Thursday, April 5, 2018

Five or So Questions on Good Dog, Bad Zombie

Today I have an interview with Brian Van Slyke on his cooperative board game Good Dog, Bad Zombie, which sounds like a heckin' good time - and is on Kickstarter for a few more days! Check out what Brian has to say about his game below. 

Brian shared some cute dog pictures, and I wanted to note that backer levels at $75 or more help with donations to One Tail at a Time, which is a no-kill all-breed dog rescue in Chicago area. Yay!

Note: There are more images of the game on the Kickstarter page, I just felt some of them didn't read well here, so I used pictures of Lupin (Brian's dog) instead. 

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Lupin’s “Snuggle” ability unleashes an energizing flurry of licking!
A Dog player sheets, with an illustration of a brown dog with a white chest, detailing the dog's stats and abilities.
Tell me a little about Good Dog, Bad Zombie. What excites you about it?

Good Dog, Bad Zombie [GDBZ] is a cooperative board game where players have to bark, lick, and sniff their way through the apocalypse to save the hoomans they love. Think Homeward Bound meets The Walking Dead.

The game has been on-and-off development for three years, and I just love that it drips dogginess. My favorite thing that has ever been said about it (and any game I've ever made, really) comes from a preview from Everything Board Games: "GDBZ is an immersive dog-mind experience. Every single detail is saturated with flavor. It wouldn’t really surprise me if it was designed by an actual dog, or maybe a kindly werewolf. I mean that in a good way."

Really, that's what we wanted - to create a game that was wholesome and also a little terrifying all at once. I love how I'll hear players shout, "I'm going to lick you!" and "I found a hooman!" and "Woof, woof!" totally normally. This game really gets people in the mind of a dog. 


So what do you know about dogs, and what do you know about zombies? How are they applied in GDBZ? 

I know that I love dogs, and I know that dogs love us. Having a dog got me through one of the toughest times of my life. 
Brian & his dog Lupin. Lupin is reddish brown with floppy ears, Brian is bearded and wearing a flannel shirt.

I’d always had dogs growing up, but after I graduated college, my girlfriend (and now wife) was afraid of dogs. She’d never had them growing up. Chalk it up to either annoyance or persistence, but after ten years of me begging for us to go look for a dog at a shelter, she finally she gave in. And after three days of living with us, she and our dog became best friends. In many ways, I became the third wheel in the relationship. But I’m not complaining.

I know it’s a cliche to say that dogs are humanity’s best friend, but I think it’s really true. Dogs understand us on a fundamental level that I’m not even sure we understand ourselves. In many ways, I think a lot of us prefer the company of many dogs than many humans for that reason. And that’s why I wanted to make a game about dogs being amazing. 

In terms of zombies, I’ve always found zombie lore fascinating. I’m a huge scaredy-cat (pun intended), and I can’t deal with horror movies, but I’ve always made an exception for zombie movies and shows. However, one thing that I learned from a friend of mine many years back, is that zombies are often a projection of our fear of an uprising of the working class. He’s a professor that studies culture and has given lectures on zombies (cool job!). And that’s the reason in GDBZ we made the zombies look super professional, wearing business suits and giving off vibes of riches and wealth. We thought it was a fun way to spin the traditional narrative. 

Lupin lying on his back Lupin is reddish brown with floppy ears.

What kind of dogs can players play in GDBZ, and are various dogs different in any way? 

When we first launched Good Dog, Bad Zombie, there were only a few dogs you could play as - Lupin (based off my dog) the boxer/ridgeback mix, Waine the Alaskan mix, Captain Woofster the Great Dane, and Miss Fuzzy Ears. However, because of the success of the campaign, we’ve unlocked four additional dogs: Angelica the Corgi, Willow the St. Bernard, Gizmo the Boston Terrier, and Bandit the Dalmatian.

And yes, every dog is different! Both in real life as well as in Good Dog, Bad Zombie. In the game, each dog has the same basic set of abilities and actions. However, every dog has their own unique and powerful ability, which are triggered by playing “Good Doggo” cards. For instance, Lupin’s “Snuggle” ability allows players to restock on Energy Cards. Captain Woofster’s “Hunt” ability allows him to remove extra zombies from the board. Willow’s “Sniff the Air” ability allows her to peek at upcoming scent cards and plan around them.

We’re super happy that each time you play Good Dog, Bad Zombie, you can take on a different mix of characters (and breeds) and tackle the game in new ways!

Lupin with a blanket over his head. Lupin is reddish brown with floppy ears.
How do these doggie mechanics make such an accurate and immersive experience?

This was hugely important to us when we were designing GDBZ. We wanted the game to drip dogginess. Not just in its name, but in its spirit, its art, its mechanics, and even in terms of what people say while playing. 

So, for instance, you’ll hear people shout “I’m going to lick myself!” often through each game. Everything you do in Good Dog, Bad Zombie is based around and named after a dog-like action. This really gets players into the spirit and mood of being a dog pack. So, for instance, even though it’s not a rule, you’ll often hear players burst into random bouts of howling after they rescue a human. 

This game is all about being good dogs, and the love between humans and dogs. So in Good Dog, Bad Zombie - dogs don’t inherently hate zombies. They’ll often be trying to play with a zombie or chase it. It’s not until the zombie threatens a live human that dogs become protective. That’s something that we think makes GDBZ unique - it’s fun and playful, with a dash of horror, all wrapped up into a zombie game.

Somewhere out there, our hoomans are waiting!
An image of the game board showing "Central Bark" and some tokens.
What's your favorite part of the gameplay and fictional structure of GDBZ?


My favorite part of the gameplay of GDBZ is the cooperative aspect! As we say in the Kickstarter page, there’s no room for the lone wolf in GDBZ. Players really have to help each other and strategize together to rescue the humans and protect their pack. If a player is too low on Energy cards and a zombie startles them, you might have to move the Feral Track up (and that’s how you lose the game!). Often it takes two dogs working together to get a human home safely to Central Bark without being eaten by a zombie. This is really a game where it requires everyone to win together. 

My favorite part of the fictional structure of GDBZ is how we were able to slightly tweak traditional zombie lore. So, for instance, in this game, the only thing that zombies are afraid of are dog barks. So whenever your dog barks, it’ll send a zombie running away from you - often off of a cliff! Also, in GDBZ, humans are helpless and kind of dumb - and they won’t survive the apocalypse without the aid of the brave, smart, loving doggos. I feel like we were able to take territory that’s been well-tread, but put a new, fun, funny, doggy spin on it.


Lupin with a big bone. Lupin is reddish brown with floppy ears.
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Thanks so much to Brian for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and that you'll check out Good Dog, Bad Zombie on Kickstarter today! I'm personally super excited to play Captain Woofter!


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