The Average Gamer

Friday Night Unplugged #4: Zombicide

After last week’s adventures through space, we decided to head into the depths of the urban wasteland and face the never-ending horde in Zombicide for Friday Night Unplugged #4. Like Tsuro of the Seas, Zombicide came from the depths of Kickstarter. Designed by new studio Guillotine Games and published by miniature veterans Cool Mini or Not, Zombicide set a pledge goal of $20,000. At the end of its time on Kickstarter it had raised $781,597 and gained 5000+ backers in the process. Something about Zombicide clicked with the masses.

The Basics

Zombicide is a a co-operative survival game. Faced with the oncoming horde, your intrepid team of survivors must venture into the city in one of nine pre-generated missions. Goals include anything from reaching an exit with a survivor, collecting objective tokens or reaching the infamous Red danger level described in the survivor card section below. Turns are simple:

  • Starting with the first player, players take it in turns to activate their chosen survivors (3 each in a 2 player game, 2 in a 3 player and 1 each for 4 players and up).
  • Survivors have 3 action points to spend on a turn.
  • Action points can be spent to do anything, including moving between zones (squares and rooms). Searching a room to draw from the search deck, opening a door, picking up an objective token, firing a weapon, attacking with a melee weapon all cost one action point per activation.
  • Other than searching a room all actions can be activated multiple times per survivor.
  • Once all survivors have activated it’s the zombies’ turn, who start out by dealing damage.
  • Zombies then move on zone towards any player’s in line of sight, or move to the largest amount of noise on the board. (Survivors count as noise as well as any weapons with a noise symbol)
  • Then a spawning card is pulled for each spawn point in turn. Players place the number and types of zombies indicated by the colour matching highest ranking danger level on a survivors card.
  • The first player token is passed on.

Zombicide does have a lot of rules. I’m not going to detail all of them but it is important to understand how the survivor cards work.

Each survivor card has a danger meter along the top. Starting at 0, the slider will go up 1 point every time a survivor kills a zombie, moving through blue, yellow, orange and red zones. Each zone spawns more dangerous zombies and in greater numbers when zombies are added to the board.

As each survivor’s own danger level goes up they also get a new special ability every time their marker moves into a new danger zone. Ranging from moving in and out of squares with zombies in undetected, to moving double spaces when you move or adding an extra dice to combat, each survivor has a unique set of skills that make them a nightmare for zombies.

The Zombie cards control the spawning and movement of zombies on the board

Lastly each survivor can hold five item cards; two in their hands and three in reserve. Item cards are added when a player searches a room and survivors can only attack with weapons in their hands. Using weapons requires players to match skill checks, rolling a set number of dice and matching or beating the set number on that weapons cards.

That’s all you need to know for now so let’s jump into our playthrough.

Time to Play

The board is set, we’ve picked out our characters and grabbed our starter equipment. I took on command of the conspiracy-nut Ned (red) and ex-cop Phil (grey) equipped with a pan and pistol respectively. Fi chose to manage rollerskating waitress Wanda (green) equipped with a fire axe and goth girl Amy (purple) who lucked out and picked up a pan. Josh took on the role of of slippery street kid Josh (orange) equipped with a pan and middle-management gone wild Doug (blue) with the silent but deadly crowbar. Our goal? To reach the yellow exit on the map with at least one survivor. With four zombie spawn points in our way, it’s certainly going to be an interesting ride.

Josh was the first player. With very little weaponry to hand and nothing on the board to kill (yet) Josh and Doug placed themselves in front of the first zombie spawnpoint, crowbar and pans in hand to defend against the incoming wave. Wanda took advantage of her double move to place herself in front of the doors a few spaces ahead. Amy joined her thanks to her free move action ability. Ned and Phil joined the others holding down the spawn point.

All that stands between us and freedom is several turns of zombie spawning.

A successful zombie spawning saw only a few walkers move onto the board. With nothing to worry about here we needed a place to safely search for better equipment. We knew the central building has a door close to the exit and with only 4 rooms, the chance of it spawning too many zombies to deal with in this early stage of the game was unlikely.

Wanda started the second round by breaking open the two doors, one leading into the central building, the other to the large building on our edge. We got lucky. Only a few zombies were discovered inside the central building, however a large “fattie” and its entourage of walkers were found in the other. Deciding the best bet was to head into the almost-empty centre building, we spent the next few rounds taking out the few walkers that entered and searching for equipment.

Oh f**k.

