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Subject: A Year With Zombicide rss

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My experience with Zombicide started with only a few days remaining on the Kickstarter campaign. Something on BGG caused me to check it out, and what I saw overwhelmed the senses! A zombie game with dozens of zombies ready to attack the city. The only other zombie game I had played was Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, and with only 14 zombies, was pretty underwhelming compared to this. Not only did this include dozens of zombies, but because they had raised so much money, stretch goals were reached that included even more zombies, and a bunch of pop-culture parodied survivors to control. The numbers and the hype were addicting, and I decided I would be a part of it. I jumped in at the abomination level to get all the stretch rewards with some extra money thrown in for the optional survivors. When all was said and done, they had made a ridiculous amount of money, and were including lots of extras for us.

The hype and the ride of the campaign might have been fun, but there was still something missing. We new the game was cooperative, but other than that, information was kind of slim. The rules weren't available yet, and it seemed as if the game was still be designed.

Luckily, the game came out around the time they said it would (a little earlier I believe) and though there were some questionable rule choices when the rulebook was made available, you can see that since I have owned this for over a year, that I at least enjoyed it enough so far. And having backed Zombicide Season Two: Prison Outbreak should tell you even more that I plan on keeping this one. So let's see what this is all about.

Since I received this game, I have played it 15 times so far.

The Premise:
Much like all zombie games, the apocalypse is among us. A small amount of survivors must find equipment and weapons, in order to slice and blast zombies in order to avoid coming into contact with them and taking damage. This game is mission based, so the actual objectives will differ between different scenarios.

The Components:
The base game includes 71 miniatures, which includes the 6 survivors, 40 walker zombies (5 different sculpts), 16 runners (2 different sculpts), 8 fatties, and 1 abomination. 9 large, double sided tiles make up the board that the game takes place on. A deck of cards is used to determine zombie spawns, and an equipment deck has the items you'll start with and find throughout the game. A character sheet and experience tracker is available for each of the six survivors. A bunch of tokens are included that are used for things such as zombie spawn locations, level exit, doors, cars, objectives, etc. And finally, 5 dice come with the game, usually used to resolve combat.

Those that got in on the Kickstarter will have a bunch of extra zombies, survivors, spawn cards, and special engraved dice. They are not necessary to play, but are nice to have for more variety.

The Gameplay:
The rules are available on Guillotine Games' website (www.guillotinegames.com), so I will just briefly go over how the game works. Each player will select a survivor (with less than four players, each player will control several survivors each), and a scenario will be decided upon. The scenario will show how to set up the board such as which map tiles to use, where to place doors, objectives, spawn points, etc. The survivors are all differentiated by their different skills they start with, and will earn as the game goes on. Some skills have you start with a specific weapon, give extra actions, bonuses to combat or movement, and more. Each survivor can hold five items, with two representing items in their hand that they can use to attack with.

On a player's turn, their survivor gets three actions. They can chose to move, attack, open a door, search, make noise, rearrange their items, trade an item, or do nothing. If cars are available in a mission, they may possibly have the option of entering a car and driving it.

Each tile is split up into different zones. Moving from one zone to an adjacent zone takes one action, unless there are zombies in the zone that the survivor is moving from. For each zombie in the zone with a survivor, it takes an extra action to move away. Too many zombies or not enough actions means the survivor can't move from this location.

Weapon cards will have statistics on them which will determine how strong they are or how likely to hit. One box shows the range of the weapon. If the weapon only has 0 range, than it is a melee weapon and can only attack zombies in the current zone. Any other set of numbers means it is a ranged weapon and can possibly attack in the current zone, adjacent zones, or maybe further. Another box shows the number of dice the weapon uses to attack, and another box has the minimum number needed to score a hit. The final box shows the strength of the weapon. Weapons that have a strength of 1 can only kill walkers and runners. A weapon of at least strength 2 is needed to kill a fatty, and a 3 to kill an abomination. Some weapons of the same type can be paired together. If two weapons can be duel wielded and are both in hand, than you can use them both for only a single action each attack. Having a matching set of weapons can be very useful.

