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Zombicide - Mini Review

A few turns into the game

I decided to give Zombicide another workout earlier this week, as I really enjoyed the potential that the tutorial game suggested. As everyone had gone to bed and the kitchen table was free, it seemed a perfect time to experiment. For the game, I selected the first full scenario in the book City Blocks which uses all the tiles that come in the box. As a single player game I selected four characters from the basic game; Amy the Goth, Wanda the Roller-skating Waitress, Ned the Survivalist and Phil the Policeman. Each has slightly different basic skills and/or equipment, and their development tracks also add variety. For example, Wanda starts with double movement from her skates, while Phil starts with a pistol.

The set up went smoothly, taking about 20 mins as I found and punched the counters needed and aligned all the tiles. Production quality of the pieces and tiles is very good, feeling robust and looking excellent. The injection moulded miniatures are also well detailed and excellent.

The objective of the game was to come out from the starting point in the centre of the board, and then collect the four objective counters from the buildings to the North-East, North-West, South-West and South-East of the board whilst searching for basic supplies (water, rice, canned food). Once these are collected, the characters need to exit from a point at the south-western edge with the supplies.

Complicating matters were 4 zombie spawn points spread around the board. Now zombies want one thing ("brains") which they can only get from the characters. The numbers and types that spawn are determined by a card draw for each point cross referenced with the danger level. Zombies include Walkers (slow but plentiful), Runners (faster but as easy to kill as the Walkers), Fatties (harder to kill and always bringing Walker buddies with them) and the dreaded Abomination, which is nigh-on impossible to kill without a Molotov cocktail.

Danger levels relate directly to the success that your characters are having. If you kill a Walker, a Runner or a Fatty, you gain an experience point, Abominations get you five points, as do taking the objectives. As the experience for each character stacks up they'll eventually cross a threshold into a higher level of danger which gains them skills or extra actions. It also means that the zombies that spawn get nastier, providing an escalation mechanic as the characters succeed. The overall danger level for the game is that of the most experienced character, which provides an incentive to initially spread experience evenly across everyone whilst initial searches for equipment and weapons are going on.

Zombies, once spawned, move towards the largest group of players in sight, or failing that the loudest source of noise (from opening doors, shooting, chainsawing, moving around). This means the game is nicely suited to solo play. I made a few small mistakes initially on this, not noticing that noise in buildings can also draw the zombies in.

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It pays to be aggressive - it’s not called Zombicide for nothing! Noise counters = weapons use!

One thing I quickly learned was that it pays to be aggressive and carry out 'zombicide'. The game mechanic for turns mean that it is in your interest to make sure no zombies are in your zone at the end of the player's turn, and ideally that adjacent zones are cleared out too (as it is progressively harder to escape the more zombies present). I spent too long in the middle of the game pinned down to the north of the board scared to move lest the survivor's were swamped by the evil dead. I only started making progress once I started being bellicose and carrying out hit and run attacks and gaining ground.

Combat is simple - both melee and ranged weapons work with a mechanic that defines a number of dice to be thrown and the target number to be achieved. Each success is a kill, and zombies are eliminated from weakest first. If you shoot into a zone with a survivor, they take the hits preferentially! A pistol rolls a single d6 with a target of 4+ and damage of 1, while a chainsaw has 5d6 and targets of 5+ with 2 damage. It's good to have a range of weapons from the brutal melee effects of chainsaws and katanas through to the punch of shotguns and SMGs, and the long range power of the rifle, knocking out the enemy before they reach you.

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Combat brings short relief, as the game escalates based upon your success. More hordes massing!

The escalation in the game, both in threat and character ability, leave you in a position that you always feel threatened. The feeling of respite when you momentarily clear the streets near you is great, only to be faced with more and greater hordes massing as time goes on!

I recommend the game whole-heartedly, and look forward to playing it with friends. Or even solo again. If only Glory to Rome or Eminent Domain were also so suited to solo play, then I'd have tried them already!