Although not my first dive into the world of survival horror board gaming, Zombicide offered something oddly refreshing for me – co-operative play that formed a group of survivors, that work together to take-on the zombie horde. I had to shuffle, load-up, roll and blast my way through, to see what all this fuss was about.
Edouard Guiton’s artwork for Zombicide: 2nd Edition is fantastic. The style and character and design help set the game apart from others, while playing superbly to a more modern survival horror setting.
Zombicide’s instruction manual may look intimidating at first, but remember that a majority of its content is mission layout (guiding you on how you should setup the board to a mission of your choice, with tile, survivor, zombie and objective placement). Once you’ve gone over the basics, Zombicide really is easy to pick up but hard to put down.
One thing I’ve learned from playing board games like Zombicide, is that it only takes one – yes, one induvial willing to take the time to look through that manual, setup a solo test run, learn the game from the ground-up so they can teach others in a more fun and enjoyable way. This has enabled me to bring many to the game that would have otherwise, never given it the time of day (and they genuinely enjoy it now, as much as I do).
Street tile design has always seemed to grab my attention more than other board designs. Zombies!!! may have been the first with this graphic detail (awarded for its design back in 2001), but Zombicide has added so much more to this, creating the perfect table top survival horror game!
Thinking back over several missions of play, it’s easy to see that a lot of love has been put into Zombicide’s design, in both overall look and play system. I was so impressed at how the games combat, movement, noise and line of sight system (the latter two really adding to the tension of the game), fitted so well with the many survival horror video games and/or movies we’ve all enjoyed over the years.
Zombicide’s board design
Zombicide is one of the few games that uses detailed connecting street tiles to depict a town destroyed and overrun with the undead. Tiles can fit together in a number of ways to assemble a mission area highly detailed with blood everywhere, cars smashed into buildings, collapsed lampposts and tyre skid marks from desperate last-minute escape attempts. Zombicide’s zone tile-connecting game board offers variety and superb visual immersion, pulling you in to the games world of dark and desperate survival.
Zombicide’s movement (action) mechanics
Zombicide makes simple but very effective use of a zone action system. The tiles will each show multiple marked squared areas (zones) that are highlighted by the lining of board edging, building walls and road markings. Survivors can use 3 actions to attack, move, open a door and search crates (and this can be done in any order with a few restrictions, depending on the players situation). Now, if the searching for items to survive didn’t seem cool enough (and just wait until you see the Backpacks and trading section, below), the noise system just takes Zombicide to a whole other level! Noise is calculated and set depending on how survivors react, so for example – if a survivor fires a ranged weapon or uses a noisy melee weapon or busts a door down, this adds noise tokens to the exact location where the survivor performed such actions.
Survivor abilities make the game so enjoyable as you and your team constantly need to work together in Zombicide to attack, retreat, lure, search and trade. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been able to get this much enjoyment from a board game before
Once the turn falls to the zombies, the game itself pretty much dictates their attack behaviour (and it is always swift, surprising and brutally unapologetic). Zombie moves may only range from 1-2 but they always attack first if survivors are in range, and are ALWAYS successful when they do! That said, if zombies aren’t within attack range of a survivor and zombies don’t have a clear line of sight to one either, they’ll shuffle their scabby little legs towards the loudest noise. Yup, those noise tokens we explained earlier will determine the zombies next destination if they don’t have immediate eyes-on a player (oh and each survivor automatically counts as 1 noise token, further adding to the constant danger or being overrun!).
Backpacks and trading
During your desperate and tense sweep of the town, you’ll find all sorts of weapons and items. Each characters ID Card dashboard not only lists your survivors health, perks and hand slots (to equip a weapon or item to each hand), but also contains 3 additional slots the player can use to stash items into their backpack!
Players dashboards allow them to keep track of health, abilities, experience as well as what they currently have equipped and stashed away in their backpacks. Just like those survival horror video games, you’ll constantly need to think ahead on what you should equip, based on your team, location and surroundings.
The backpack adds so much more to the game, as now not only can you strategically swap weapons and items from your backpack to your hands, you can also trade them with your fellow survivors (providing you’re in the same zone as them – this also costing 1 action).
Zombicide to video games and movies
The one thing that truly brings Zombicide to life for me, is how certain restrictive and spawn rules function, to better create the situation if it were actually happening. Great examples of this can be seen below, with each Zombicide board game rule, accompanied with how the rule would translate over to a similar survival horror game and/or movie.
Zombicide’s Movement rule 1: Survivors cannot continue to use remaining moves if they enter a zone with zombies (note that some survivors have abilities that override this rule and/or can level-up to it).
How it translates to game/film: Entering a room with zombies isn’t always as easy as simply running through them, as they could easily be blocking exits or even attack from a blind spot/dark corner.
Zombicide’s Movement rule 2: Survivors cannot leave a zone that contains zombies without paying an additional move fee for every zombie that’s in that zone (note once again, that some survivors have abilities that override this rule and/or can level-up to it).
How it translates to game/film: Very similar to the first rule, it’s just never as easy as simply running. Exits can easily be too narrow or you’re simply outnumbered and there is no choice but to fight!
Zombicide’s Dark room spawning: If a survivor opens a door to an entire building for the first time, any dark zones within that building (unlit zones illustrated on the board) must have a zombie card played – presenting a high chance of zombies spawning into those dark zones/rooms.
How it translates to game/film: This is fantastic as in such survival horror games and movies, the survivors never know what’s lurking in the next room or around the corner!
Now, of course some of these rules have been implemented to prevent the game becoming far too easy (e.g. if you could simply hop through rooms crowded with zombies, the game would be nowhere near as challenging), but the above translations are yet another piece of the puzzle that connects superbly well, bringing this survival horror experience to life – and I absolutely love it!
Zombicide is a board game survival horror masterpiece and its 2nd Edition offers a modern setting that is elevated further by amazing street tile and character artwork. Once you’ve played the first tutorial, you’ll realise how well combat, items, search and equipment/backpack systems, enemy variety and survivor perks, all blend together so well to truly bring your favourite survival horror game or movie to your home table.
The games updated 2nd Edition may be perfect for me personally, for now but there are even Medievil, Space Marine and Wild West adaptions available. CMON have done an amazing job at making sure every survival horror fans preferred setting has been designed for table top play, and just wait until you see the variety of zombie, abominations and special guest survivor/heroes (both available now and shipping soon).
Survival horror game players and movie lovers owe it to themselves to play Zombicide: 2nd Edition, whether they are regular board game players or not. Yes, it is up there with the more costly board game experiences (at the time of writing we’ve seen retailer prices range from £80 – £110) but trust us, with design and build quality of this level, this is one you’ll come back to again and again.