I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I’m obsessed with zombies and the zombie mythology, but I have watched The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, read the book and watched the movie World War Z, and even seen the classics Night of the Walking Dead and Dawn of the Dead, among so many other books, graphic novels, movies and TV series that feature the gurgling, shuffling undead who seek you out as a foodsource.
What better theme for a board game than the Zombie Apocalypse? Enter the tremendously popular Zombicide, the first of a rather huge series of related games from the aptly named Guillotine Games in the Zombicide universe. In fact, there are so many expansion that hardcore fans refer to each wave of releases as a “season”, so the original Zombicide is part of “season 1” of the game. And it’s rather ridiculously enjoyable, supporting from one (yes, solo play) to six players, and even more with some of the expansion sets (a few of which also serve as standalone games too, so you can go straight to an expansion without needing to own the base set).
The basic premise of the game is clearly inspired by urban building-to-building zombie eradication as that’s the general goal of most of the included scenarios, but there are lots more and you can also set up your own scenario at any time and try your luck against the shuffling hoard, as I’ve done in the game pictured below.
Here’s a shot of the entire playing board, set up for a sweep and clean scenario with four street tiles (you can make a 6 tile or even a 9 tile layout if you want, and even bigger ones with expansion!):
The aquamarine figure is me, Wanda, and the objective I’ve set for myself is to get into the building on my left and destroy the red zombie spawn token. All the grey tokens are zombies of various types: walkers, runners and “fatties”. They’re all fairly stupid (they are zombies, after all) but while walkers can advance one zone (the dashed white lines on the roads denote a zone, as do walls within a building), runners can advance two, and fatties are tougher to kill. Worse, while you have to roll dice to see if your weapon harms zombies, they always “hit” and you can only sustain one wound and survive: A second zombie hit and you’ve joined the club and lost the game. In a multiplayer game, you can still win if half your team have died slow, gruesome, very non-gastronomic deaths. You can decide as a house rule if dead players (called “Survivors” in the game) turn or not, I suppose.
Each Survivor has a status card that lets them keep track of zombie kills, weapons and bonus actions as you gain experience as a zombie killer. Here’s Wanda’s card:
Notice the tiny black skull along the top helps me remember that the roller-skating, chainsaw wielding waitress has killed two zombies so far and that her special action from the get go is to move 2 zones per move action, darn handy! Once she’s killed 7 zombies, we’ll move into the yellow zone and she’ll gain an additional action. Unfortunately as you gain experience and bump into subsequent zones, the zombie spawn cards get more dangerous too.
Notice she’s actually wielding a pistol (and has extra ammo, which lets me re-roll to improve the hit rate), and that it lets me kill zombies (the grey silhouette with the red dot) but that it makes noise (the yellow triangle. Noise attracts other walkers), as you’d expect with a firearm without a silencer. Along the bottom, it shows that this weapon works zero or one zone away so I can stand outside a building and shoot in to kill zombies without risking injury, that I roll 1 die and that it needs to be a 4 or better to hit. It also does 1 damage, which means it’s an effective weapon against walkers and runners, but won’t affect a fatty, which means I really need to avoid ’em until I get better weaponry!
The cards add an additional element of randomness to the game too:
On the left you can see a zombie spawn card. The colors match the progress chart on the individual player card, so remember Wanda’s only had 2 kills, so I’m in blue and this card would spawn 1 walker. Not horrible. Orange would spawn 3 runners (note the different walker silhouette) and red? Yeah, fuggetaboutit!
The wounded cards are used to denote that you’ve been attacked by a walker. You can’t have two so if you have a wounded card and you get bit again? Well, then it’s time to hang up your dancing shoes, you’ve just died.
The red edged cards are weapons (like the Pistol), and you obtain more by spending an action in an empty room to search. Each turn, by default, you get three actions, which you can use to move, search, attack, or trade gear with other Survivors in the same zone you’re in. My group found that it was critically important to move the best weapons from player to player, so we spent a lot of actions tossing guns around.
The base Zombicide game is really quite simple to play, maybe 5-10 minutes to explain the basics to a new player and get them up to speed too, and it’s really quite fun. I have a soft spot for cooperative games, and this one evolves so quickly as the game progresses that more than once we were fooled into thinking we were just about to accomplish our mission objectives just to have a dozen or more zombies explode from a previous sealed building. Thank goodness I had a molotov cocktail (which kills everyone in the target zone) and my compatriot had a chain-saw for when the going got really tough.
Part of what makes this game so fun is the attention to detail. You can see it in the board design, but even the miniatures are remarkably well done, as you can see in this closeup of the two walkers threatening Wanda:
Notice the yellow triangle token: that’s a noise indicator and draws otherwise unengaged walkers towards it. No worries, I’ve got this!
I have to say, my group of five had a really great time playing this game. It took a lot longer than the suggested 60 minutes on the box for our four-tile scenario, but no-one complained and there was a lot of laughter and problem solving happening, and we did accomplish our objectives and shut down the two zombie spawn spots without any of our party being killed.
Great fun, and highly recommended. Now to try not to click the ‘buy’ button next to every single expansion and addition available!
Zombicide, from Guillotine Games. MSRP $89.99, for sale at Amazon.com for $59.99, and sometimes you can find even better prices online if you check out some of the game shops online. And expansions. Oh, there are a lotta expansions…
Disclaimer: Guillotine Games did not send me this game to review. I bought it. And I really like it!