The latest Boardgame in my collection … Zombicide, which I bought through a kickstarter campaign and managed to snag a bungle of extra goodies.
This is a short review centred on the gameplay experience.
Others have covered the components, the rules, the quality and other issues in a lot of detail so I’ll just summarise. Component quality is excellent but in some respects it’s no less than you should expect from a modern game. The rules a good, thay are not complex which makes getting into a game quick and easy. I have read some complaints about the clarity of the rules and I’d say they are not 100% perfect but if you play enough board games it’s really not an issue. Finally the gameplay; this is a co-op game for 6 on board characters and quite happily accomodates 1-6 players. Characters play set scenarios, search for equipment and kill zombies. There are two interesting game features, the first being the creation of noise when you do things. Noise is generally bad as it causes Zomies that are not in the line of sight of a character to move towards the noise. Creating noise can be a tactic though. Secondly there is an experience system; players get one xp per zombie laid to rest, (more in some cases), and at certain levels skills are added to the character. Unfortunately as a character gains a new level then the number of zombies spawning increases.
That’s the game in a nutshell, but essentially I’d like to give back a little about our Group’s experience with the actual game play so far. This based on 2-3 players playing around 10 games, but only Scenario’s 0 to 3.
It’s fair to start by saying that we are finding the game a great laugh, even when we lose or a character gets “swarmed”. It’s not perfect, but it is fun.
As the game is scenario driven, then irrespective of the rules, the scenario can make or break your playing experience. It’s great news that the scenario editor has been released as the breadth of available scenarios should increase dramatically, there are only 10 in the book, + a starter scenario.
Scenario 0 – This is the intro game to get you started. It’s a nice idea, but in this case I think it’s a bit too easy. Rather than a simple game that is easy to win, a “survive for 10 rounds” game might have taught more and raised more of those niggly questions you have when first playing a game.
Scenario 1 – This took us a few goes before we managed to win. There are a number of specific rooms that have to be searched and due to a mechanic that means you populate a building when you open the door you end up with a on-board zombie population explosion.
Tactically we learned 2 things about experience and danger levels, (as a character kills more zombies their experience increases to a point where that individual character gets an extra skill BUT at the same time the danger level increases, which affects all the players). Firstly, it’s best to open all the doors on a low danger level as when the buildings are populated you get less of the little critters on the board. Secondly, manage your characters so that you stay off going to the next experience / danger level as long as possible.
I think understanding this issue makes a big difference to the game and I’m not sure if it’s good, because it makes the game a little more tactical or bad because the difference to the game is so great. Good scenario writing will mitigate this, so for example if you place a door near a zombie spawn zone it makes it that little bit harder for characters to run round the board opening doors on a low danger level. Possibly the experience mechanic and the danger level mechanic could have been separated one step, so that your individual kills increase your experience but they also contribute to a separate global danger level. The tactical choice would then be to kill or not kill a Zombie (ok, … you can’t kill a zombie … but you know what I mean).
Scenario 2 – This is a simple race from one side to the other and is far too easy. We had a shot at just running to the exit and it was over pretty quickly, (as we guessed it would be, although we could have drawn unlucky cards). We didn’t even open a door or re-equip any of the characters armed with pans. I would have made the escape routed maybe a bit longer and put some starting zombies on the board. Also an objective, maybe a key to open a gate in the middle of the game board, would have enhanced this.
Scenario 3 – we were keen to play this as it was a survival game (one character had to make it to the top experience level) and it had the cars! Good fun again, especially when two characters were separated and swarmed. The car did seem overly powerful though and I’d be tempted to suggest that you should roll a die per space moved, on a 6 you run out of petrol.
I’m beginning to think that the game might be a little easy and perhaps the rules should have added some options for increased difficulty … advanced rules.
In addition, the game would be helped by some added variety, both in the cards and objectives. I have a few rambling thoughts …
Searching: I think the ability to search a room repeatedly goes against a theme of survivors making do with what they can find. Ultimately you get what you are looking for and the odd “AGhhh!” card where a zombie turns up is usually manageable. Suggestion: Roll a d6 every time a room is searched, on a 6 nothing more can be found, (need a marker for this though).
Swopping objects: We have never played a game where we swopped a weapon, like a chainsaw, and had each character use it. Whilst it’s a nice idea to have one character throw over a weapon they have just used it is open to abuse. Suggestion: Either disallow it, so that if a weapon is used in combat it can’t be passed over, (my preference). Or, allow it to only be passed over once, and possibly limit what may be passed after it had been used.
Difficulty: General Suggestion: Start the game with a Zombie Spawn?
Zombie Cards: I think these are generally ok, but for added variety you could have a “Door Burst” card where a random door is burst open by a Fatty forcing the population of a building, (if applicable), or an “All Zombies Surge” card, or a “Mob” card that let’s 10 zombies enter the board.
Equipment Cards: More variety here would be nice. As the games is scenario driven a lot of these cards are not useful. That’s fine, but to help scenario builder then some other cards might have been useful, maybe a generic “Spare Parts” card to allow a scenario where a vehicle or anything needs to be fixed? A “Medical Pack” card would have been nice too.
Car Markers: You get 5 double sided Police Car / Pimp Mobile markers. I think a couple of civilian cars (where you can search for anything OTHER than weapons), and some barricades would have been good. One suggestion I read was a skip, which could also be searched but maybe you have to draw a zombie card when you do.
Cars / Chainsaw: These are quite tough. Suggestion: have a chance they will run out of petrol when used? (of course that could be refilled).
Abomination: Not nearly scary enough. Suggestion: Make him move like a runner and deal two damage.
I’ve said too much … I think I’ll write a scenario.