Last week we presented our review of World War Z: The Game. (Spoiler Alert: It did not go well). I felt like you’ve been punished enough, so I decided to share with you my current favorite zombie killing game. Zombicide launched via Kickstarter last year promised to combine some great looking minis with a lot of fun, zombie killing action. Does Zombicide deliver on that promise? Lets find out!
Zombicide is a cooperative, zombie-killing game for 1-6 players. The game plays in about 60 minutes and plays best with 3 or 6 players.
If you’ve ever played the video game Left 4 Dead then you have played the inspiration for Zombicide. For those that haven’t, in Zombicide you and your fellow players must team up to accomplish the specific goals of your selected mission. Sometimes they are to collect objectives, other times they might be to just escape the zone with your heart still pumping blood.
Zombicide is played in a series of quick flowing turns with each player controlling a unique survivor. Each turn a player will get a certain number of actions to move, battle and search for weapons. Combat is handled with six-sided dice rolls and players will become more powerful during the course of the game. If the players survive until the end of the mission and they will emerge as the winner. If everyone gets chewed up by the zombie hordes then you must feel shame as the game has beaten you.
One thing Zombicide has going for it is some sexy components. The minis look just fantastic. There are a number of differently sculpted zombies and each of the 6 survivors has a unique look. Also included in the game are double-sided game tiles that can be reconfigured based on their mission. Most feature artwork of streets and building interiors in a state of apocalyptic disarray. Players also get character sheets, a few decks of small cards and some dice and tokens. All-and-all the components pretty fantastic and you certainly feel like you are getting your money’s worth for this pricey game.
While I do love the components, I must mention the rule book. The editing of the rule book was sub-par to say the least. If you get this game, then I’d highly recommend going online and printing out an update PDF of the rules that Guillotine Games has made available. There are just so many omissions and errors in the printed rulebook that comes with the game.
How to Play:
Game play in Zombicide is surprisingly easy and turns will flow very smoothly. Each game starts with the players choosing a mission and their particular survivor. Once the game is setup, someone grabs the first player token and it’s then time to start slaying some zombies.
Starting with the player with the first player token, that person may perform up to 3 actions (which will be increased to 4 as the game progresses).
Some actions a player might take could be:
Move: Movement is easy accomplished by moving your survivor to an adjacent zone. One zone per action. Zones are divided by room walls or street markings.
Search: Draw a card from the search deck and hope you don’t draw the bag of rice.
Open a Door: Doors must be opened with a weapon (fire axe, crowbar or chainsaw), at which point the building will be filled up with zombies.
Combat: Combat is the meat of the game. Each survivor can use a melee or ranged weapon. Each weapon has a series of stats (range, dice rolled, number needed to hit and damage). A player rolls a number of dice for the weapon and for each number that equals or beats the hit value, it does damage. Most zombies only take a point of damage to kill so some of the better weapons can really chew them up.
The interesting thing about combat is that some zombies take 2 or 3 damage points to kill. But that damage has to be from one shot. So if your weapon only does 1 point of damage per die roll, then you won’t ever be able to hurt those zombies. They are just too tough for your crappy weapon.
Take an Objective: Objectives are marked with an “X” token. Each scenarios has different rules for their objectives.
After the players have all acted, the zombies get to go. The Zombies turn is really easy. Any zombie on the board will either activate or move. If the zombie is a zone with a survivor, then they get to take a bite out of them. Hits are automatic with zombies and a bitten survivor takes a wound card and must also discard an item. If a survivor ever has 2 wound cards, they die.
If a zombie is not in a zone with a survivor, then they move towards the nearest one they can see or hear. Even if they move into a zone with a survivor they won’t get to attack this turn.
Finally, the zombies draw a spawn card. Each spawn zone will pop out a number of zombies based on the card drawn. The spawn cards all have 4 levels of toughness and as the players level up, the spawn will increase in toughness accordingly.
After spawning, the first player token rotates a new round begins. The game ends when either the players accomplish the mission objectives or they all are dead.
Zombicide almost feels like a video game when you play it. I mentioned the game Left 4 Dead at the start of this review and this game absolutely reminds me of it. Between the increasing number of zombies (and the different types), the fast and constant combat and the leveling up structure all remind me of a video game. And that’s a good thing for me, because some of the best zombie killing games are video games. Zombicide does the best job I’ve seen of replicating that experience on your tabletop.
