Zombie Kidz Evolution may have the best elevator pitch of any of the board games for kids I've seen: the undead are invading your school, and you've got to team up with some friends to kick their butt. However, the more you play, the more those zombies change.
In other words, Zombie Kidz Evolution is a 'my first Legacy game'. Much like Pandemic Legacy (a persistent version of the Pandemic board game), it changes over time with greater challenges and opportunities that keep things fresh.
As the last line of defence between your class and endless detention with the undead, players must defeat zombies that arrive each turn and lock up the school's four entrances before they're overwhelmed. Because the game ends if every zombie in reserve enters play, you've also got to balance locking doors with monster slaying. The more of the dead you defeat, the more zombies there are in reserve - and the more time you have before it's game over.
That's all she wrote in terms of basic rules; Zombie Kidz Evolution is simple and breezy. You can learn how to play, set up, and get going within minutes. That alone makes it one of the best board games for the impatient little ones among us.
What's more, the addition of new rules throughout your time with Evolution make sure that the game stays exciting over a long stretch. Ranging from power-ups for players that can help them turn the tide (but come at a cost) to Super Zombies with gnarly abilities that keep everyone on their toes, Zombie Kidz Evolution has much more longevity than you might expect. You can even get 'clones' of yourself later in the game, allowing you to temporarily enjoy two turns instead of one.
Due to the fact that these extras are sealed in envelopes and unlocked through play or achievement-style challenges, Evolution is good at piquing players' interest in seeing what comes next as well. And with all of the above being tracked by a sticker chart, there's a tangible sense of accomplishment as well. I mean, who doesn't love a sticker?
Although it involves the shambling dead, don't think Zombie Kidz Evolution is scary either. Instead, it brings some fun to the apocalypse with vibrant splashes of color, a friendly art style, and a complete lack of "you died, now the zombie gets to eat your brain." Plus, the idea of kids fighting off an undead horde with toy lightsabers, the best Nerf guns, or water pistols is wholesome and family-friendly. It's exactly the sort of thing children would pretend to do on the playground, so they'll latch onto the game with gusto as a result.
The only potential sticking point would be the game's components. Even though they're made from sturdy cardboard, I'm not sure how they'll cope in the long term when set up against sticky fingers, mistreatment, drink spillages, and everything else children's games are put through on a daily basis. It would have increased the cost, but I'd have liked to see more premium materials to help with longevity.
Still, it'll be a hoot in the meantime. Players need to strategize and split up if they want to win (particularly when playing in a larger group), so it's a great choice if you're hunting down the best cooperative board games for children. These tactics also give older kids something they can get their teeth into.
Concerned it'll be too stressful? Fortunately, matches don't feel oppressive despite offering a very real possibility of failure if you don't stay on top of crowd management (especially because you can't go into any room with three or more zombies). Sure, there's some tension when zombie groups begin to grow and it looks like you'll be overrun, but it's easy to avoid with teamwork. A 15-minute runtime allows you to try again quickly, too.