Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Zombicide: The best Zombie game you'll play

Great playing pieces - Zombicide looks and feels a quality game
In some ways I'm an old-school gamer. I like my D&D classic, and I enjoy the risk of PC death as I strive for a more powerful starting space pilot (10 life points for whoever gets that reference). But I'm not opposed to a new board or roleplaying game when its well made, and for my money probably the best such game in recent years has been Zombicide.

Cool Mini or Not started out as a sort of rate-my-miniatures website, where people would paint up their minis and submit them for judging. A bit of fun that led on to a desire to create simple to play games packed full of beautiful miniatures, and Zombicide fits that bill. Somehow between kickstarter and release the game became the child of Guillotine games, and the rest is history.

There are three core Zombicide games (referred to as 'seasons'), each can be played individually or mixed up with any of the other core games, or the three main expasnsions, with a multitude of smaller add-ons and kick-starter promos avialable (sometimes at bewildering cost on Ebay). The game is good with anything more than three to as many players as will fit round your table, and you play one or more 'survivors' in a zombie apocalypse. Every turn, each survivor takes three actions (which can be moving, searching for weapons and equipment and attacking), and every time a survivor kills a zombie they gain experience. And, of course, as they gain experience they can go up in level and get more abilities. After the player turns we the zombies get to go - they shamble at you to attack, and then more spawn. And the more experienced the characters get, the more zombies spawn, making the sense of crisis rises right through the game. Each survivor is represented by a well crafted mini, and has its own range of available skills. Yes, you'll soon have your own favourite character to play. 

Each game session is a 'mission' (although there's a short campaign version of the game called 'ultimate survivors') - you have defined things to do on the game board made up of tiles representing parts of a city, shopping mall, prison, hospital, etc. You may have to find specific resources, clear out certain buildings, etc. Each time you open up a new building more zombies appear - so you'll need to coordinate with other players to decide when and how to get in to the buildings (which you'll need to do, to find weapons and resources).

Try not to wear your curlers for the Zombie Apocalypse - you'll look stupid

The variety of zombies in the original game is limited, there are the normal shambling kind, a fast kind who can get to you and attack, fatties who take more killing, and the abomination who's a massive creation who's the hardest creature on the board to kill. Subsequent sets kept those basic categories but brought in different species - toxic zombies who'll spray you with poison if you kill them hand to hand, berserkers who are immune to bullets, skinners who have a nasty habit of crawling after you even after mowing them down, and the fast, unpredictable seekers. They add flavour without too much complexity - and they're conveniently coloured to make identification of the game pieces easy.

What maintains the interest in this game is how varied it can be - you can download or devise a limitless number of missions, and each game will be different as you unearth different weapon and equipment types and face zombies coming at you in different orders. And if that isn't enough you can add in dog companions, assistant survivors... As few or as many add on's as you like.
The A-Bomb abomination. If this guy shows up you're in trouble

There are four things that, for me, set this apart from other similar board games. Firstly, the quality of the pieces - the minis are colourful, detailed and distinctive. The board pieces are fun and give a good feel for the field of play, and each new expansion brings more distinctive minis without overly complicating play. Secondly, it takes very little experience playing the published missions before you can come up with your own, which means you can tailor individual game sessions to the tastes of your group - the producers even provide a free software tool to draw up a map using their tiles. Which takes us to the third point; there's a good range of fan made material online, including custom decks, survivors, playing tiles, missions... Google for Zombcide fan sies and you'll find plenty. And, lastly, its simple - it grows and expands based on a very easy set of mechanics, so as you add more you don't lose the point of the game in the complexity.

There's a lot to like about this game. My only concern is the cost. It isn't cheap, but each main set is a weighty thing, I don't feel robbed paying more money for something stacked with good components.

If modern day zombie apocalypses aren't to your taste, then there is also Zombicide Black Plague. Its a good game, but I've neither the space nor the will to maintain two expanding versions of this board game. But check it out if thats your thing.

So all in all, this is one of the favourite games in our gaming group - its got enough about it to remain fun for the long-haul, while most other board games quickly lose interest for us. When we're short for D&D its one of our favourites, I highly recommend it.

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