Zombie in My Pocket
Zombie in My Pocket is the quintessential casual game: quick to play, easy to learn, solitaire and free. But it differs from the usual Jay is Games fare in one crucial respect: the platform on which it plays is not Windows or Mac or even Linux, but rather your kitchen table.
ZiMP is one of a growing number of "print and play" board games available on the Web. It costs nothing, but after printing out the four-page ZimP PDF you'll need to spend two minutes of quality time with a pair of scissors before you are ready to play. Though printing the game onto cardstock is preferable, regular-weight paper works fine too. (My copy is on some flimsy all-purpose printer paper, and although shuffling the cards and titles is a chore, the game has held up for 20 plays at least.)
Play begins with single title, depicting the Foyer of a creepy old mansion. On each turn you first move a pawn through one of your current room's available exits, then draw a new tile (such as "Dining Room" or "Kitchen") and place it such that the doorways line up. In this way you slowly reveal the layout of the manor as you search for a profane Totem hidden somewhere within. Later you can head out the back door of the house, wander the yard in search of the secret Graveyard, bury the Totem and win.
All this would be a cakewalk were it not for the Zombies. Upon entering a room you must draw a card, which may grant you an item (a machete, say, or a board with nails), increase or decrease your health (which begins at 6), or surprise you with a horde of zombies. If zombies reduce your health to 0, or if you don't reach the Graveyard by midnight, you have failed in your quest (assuming your quest isn't to personally alleviate undead hunger).
Zombie in My Pocket is short—a full game only takes 5 minutes—but surprisingly addictive; the urge to play again (and again, and again) is almost insurmountable. It's also rather easy, and you're likely to win three times out of every four. To address this, the game's designer, Jeramiah Lee, suggests two house rules: capping your health at 6 (i.e., nothing can give you a health of 7 or higher), and only gaining two health when cowering. Played this way, the game provides a considerable challenge.
ZimP has received great buzz in the board game community, and a game company intends to release a multiplayer version early next year. Until then, the free version is a fun way to hack and slash your way through a coffee break.