"It's like a B-Movie!" - Tim Norris, Grey Elephant Gaming
That was one of the funniest, and yet appropriate ways, I've heard Zombicide described to me going into this Critical Review. I unfortunately was under a gigantic boulder of a rock last year and didn't pledge into the Zombicide Kickstarter from Cool Mini or Not and Guillotine Games. However, have no fear, as our Friendly Local Game Store, Dragon's Lair in Austin, has provided us a copy of the base game to provide a review for you, the Critical Fans!
Zombicide is everything you can imagine, just by looking at the cover. It's filled with zombie minis, a handful of unique, quirky survivors, and a lot of weapons to destroy, kill, and maim said zombies. While not quite Last Night on Earth, this game is slowly carving its own place in the zombie world like a machete through undead brains... but is it fun? Let's gear up and check it out!
Zombicide is one of the most simplistic, streamlined games I've ever played, that is the size that it is. What I mean by that is that this is a gigantic game, in terms of components and customization options, yet it's simple to learn, easy to teach, and super-fast to play!
You are a survivor. If you have the base game which we reviewed, there are 6 to choose from. All the stereotypes are here. Josh, the street thug, check. Phil the lone wolf cop, check. Ned the vagrant who has been predicting the zombie-pocalypse forever, check. Amy the teenage goth emo chick who happens to carry a katana, check. Doug the business man frustrate with cubicle life, but somehow is good with guns, check. And don't forget Wanda, the roller skating waitress who made sure to get the chainsaw from the office before clocking out to kill some undead, yup, check.
Thankfully, each survivor is completely different. At the beginning of the game, you all get 3 actions, but each survivor starts the game with a unique ability. Some can get a bonus move or search, some can get a specific weapon, and so on. Part of the appeal of Zombicide is as you kill zombies, and you will do that a lot, you gain points in a "danger zone" and when your survivors reach certain levels, they can choose new abilities, available to make them more "bad-ass" and thus, help in killing MORE zombies!
While the game comes with character sheets to track the danger zone for each survivor, as well as items and weapons they are carrying and using, there is a tremendous iOS app that should be mentioned, as a companion to the game, that also provides stats on survivors available through the kickstarter as well as the base survivors. It's a great addition and one I highly recommend as well as thank Guillotine Games for putting together!
Zombicide's set up, after picking survivors, is different every time. There are base scenarios in the rule book you can use, as well as a lot, and I mean a LOT, of room for customizing your own scenarios. Essentially though, whether you play a scenario that involves finding something, staying alive for a certain length of time, or getting to one specific spot on the board, the core mechanic is searching for gear, and using said great to attack the zombies.
There are a lot of additional items inside Zombicide I won't get into, like cars and such, but for the purpose of this review, let’s look at the action most people will be doing, attacking! Attacking is fairly simple. As a survivor, you'll start the game with a basic weapon, from crowbars, pistols, fire axes and even frying pans, but through taking an action to search, you can find things like Sawed Off Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, and even armor like Goalie Masks!
Some items and weapons provide additional benefits like choosing targets when attacking from range, rerolling dice, or avoiding wounds, as well as offering a multitude of options in terms of damage dealing. Some weapons let you dual wield and swing/shoot them both at once, and some can open doors. Through it all though, you'll be making some noise, and the noise tokens provided will track that, which of course, will attract zombies!
When you attack with melee, it's fairly simple, roll dice equal to the amount the weapon says to, and each result equal to or higher than the hit rating (3rd from the left with the target on it along the bottom of the weapons) means you hit a target and deal X damage (the 4th attribute along the bottom from the left). So if I use the above pictured Sawed Off and roll 2 dice with the results of 4 and 6, I hit two targets in the targeted zone and deal each one 1 damage.
This is important to note as not all zombies are equal. No, see the wimps, like walkers and runners, while they may be slow or fast, all take one damage. Fattys however, who are more resilient, have bullets bounce off them from a Sawed Off and require a weapon that deals a minimum of 2 damage to kill them. That's right, so two hits from a Sawed Off on a Fatty means that nothing happens other than two bullets fly off him. Hence, this is why searching, finding more powerful weapons, and gearing up is so pertinent to "taking' them down"!
Finally, there is the abomination to deal with! Abominations take a weapon that deals a minimum of 3 damage to take down, and are pretty darn hard to deal with, but make the "chasing and running" part really fun.
Now, what would a zombie game be if the bad guys didn't want to eat your brains right? Well, after all the survivors have gone and taken their actions, attacking or searching, trading, managing their inventory or peeing their pants, then it's the zombie's turn. They have a very specific turn order. They first deal 1 damage to any survivor in the same zone they are in at the start of their turn. So if poor Amy didn't hack up everyone and she ends the survivors turn with two zombies in her zone, she's going to take one wound from each, which is terribly bad. See once a survivor has two wounds, they are dead, gone, and lunch for the bad guys. This may seem harsh, and at times it is, but it means that you need to be quick on your feet, position your survivors well, and not just manage your weapons, but manage your tactics and attacks well as a group!
When zombies attack and there are multiple survivors in the same zone, players can choose who takes the wounds, but a survivor can't take 4 wounds let's say, if another survivor is there, so don't think you can overkill any one poor sap. After attacking though, the next step is moving.
Any zombies on the board then move to the closest survivor they can see (yes, there are buildings to duck into, I mean come on, there has to be for the "no don't run in there" moments right?), or they move to the zone with the noisiest players in it, so remember those noise tokens we mentioned? Yeah, shoot through a ton of clips and get XP, but be ready for the mob to turn the corner!
Finally, after moving, yup, you guessed it, there is a spawn phase where more zombies come out! Zombie spawning is a very fun and tense moment in the game. First, you check the danger zone color level for each survivor and the person in the highest area is who determines the color that you check on the zombie spawn cards. Each zombie spawn card has an area for blue, yellow, orange and red results, depending on the level the highest survivor is.
For each zombie spawn point on the map, you draw a card, and place whatever amount and type of zombies the card tells you. Sometimes you get lucky and you get nothing. Other times you get a complete mob! Essentially, you're never safe, until the last man is standing!
Zombicide really is a B-movie at it's best. It's slightly strategic, but not so much so that you'll be spending 20 minutes plotting your moves. It's a tremendously well balanced game for both solo and multiplayer, and offers rewarding experiences for both types of play.
It's not Last Night on Earth by any means. In fact, while I consider LNoE a Crit of a game, this provides a "similar but different" experience. This is less story driven, and much more about throwing dice and killing as much, and as fast, as you can. There are some basic rules which aren't the best, like the fact that when you shoot into a zone with a survivor, that you hit them first, but I touch on that in the video and offer some ways around it.
At it's core, Zombicide is about one thing, killing the undead, and in this case, Guillotine Games has delivered on that promise in a very well designed, highly customizable game that is simple, easy, light hearted, and surprisingly fun! Every time we've played, whether it's a larger group or small, the experiences always involve laughter, tense moments, great co-op play, and above all else, loads of targets for your Molotov Cocktails (Yes, they are in the game and yes, they rock)! The game's tag line is "Team up, gear up, level up, and take 'em down!" and it definitely provides exactly the type of experience you'd expect it to. Zombicide is a surefire Crit of a game. It's not deep, it's not cerebral (past the brain eating) but it's a well put together, super fun experience, that provides high replay-ability, top notch components, and super cool minis for all to enjoy!
Critical Score (Crit, Hit or Miss):
Crits Happen was supplied a copy of Zombicide to produce this review by our Friendly Local Game Store, Dragon's Lair! Check them out at http://www.dlair.net