Zombicide review

pic1196191_md[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Zombies are getting a hard time of recent. People have decided that too many games, comic books, TV series and all sorts of paraphernalia are coming out at the moment and the theme is “overdone”.

My take on that is that if whatever is coming out is good quality, then the theme is not overdone and I welcome it.

And I love zombies. There is something about the scale of devastation that a relentless, tireless, ruthless and brainless attack that makes me want to get a chainsaw and get out to destroy every moving undead thing out there. But there are no undead things out there, so my chainsaw is safely tucked-in for the days to come when all those people in health and safety who are making our buildings so accessible will realise that zombies can get into a building much more quickly through a ramp than through a well placed ladder. But I digress.

Zombicide is one of those products about zombies (hence the name) that came out recently and it takes the theme of survival and makes a game out of it. It also came out of Kickstarter, successfully funded and thank goodness for that!

Let’s talk pieces and components. The board is composed of reversible tiles that depict an area of a city that’s been ravaged by the zombie hordes. The material is stiff enough to make it playable and durable, so I have no complains about it. It could be a bit better if it were laminated to make it more durable, but that’d just be a bonus and not a necessity. The artwork is GORGEOUS. Fantastic attention to detail that doesn’t shy away from the gore and unpleasantness of what a zombie apocalypse would be, without being realistic enough to make it hard to look at. In fact is a pleasure to look at. Every time you’ll find little things that make the board more interesting. Little details like empty bullet cases, leaflets, rubbish… All you’d expect to give it the right atmosphere. Needless to say, when you play on a full board, that is 3 x 3 tiles, the table looks just fantastic.

aboominationThe rather numerous miniatures – 71 to be precise – from Cool Mini or Not are superb, just as you’d’ expect. The level of detail is so good that if you, like me, are not inclined to paint them, they still look amazing on the board. To make things even better, the miniatures of the same type are not all alike. There are several types of “walkers” (basic zombies) to keep things varied.

The tokens, also printed on both sides, are thick and colourful, but, apart from the cars you can scatter over the streets and the doors you can place around some buildings, they have minimal graphic work on them. This makes them very easy to distinguish from the busier background as it minimises the chromatic noise on the board. Very well thought indeed!

The character sheets are a bit of a let down. They are colourful and the graphic design on them is truly excellent. However the material is very thin compared to the rest of the game. Considering that the game uses them extensively, they could do with being thicker and more durable. The experience markers – which move forwards as you destroy zombies. More on that in a bit – are little arrows clipped on top of the sheet to mark how many zombies you’ve killed and thus how many experience points you get. They are very tight on the sheets and you’ll run the risk of “ear-dogging” the top of the character sheets very quickly. You can try to play with the marker simply put on top of the sheet, but then it runs the risk of moving and you loosing track of how many zombies have departed from our world thanks to you.

The gameplay is very easy. Every character has some initial equipment, which is not a lot, and has three actions every round. Moving, searching, fighting, trading… At the end of the round, the zombies make their move and spawn. That can be scary. No, seriously; it is!

Within two rounds, you’ll know what your character can do, you’ll have found some useful items and you’ll barely have to look at the rules. Because the gameplay is totally cooperative and the rules have been geared to make cooperation a key component of a winning formula (which, by the way, doesn’t exist. There is no way to find a way to always win in this game) player interaction is constant and, actually, a pleasure. There is no way that one player can take a leading role in the party, derailing the game into a “one player leads them all” sort of scenario.

The zombies have also been given enough variety to make them scarier. There are four different types of zombies. From the basic “walker” – the most numerous – to the fatties and the truly tough to kill Abomination. And there are the runners, which are the scariest of them all because they move twice as fast and are twice as deadly.

And deadly the game is indeed. Two wounds from a zombie and your character is history. Very, very unforgiving indeed!

Combat is also very simple. Every weapon has a number of dice you must roll to determine a target number. Roll the number and you’ve hit. If you do enough damage, the zombie is history. However the fatties and abomination do require more damage than most weapons can inflict, so getting rid of them does require some thinking and strategy.

Mind you, that’s where the strategy element of the game ends, pretty much. The spawning of new zombies is determined by drawing from the spawning deck. The more experienced the players are – which is determined by the number of experience points obtained when killing zombies – the harder the spawn is. More zombies, more dangerous types, etc. And they’re relentless!

fatty-and-friendsDid I like it?

Totally. This game combines the best from Twilight Creations Zombies! with the best from Last Night on Earth and makes something extremely enjoyable that looks much better than any of those two games.

It’s not a game for everyone, though. The game is played in “episodes”, each with a different board configuration and different objectives. That makes it very replayable, but once you’ve played the same scenario more than once, it will probably start to feel a bit samey. Until that moment arrives, though, you’ll love roaming the streets in search of zombies to destroy and searching the buildings for some weapons to help you.

The miniatures suffer from one problem. There aren’t enough of them. At some point, specially in a big game, you’ll run out of miniatures. Although this is taken care of in the rules (zombies can do more actions per round if you don’t have enough zombies to populate the streets) it really makes you wish you had more miniatures to fill up the board. Maybe Guillotine Games will release extra sets of miniatures to be added to the game if needed.

In a nutshell, this game makes Kickstarter worth it. It is indeed a keeper for many reasons. Being so easy to play you can introduce anyone to it in minutes. The setup time is extremely reasonable and it is tremendously fun to play. Mind you, the one hour play time is a bit on the optimistic side. It might take you a bit longer to play than one hour.

With a bit of luck we’ll see expansions with more adventures and different zombies, equipment and spawning cards in the not-to-distant future to keep the game fresh. Very well done to Guillotine Games and Cool Mini or Not!

Zombicide is available from:


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