Zombicide board games review: Blood and Brains

The outbreak affected each of us in a particular way. One thing was clear, it hit all of us hard like a storm of misery. When corpses began wandering the streets, wildly craving raw human flesh, we all knew that nothing will ever go back to normal. Some lost their families, some lost their identities, some lost their humanity. Few remained who held on to hope and fought for dear life.

Doug was a firefighter before the attack. He had sworn to help people before they had realized just how much they might need it. He had a family too. A wonderful wife and two little boys with large, innocent, black eyes. He misses them every day and the locket around his neck keeps him company. The Fire Station is long gone, yet Doug continues to help as many poor souls as he can until the day he ends up in heaven, reunited with his family.

Amy was going to college. The dorms were visibly outdated in every aspect of designing and her room was always a mess when she went back after a night of partying with friends but she still loved it. She had no idea how fast it could all go sideways and end in a dump. She was miles away from her family and her friends only kept her company for as long as they could. Now she hunts food and zombies riding around town and whenever it gets overwhelming, she closes her eyes and imagines going back to the same old-timey messed up dorms.

Phil used to fix up cars. People said he had the finest wrench in all the state. Not even a loose screw could get away from his keen, diagnosing eyes. The same skills are now put into restarting dusty generators and wiring abandoned cars. Needless to say, his profession is much less enjoyable to him now that he only does it for survival. He knows his way around wires and engines and blowing heads off with a wrench like no others. Afterall, it is the handiest wrench in the state.

As you can see, no one was safe from the horrors of the Zombie Outbreak. They all struggled to survive and couldn’t help thinking of their old lives. It is horrifying, depressing and more than anything frustrating to see your hometown being torn into shreds, painted with blood, decorated with broken glass, burned to the ground, and not be able to stop it.

There are however, advantages to this way of living. For one thing, you’re free to go after whoever you want to blame and blow their brains out all over the sidewalk with no legal consequences. Secondly, you won’t even feel bad about killing what’s already dead. And thirdly, I personally get quite a kick out of shutting their undead roars up.

Welcome to the Zombicide World

Zombicide board game package

Guillotine Games and CMON published one of the best board games for zombie slaying enthusiasts in 2012 with the introduction of the Zombicide universe. This terrific thematic game of horror and cooperation has been released in 3 seasons as of right now and multiple different versions of it are available and compatible with the many, many expansions.

Possibilities are endless in the world of Zombicide and while that may sound like a bold claim, it is quite literally the distinguishing property of this game. In comparison to most other games in the genre or of the same nature, this game provides players with an impressive amount of freedom regarding their experience. The publisher has given you tons of options to tailor your Zombicide sessions to your optimal liking and their relentless efforts in keeping the game fresh and replayable is admirable.

The most exciting part of every zombie game is the combat. The hunting, to be exact. Whether you’re the hunter or being hunted, Zombicide pictures this combat more thrilling than ever. You’ll move around the modular map with your designated miniature figure looking for loot and to complete objectives. Obstacles will find their way to you and your friends and it’s up to you to react efficiently if you want to survive and make progress. The good news is killing zombies gains you XP, the bad news, however, is that the more XP you have, the more zombies you’re going to encounter.

The gameplay uses mechanics such as hand management for strategical depth and dice rolling for just the right amount of suspenseful uncertainty needed in a zombie apocalypse. This horrific adventure can be played solo or with up to 5 companions against the game’s automated zombie hordes. You have 10 different scenarios to choose from and depending on which one you decide to play, you’ll be playing for about an hour or 2, not too long or too short for the amount of excitement it brings to the table if you ask me.

Fans of Dead of Winter, Pandemic and Arkham Horror will not walk away from a Zombicide table disappointed. If you like the post-apocalyptic theme of Dead of Winter and the gameplay frameworks of Arkham Horror, Pandemic or Gloomhaven, give this game a shot and you’ll surely be hooked in no time.

How It Plays

Zombicide board game set-up

The game begins as players customize their squad of survivors, each with unique skills and starter weapons. The survivors are represented by mini figures that move across the modular game board that can be reconfigured to create different settings for different scenarios.

The goal is pretty straightforward yet demanding: complete objectives while trying your best to survive the relentless hordes of the undead! Securing supplies, rescuing other survivors, and reaching safe zones will earn you experience points that can be used to upgrade your character with powerful new abilities – increasing your hopes of triumph in this post-apocalyptic world.