The combat is Zombicide can either be really frustrating or extremely satisfying. Players will start out with one weapon or even just a frying pan. These weapons kind of suck (we call them “walmart weapons”) as taking on a group of zombies with a frying pan is sure to not end well. But as the players search buildings and start to find the better weapons, that’s when combat becomes a whole lot of fun. When a player gets the chainsaw or starts dual wielding machetes, they will actually start to go hunting for groups of zombies. Nothing is more satisfying then tossing a handful of dice and watching the figures drop.
The leveling system of Zombicide is both fun and imperfect. Like the old editions of Dungeons and Dragons, players gain experience as they kill zombies. However, this XP isn’t shared. You gain only for those zombies which you kill. This can cause some imbalances in the game. If one player gets a good weapon early and some good rolls, they can quickly outpace the other players. This gets dangerous when drawing spawn cards as you choose a spawn level based on the highest leveled player. A players still stuck in the blue level while others are in orange is probably not going to last long.
But I said the leveling system is fun and it is. At each break point (yellow, orange and red), players get either another action per turn or can pick a new ability for their survivor. The different abilities are what helps set the survivors apart and helps a player set their play style. I hate games where players choose a figure and the only difference is cosmetic. I like to feel like I’m playing someone different then the person sitting next to me. Unique abilities really add to a games replay value.
But for me, the true fun comes towards the end of the game. Players should be close to their goal, their survivors all decked out with some really good weapons and (my favorite part) a massive horde of zombies chasing them on the board. We have had games where we’ve literately had every zombie we own on the board. This makes for an awe inspiring sight that brings back memories of those Hollywood zombie movies. It can truly become a last stand.
As much fun as Zombicide is to play, it still has some flaws. There was the sub par rulebook I mentioned earlier. There is also the scaling issue. The zombies get to take a turn after all the players have gone. That means if there are only 4 players or if there are 6 players, the zombies get the same number or turns. Many games will give the bad guys a turn in-between player turns to help compensate for more players. Not so in Zombicide, in this game you are always better with 6 players. The game doesn’t change whether there are 4 of you fighting the hordes or six.
The other thing to know about Zombicide is that the rules can be a little fiddly sometimes. There is a splitting rule for the zombie pathfinder which we don’t really care for (basically if a zombie has 2 equal distant paths to a target, it splits into to zombies and they each take one of the paths). Ranged combat is somewhat annoying because players are always required to hit a survivor first if they share a zone with zombies. This makes ranged combat pretty hard until you get a sniper skill or rifle. And our least favorite rule is during spawning. If you ever run out of zombies, then all existing zombies get an extra activation (which can be a death knell for players). Since the Kickstarter backers got double the zombies that are in the retail version, those players should rarely run into this rule. But for any of us suckers who got the retail version, this will be an issue. Our gaming group eventually “house ruled” this into just using proxies for the missing zombies. As one of my players put it, “any rule that can be avoided by just buying more components should not be in the game”. I tend to agree.
Lastly, some bad luck can result in early player elimination. Usually, I’m not a fan of games with player elimination rules. Nothing is worse than dieing early in a game and having to watch your friends play for the next 45 minutes. Fortunately, when players start dieing in Zombicide, things are about to start going down hill really quickly. For the most part, we’ve noticed that players tend to die towards the end of the game…unless they do something really dumb. In that case, they get what they deserve. I think Guillotine Games is working on rules to help with player elimination (Zombivors is the term I’ve heard batted around), but I haven’t seen any rules yet.
All that being said, I still enjoy the hell out of Zombicide. It’s a carnage filled dice fest but that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a zombie game. The turns are quick, the game play is very easy to pick up and the endless supply of missions makes for a lot of replay value. When I’m going to reach for a zombie game, Zombicide will be my first choice.
There are more zombie games on the market than you can shake a stick at right now. As evidenced by our review last week, every game isn’t always a good one. However, with Zombicide rises to the top of the horde in my opinion (pun intended). While the game is far from perfect, it delivers exactly what it promises to. An easy to learn, fight heavy, zombie killing game with some great looking components.
I’ll admit that I liked Zombicide a whole lot more than I expected. I’ve had mixed results with the over-crowed zombie genre. But if I want to sit down, roll some dice and dismember the undead, I’m going to pull out Zombicide. I’d highly recommend this newcomer for anyone who wants to take on the hordes of the undead. Just don’t forget your shotgun.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $90
Final Score: 4 Stars– My current favorite zombie-killing game. Some fiddly rules hold it back a little though.
• Great components
• Video game feel on your tabletop
• Easy to learn rules that flow well
• Fast paced combat
• Great looking minis and components
• Best representation of a Hollywood-style zombie survival game.
• Some house ruling needed to help the game
• Game doesn’t scale with the number of players
• Player elimination can turn players into watchers