Wednesday Jan 31, 2024

How To Play Mall Zombies

Hi everyone, this is a special episode of Firebreathing Kittens. I’m the game master for an upcoming session using the rules for Mall Zombies by W.H Arthur. In this episode, I’ll share my thoughts after reading the rule book. Hopefully this episode will be a handy guide for how to play for my players, will help me organize myself, and will be useful for you listeners, too, who are looking to play Mall Zombies yourselves.

Set up

  • Get a deck of cards, preferable a zombie themed deck for that extra narrative spark

  • Separate the cards into three piles, all of the number cards, the court cards (aka, j, q k), and the two jokers.

  • We now shuffle the number cards together and create 7 face down piles of 3 cards by drawing from this deck.

  • Once we have these 7 face down piles, we turn over the top card in each pile.

  • Each pile should now have 1 faceup card and two face down cards underneath.

  • We’ve just created our shops for the players to scavenge from.

  • The top card number tells us what the Prompt is for that shop. This is a list of names given in the rules. Such as, Wisdom, Luxury, Power, etc. You can come up with the rest of the name of the shop yourself. If one of the piles has 6 as the top visible card the Prompt indicates it is an Eletrical store, so we could call it, Roberts Bits and Bobs. So we know what type of items might be in that store. (We will go into what our players want later on).

  • We take the remaining cards we didn’t draw and shuffle the two jokers into it that pile to create the “main deck”. The players will be drawing from this Main deck during the game when scavenging through the shops.

  • The court cards are shuffled and set aside as the Zombie Deck. We draw from this deck when the players are attacked by the zombies.

  • This completes the set up!

Before we go on, let’s discuss what our players are looking for during the game.

  • The group first discuss what things the colony needs to survive. (e.g. food, batteries, heating, clothes, medicine, entertainment).

  • Once they have decided on 5 needs this will be the basis for your players to focus on what they are scavenging for. So lets look now at how to scavenge the mall!

Scavenging examples

  • During the game the players will be scavenging for supplies by looking through the shops. Mechanically this is by searching through the piles of cards one after another.

  • Example. Rosie, a widowed survivor of the colony has spotted Roberts Bits and Bobs and decides to scavenge through the shop to find some useful tools for the colony.

  • Rosie describes how she would find her husband, Barry in the shop every time they went to the mall together thumbing through the bargain bins looking for a great deal on hammers. It would annoy her at the time, but now it just makes her miss him even more.

  • The more narrative detail the better in this game, encourage your players to really go ham in their descriptions taking as long as they want.

  • The GM now turns over the related pile of cards with the number 6 on and shows the group what they have found with their initial scavenge.

  • The cards turned over now read the following. 6 hearts, 6 of spades, and 10 of spades.

  • So, what are we looking for here?

  • The players are trying to find one of three outcomes related to a poker hand. This being a “three of a kind”, aka 3x3, or 3, 10’s, etc. A straight flush, aka, 123 of hearts. If this outcome is reached the players “You find more than what you need. Describe how the item fulfils one of the needs, and how it's better than what you expected.” Or, a Straight or flush, this is 123, in any suit or 3 cards all hearts, spades, etc. If they get this outcome, “You find what you need. Describe how the item fulfils one of the needs.” and lastly, a pair, aka, 2x2’s or 2,10s, etc. If this is the outcome, “You find something, but it is either defective or of an inferior quality. Elaborate on the details.”

  • If none of these outcomes happen, they find nothing of use, aka, it doesn’t match any of the groups needs for the colony.

Push your luck

  • Now, what happens if the first three cards don’t give them what they want? Well, they can push their luck and draw from the main deck, (the ones with now jokes, aka zombies in..oooooo).

  • Rosie draws “6 hearts, 6 of spades, and 10 of spades” That’s two spades, with is close to a flush, and two 6’s which is close to a three of kind.

  • Rosie decides to draw from the main deck and “pushes her luck”.

  • When a player pushes their luck, they must describe what they’re doing to do this. e.g. breaking down a locked door, removing rubble from a blocked corridor, etc).
    Rosie breaks through the employees only door at the back of the shop.

