Updated: Sep 16, 2019
Back in the heady days of 2012 I missed out on the #Zombicide #Kickstarter and ever since I’ve always wanted to play the game but been unable to justify the price. As seasons 2 & 3 came and went I began to feel there was just too much content to even know where to begin and so I resigned myself to never getting the game.
Fast forward 5 years and my long time gaming buddy Dave treats himself to an early Christmas present and tonight we finally cracked the seal on that BIG box.
At first I was underwhelmed. Much has been praised about Zombicide over the past five years. One of the main sources of praise is the miniatures. Yes, for a board game they are okay, but they aren’t miniature game quality and would say that they aren’t even as good as Imperial Assault and not a patch on anything from Soda Pop Miniatures. I know if I’d bought the game I’d have replaced the survivor models for sure and probably tried to find a way to replace the zombies without it costing a fortune.
The art however is brilliant and I love the look of the tiles and the cards. There are a few oddities with the graphic design. I don’t like the experience point slider which is difficult to move without knocking all your item cards off your board. And while I like the visual representation of the items in hand and the items in your backpack, it’s kinda awkward in practice and you can’t read your items that are in your backpack.
After we played the tutorial and the first game I was kinda meh about the experience. I could see why people raved about it but it has a lot of the rules granularity associated with a tactical miniatures game but without the depths of tactics. It was, in my opinion, too simple for its size and presence and yet not simple enough because of the myriad of tiny rules and rules exceptions needed to make it work.
I hoped I might find it more enjoyable with more players, as I could see the group dynamic being more fun than the back and forth between two players. Regardless we set back up and took a second run at the first scenario. We lost, badly. This was due, not so much to bad play as to unfortunate enemy spawns which saw us lose 3 heroes in a single turn.
After this second play I began to appreciate the game more. I could see that positioning was important as was understanding turn order. Players can’t shoot into combat so you want to activate your shooty heroes before you charge in for melee. And if you are charging into a combat, do you have a backup plan if the dice don’t go your way or if the zombies get to move twice? I began to see that this was not a tactical miniatures game, but it was instead more like a standard co-op game, like Pandemic, you needed to plan your actions with some forethought on what you would do if “X” or “Y” happened. Of course such planning becomes apparent only on the second or third run throughs as you get to know the deck and the bad stuff it can throw at you.
And so we came to our 3rd play through. This time we had a plan and at times it looked bad and i feared that our survivors would not be survivors much longer. But despite some scrapes and bruisers and a relay race with some canned food we made it out with all six survivors intact… Sure Ned was trapped in the centre of the board with no escape and 40+ zombies heading his way but the rest of us were home free.
Our third play took nearly 2 hours as we moved more cautiously and triggered doors in a very specific order, making sure to wipe out as many large threats as we could. So the game felt a little long but I was also enjoying it far more by this point. I’m really glad I finally had the opportunity to play it and I hope that we can continue to explore what the base game has to offer. It doesn’t scratch my mini-game itch in the way that Imperial Assault or Descent might but it does have that bucket of dice vs impossible odds feeling which can be a welcome change of pace from counting squares and min-maxing your stats.