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.
Speaking of delightful Kickstarters, this arrived in the mail today. Well, to be completely honest, this arrived inside a box that contained more boxes. Which was necessary, because of all this:
And this picture doesn’t even show all the bits. I had to leave the map tiles and tokens out of the shot, or I would have had to have taken this from space. True story.
Zombicide is a co-op game, where you and several other survivors attempt to take down a zombie hoard, culminating in a showdown with the horrifying Abomination, who looks like the bigger, angrier, spikier version of the Tank from Left4Dead. And the best part is that the more zombies you kill, the more badass your character becomes. Which is awesome, except that powering up also brings in more zombies. It should make for one hell of an entertaining mess.
I’m not gonna lie, kids. I did some squealing and box-hugging when this showed up today.
As you may recall, I love me some Descent. It’s the game I’ve played the most consistently, the most often, and over the longest period of time. I just finished the second of two back-to-back year long campaigns, and would have been happy to play more the very next weekend.
That said, Descent isn’t without its flaws. Like a lot of tactical games, each expansion pushed the limits of the core ruleset further and further away from what it was originally intended to do, until we ended up with things like sea battles in a dungeon crawl game and epic campaigns for a single session ruleset. I think the designers did a fantastic job overall, but honestly, there’s only so far you can take things.
Which brings us to today, seven years after the original release back in 2005. The new rules are more elegant: easier setup, better line-of-sight mechanics, more streamlined overlord experience, even a built-in modular campaign system. The hero characters are better designed and now support classes, making them more customizable and interesting. They even revamped the dice system.
That’s all to the good, and from having read the new rules and gone over the new mechanics, I think it’ll be a delight to play.
I hope I’m right.
I haven’t played it yet, but when I do I’ll post my thoughts about how the play experience has changed, and if I think it’s really for the better.
Now I’m off to
fondle punch out all the parts and round up some victims players.
Our year-and-a-half long Descent campaign, Sea of Blood, is finally over. And I lost.
<a moment of silence please>
In the end, reckless vandalism and pointy sticks were able to overcome wily persistance and peerless charm. Here’s a pic of the ‘heroes’ attacking a helpless evil monarch:
Despite being crushed into overlord jelly, the campaign was a blast to play. Thanks to Erik and Cory for spending about a million monster-filled hours with me.
Since we’re moving on to Descent 2.0 when it launches soon(tm), this is probably the last time that this set will be played:
Farewell old friend. You were magnificent.
As you know, I’m a huge fan of nerding out over tabletop board games. I’m also a huge fan of both Wil Wheaton and Grant Imahara, who I like to think of as my imaginary friends. They’re real, it’s just our friendship that’s imaginary.
No, I’m fine. I just have some dust in my eye.
Anyway, even though they refuse to stop by the house so I can crush them at Mansions of Madness, the next best thing is watching Table Top, which is a new series all about gladiatorial board gaming with your favorite geek icons.
Here’s the first episode:
If you liked it, and I know you did, you can subscribe here.
As you may have noticed, I like to gather my “friends” for the occasional table top game. And while I mostly play the games the way they come right out of the box, I’m afraid that a combination of peer pressure and marketing has collapsed my usual aversion to buying extra bits and pieces.
I know, *gasp*.
First of all, my Super Dungeon Explore minis are nearly complete, thanks to Jason, my favorite painter of tiny things. He painted about a million of these:
So, I decided to protect all his hard work with this:
It’s basically a kit that contains several inserts to hold all of the game pieces and minis, and the whole thing fits into the original box. Super clever.
Then tragedy struck, and before I knew it, I had watched this video while my willpower was still at a low ebb:
Once the video ended, I noticed that there was nobody around to slap the mouse out of my hand, so I went here and ordered these for Arkham Horror:
Seriously, what was I supposed to do? THEY HAVE TENTACLES. Like anyone could resist that. Christ, they might as well be constructed entirely out of supermodels and salty caramel. I also bought a bag of tiny magnifying glass tokens that I can use for all my various AH themed games. Which are numerous and in desperate need of more tiny plastic bits.
So anyway, now I’m happy. I got everything that the internet told me to buy, and just in time, since now my wife is home and watching me suspiciously, ready to tackle me if it looks like I’m about to click on any online game stores.
All I can say is too late, baby. Too late.
