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Grave Business from Minion Games

By James Jester
Published: January 13, 2012
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Product: Grave Business is a zombie-themed, blind bidding game released by Minion Games. Designed by Andy Van Zandt, the game includes an 8-page rulebook, 165 tiles, 40 zombie tokens, one graveyard board, four player boards, and several additional larger cardboard components. I noticed that the player boards and other large components tend to be prone to some warping, but it was not enough to impact actual gameplay.

Gameplay: You’re a necromancer skilled in the art of creating zombies, and you use your minions for grave robbing to fund your way of life, both with buried treasures and body parts needed to make more minions. Unfortunately, other necromancers are cramping on your turf, and everything is up for grabs!

The game is broken down into roughly six rounds, with players starting the game with three zombies each. Each round, the graveyard is randomly filled with treasure and body-parts tiles. Players vie for these different items by bidding with their zombie minions, which have varying skill at grave robbing (represented by brain and bone symbols). Players will place their zombies around the graveyard to attempt to grab the stuff in the different grave rows. Once all zombies have been placed, the graveyard tiles are divied up amongst the players according to how many of a player’s zombie brains and bones are vying for a particular tile.

Afterward, players can use their spoils to create and equip more zombies to send out with the rest of their zombie horde next round. The game ends once the graveyard can no longer be filled with tiles. The player who either obtained and kept the three parts of "The Master" (special-colored body parts tiles) or the has highest total value in treasure and body parts wins.

Even though it is similar to other blind-bidding games, there are several things that make it feel unique. First, there are other things you can do besides bidding: You can send your zombies off to try and steal stuff directly from other players; attack (and possibly hurt) other players' zombies to kick them out of the graveyard for the round; or even see what zombies a player has sent out and determine who will play first next round, which can be a significant disadvantage. Second, the mechanics surrounding the creation of zombies in the game thematically convey the feeling of using a hodgepodge of parts to create your minions, only to have them be slowly ripped apart to an inoperable heap again.

Although the simple rules and somewhat silly art style make this a game accessible for all ages, it will be most enjoyable to strategy gamers, particularly because it requires you to play off your opponents, trying to think what they’ll do or how you can foil their plans. Unfortunately, this also makes it possible for players to fall impossibly behind early on, potentially ruining the enjoyment of the game.

Marketing: Even though there has been an influx of zombie-based board and card games recently, none of them really fill the blind-bidding niche quite like Grave Business. It would fit perfectly in a display of zombie and other horror games. Grave Business is definitely a worthy game to include, along with myriad other popular titles such as Arkham Horror, Ultimate Werewolf and Eaten by Zombies.

Grave Business’s box art is very colorful and should easily draw the customer’s eye from across the room easily no matter where it is displayed. The components and board layout also make it a good candidate for a setup demonstration as well. When demoing the game, be sure to highlight the bidding and thematic zombie mechanics, as well as the other ways you can foil your opponents' plans by attacking their zombies and stealing from their stashes.

VITAL STATS
Product: Grave Business
Maker: Minion Games
Stock number: MNI GB 100
MSRP: $44.99
Availability: ACD Distributing

BOTTOM LINE
Has potential king-making issue
Blind-bidding game with a twist
Unique damage mechanism