On their turns, survivors will charge, search for gear, blast zombies, and kick down doors – up to three actions per turn. Teamwork and clever strategy are essential in your path of overcoming obstacles and exterminating flesh-eating monstrosities. Players must plan their every move carefully and make the most of their abilities if they hope to survive.

Zombies crowd the game board in ever-increasing numbers as rounds pass and players gain XP, forcing survivors to constantly adapt to the growing threat. The zombie miniatures are controlled by an artificial intelligence system that ensures a never-ending zombie apocalypse, keeping survivors on their toes.

When the need for combat arises, dice rolls will determine the outcome. Different weapons and abilities require custom dice with varying chances of success against different types of zombies. For increased firepower, survivors can combine their dice rolls – rolling together to take down formidable foes.

If a zombie manages to bite a survivor, they become infected unless an antidote can be found. If all survivors are killed, eaten, or turned into zombies, the mission ends in defeat. While the challenge is daunting, a well-coordinated team of survivors just might stand a chance at surviving the zombie apocalypse – at least for one more mission.

They’re Everywhere

The thrill of Zombicide expands beyond the borders of time and place. The massive success of this game’s publication has led to many more publications with new themes, new characters and mechanics, and new tales to tell. It is insane how customizable your Zombicide experience can be. Prepare to take your zombie killing adventures to a vast universe of probabilities. Afterall, the virus could break out in space, in the wild west or even medieval times. The current time and place were simply unfortunate enough to be in the way.

5. 2nd Season: Prison Outbreak

Zombicide 2nd edition prison outbreak

The Second Season in the Zombicide Saga is titled Prison Outbreak and follows the same formula as the original game in a new setting and with new characters and mechanics as well as new enemies to perish and fresh items to scavenge and utilize such as new tools and weapons.

The setting of this title is, as you may have already guessed, an abandoned prison. The new characters in compatibility with the original ones must work together to navigate their way out of the prison and smash heads, doors and walls that get in their way. (Not even kidding, Hank specializes in creating points of entry!)

New types of the zombie virus have broken out and caused in new types of zombie foes that are mostly believed to be even more challenging to beat than the regular old walking corpses. Namely, the Berserker and the Skinner. Berserkers are modeled after a famous football star and are therefore fast and aggressive, while Skinners can damage players from a distance with their acidic blood.

Even as a standalone game, Prison Outbreak provides an action-packed experience. However, when combined with other Zombicide products, it can serve as the basis for even more thrilling and challenging scenarios.

4. 3rd Season: Rue Morgue

Zombicide season 3 Rue Morgue

The massacre of brain-eaters doesn’t end in the Prison. Rue Morgue is the third season of the Zombicide series and follows a similar gameplay style as the first two seasons, but with new characters, weapons, and enemies.

The setting for this one is an imaginary town called Hollywood that very obviously doesn’t resemble any real-life locations. Players have to put on their survivor boots once more and gather around as the burning city cries out for help.

Spilling as much cold blood as possible aside, the survivors will also be tasked to collect various items and supplies to help them complete their objectives, such as finding a cure for the zombie virus or locating a way to escape the city.

The Toxic Runner and the Seeker are the new enemy types you’ll encounter in Rue Morgue and boy are they hard to deal with. Toxic Runners are overwhelmingly fast and can infect players with the zombie virus, while Seekers can sense survivors from a concerning distance and are exceptionally difficult to kill.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 3rd season however, is the introduction of a new PvP game mode where players will struggle to fight off hordes of zombies and protect their teammates and their value at the same time as preparing to face off against other teams. Friendships are fragile when the only people looking forward to your arrival are those who want to eat your brain.

3. Invader

Zombicide Invader board game box

We’ve all heard at least a dozen times about how the uprising of the dead brought about the end of planet Earth and life as we recognize it. A terrifying turn of events indeed, but what if the Earth wasn’t the only planet suffering this raging outbreak?

Invader brings the fun of slaughter among the stars, introducing a new theme and setting to play the game in, as well as new survivor characters and enemy types to play around with. Planet PK-L7, humanity’s first source of the valuable element of Xenium, is swarming with Abominations and Xenos created by an ungodly virus.

Just as before, you and your friends, playing as Sgt. Blaine, ranged weapons expert, and his crew have to figure out objectives while fighting off undead aliens who have a strange knowledge of what human brains smell like. You thought killing zombies in the closed spaces of the prison was difficult? Try it in outer space!

