A Beautiful Day for Zombie Slayin’
There’s a point in most zombie flicks where the heroes get to play into their power fantasy. The zombies are laid waste at the hands of weapons varied and destructive. It’s a relief from the terror, the strain, and for a brief happy time it looks like the heroes are going to escape. Zombicide and its many variants put that glorious feeling into cardboard form. You’ll loot shotguns, drive cars, and do all manner of damage to the dead in this CMON adventure, one that eschews lots of rules to get right to what its name implies: Zombicide.
So if you’re looking to add a good time to your game nights, one that won’t overstay its welcome, that’ll having you throwing dice by the droves, and that sprinkles in enough laughs to keep things light amid the slaughter, then read on as we dig deep into the undead.
Zombicide doesn’t waste time. Pick your characters, choose your mission, slap some tiles on the table and start blasting away. When you’re done destroying, guess what, more zombies are going to come after you. Whether you’ll outwit or outlast the undead menace depends on how well you play the game, so let’s break it down.
Just like any good horror movie, your characters are key. Zombicide indulges in its setting, giving you a cast with color, whether it’s the original Zombicide’s Amy, a goth girl who only found life’s meaning after the zombies appeared, to Zombicide: Green Horde’s Johannes, an inventor whose madcap genius is as random as it is incredible. Sure, you could analyze stats and try to maximize, but I find the apocalypse is more about feel, so go with your gut and embrace the roleplay.
Characters differ in more than name and background, too. Each one comes with their own board, abilities, and experience to gain as they take it to their former friends. Zombicide encourages getting into the action, and growing your abilities to match the growing horde keeps every session fresh.
As Zombicide is a cooperative game, your survivors will need to work together, saving civilians, looting the city, or cleaning out infected areas. The game plays up to six, with lower player counts encouraging multiple characters apiece. Rather than getting unwieldy—though, as ever, expect first plays to take longer—Zombicide’s co-op nature shines with larger numbers, those unique characters getting to blend their abilities against massive zombie waves.
Dealing with those undead generally takes a weapon and the dice that come with it. As your characters scrounge up pans and peashooters, you’ll be able to take the fight to the zombies with three actions every turn. Want to blast away a few times? Go for it, though you might want to consider dodging away or digging through that dumpster for more ammo. Or, hey, maybe your buddy Delivery Man Dan can use his actions instead to stock you up for the next assault.
You’ll need that ammo, too, as noisy weapons have a chance to attract extra zombie attention, and they’re always hungry. After your characters all use their actions, the zombies get their chance, following simple line-of-sight rules to determine what unlucky soul gets their brain munched. Clever noise-making can help steer zombies away from vulnerable VIPs, but drawing some of the nastier undead, like abominations and runners, can twist a good idea into a fatal mistake.
After both sides get their chance to crush the other, the zombies get to call their pals. More shambling goons spawn with the flip of a card, and the chaos begins anew. It’s all a cracking good time, especially when that time can be, well, just about any time at all.
Time (period) of Death
Zombicide’s been around since 2012, and much like the undead that crawl its streets, the game’s expanded and mutated since its original incarnation. Zombies, after all, are scary in any era, and CMON has seen fit to give your horror adventure more settings than Doc Brown offered Marty McFly.
The original, with a 2nd edition available, covers the current day. Ruined modern cities, the standard apocalypse vibe with all the shotguns and crowbars you could want. Expansion packs bring you to a prison and a toxic mall, matching classic movies with ever more zany characters – Grindlock, a heavy metal monster, gets my vote.
If future warfare’s more your thing, Zombicide: Invader offers a Starship Troopers vibe, with the zombies twisted into infected aliens. Grab your power armor and get to zapping with your space marine of choice.
But why use a laser when you could wield a lance? Zombicide: Black Plague and Green Horde take the deadly dance to a medieval fantasy setting, substituting cars for horse-drawn carts and bats for blades. Magic makes an appearance too, adding vile necromancers to your foes. Then again, with Ann the warrior nun by your side, how bad could it be?
Every Zombicide edition comes with various expansions and add-ons, though I’d recommend giving the base game of your chosen setting a shot first, then deciding how you want to expand the experience. You’ll appreciate the added complexity and crazier characters once your zombie-slaying skills are established.
If we were talking a normal dungeon crawler, it’d be here where I’d dive back into optimal player counts, but you already know that zombie stomping goes best with a big group. That said, Zombicide’s overhead is low enough that stacking multiple survivors for a solo or two-player experience is both doable and fun as a lighter tactical puzzle. Unlike Gloomhaven or Descent, Zombicide won’t flood you with tokens and turn steps, so don’t be afraid to give this one a look if you’re planning to play on your own.
Dead Men Tell Tall Tales
We’ve been covering the boardgame, but Zombicide has an RPG as well, offering its streamlined combat and unique scenarios to explore the undead uprising within a freeform framework. Zombicide Chronicles uses the boardgame’s tiles and figures, giving you a way to expand on your adventure while adding a tactile touch.
Much like Dungeons & Dragons, there’s a trove of options to flesh out your horrifying adventures, like the Gamemaster starter kit, a field guide with new survivor archetypes and gear, and the Stories from the Outbreak pre-made mission book, which can help DMs get rolling without so much prep. Who wants to slay some goblins for the umpteenth time when you can make that hairspray flamethrower and get to torching some hapless brain-eaters?
Zombicide Chronicles is an inexpensive add-on to your Zombicide collection, meshes well with any Zombicide setting (though some scenarios might take some tweaking) and is worth a look if you’re at all interested in telling undead tales around your table.
Til Death Do Us Part
Zombicide is the classic beer-and-pretzels good time, worth a look if you want a snappy adventure you can crack through in an evening. Much like the movies it emulates, you’ll find yourself by turns horrified at the undead hordes crashing down upon you and cackling as you crush them with your cars and hand cannons. Throw on a spooky soundtrack, or just Thriller on loop, grab your survivors, and get to putting those undead back in the grave.
Written by Adam Knight
Spinning stories and playing games under the direction of his two cats, Adam delights in the roll of the dice and a well-told tale. Find more of his adventures at Black Key Books.