I’ve written about the terrific game Zombicide before [my review of Zombicide], talking about how it’s a great dungeon crawler game with lots of splendid miniatures and a board comprised of a dozen or so 12″ x 12″ tiles that let you set up quite a few different scenarios either directly from the instructions or based on your whim. It’s a fun play and while it can get harrowing at times when there are lots of walkers shuffling towards you and more being spawned every turn, it’s also sufficiently simple in its core mechanic that my kids have both picked up the basics quickly and enjoyed our games.
In fact, it was just a few weeks ago that we shanghai’d my 19yo daughter into joining us for a Zombicide adventure, spreading them on the floor of our hotel room in a 3×3 grid, complete with a mission from the book to clear the streets of zombies and sneak out through the back of a building far away from our starting point. She even afterwards said “that was really fun”, strong endorsement from a gal of her age.
As much as there’s a fan base for Zombicide, there’s an even bigger group of fans for its spin-off, Black Plague. Set in medieval times rather than contemporary urban, it adds different super zombie bad guys (including necromancers), offers a different board design and some dramatically upgraded components, all with the same basic play and rules. I got some pals over and five of us took on the starter mission in Black Plague to get a feel for the game. And everyone loved it!
Our board set up, a few minutes into play:
See the colored bases on some of the figs? Those are player characters and the color disks snap on the bottom and help you keep track of which is your own character, a huge improvement over the oft-confusing character identification system from the original game. The grey figs are zombies, with the three on the top left walkers, the big ugly guy on the top right a “fatty” (much harder to kill) and the zombie on the lower right a runner, who has greater range of motion.
In this particular adventure, we needed to find a weapon strong enough to kill the fatty, then sequentially opened doors, rushed in, killed the zombie or zombies inside, and moved on to the next room. Finally we got to the exit and won the game, though not before my character was spontaneously surrounded by zombies in what proved to be a slight misreading of one of the cards (which caused us to spawn too darn many zombies!) Here I am, moments before death by zombie bite:
I just came back as a new player, having lost all my experience and weapons and since it’s a cooperative game, it was easy for us to keep going and finally overcome the hoards. Winners!
If you’ve played Zombicide, you’re going to ooh and ahh over the new player boards like I did too:
Such an improvement over the original way of keeping track of character skills, inventory and experience, it’s tempting to use these next time we play regular Zombicide (except the player cards themselves are the wrong size, darn it). Just a tremendous improvement to the playability and ability for players to keep track of levels, injuries, inventory, etc.
The publisher (distributor?) of the Zombicide line is a company called Cool Mini or Not — now just shortened to CMON — and so it’s no surprise that the miniatures included with the game are splendid. Unpainted, they’re still a great part of the game:
They’re all grey. So they’re all zombies. Yup. A walker in the front left, a fatty on the front right, with a necromancer rightmost and the fearsome but well-named Abomination. You do not want to bump into him in a dark alley, zombie infested or otherwise.
Zombicide is a terrific game, but Black Plague improves on the title with more complex scenarios, better miniatures, a smart player identification system, great player trays to keep track of everything, and a fun new setting. It’s great fun and every one of my friends vowed that they were ready for a bigger, more complex campaign whenever I wanted to host. And yes, it’d be great for younger gamers too, though probably pre-tween is going to be a bit young for the nuances of co-op strategy.
Disclosure: CMON sent me a review copy of Black Plague for the purposes of this review.