Monday, September 17, 2012

Zombicide - Game Review and first contact

Cover Picture of the Game Box
Last week a friend from my local gaming club got his kickstarter copy of Zombicide (official web) so we got not only the basic game but some other additional stuff such as a nice lithography of the cover picture, two extra heroes and an extra abomination zombie.
What it is in the box:
The basic game includes a lot of zombies of three different types:

  • Walker: very slow zombies, have one action per zombie round and can be killed by any weapon which inflicts at least 1 damage.
  • Runner: they have two actions per zombie round but can also be killed by 1 damage weapons.
  • Fatty: slow as the walkers whit only one action but can only be killed by weapons which deals 2 damage.
  • Abomination: a Fatty with steroids, also one action per zombie round but can be only killed by 3 damage weapons.
The miniatures for the first two types of zombie are not identical, so there are different walkers and runners, for the mechanics of the game makes no difference which walker you place on the board but it is nice form a esthetic point of view.

Zombies as in the box
The board is done by tiles which are to be arranged to build the different scenarios.
Some tiles of the game
The tiles include buildings with several rooms and street areas. Also included are some tokens which represent cars (police cars and pimp mobiles) which are required for some scenarios.
Other tokens are the EXIT token, the SPAWN tokens, the NOISE tokens and some yellos arrows to mark the skills of the heroes in the corresponding cards.
The heroes
The heroes are the survivors of a zombie apocalipse and have to fight for their lives in this very hostile environment. Each hero has a miniature in a different colour and a hero card where its special skills are indicated.
The heroes are based in the geek culture, for example one of them is Dr. Seldon Copper, other is Machete, another looks like Bruce Willis in Die Hard and so on...
Nick - The bad cop

How to play:

1st you choose a scenario, the rules book includes several, the first one with the number 00 is an easy tutorial, so my group decided to jump to the second one with the number 01, City Blocks.
Scenario 01, City Blocks
In this scenario the heroes start in the middle of the game board and have to collect the five objectives, search for some food and run away by the EXIT.
The players choose the heroes they would like to play, and randomly give to every one a weapon. The initial weapons are a Fireaxe, a Pistol, a Crowbar and as many Pans as needed to complete the number of heroes which would play. Yes, a placer can play with more than one hero, and yes it can be that your initial weapon is a Pan.
Afterwards every player checks the special skill of the heroes he is going to play, some have extra actions but other can have extra equipment, the hero get this equipment for free.
In our game I played with Wanda, which has the special ability of moving two zones pr movement action.
Wanda - the rollerskating waitress
At the beginning of the game each hero has zero experience points. Those point are recorded with a moving arrow on the upper part of the hero card. The colour of the experience bar of the hero with the higher amount of experience points determines the Danger Level. From zero to six experience point, the level is blue, the initial level.
The danger level is used to determine how many zombies and which kind of zombies spawn at the end of the zombie round. Obviously it is wise to keep the Danger Level to a minimum. Important to remember is that if one hero is in yellow and to other in blue, the Danger Level will be yellow as the Danger Level is the colour of the higher experience ion the game. If this hero is killed the Danger Level could decrease if the next high experienced hero is a level below :)
A first player is chosen and given the token of first player. This player acts with his heroes, each hero has three action (plus any extra action given by the hero card) and if the player controls more than one hero, first one hero act and when it has completed his/her actions, the next hero gets to act.

Part of a game
As Actions a hero can:

