues until a normal piece is flipped. Some times an equipment piece will be flipped. If so, simply follow the instructions on the piece and then discard it. Once all zombies have been placed, you will move to the next step.
The third step is to resolve zombie actions. At this point all placed zombies are flipped brain side up. Now all the actions are resolved in the following order: first steal, then dig, then start player. The steal space allows a player to take a random tile from another players vault or lab. The player that is stealing chooses a player who flips over all their tiles in those two areas. The thieving player now takes one of those tiles and places it in their vault. The next action is to dig. Digging is done by comparing the brain power of a zombie that is digging on that particular row to another zombies who’s row intersects at the same space. If a player has placed a zombie on a particular space, it gains an extra brain power for just that space. The player with the most brain power wins the tile. If there is a tie, you use the bones on the tile. If there’s still a tie, the start player wins the tile. Corpse pieces that are won are placed in the player’s lab and treasure tiles go into the vault. Finally, the start player action is resolved, if there is a zombie on that space. Otherwise, play shifts to the player on the left. All zombies are then retrieved from the board at this time.
The final step is to manage zombies. During this step, players will assess the damage to their zombies, build new zombies and equip items as they prepare for the next round. When assessing damage, any zombie that has taken damage equal to or greater than half the number on the zombie’s space has been destroyed. The zombie pieces are removed from the game and the zombie is returned to the necromancer space on the player board. To build a new zombie, you take corpse pieces whose combined numbers are equal to or greater than the number on the headstone. The pieces are shuffled and placed face down. The player then takes the zombie token of the same name and may use that zombie on the next round. To equip items, you take one of the equipment pieces from your vault and place it face down onto the pile of corpse pieces for a particular zombie on your player board. This will keep your zombie from taking any damage if it is attacked but will not count towards victory points at the end of the game. When all players have finished this step, play starts back over at the reset graveyard step. If there aren’t enough pieces to fill all 16 tiles in the graveyard, or all 3 pieces of the Master have been acquired, the game is over.
The winner is determined in one of two different ways. The player that collects all 3 pieces of the Master is the winner. If all the pieces haven’t been collected, then the winner is the player with the most points. Points are determined by adding up the numbers on any unused corpse pieces and any treasure pieces acquired. If there is a tie, it is broken by combining the headstone values of any active zombies on a players board and comparing them.
There are lots of pieces to this game. The player boards, mausoleum and all the tokens and treasure pieces are all made of thick cardboard. They are very sturdy and look really nice. There is a rather humorous feel to the characters and the zombies. While you’re dealing with a really gruesome theme, reanimating corpses and grave robbing, the art work conveys a lighter mood. I really love the art on everything here. The board looks really nice as well and conveys the theme very nicely too. There are no dice, cubes or meeple to keep up with in this one. Even so, there’s enough to keep you busy and entertained.
9 out of 10
The rules are very simple to read and easy to understand. They are very straight forward and don’t take a long time to read. There are plenty of pictures and lots of examples of gameplay to help out. There are special 2 player rules and a variant rule for less luck and more strategy. There’s even a outline of the steps in a round on the back cover for quick reference. I don’t foresee there being any problems playing the game after reading these rules.
9 out of 10
The game is not all that difficult but it’s a lot of fun. It’s kind of a combination of a worker placement and a bidding game. As I’ve stated before, I love worker placement games. That made this game work really well for me. The theme isn’t dark like you would think for this type of game. The artwork helps to keep everything feeling really light and humorous. Everything plays really smoothly and nothing feels broken. I really like building the zombies to make more. Early in the game this can be really dangerous to the other player. What it comes down to is that you have to watch what the other player is doing and not let them get too far ahead of you in either treasure or body pieces. You have to be really balanced and the game rewards you for doing that. It’s really easy and lots of fun to play.
9 out of 10
Grave Business is a light game of zombie making fun. I really enjoy the art and design of this game. Worker placement fans will really enjoy this one. My son enjoys building the zombies almost as much as I do. This game is lots of fun. It doesn’t take that long to play either, around 40-45 minutes. There’s lots of fun to be had playing around in the graveyard. Who knew? I highly recommend this game and will definitely be playing it a lot more. I’m definitely finding a lot of joy in games that are less than an hour long. This one definitely fits the bill and fills my love for all things zombie. Give it a try and dig up some fun.
9 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Minion Games at their site.