Those pesky shuffling undead are everywhere! They’re on your TV screens via films, television series and videogames, they’ve invaded literature and they’re even getting up to mischief in those good ol’ board games. After reviewing zombie board games Zombies!!!, Last Night on Earth and City of Horror, I’m back to share my thoughts on zombie board game Zombicide.
Upon first look, Zombicide screams Zombies!!! It has the similar town decorated tiles and plastic characters for the zombies and heroes that you used to get with games of old. However, Zombies!!! was all about beating your opponent
or crying when you lost and this provided much of the entertainment via heated arguments in which the winner would rub the other person’s nose in it. Zombicide takes the opposite approach. In this game you must work together to reach your goal so stabbing the other players in the back or leaving them to be ripped apart by zombies is going to do you no favours whatsoever. Zombicide is all about co-operative play, i.e. teamwork, as you each control the survivors and the zombies but whatever you do, you mustn’t let the zombies win!
First, let’s take a look at the game itself. Zombicide is beautifully presented in a thick, top quality cardboard box which is completely in full colour, adorned with artwork of the game’s survivers shooting, slicing and bashing zombie brains to smithereens. The base of the box is even gives a little background on each of the six protagonists as well as showcasing the four varieties of zombies that you’ll be up against during the game.
Inside the box there are little plastic figurines for both the survivors and zombies, with the survivors in a range of colours and the zombies in grey. The zombies are lacking life so it makes sense for them to be drained of all colour. The rest of the box contains zombie and equipment cards, six dice, plastic counters and a variety of board game counters and pieces made from thick, coloured cardboard.
The full contents of Zombicide includes:
- 9 Town Game Tiles
- 71 Miniatures
- 6 Dice
- 4 Car Tokens
- 6 Zombie Spawn Tokens
- 1 Exit Point Token
- 110 Mini Cards
- 6 Survivor Identity Cards
- 10 Objective Tokens
- 18 Noise Tokens
- 12 Door Tokens
- 1 First Player Token
- 24 Skill Counters
- 6 Experience Trackers
- 1 Instruction Book
One of the main draws about this game, other than the plastic figurines and expensive quality of the product, is the fact it’s playable from 1 to 6 players. That means if you’re billy-no-mates or have no siblings to play with you, you can still enjoy the game by playing it by yourself. I’d have loved this growing up as an only child.
When beginning to play Zombicide for the first time, do not make the mistake I did. I opened up the box and emptied the contents on the table and opened the instruction manual only to be greeted by 31 pages, 19 of which are the rules and explanation on how the game works. Needless to say, with only an hour or so spare time to play, I decided to pack it all away. I can’t stress this enough: it is paramount that you read the rule book BEFORE even attempting to play this game. The way to play this game is quite complex and in depth upon first look that you have to get your head around the different options and the mechanics of the game before actually setting the game up. Once you’ve done that, the game is quite easy to understand and thus starting a game is much easier than leaving the rules until the last minute.
The objective of Zombicide differs depending on which gameplay layout you play with. The instruction manual has 10 different missions to play with a variety of difficulties. To get to grips with how the game worked after studying the rules, I played a single player tutorial with four survivors. Laying out two of the town map tiles, I decorated them with the required counters. My survivors would start at one end of the map and the objective was to get to a room at the opposite end of the map without all my players dying. Sounds easy? Well, sorta, but between my survivors and the objective lay zombie walkers roaming the streets and with two doors to smash through to get to the other building, it’d be certain I’d be making noise that would alert those hungry, shuffling undead.
At the beginning of the game, all of the survivor characters are given a starting weapon to get them on their way. Other items can be acquired by searching the rooms of buildings by taking a card from the top of the deck. Each survivor is given 3 actions per turn. An action can be a movement or using their equipment such as knocking a door down or attempting to kill a zombie. A single movement can be across one zone only which equates to a different room if inside a building or if outside, the space between two zebra crossings. With every movement you make, zombies will be aware of your presence but if you should use an axe to open a door or a gun to shoot a zombie then a noise token will be placed on the board and the zombies will be attracted to it come their turn. If you’re unfortunate to meet a zombie and wish to kill it, you need to roll a die. Some weapons require you roll more than one die with a little symbol on the weapons card telling you the quantity as well as the number you must at least roll to have a successful kill. Some weapons are more effective than others and will kill with double the power which is ideal when faced with runner zombies that require a weapon with damage rating 2 to kill them in one go.