  • Move: a zone can be moved per movement action. A zone is defined as a room inside a building or the space between two pedestrian crossings in the streets. In the picture above, the heroes in blue and lila are in one zone (bottom of the tile) and every one could move and joint the grey hero on the zone to their left (bottom, left corner) with one movement action. Special consideration is needed for the case that the zone wherein the heroes are is also occupied by zombies, for example, on the centre, top, Wanda (green colour) shares the room zone space with a zombie, to be able to left the room, she will need to make a movement action to move and expend another action due to the presence of the zombie, so in total she will need to pay TWO action to be able to move normally. So, for EVERY zombie in the zone the hero is, the hero needs to pay that amount of extra actions to move out of the zone. But, remember that every hero has only three actions, so be careful where you finish your movement.
  • Search: one per turn, the hero can search a room zone or inside a car. Ned has an extra search action, but that only means that he can search for free and still have three OTHER actions, the limit of searching once for turn is absolut. Search allows you to take the upper card from the items deck. There is an item, the torch lamp, which allows you to take two cards ;)
  • Opening a door: to open a door the hero needs a weapon/tool able to open the door. This is indicated in the item card by the corresponding icon. Some weapons make noise (like the fireaxe) other are silent (like the crowbar). Making noise will be indicated with the noise marker (in the picture above there is one in Wanda's room).
  • Inventory: the player can reorganized the items in the inventory, you can equip only two items in your hands but you can carry another three in the backpack, by reorganizing the hero can give items to ONE other hero in the same zone, this other hero can reorganize immediately its own inventory for free.
  • Taking an objective: in the upper picture, in the top, right corner, the red hero is in the same zone as one objective, so this could be taken by expending an action. Taking an objective gives the hero usually 5 experience points.
  • Making noise: by doing so, a noise marker is put on the zone the hero is.
  • Attack: using a weapon the hero can attack foes either in the zone the hero is (weapons with range zero) or in adjacent zones (weapons with range one or more). The game ignores diagonals for both movement and vision, so only orthogonal zones are considered. From the street into a building or inside a building the line of sight is limited to the next adjacent zone. On the streets the lini of vision is unlimited. Melee weapons allow the player to chose the target of the attack, so specific zombies can be targeted, for example the Fatties, whereas the ranged weapons (except if equipped with a scope) cannot chose freely target and MUST shot the possible tagets following this orden: other survivors, walkers, Fatties and runners. Yes, you read well; if you fire a ranged weapon on a zone where other survivors are, first you assign to the survivors as many hits as you can, once there are not more survivors to take any more hits (they are dead) any remaining hits are assigned to the walkers and so on. Therefore it is not a very good idea to fire in a zone where other friendly people are. Other consequence of this is that it is very difficult to hit a Runner who is sharing the zone with other zombies as first you need to clean the area of Walkers and Fatties  Curiously enough the Fatties require a weapon of 2 damage to be killed, the pistol for example is only 1 damage, so even if you score multiple hits with it, you will never be able to kill any runner in a zone wherein a Fatty is also present as the Fatty will take all those 1 damage hits BEFORE the runner takes any of them and being 1 damage hits, they are not going to kill it and therefore it would be as if nothing has happened at all. Nice, isn't it ?
  • Cars: in certain scenarios you can move inside a car and with the car.
What Zombies do:
  • The Walkers, Fatties and Abomination have one action each, so if they are in an empty zone (no heroes there) they will move towards the survivors they can see. If they cannot see any survivors they will move towards the noisiest group. Important to realize is that a survivor count as a noise token, so a group of three survivors amounts to three noise tokens and will be preferred over an alone survivor who used his gun and got one noise token.
  • If they start their turn in a zone wherein survivors are present, they will attack the heroes in the zone they are. Their attacks are automatic success. The hero receives so many wounds as zombies attack him, but two wounds mean that the hero is dead. Also, being wounded by a zombie causes the automatic lost of an item the hero is carrying. So, if your hero is brand new and in a zone with a zombie at the beginning of the zombies turn, the hero will lost one item and get one wound, bad enough but still alive. If instead of one zombie, two happened to be there, well, bad news, you are dead. Zombie do overkill, so if there will be three zombies and one hero in one zoe, the hero is dead, the three zombies kill him and stay there.
  • Runners have two actions, so they can move towards some survivors and if they reach them attack them, or kill ay hero in their zone and move to an adjacent zone.
How zombies move:
  • They need one action per zone as the heroes, but if at any moment a group of zombies has two equally valid options, such as two identical long routes to a hero or group of heroes or is able to see two different zones with heroes on them, it will cause the group of zombies to split in equal numbers (!), which means that if the group has an odd number of a type of zombie, another one is add. So, if three Walkers has visual to heroes in two different zones, two groups of two Walkers will split and each one will move towards the one survivors group. Yes, zombies do replicate out of thin air, bad news, very bad news.
  • At the end of the zombie's turn or when a building is open by the very first time, new zombies spawn. To do so, the first card from the zombie deck is revealed and the indicated amount of zombies corresponding to the current Danger Level is added to the board.
How was our game:
  • Well, out of five players, only two have played it the day before, out fo the three new guys, two were dead pretty soon. One of them wandered alone to one corner of the board and was eventually surrounded by zombies coming form the street in the building were he was and eaten there. The second one was crowded by zombies in a crossing and died fighting there.
  • I was the last one without previous experience, but got lucky a few times and survived the game. I was playing with Wanda and was wounded in the second round of the game, but later on managed to prepare a molotov cocktail and drop it just on time upon a group of zombies, including an abomination, which gave me 14 experience points, more than enough to put Wanda in the orange danger zone but also to give her the Slippery ability which combined with her extra movement capacities muted her into an unstoppable running machine :)
The best of the game? The molotov cocktail, without a doubt. It destroys everything in the zone you throw it, and by everything I mean it. Survivors and Zombies, but all zombies, also abominations are destroyed. Great, great thing :)
The more curious thing of the game? there are two, at least for me, the multiplication of zombies when they split odd numbers and the noise mechanics. It is possible to make noise and guide the zombies to one area so that other heroes can do something somewhere else. However, the game has so many zombies that this tactic can only be used at the beginning of the game or by precise synchronization of the players.
In the d6generation podcast someone commented an optional or variant rule wherein the players can only talk to other players if they heroes are in the same zone and that this produces noise tokens in that zone. We did not try this but I think it can awesome :) :)
The game is great and with nice mechanics however there are something in the rules which could have been better written, for example it is not said what happen when the item deck runs out or as now, it is perfectly legal for a group of survivors to make a hero to attack twice with one weapon and pass it to the next player on the line, so that a group can use the same weapon all the round.
But I do not think those points to be too serious, without doubt the FAQ and the forum will deal with them and with other similar issues in the future.
In short, a nice game, elegant and simple, based in scenarios, so some will be better than others and with a lot of zombies :) :)

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