Remember when I got my copy of Zombicide? Well, I finally got a chance to sit down and
rub the pieces all over my body play it a few times. For those who want the TL;DR version: I LIKED IT VERY MUCH.
For everyone else, let me give you a quick summary of the key gameplay ideas:
- Everyone plays one or two characters, each with a particular set of abilities that they can get as they level. Players die after taking two wounds.
- The more powerful the players get, the more zombies spawn each round.
- As a rule, zombies are slow and fairly harmless in small numbers, just like in the movies. In groups, they can be deadly. The main danger is that in order to leave a square with zombies in it, you need one action per zombie, plus the move action itself. Since you only get three actions to start with, you can see how this would be bad.
- Zombies that start in the same space as a player deal a wound. Since you can only take two wounds to begin with, groups of rotters can be right dangerous.
- Players create noise, both by being in a space, and by loud actions they take. Shooting guns, for example. If a zombie can see you, it will head your way. If it can’t see anyone, it will head for the noisiest spot on the board.
- Shooting into a space targets players first, then walkers, then fatties, then runners. Melee weapons let you pick your targets, as does the sniper rifle. So, shooting into a crowd of zombies surrounding your fellow players is a good way to get a punch in the chops at the table.
- Each weapon does 1 or 2 damage per hit. Hits are dealt out to targets, and do not add together. So, a fatty can only be killed by a weapon that does 2 damage, like a machete. A pistol does 1 damage, and since hits don’t stack, you can shoot them all day and they won’t give a zombie rat’s ass.
- Each map comes with a win condition and may contain multiple objectives.
Those are the important bits. There are more rules that cover searching for gear, combining things together to make even cooler gear, how to drive over zombies with a car, etc, but this will give you an idea of what the meat of the play is like. One of the fantastic things about the game is that the rules are fairly lightweight. While some people will turn their noses up at games that lack a certain depth, those people are likely not looking to shoot a bunch of zombies in the face while hoarding a can of beans.
At its heart, Zombicide is about trade-offs. The more powerful a player gets, the more zombies spawn on the map. How badly do you really need that extra combat bonus? Having one or two orange level survivors on a map with blue (starting) level survivors is a good way to lose half your party. Weapons are the same way. The more dice a weapon rolls, the harder it is for any given dice to hit. I like this part of the design quite a bit, as it keeps the difficulty ramped up, even as the groups power level increases.
Like the best zombie flicks, the zombie population starts off small, and the survivors have a pretty easy time of things, scavenging and shooting lone walkers with a song in their hearts. And like those movies, it’s hard to pin down exactly when things go from “piece of cake” to “why didn’t we loot any adult diapers”, because it happens so gradually. But rest assured, the game really shines when things do go pear-shaped. People will heroically sacrifice themselves for the group (or not, I’m looking at YOU, Josh), and even pull off amazing last stands versus a shuffling hoard that stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s pretty cool.
So, it’s a ton of fun, but it’s not without its flaws. The scenarios in the book are uneven, to put it mildly. The first scenario is amazing, but can be very tough and take a long time, which isn’t really what you want for your first outing after the tiny tutorial mission. The second scenario, in contrast, is so easy that it can take longer to set up than complete. My advice here is to read though the missions, and pick the ones that send you into the city for multiple objectives. Anything that looks too simple probably is.
The other issue that the characters are not evenly balanced. Some really are better than others. That said, all of the characters are fun, and very competent in the zombie killing lifestyle. If it bothers you that someone else might be more powerful than you, then pick carefully. If, like me, you’re just looking to have some fun separating zombies from their unlives, then just pick the character that looks the most interesting to you.
Nitpicks aside, Zombicide is the most fun zombie game I’ve ever played, and as a fan of the genre, that’s saying something. This is a perfect example of the fact that the entertainment factor of a game can be independent from, or at least very tolerant of, problems with the game rules or balance.
If you have any love in your heart for shooting, bludgeoning, and chopping up the undead, then I highly recommend you give it a try.