  • The GM draws this card from the main deck and adds it to the pile. It’s a 6 of clubs.

  • This gives Rosie 3, 6’s and a three of a kind. This means “You find more than what you need. Describe how the item fulfils one of the needs, and how it's better than what you expected”.

  • Rosie describes finding a pile of brand-new tools from saws, hammers, and hand drills, perfect for fixing and building a better shelter for the colony.

  • These cards are not placed back into the main deck once an area has been scavenged, they stay out in their respective shop piles.


  • What if Rosie drew a Joker card from the main deck. Well, this is where the brutality of the game comes into play.

  • Rosie draws a Joker and the GM indicates she stumbled into a zombie attack!

  • The gm draws a card from the “zombie deck” aka the deck of court cards and tells Rosie what she is facing.

  • J : You survive by fighting or escaping from the zombies. How did you do it?

  • Q : You are attacked by an infected survivor (an NPC). Tell us whether you noticed their strange behaviours recently. You are dead.

  • K: You are attacked by a swarm of zombies. Tell us how you die.

  • The zombie deck is reshuffled afterwards with the court card being placed back, and the joker is then shuffled back into the main deck.

So how can you mitigate these effects? To have a little more sway or edge over the randomness of the decks?

Character creation:

  • Creating a character is very simple, each player takes control of a survivor in the zombie apocalypse giving their name, pronouns, and choosing one “special ability”.

  • These special abilities give the players tools to look through the main deck before drawing from it.

  • Careful : Look at the top card of the main deck in secret. You may put it at the bottom of the deck.

  • Daring : Look at the top two cards of the main deck in secret. You may shuffle the deck.

  • Wise : Look at the top three cards of the main deck in secret. You may put them back in any order.

Scavenging with Special abilities.

  • Let’s now rewind time and figure out how Rosie could have mitigated the zombie attack!

  • Rosie has the ability “wise” which means, Look at the top three cards of the main deck in secret. You may put them back in any order.”

  • She enters Robers bits and bobs, does her description, looks at the cards, “6 hearts, 6 of spades, and 10 of spades”.

  • She can now use her special ability to look at the top three cards of the main deck in secret. She draws three cards in order, Joker, 6 clubs, 8 spades.

  • It’s a good thing she checked as she would have drawn a joker. She now puts them back in this order, joker, 8 spades, 6 clubs. So, the next card drawn will be the 6 of clubs.


  • Once the PCs have found all they need, it is time to leave the mall.

  • Or, if they are dying out too quickly, it’s time to escape and take what they can with them.

  • Of the remaining surviving characters, a leader is chosen from them who will be drawing from a new set of cards created by the gm.

  • The leader and push their luck as normal and if a joker is revealed standard zombie attack rules proceed.

  • Three of a kind / Straight Flush : All remaining PCs escape. Describe how the group outsmart the zombie horde.

  • Straight / Flush : One PC sacrifices themselves to allow the others to escape. Narrate their sacrifice.

  • Pair (Only works if you have 1+ remaining PC): The leader can choose a single PC to escape. Describe what happens. (The remaining PCs can find an alternative exit by drawing a new set of three cards.)

  • None of the above: You cannot escape.

The ending

  • If the scavenged supplies fulfil all of your needs (with less than half of them defective), and at least one PC is alive. : Your colony thrives. Describe how the living condition improves.

  • If the scavenged supplies fulfil only some of your needs, and at least one PC is alive: Your colony survives. Describe how the colony aces setbacks from the unfulfilled needs.

  • If all PCs are dead: Decide as a group if the scavenged supplies reach back to the colony. If so, apply the above ending that fits. If not, apply the ending below.

  • If you fail to scavenge any items: Your colony collapses. Is there anything left?

and epilogues

surviving players now describe what happened after in the colony, and dead players can describe their after life as a zombie.

Get this game for “pay what you want” on drivethru RPG.

Comments (0)

To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or

No Comments

Copyright 2024 All rights reserved.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Version: 20240320