Friday, May 16, 2014

'Zombicide' (Game Review)

Board games are hot right now. No, I'm not talking about Monopoly or Connect Four. I'm talking about complex "tabletop" board games. The kind that take all the annoying things you don't like about video games (like inventory management) and turn them into complex rule sets with cards and plastic tokens. Sound like fun? Sometimes it is! I was looking for a horror board game, but I heard through the grapevine you need a PhD in Cthulu-ology to even look at Arkham Horror so I decided to grab Zombicide by Guillotine Games because it was less expensive, had lots of minis, and also zombie apocalypse. Lets check it out!

The entire concept behind Zombicide is fairly open ended, because there really ISN'T a concept besides "survive the zombie hordes and accomplish goal X". Short flavor text blurbs in the instruction manual setup the delivered scenarios, but beyond that you can make your own fun and story lines. The game allows between 1-6 players (don't play with yourself) but at least 3 is optimal. This is a co-op affair and the zombies operate autonomously each round trying to kill your survivors as they slog their way across the board.

The maps tiles are made of heavy card stock tiles that are nice quality. This means you can freely make up your own scenarios and zones however you'd like, if you get through all the included ones and the archive of new adventures on the Guillotine website. (Side note: It's totally cool that these guys release a bunch of free new content to extend the life of their game without having to pay for expansions!) There are place-able tiles for things like doors, equipment stashes, and manhole covers, and you'll also use the tiles and printed streets to determine line of sight for combating the undead hordes. Now I'll move on to the features of the game that aren't so fun.

Zombicide is REALLY difficult! Even with the special abilities of the different characters, you're going to have a hell of a time achieving the posted goal of each mission. In about 7 rounds of the game (taking between 45-90 minutes each) I think we collectively won twice. Not good odds, but maybe that's the expected outcome in a zombie apocalypse? ProTip: The delivered combat rule about shooting into a square occupied by another survivor is just idiotic. We immediately threw it out and used the "alternate gun combat" rules that are all over the internet. Trust me, using those changes the game from "impossible" to "slightly less impossible". The problem seems to arise in the randomization of gear and the strength of the "boss" zombies. Yeah, there are runners and big bloated zombies just like Left4Dead. All are lovingly crafted plastic miniatures, and high quality. I wouldn't expect anything less with the folks backing the publication of the game.

At roughly sixty dollars Zombicide isn't the easiest recommendation. It has a bit of a learning curve and high difficulty for the uninitiated, but also provides a lot of co-operative fun for horror fans once you get past the intimidating (and questionable) rule set. The game set itself is top notch however, and I'm interested in trying my hand at painting some of the included minis. Another plus is the free downloadable adventures and the relatively affordable minis. Even with the steep difficulty and slightly repetitive game play, I'd say Zombicide is worth your time if you're looking for something new on game night that's less involved than Arkham Horror but more in depth than Zombie Dice.

Grade: C+
Reviewed core retail game set


  1. So, I have Zombicide Season One (Core), Season Two (Prison Outbreak), and Toxic City Mall, and I must say that they are great games. I really enjoy me some Zombicide, and It also became a quick hit with my group of gamer friends. Only a few people that have played it with me have found the experience lacking (Jeff being one of them for his first game).
    I discussed this review with him last night which is what is prompting me to post this now. It seems as though the rating here isn't really validated during the review. It seems that from the stance of the review that the game would receive a B or B+, not a C+. I am just curious to know why this game was marked down to the level of mediocrity+ and am wondering if you could expound on that?
    Anyways, look forward to the comments!

  2. Hey Rimael, thanks for the comment! Looking back at my review I can see how you could see an inconsistency in score vs. body. For me, the presentation and quality of the game's content is an A, but the rule sets, difficulty, and somewhat unclear manual (ended up watching a Youtube vid while playing the tutorial mission) in my mind brought it down, and so at the price point I graded it as a slightly above average product. That said, this review was aimed more towards horror fans in general, versus board game enthusiasts, so my thought process was "how would I feel about this if I didn't really play tabletop games, and just dropped $60 on this instead of an xbox game" or something along those lines.

    Does that clear things up a bit? Let me know! Thanks again for reading and commenting. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on our other posts!

  3. Yeah, that clears things up a bit. Actually, you got a steal on the board game itself, as it retails for 90. I kickstarted the second season, and ended up about 320 bucks in, but I also ended up with a ridiculous amount of miniatures. If someone was to want to make a zombie army for Warhammer or any other 28mm mini set, this would be a killer way to start for cheap. The minis are really well done for the cost. The rules are a little tough, but definitely nothing to complex. I found the only rule that I really hated was the rule where shooting in the same room as someone else would end in my buddy getting shot first. We house ruled it to work the same as the melee weapons (you get to choose the targets) as long as you are in the same square, but if you are not in the same square the rules apply as they are written. This keeps the difficulty up without the frustration of having to make your ranged characters target your melee characters skulls.

    Have you tried the mission creator yet? It's a download you can get from guillotine games, and it's free!

  4. Wow, yeah, I got my copy for review from Amazon when it was on sale. $90 is a bit steep, although you're right, relative to Games Workshop box sets that is a bargain.

    The main issue we had getting into the game as a group wasn't that the rules were too complex, but just not explained too well in the included manual. Also, yes that "same square" ranged combat rule I mentioned was TERRIBLE. We immediately swapped it out for the alternate rule sets we found on the internet.

    I haven't tried the mission creator but I'll give it a go! I had only downloaded the PDF's of the premade missions they posted up.