When making a melee attack, you get to choose your targets when you hit. When using a ranged weapon, hits will follow a priority list of targets, which is one of the most controversial rules that plagues this game. The first hits will be distributed amongst survivors. If there are none, or they have all been eliminated, then the next hits will target walkers. After walkers comes fatties, then abominations, and last of all runner. So it is very imperative that you do not shoot into a zone with other survivors in it, as they will be the first to get hit. The rule is understandable from a gameplay perspective. Melee weapons let you choose the target to make up for the fact that you must put yourself in imminent danger to use them, by being in the exact same zone as the enemy. Ranged weapons can shoot from a safe place, but you must deal with the targeting priority to make up for it. Without this, there would never be a need to use melee over ranged, melee weapons would be completely inferior. It's a very non-thematic rule, but necessary to balance, and my friends and I have just accepted it and moved on. There are plenty of house rules that can be found on the boards if you prefer a different result.

Weapon cards will also show if they are able to open doors. If you have a weapon in hand that can open doors, than spending an action to do so is an automatic success. When a door is opened, then a spawn card is immediately drawn and resolved for each zone in the building that was just opened. This is only a one time happening, open a different door to the same building later will not cause more zombies to appear.

The search action is allowed to be done only once per turn per survivor. In order to search, you must be in an indoor zone, or in a zone with a car, and there must not be any zombies in the zone. Indoors, you simply draw the top card of the search deck (made up mostly of equipment cards) though you may find a zombie as well. The cars have their own search rules and are usually detailed in the mission.

Making noise is a useful way to control zombie movement in certain situations. Zombies are dumb, and will go after what they see. If they see multiple groups, or no one at all, then will head toward the loudest group. Weapons indicate if they produce noise when used, and each survivor counts as a noise token as well. Making noise may be necessary to keep the zombies headed in a certain direction, away from where they would be going otherwise.

You can spend an action to trade items with another survivor at your location. When this occurs, you can each give each other one item (you do not have to give something to receive) and both survivors may rearrange their inventory. If you are alone, or don't want to trade, you can still spend an action to rearrange your inventory, usually to place a different weapon in hand.

After each player has had a turn, then all zombies on the board will activate. Once all the zombies have gone, then a spawn card will be drawn for each spawn location and new zombies will be placed on the board. Then the players will go again, and this cycle will continue until either the scenario objectives are completed, or the players have all been eliminated.

A zombie that is in the same zone as a player when activated will cause a wound. Each survivor can only take two wounds before they are dead and eliminated from the game. When multiple wounds occur in a zone, they can be divided up amongst the survivors as necessary. When survivors take a wound, they lose an item from their inventory and take a wound card which takes up an inventory spot.

Any zombies that did not attack will instead move one zone. As said earlier, they will head toward any survivors they see. If they see multiple groups of survivors, or none at all, then the amount of noise is the tie-breaker to determine where they move to. When a zombie moves, they will take the shortest possible route to get to the target location. If there are multiple routes of the same distance, then all zombies in that zone will split up into even groups. If there are an odd number of zombies of any type, then an extra zombie of that type will be added to keep the groups even (which is probably the next most controversial rule). Thematically, I see it as a hidden or out of site zombie joining the group, kind of coming in from out of view much in the same way the search action can spawn a zombie, but this rule was definitely much discussed.

After all the zombies have been activated, runners will be activated one more time, following the same rules. Runners always get two activations, which makes them dangerous to keep around.

As players kill off zombies, they will earn experience points, which are tracked on their character sheet. When they hit certain thresholds, new skills will be unlocked, making them stronger. However, anytime a spawn card is drawn, you spawn zombies based on the level of the highest survivor. So it is always best to level up survivors evenly, so that as the zombie numbers increase, all survivors will be more fit to help take care of the problem.

Final Thoughts:
When the rules were first released, I had some worries, as did many backers as can be evidenced by the early threads on the boards. But when the game finally arrived, and we set it up to play, despite some unthematic rules, the game was just a lot of fun. The number of zombies definitely gives a sense of dread and being overwhelmed, and it is absolutely necessary to work together with your fellow players since you can't kill them all. You can kill a lot, as the name of the game alludes to, but they are relentless and will keep on coming. For a dicey, Ameritrash game, there is a lot of planning and cooperation that must take place. Because this game is hard!

One big plus that this game receives is for the amount of freebies given to the players from Guillotine Games. They have a level editor on their website available as a free download for players to create their own scenarios. They also host dozens of scenarios that can be downloaded, both made by them, as well as fans that have submitted them in for their ongoing contest. The rulebook itself comes with 10 different scenarios, so there will never be a shortage of content available for this game.

