For what was essentially a low budget independent film with a restricted release, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead spawned some unusual merchandise. While today, the world is awash with retroactive merch for cult movies and toy tie-ins for movies with adults-only ratings, back in 1978 this was decidedly odd. While some DOTD merch was standard material – the soundtrack LP, the novelisation – others were more left-field. There was the poster magazine – a fairly disastrous affair mostly filled with terrible, unofficial art. And then, there was the board game from SPI.
Role-playing board games were big in 1978, with Dungeons & Dragons spawning several imitators – of which this was one, although the restrictive nature of the film’s narrative – taking place almost entirely within a shopping mall – kept it from becoming the extensive universe of the more fantasy-inspired games. You could play as a two-player game – one player the humans, the other the zombies – or a solo player game. The board – sorry, ‘map’ – is based on the shopping mall while cardboard figures represent the characters. Zombies win by killing three people; humans win by closing off the mall entrances and killing all the zombies, which sounds like rather more work.
This wasn’t a particularly successful game at the time – while Dawn of the Dead quickly gathered a cult following, horror fandom at the time wasn’t really part of the geek culture that was into role playing games, and gamers probably found this a bit simplistic for their tastes. This lack of popularity and large amount of losable pieces inevitably means that complete sets now go for big money. But less flush players can download and print out the whole thing here: http://www.homepageofthedead.com/baps/dawn_board_game.html