Got in lots of Lovecraftian gaming this weekend:
Both were huge fun, with Elder Sign being the quicker, more lightweight game, and Mansions being the large, total tabletop experience. In both cases, a team of investigators are attempting to stop an Elder God from devouring everyone, but with Elder Sign, all the players are working together against the board.
In Mansions, one player (the most handsome and clever one) is the Keeper, and is actively trying to stop the other players (nosy busybodies), who are the investigators trying to save the world. For some reason.
Here’s a shot of the brave gibbering horrors trying to stand up to the homewrecking jerks:
All in all, it was fantastic day of trying to end the world.
My only regret is that my ‘friends’ Cory and Erik managed to stop me. THIS TIME.
If only there were somebody to send this letter to:
Dear Video Game Industry,
Please stop punching me in the discipline.
Thanks ever so much,
Let’s face it. I’m a weak, weak man. When Skyrim came out, I wanted very badly to spend my days pretending to be a half-naked guy in the freezing cold wearing a metal hat with a couple of cow horns glued to it.
But, because I’m heroically dedicated (hahahaha), I managed to pull myself away. Well, dedicated in the sense that I very much want to avoid having virtual tomatoes thrown at me for missing my next deadline.
Then, immediately after my hard-won moral victory, Batman:Arkham City came out. Ouch. Wore tights for like, one night. Then I averted my eyes and put it away for good. I may have cried a little in the process, but it was still a victory, dammit.
Last month, my friends all started playing the new Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic. AND THEN THEY STARTED TELLING ME ABOUT IT. In breathless, exciting detail. I had to wrap them in duct tape and lock them in the closet, but it was worth it. Well, to me, anyway. Temptation avoided.
And now this. Gabe and Tycho are super awesome, but must they, too, try and lure me into the Unmarked Van of Slacking Off? Et Tu, Gaming Icons?
Kingdoms of Amalur launches next week. And the demo is out now. A demo in which you can get in-game items for the actual game. Just by playing it.
I swear I’ll remain strong. No matter how long Gabe and Tycho sit in that damnable van outside, I’ll be a rock. Just sitting there, honking the horn and revving the engine…
I spent the day playing Descent, specifically another session of our Sea of Blood campaign.
First there was the epic sea battle:
And then the landing on fabulous MONSTER ISLAND!
I love Monster Island, but I have to tell you, the place has really gone to hell since those adventurers moved in. All in all, we had huge fun, even if the heroes did manage to kill most of the Overlord’s precious monsters and steal all of his hard won treasure.
I’m gonna be pretty sad when this campaign is over. All I’ll have to remember it by are these pictures.
And bunch of hero skulls on my mantel.
Similar to my beloved Descent, SDE is all about a noble dungeon owner trying to spread love and peace via monster hugs, and being attacked by treasure-thieving home invaders that call themselves heroes. Luckily, monsters love tasty heroes, so it all works out.
Here’s the BGG summary:
Super Dungeon Explore (SDE) is a dungeon crawler, inspired by old japanese console-RPG’s. The miniatures are done in a cute / chibi / super-deformed style, that means the head is roughly the same size as the rest of the body.
One to five players take the role of classic fantasy heroes like the human paladin, a dwarf fighter or an elf ranger. One player is the “Dark Consul” who controls the monsters of the dungeon.
Every hero/monster has a character card which informs you about the stats for movement, attack, armor, willpower, dexterity, action points and hearts (= life points). Additional information may include special abilities / actions / attacks and potions.
The game is played on modular dungeon boards. In a round of play the game passes back and forth between single heroes and the monsters, but the exact order may change from round to round. The characters use the stats from their character card, special dice (with hearts, potions and stars) are only used for combat and checks. If the heroes wound the opponent they may draw loot cards to improve their stats. There is also the possibility to open treasure chests to find even more powerful things. The monsters have no possibility to “level up” but the Dark Consul has an unlimited number of them.
To win the game the Dark Consul must defeat all heroes in his dungeon. The heroes must defeat all monsters and destroy all spawning points (= entry points for new monsters) to be victorious.
One caveat, the miniatures are super detailed and high quality, but require assembly. That’s not really my strong suit, but luckily for me, I happen to have a friend who can be bribed to assemble and paint these bad boys for me. [THANKS, JASON!] It doesn’t hurt that he’s a genius at this stuff, and can do it in a fraction of the time and with way better results than a mere mortal. That said, even if you don’t have access to a miniature-painting demigod, you can glue and assemble the pieces without too much trouble.
Here’s a review from Tom Vasel at The Dice Tower (Hint: he loves it!)