Game Review: Zombicide
This weekend I finally got to play Zombicide, the successfully funded kickstarter by Cool Mini or Not and Guillotine Games that has started arriving on the doorsteps of happy gamers. They’ll be demoing the game at GenCon later this week, but since I’ve already had a chance to fight the brain-eating hordes I thought I’d share my thoughts on this hot off the presses game.
I pledged at the $100 “Abomination” level, so I got not only the basic game, but some extra goodies that I’ll talk about later. Let’s just start with the standard box that has a retail value of $89. That’s not cheap for a game, but a quick look at what you get shows that it’s actually a good value.
See, lots of stuff, and the quality is really good. The models all come safely tucked in little plastic trays so you don’t have them tumbling around the box in a mess once you’ve opened it up to play. They’ve also got a good amount of detail so they actually resemble the fantastic images on the cards. For those so inclined, a little dry brushing will make your zombies come to life, or, is it death?
The cards are slightly smaller than standard playing cards, but not so small that you’re fumbling them all the time. They’re also on a good weight of cardstock with a nice finish so they’re likely to hold up to repeated playing. Same with the tokens, which are thick, cardboard cutouts.
All your zombies are grey plastic while your survivors are more colorful so they stand out on the board, except for Phil. He’s the cop and he has a brown uniform in the artwork so his mini is brown and I kept losing him. Much like a certain cop on a certain zombie television show is always losing his kid. Except I still kept better tabs on my mini than anyone did of stupid Carl.
There are ten regular scenarios and a tutorial that’s a quick and dirty rundown of the game. I started with the tutorial and I think it’s worth it not just the first time you play, but any time you’re introducing new players to the game. It let’s you figure out what works and what doesn’t work without being frustrated by making newbie mistakes in a full-length game.
The scenarios start with varying numbers of tiles, zombies and objectives but some things remain the same in every scenario. You will always play the Survivors and Zombicide is always co-op. In all but single player games you’ll divide up six Survivors. If you’re going it alone, then you manage a group of four.
Be warned. You are likely going to lose Survivors along the way, but you can still win the game. This really is a co-op game and you’ll have to work with other players to decide who to sacrifice in order to save the group. It’s that whole “Good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.” scenario but without the space travel.
Each Survivor has a Survivor Card that serves as a place to organize weapons and supplies, track zombie kills, wounds and monitor ever increasing skills, but be careful. Not only do Survivors get more powerful as their kill count grows, but the zombies appear in greater numbers.
Gameplay is straight-forward. Survivors go first, choosing between actions like moving, attacking or even running down zombies in a car decked out like a police cruiser or a pimp mobile. You can also search for weapons and supplies by turning over cards in the Equipment deck, but an unlucky draw gets you a zombie instead.
Equipment cards are clearly marked with the stats for your weapons. They give you range, number of attacks, accuracy and damage. They’ve also got indicators for noise, which will make the zombies come right at you when its their turn. Guns, for example, will draw their attention but a crowbar might be able to do the same job without making you a target.
Once all the Survivors have activated, then it’s time for the zombies. When they attack, you pretty much have to hope you’re out of the way. There’s no defense when they come for you, so you’ve got to be very careful to keep your distance. All you get are two wounds, and once you’re done, you’re done. There are no second chances with zombies.
The zombies also move on their turn, heading first toward Survivors they can see and then to sources of sound. All that noise the Survivors made shooting guns and kicking in doors has it consequences right now. Every time a Survivor makes noise you drop a Noise Token so you can determine where the zombies will shamble when they move.
There are also spawn points at different areas on the board depending on the scenario and you draw a Zombie card for each one. You may get lucky and have nothing happen, but more than likely you’ll have some combination of zombies appear.
This is where the zombie kill count at the top of each Survivor card comes into play. As it moves up from blue to yellow to orange to red zones, so does the peril that comes with zombie spawning. A Zombie card that spawns one zombie while you’re in in the blue zone might spawn four in orange, and they might be a harder type of zombie to kill.
The most numerous and easiest to kill are Walkers, followed by Runners who move twice as fast making them more dangerous. You’ll also face Fatty zombies who spawn with two Walkers and can only be taken down with weapons dealing two damage. Lastly, there are Abominations who can only be taken out with a weapon dealing three damage, so you’d best keep your distance unless you’re feeling lucky.
Overall, Zombicide has a nice balance between strategy and chance. We worked really hard in one game to make sure our Survivors had the right weapons to match their skills and objectives, then had some bad dice rolls and a Zombie card wipe out three people in one fell swoop.
What looked bleak was redeemed by our strategy. We kept running out, shooting zombies, and ducking back inside a building with plans to break out through the back door if the hordes overwhelmed our dwindling numbers. And we won!
I got extra goodies because of my $100 pledge level, including an extra tray of zombies, a print of the box cover art, glow-in-the-dark dice and three extra survivors.
My favorite Survivor is Dave the Geek and he bears a striking resemblance to Sheldon Cooper. He has an math formula on his shirt and a lightsaber clipped to his belt. I love him.
Sadly, he ended up being useless and couldn’t hit a thing, which reinforced the flailing geek stereotype. Honestly, it was perfect.
With so many different scenarios and the randomness of card draws and dice rolls, there are infinite play variations. It’s easy to learn, easy to teach, and the theming is spot on with just the right amount of camp. This is my new favorite game of the moment!
Playing time will vary depending on the scenario and number of players, but it ran about an hour in the two-player games we played this weekend. Zombicide retails for $79.99 and is available now!