There are some wonky rules, as has been mentioned, but most aren't bothersome, and are used for gameplay reasons. The priority rules is the most unthematic and is the one that is most likely to bring you out of the game, but we just accept it an move on because the rest of the game is so much fun. We enjoy leveling up, trying to find awesome weapons, and having to deal with hordes and hordes of bad guys. The game is very difficult, so there is definitely an impending sense of doom all throughout. The biggest drawback to me is being eliminated early on, especially on a large mission that takes a long time. No one likes to sit out and watch, and it sucks when it happens, but it also adds to the feeling of dread as you play, simply because you don't want it to happen. The upcoming Toxic City Mall expansion has the rules for being resurrected as a zombie if you die, which helps take care of this problem, although at the cost of some difficulty.

Overall, I am happy to have backed this one. Using the BGG guidelines, I give this game an 8. Thanks for reading, and check out my other reviews at A Year With My Games.
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Thomas
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Thanks for sharing. We just ignore the dumb targeting rule as written and play it heroes are hit in misses. This makes more thematic sense.
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Nicholas Vitek
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People are always free to house rule away but I still caution that the rule makes the game way too easy.
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Barry Hood
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It took me a couple of games to recognise that the targeting rule is probably the best rule of the game. It changes the core game from just rolling dice and shooting zombies and forces you to really think about your survivor placement strategy in relation to turn order. I can see why people wouldn't like it, and one of the beauties of the game is the ease with which you can tinker with it, but for me it just adds a bit of meat to the bones of the game mechanics.
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Julien Le Jeune
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LunarSoundDesign wrote:
dumb targeting rule


Ain't dumb, essential to the balance, yadda yadda.

Imagine Phil having +1 to dice ranged, with dual sawed off and plenty of ammo, able to kill anyone on a 2+ (and able to re-roll in case of a 1) without touching a survivor.

Congrats, you just gave him the Sniper skill for free and broke the balance.
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Ryoko Masaki
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At first I didn't like the targeting priority either as it was anti thematic. Then I realized something; these survivors are not all trained assassins and the are put in a difficult situation. How many of us can say that if we were in a room with one other person and 5 zombies that we wouldn't shoot wildly. Take that along with the fact that zombies are more resilient than people, especially when it comes to being shot (excluding head shots ). Then the rule makes perfect thematic sense.

That said, I think to be thematic, a few more characters need the sniper ability at blue (such as Phil, Nick, Marvin). I would even advocate a non-skill rule that says survivors x, y, z (trained shooters) ignore other survivors when using ranged attacks.
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Thomas
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ryokomasaki wrote:
At first I didn't like the targeting priority either as it was anti thematic. Then I realized something; these survivors are not all trained assassins and the are put in a difficult situation. How many of us can say that if we were in a room with one other person and 5 zombies that we wouldn't shoot wildly. Take that along with the fact that zombies are more resilient than people, especially when it comes to being shot (excluding head shots ). Then the rule makes perfect thematic sense.

That said, I think to be thematic, a few more characters need the sniper ability at blue (such as Phil, Nick, Marvin). I would even advocate a non-skill rule that says survivors x, y, z (trained shooters) ignore other survivors when using ranged attacks.


It doesn't make any sense they if we were back to back that I would somehow shoot you first.
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Thiago Aranha
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ryokomasaki wrote:
I would even advocate a non-skill rule that says survivors x, y, z (trained shooters) ignore other survivors when using ranged attacks.

That's the new "Steady Hands" skill, if I'm not mistaken.
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Philipp Ottensamer
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LunarSoundDesign wrote:
Thanks for sharing. We just ignore the dumb targeting rule as written and play it heroes are hit in misses. This makes more thematic sense.


This.
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John
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Shoogoo wrote:
LunarSoundDesign wrote:
dumb targeting rule


Ain't dumb, essential to the balance, yadda yadda.

Imagine Phil having +1 to dice ranged, with dual sawed off and plenty of ammo, able to kill anyone on a 2+ (and able to re-roll in case of a 1) without touching a survivor.

Congrats, you just gave him the Sniper skill for free and broke the balance.


I don't allow Plenty of Ammo rerolls to take back hits on allied survivors. If you're patching the rule, you're patching it for thematic concerns. Having plenty of ammo to blast away at a zombie with is great, but it doesn't pull that bullet out of your friend's back!

The reworked rule works almost as well for balance purposes while being infinitely more thematic, and if you're patching it's for thematic concerns, so why would you allow Plenty of Ammo rerolls to act in an unthematic fashion?

He also doesn't have the Sniper skill, because he can't pick his targets. He cannot single out more lethal zombies hiding behind the wall of walkers.
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