2. Angry Neighbors

Zombicide Angry Neighbors board game package

The neighborhood has deteriorated substantially since the onset of the zombie apocalypse. Before, an occasional intoxicated individual yelling nonsense in the street was the norm. However, now every time you venture outside you are guaranteed to encounter hordes of irascible, infected, maniacal former neighbors. Oh well, we now have the option of greeting them with Chainsaws and Nailguns so not all that bad.

The Angry Neighbors Expansion introduces several new gameplay mechanics. Zombie Spawn Tokens for example, allow players to place zombies in surprising locations, making survival even more challenging that it already is. The expansion also features Zombie Dogs that can track survivors and are hard to kill. Don’t get me wrong they don’t have exceptional stats, it’s just very hard for me to kill a dog in any given context. Toxic Zombies are also featured that can poison players, adding fresh threats to the undead hordes.

This one can’t be played as a standalone title but can be mixed up with whichever version of the game in your possession to make new exciting fresh challenges to flex your zombie killing instincts. Absolutely worth checking out.

1. Toxic City Mall

Zombicide Toxic City Mall board game package

Where would all the most hungry, exhausted and dedicated people of the town be cooped up at the time the zombie virus broke out? I’m going to take a wild guess and say they were all at the City Mall. All the energetic teenagers, food-court seeking men and shopping-hyped women as well as the relentless staff of the mall have turned into unreasonable human-hunting beasts.

Toxic Zombies and the Zombie Dogs make a grand return in the mall setting and you can only imagine how menacing their presence is in a closed space such as the Mall. You’d be absolutely right because they are formidable foes in this new environment and they’re not even the only thing you have to deal with.

Toxic Zones can be found here and there in the mall that have been subjected to toxic waste for too long for the human body to resist the toxin. Your best chance is avoiding these zones at all costs. Along with Zombie Dogs, Zombie VIPs are also present with exclusive weaknesses and ways to defeat.

Toxic City Malls turns the map into your playground with barricade and rubble tokens that allow for quick and tactical alterations of the revenue. Of course, these tokens, just as all the other components of this pack are compatible with previous versions and all available scenarios. It can also be played on its own but is more than recommended to fans of the original title.

What It’s Like

Zombicide board game components

The game has gained a lot of popularity since its release in 2012 and has since been expanded with various additional sets and expansions and into many familiar universes such as the Marvel universe, Night of the Living Dead, DC’s dark universe and more. While the game has its flaws, it still manages to provide an engaging and exciting experience for players and is widely praised.

The gameplay of Zombicide is challenging but in a fun way. The kind of challenging which you can figure out with just a few rounds into the game and it’s not too difficult to learn your way around. The game is easy to learn and has a lot of replayability, with different scenarios and objectives that keep things fresh. The game also has great miniatures and artwork that add to the overall immersion of players in the atmosphere.

It has been rightfully mentioned among the community that with all the different versions and expansions to this game, the balances have shifted a little and at the current state, some items, enemies or characters may feel too strong or too weak. This issue can be fixed with some customization of your own but I suspect that the publisher is already fixing it.

One of the most praised aspects of Zombicide is its cooperative gameplay. Players must work together to survive the zombie hordes and complete objectives and it actually is thrilling in action. You really feel the significant presence of your teammates and can appreciate it. This adds an element of teamwork and strategy to the game, making it a great option for game nights with friends.

The game’s dice rolling mechanics can sometimes lead to frustrating situations where players fail multiple times in a row, despite their best efforts. Some players have also criticized the game’s card drawing mechanics, claiming that they can be too unpredictable and swingy. In all honestly though, there aren’t many titles that have evaded these criticisms, so take them with a pinch of salt.

Despite its imperfections, the game’s level of accessibility and the teamwork at its core transform it into a terrific pick for get-togethers and game nights. The numerous expansions help revive the fun and prevent boredom, turning it into a brilliant purchase for those searching for a fresh zombie-slaying board game to add to their collection.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Zombicide, with its very large number of expansion packs and different variants, is one of the most exciting, entertaining and replayable games out there for fans of the zombie slasher genre. Hordes of undead have never been more menacing and slaying them in the form of a tabletop game, has rarely if ever been this fun.

If your upcoming game night could benefit from a breath-taking journey of survival and dynamic combat that can only be overcome with effective teamwork and coordination, I encourage you to take a good look at Zombicide. It’s certain to bring your party lots of horror-themed joy.

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