Once all the survivors have played their turn, it’s the zombies’ time to strike. The zombies can only use one action each per turn, so they can either move or attack. Unlike the survivors, the zombies are deadly accurate in their attacks and there’s no need to roll a die to seal the fate of the survivor. If in the same zone as a survivor, the zombie will attack and wound the survivor. The survivor must take a wounded card and replace one of their active equipment cards on their slot with the wounded card. If they get two wounded cards, they’re dead and out of the game, so the idea is to think strategically so as to not lose a survivor. If the zombie moves, it must move towards the survivor characters or the noise tokens, depending on whichever is nearest. Once the zombies have each had their action, a card must be drawn from the deck that will tell you how many zombies will be added to the board in the spawning area. The cards have different quantities depending on the highest experience level of the survivors. The experience level is split into four colours and each zombie kill equates as 1 experience point, so the more zombies you kill, the higher the experience level and when a certain amount is reached, the survivor will be in a different experience colour category. As the survivors climb through the experience ranks, the resulting number of zombies that will spawn will be greater. After all, if you’re a whizz at killing zombies, you must be challenged! When the zombies have spawned, rinse and repeat the survivor and zombie turns until you achieved the required goal.
After getting to grips with the game via the tutorial maps, I grabbed a friend and we tried our hand at a two player game with three survivors each. The object of this particular mission was to clear out all the zombies off the map. Easier said than done. The game started out pretty easy but then the spawing of the zombies began and before I knew it, one of my survivors was in a room with four of the suckas! The game required teamwork more than ever and mistakes were made as one survivor succumbed to zombie bites. About an hour later, we’d finally managed to wipe the board clean of the infected scum and we were most relieved to have done so. Believe it or not, when you find yourself stuck in a room with more than two zombies, your heart rate does go up. You just have to repeat “It’s only a game. It’s only a game.”
Whilst it has its similarities to Zombies!!!, Zombicide is a different animal completely. The co-operative gameplay means you have to strategise on how best to use your equipment and predict what mess might lay ahead should you make the wrong move. There were times I wish I hadn’t made a certain choice and in some cases I figured staying put was better than heading into potential danger. It’s all a skill as you discuss with the other players what the best course of action will be. In many ways, you don’t want one survivor to be the hero and kill all the zombies as that would increase their experience level which in turn would mean more zombies would spawn at the end of the zombies’ turn. Instead, you have to try and even the zombie carnage out by giving each of the survivors an equal shot at smashing some zombie skulls in.
There so many opportunities and modes of gameplay with Zombicide that there’s no opportunity to get bored. There’s extra coutners such as cars, rations and water that come in handy for other missions with extra town map tiles to create an even bigger and complex map. You can even create your own layouts and objectives if you so wish. The possibilities are endless which makes the game so entertaining for young and old. If you play a standard boardgame, you kind of know what to expect, but Zombicide offers such variety that you can select which mission you’d prefer to play or venture online and download some extra ones (there’s 46 more online).
The quality of the game is remarkable. It’s clear the creators have put a lot of thought into producing a high quality game with counters and plastic figurines that people will enjoy moving around. It’s bright and colourful (unless you’re talking about the zombies, though you could paint them), and very entertaining. There’s never a dull moment and the game is great fun during a wet afternoon, especially if you want to get those grey cells motivated. Even if it doesn’t have the super-competitive, slightly aggressive edge that Zombies!!! has, you still want to win – not just for yourself, but for everyone playing. There’s no way you can let the zombies win!
With such diversity and the endless map options, Zombicide is a game worth investing in and will provide entertainment for all the family for years to come.
Zombicide is priced at RRP £69.99 and can be found at the following stockists.