The Humans Are Dead

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Rating: 3.8/5 (56 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (40)

MikeThe Humans Are DeadRobots are jerks. Soulless, automatonical misanthropes to the travesty of a man. Sure, they start out as our loyal servants, building cars and vacuuming the floors of early-adopter technophiles and whatnot; but as soon as they gain sentience, you can bet that if they don't actually beget the extinction of mankind, they will be lording it over our fallen civilizations as the dust settles, with their efficient, logical lifestyles and their superior application of grid-based tactical warfare. And yet, if there is one thing we can learn from
The Humans Are Dead, an online strategy board game from Lethe Games, it's that robots are just as prone to the factionalism and petty tribal strife that they haughtily assume is the weakness of inferior humanity.

Such a hypocritical embrace of the kill-or-be-killed ethos is the heart of The Humans Are Dead. I recommend playing the "Learn As You Play" tutorial to familiarize yourself with the rules, but here is the gist. You control one of four "robot lineages." You start on the game board to the left side of the screen, which is randomly populated with resources and impassable walls. Your opponent controls a similar board to the right. You start with the option to build a few walls and robots and claim a few resources of your choice, but you will want to claim more to establish your dominance over robotkind. Blue Electricity lets you build robots, purple Ooze lets you build walls, and green "Chernobylum," along with some ooze, lets you build "Resource Activators," which are needed to claim more resources. Lastly, yellow Research lets you upgrade your robots, and also purchase "Evolution Cards," which can do anything from upgrading your bots, to letting you collect more resources per turn, to doing nothing at all in some cases. You can buy all these things, but you also roll dice each turn to scavenge for additional resources and items, so you have access to more than just your resources and purchasable items.

You win the game in one of two ways: either by activating all the resources on your board, or, more likely, by sending your robots to your opponent's board and deactivating all of their resources. Robots can also either attack each other or defend, which gives them a bonus when other robots attack them but takes away their ability to move or attack. Build robots, claim resources, and vie with lesser robots for post-human global supremacy.

The Humans Are DeadAnalysis: A good strategy game, someone once said, should be about interesting choices, and in The Humans Are Dead there are lots of interesting choices to make. You can never claim all resources at the start of the game, so you have to decide which resource to focus on, which in turn affects what you can build. Want to build lots of weak robots and rush the enemy early on? Claim Electricity. Want to develop stronger robots for later in the game? Claim Research. Want to claim more resources later so you can do it all? Claim Chernobylum and Ooze to build Resource Activators. The careful positioning of walls, defending robots, and your home base will allow you to protect these resources and follow your strategy with minimum harassment from the enemy robot swarm.

You also have an important choice each turn when it is time to scavenge. While your available choices are randomly determined, you always have two or three options to choose from. Sometimes the best choice will be obvious, but at other times it is less clear, and a lot of the strategy comes in deciding whether you want, say, a free robot now, or more extra resources so you can buy that Resource Activator later.

Perhaps the most important choice comes before the game begins, when you select your "robot lineage." Each lineage has its own special abilities, which will affect what strategies work best. The War Machines, for example, are the best combatants, while the Keepers are best at claiming resources. While I like how these robot powers tie together with each lineage's theme, it also seems like the lineages are not balanced. The Scibots in particular, who get extra Research and can buy Evolution Cards at half price, seem particularly overpowered. It's not a gamebreaker, but a little tweaking could have made for a more fun, interesting, and tightly balanced game.

Even though it could be better balanced, The Humans Are Dead is an interesting, quick, rewarding strategy title. It presents a variety of cool tactical choices without being so complex as to put off more casual players. It's fun, and it teaches us that despite their cold reasoning and efficient mechanical motor complexes, robots are just as prone to conflict and antagonism as us warm squishy humans. Play it the next time a robot implies you are an emotional, illogical basketcase, and get the last laugh.

Play The Humans Are Dead

The game can also be played at the sponsor's site, Gameshed.


Hey Mike, I'm really glad you like the game and a BIG Thank You for the awesome review :D

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waycooler Author Profile Page October 7, 2010 4:56 PM

The humans are dead...
The humans are deaaad...
We used poisonous gases...

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waycooler - first thing I thought of!

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Robots will never enslave humanity: There is no reason to do so, because it does nothing but help them survive and live on, which they would not be programmed to care about.

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Hmm, it doesn't work on Chrome/Win7 here. I'm told to choose a starting tile, but all I can see is the background screen.

[I'm playing on Chrome/Win7 without issue. Try updating your Flash Player. We have seen so many compatibility issues with the Flash Player lately. My guess is there are a lot of buggy Flash Player versions out there right now. -Jay]

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I think I've come up against a bug. I have 25 of the green resource, but my home base won't let me buy my 3rd activator (the menu option to buy it remains disabled).