In the space of those two movement phases, zombies from two spawn points had merged. Forming a large group, they forced their way into our building. Two fatties and more walkers than we could shake a metaphorical chainsaw at stood in our way. Luckily, on the previous turn Josh and Ned had had found some gasoline and a bottle. We knew what to do.

Ned handed Josh the bottle. Shortly afterwards there was nothing left. The Molotov had destroyed everything in the room. In the process it shot our danger level up to Yellow but it was worth every second. Amy ended the turn by opening the last door in our building and four spaces sat between our team and the exit. By now we were well-equipped to deal with the horde thanks to having an entire building free to search. Ned held a chainsaw and a sub-MCG. Phil had a chainsaw, shotgun and a Molotov. Wanda and Amy held shotguns and katanas respectively while Josh wielded a sub-MCG and Doug carried a shotgun and crowbar.

A few unlucky spawning rounds later. Good thing we had a Molotov and a chainsaw or two.

Equipped and ready, Amy was the first to reach the exit. The others moved into a defensive position between the door and the spawn point while Josh stayed behind to deal with stragglers in the building. The board may have been cleared in its majority after our Molotov explosion however our next spawning quickly changed that. Now high in Yellow danger we were drawing multiple fatties, runners and walkers. The runners, with their dual space movement, were our biggest concern.

The Abomination, one of these on the board is enough to cause a problem.

From there things got messy. Rather than moving straight to the exit, Josh, Doug and Ned all decided to destroy any immediate threats. Another Molotov later and we were deep in Orange danger territory. The others all stood their ground, waiting for those still alive to return to the exit. That’s when “it” spawned. The Abomination.

Only one of these models comes packed in the box for a reason. One is enough. Only killable with a Molotov, this brute was a serious danger. We had no choice but to cut our killing spree short and run. We ran and everyone made it to the exit in a single turn. Everyone except Josh.

Phil, armed with a Molotov, makes his last stand against the zombie horde before running away.

One last spawning round went by. Nearly every zombie figure we owned was on the board. As the horde swarmed in, Josh made his final mad dash to the exit, slipping through walkers and runners to escape. Not only did we succeeded in our goal, for the first time in all our playthroughs we succeeded with all six survivors alive.

The Stats

Zombicide is a 1-6 player game that is supposed to take 1 hour. Of course, that is dependent on a mix of luck, tactics and the chosen scenario but we’ve had games end anywhere from 30 minutes in to two hours later.

The main selling point of Zombicide is the sheer number of miniatures included in the set. A total of 71 are there, including all zombies and survivors. The walkers have male and female models with each having different variations. Even the runners have different styles. The fatties and the Abomination look imposing on the board and these hulking beasts draw attention from survivors and players alike.

The endgame board was swamped with zombies.

The Cool Mini or Not style is here; the miniatures are all hard-wearing and highly detailed even down to the pan hanging from Ned’s belt. The box itself is bigger than most. It needs to be to hold so many pieces. Board tiles, markers, characters, cards, dice and doors – all the little pieces needed to play are stored inside with only a fraction of space wasted. The best part is that all the pieces are well packed in sheets and boxes, so when transporting Zombicide around you won’t have any unwanted breakages.

The most well packed box I’ve seen.

The rulebook is full colour, full of art and full of diagrams. Sadly the rulebook is one of the only things we had a problem with. It can be vague in places and finding specific sections in the middle of a game can slow things down. However it looks amazing.

The art on the board tiles and character cards is the same great style. The board tiles are covered in knocked over barrels, blood stains and broken glass. There’s so much to look at in each room that adds to the overall theme beautifully.

What we thought

The two trays of Zombie Mini’s played a huge part in our love for the game.

Let’s just get it out the way now; we love Zombicide. Everyone we have played it with has loved it. It matches all the criteria for a great group game. It’s simple to learn, fun to play and the fact that it’s co-operative makes it a great game for groups of people. That’s what this column is about – games that bring people together and Zombicide is one of those games.

The first time we introduced it outside of our playgroup we lost the first scenario. All the survivors died but everyone enjoyed themselves in the process. Even those that dropped out of the game early enjoyed watching the rest of the game and had fun contributing to discussions on tactics. It does have a hefty price but if you love zombie survival games and want a great-looking, great-playing game for your group to invest in then you can’t go wrong with Zombicide. With 9 missions in the core rulebook and more being added to the Guillotine Games website there is plenty to keep you going for a long term campaign.

Next Week

Next week on FNU things are going to be a little different. Christmas is coming and we decided we’d sit down as a group and go through some of our favourite games for the family to play together. We’ll be including a few classics and a couple of modern additions for all ages. See you there.

Zombicide is available now.