Thriller – Zombicide review

The Judge returns! Stuart takes a look at the Kickstarter hotness that is Zombicide. After raising over $780,000 on the crowdfunding site, they turned the game around and it’s now hitting tables around the world – but is it worth the wait?

We boardgamers are predisposed to the disease of shiny stuff.  Like magpies, no matter how many gems and trinkets we layer our nests with, there are always many more to distract us.  Exclusive Essen promos.  Expansions.  Limited Editions.  These are nectar from the gods for the unfortunate collectors amongst our number.

Kickstarter is therefore an almost unlimited source of this sickly sweet wonderfulness.  This phenomenon combines a pre-order system, an advertising campaign and a wonderful game-unto-itself where we, as a community, can all join together behind a common cause to ‘get this thing made!’ and revel in the excitement as the totals increase and bonus stretch rewards are lathered on.

Zombicide is one such successful campaign that captured everything that makes Kickstarter such a great idea for board game publishers everywhere.  This includes flashy components (in this case loads of quality miniatures), a popular theme that scratches an itch not totally covered elsewhere (Zombies!!! and Last Night on Earth are just passable) and a roller-coaster of momentum – bolstered by continual stretch goals.  So you’ve pledged $100 for the game… How about JUST another $10 for custom dice.  Or more tiles… and how do you expect to get by without Uma Thurman from Kill Bill?  Or Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction?  Or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory? And so it goes on…

Yes, they did a character based on Sheldon from TBBT – behold, Dave the Geek!

This wonderful journey / descent into hell (delete as applicable) has resulted in me now owning a shiny ‘Abomination’ set of Zombicide with loads of extras.  The ‘Kickstarter Game’ was great fun, but this wouldn’t be the first highly successful campaign where the product was awful – Miskatonic School for Girls anyone? Fortunately for me, for Cool Mini or Not and for Kickstarter itself, the game is fantastic.

Zombicide is a fully co-operative game where 1-6 players adopt a role from a variety of colourful characters all trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.  Players are represented by detailed plastic miniatures – often caricatures of popular culture icons or comically exaggerated stereotypes – and each have specific powers which will need to be efficiently utilised to survive the endless assault from a ravenous zombie horde!

Nine full colour, double sided tiles make up the game board – with 10 suggested scenarios included, many more to download and a PC-based custom editor to make your own – there is NOT a lack of material to play through.  The signature of the game, however, are the dozens of zombie models that flood the board and add to a genuine sense of pressure as their numbers multiply and yours dwindle.

The mechanics are pretty simple – and similar to the equally fun Flashpoint: Fire Rescue – in so much as individuals have a limited amount of action points to spend each turn.  These are used to move, open doors, attack zombies, search for additional weaponry and collect the mission specific objectives.  As players fight off the horde and collect objectives, XP are earned.  Once certain ‘level-up’ benchmarks are achieved, new abilities open up to that character which – in turn – increases the stuff that can be accomplished on each activation.  HOWEVER… the level of the highest player indicates the difficulty level of the spawning horde.  More zombies;   Tougher zombies; and perhaps worst – FASTER “28 Days Later-style” ZOMBIES!

The game is pretty tough – as we have come to expect from co-ops – and players will die.  Just two bites and a player is eliminated.  Theoretically this could happen early in a 2 hour game, though I am yet to see it myself as kindly survivors have always jumped into the firing line for their colleagues. I do feel that this sense danger and threat is a necessary deterrent for splitting up the group too early and the level of vulnerability increases the tension of the play experience.

This review, as ever, is all about my personal opinion from my person experiences and I would heartily recommend Zombicide.  Having played with Ameritrashers, hard-core Euro-fans, super casual gamers and even those who HATE co-operative games, no one has had a negative experience with the game.

Let the games begin!

This is, though, a ‘play experience’ first and foremost.  I can’t imagine deep strategic debate / arguments on BGG about how to maximise your play.  A common complaint of co-ops is the Pandemic argument that one person solves the puzzle and tells everyone else what to do.  My Zombicide experience has seen a natural leader come to the fore, but more as a chairperson – bringing debate to a close – never to the detriment of the play experience, and certainly not to the point where others were not having input.

Other negatives?  Well, it’s not cheap – but the value is right there in the components.  In addition, the ‘experience’ nature means that it won’t be played every week – e.g. you won’t finish it and find yourself desperate to try a new strategic approach.  That said, Zombicide will stay in my collection as a fun, dirty, thematic and somewhat Ameritrashy co-operative experience that plays best with a drink in one hand, and a group of friends around you.

Zombicide, designed by Raphael Guiton, Jean Baptiste Lullien and Nicolas Raoult, was released through Cool Mini or Not in 2012. Copies are trickling out to Kickstarter backers at the moment and the game will be available through retail stores some time in the Autumn.

 

 

 

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