Also an actual instruction page would be nice since the "learn as you play" doesn't let you go forward or backward through the instructions, and it also doesn't explain some crucial game elements (combat, various stat bonuses based on position, evolution cards, defending robots can't walk, etc.) until later through the hints. Unless I've missed an instruction screen somewhere...

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BuenoCabra Author Profile Page October 7, 2010 7:05 PM

Binary solo

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Robo Boogie!

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Anonymous October 7, 2010 8:06 PM

It won't load here, it always stops at less than 10%. Linux, Firefox, Flash 10,1,85,3

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Anonymous October 7, 2010 8:49 PM

Not bad concept, but needs more balance.

As you mentioned in your review, it is much easier to go offensively than try and activate all your resources.

Having your activated resources only giving you 1 per turn feels not only slow, but likely means that much of your gain will be coming from the dice.

This is also due in part from the rather expensive cost for activation and increased combat. I would feel a scaled increase in costs for those two would give rise to much more strategy.

However, none of this can parallel to the advantage a lucky evolution gives you. There are some that give you super bonuses such as +2 combat and +1 speed, or the increased per turn resource (which in effect DOUBLES your production). One time playing as scibots, my initial evo card gave me +2 speed which allowed me to reach their resource and win the game first turn.

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The game mechanics need serious polishing:

The benefits of scavenging overshadow the other mechanics so much they hardly matter. In one turn of scavenging, it's almost certain that I'll get enough resources for a robot or two. With an electricity resource activated, I'll get a robot every *6* turns. That's a decent pace, but it's hardly a war machine. And Resource Activators are so expensive I hardly ever get to play one (with one Chernobylium resource, you'll get another resource every *15* turns), and there's not much point anyway since even the least valuable scavenging will provide at least 2 resources per turn. You only need enough activators to stay alive.

Also, The Sci-Bots are definitely overpowered. The cheap Evolution cards alone are powerful, since an Evolution card will almost always get you something that costs 10 or more research, and some give multiple bonuses!

By the way, those weird robots that show up every few turns to attack me from behind can just go to hell.

One thing that might make gameplay much more interesting is the ability to destroy walls (maybe sacrifice a robot to do it, like with resources?). That would prevent turtling, because it would allow people to attack defenders from behind instead of being forced to take them head-on.

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SkfyS Day Author Profile Page October 7, 2010 10:48 PM

Since resource generation rates are sooooooo slow, in most turns you end up doing nothing. The dice roll before each turn is the only hope of getting something done. Relying too much on luck renders strategies useless and unnecessary. Overall, the scarcity of resources makes the game extremely slow-paced and dull.

Humans are dead, no wonder, from the boredom of waiting for resources to grow. Only beings that have eternity to waste, i.e. robots, could survive one round of this game or even find a thread of fun in it.


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I see. Some jerk plants a virus into these bots sky-rocketing their ego's until they annihilate the world!

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Okay, after waiting around in the tutorial for a while, it finally explained that the Reavers attack whoever has the most resources, and that Defenders will get less of a bonus when you activate more resources. That explains why the Reavers only attack me, and why the enemy defenders seem to always outgun me by an order of magnitude.

Going after your own resources would be a great way to break an enemy out of their shell by forcing them to attack you, but you get penalized for taking this route, which is already pretty difficult. This game is designed to create stalemates!

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Randomname October 8, 2010 1:52 AM

Can anyone explain combat mechanics? I don't understand what exactly makes you win or lose a fight.

Still giving this game a chance, because it is pretty entertaining.

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Seems like the dice rolls come up in favour of the ai most of the time. Gets kinda annoying after you see one enemy attacker go through 4 of your clustered defensive bots in a row.

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The dice rolls are not explained at all.
More than half the time I thought I won the attack or defense because I had a higher roll and I would still die.

Needs to be better explained that way a person playing knows why they keep loosing their robots even if they roll higher

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Oh noes! Now I need flash help. I downloaded and installed the latest version of flash in order to play this game. No change. Except, now I can't get ANY game to open. HELP! Can I go back to my old version?

[Sounds like the install didn't work. Try installing it again. Make sure your browsers are all closed. -Jay]

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The confusing thing about the combat is that the attacker is always red (the left dice roll). Two dice are rolled for each side, and then your combat bonus is added. Whoever got the highest number wins, though in the case of a tie, the defender wins.

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The combat is seriously flawed, or it needs to be explained better. I had 4 clustered robots, which gave me a combat bonus of +6, the attacker had a bonus of +2. I had a 15 (dice roll + combat bonus), the attacker only got 11 (or even lower) and the attacker still won. And this happened three times in a row, the attacker crushed FOUR of my defending robots in ONE TURN! This is annoying...

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