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Subject: A love/hate relationship... (A Review) rss

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Kevin Outlaw
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This review, complete with pictures, can also be found at AlwaysBoardNeverBoring.


I've been staring at my computer screen for 10 minutes trying to think how to tackle this review, and the difficulty I am having really defines how torn I am about this big, bloody mess of a game. You see, I am so torn about how I feel about this game, at the moment, I don't even know if this review is going to be positive or negative.

So, let's flip a coin...

Ready?

I wouldn't be surprised if the coin landed on an edge, but it's "heads." So, let's start the review like this...

I love Zombicide.

I never got onboard the Kickstarter campaign that birthed this monstrous creation, but when I left my life of daily drudgery working as a magazine editor and became self-employed, the people in my office had a bit of a whip-round for me. Normally, co-workers tend to use that sort of money to buy a nice pen, or a carriage clock, or something; but my co-workers put one of my best friends in charge of the pot, and he used the money to buy me board game instead.

Seriously, the look on Ethel from Accounts' face was a picture when she saw that she had chipped in her good money to help buy a grown man toys.

So, anyway, Zombicide was a parting gift from my co-workers, and I have to admit, I was pretty damned pleased with that.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a bit of a theme junkie, and Zombicide has got so much theme it almost drips off the box and makes an icky puddle on the floor. It has superb art, nicely sculpted miniatures, and detailed map tiles for creating a zombie-infested city block. When the game is sitting on the shelf, I want to take it down and set it up. When the game is on the table, I am excited to play.

In the first few turns, as the zombies begin to shamble into the rubble-choked streets, the adrenaline starts pumping and the game is an absolute joy. And, as the game unfolds, a real story develops as your small band of survivors desperately searches for supplies as the ravenous hordes close in.

You feel trapped. You feel helpless. You feel hopeless. You feel like you would feel if you woke up tomorrow and this was happening in real life, and that makes this game an absolute triumph.

But...

I hate Zombicide.

It is a cluttered mess of a game, with shonky rules, repetitive gameplay, and incredibly violent box art.

Yes, I'm complaining about the box art. Honestly, it is an amazing illustration, and it perfectly sums up the tone and theme; but there are heads flying off, people firing Uzis, and a horribly detailed bit of a zombie's brains exploding. When the box is stacked on the shelf, you still see a gloriously disgusting picture of a zombie being shot in the face with a handgun, which is something I don't want to have to explain to my three-year-old daughter.

The base game includes six player characters to pick from, and this just isn't enough variety. Every game has to have at least four characters in play, and if you play a three-player game, everyone is supposed to control two characters each. Almost all of my games are three-player games, which means we always have all six characters in play. There is never any variation on the team, so games often end up playing out the same way, using the same characters to pull off the same tricks. Besides, I really hate controlling more than one character in this type of game, as I feel it makes it harder to have a connection with what my character is doing. While I am playing, I want to BE a character; I don't want to be an omnipotent force controlling multiple characters.

Then there are the crazy escalation rules. As you gain experience (from killing zombies and seizing objectives), more zombies (and more powerful zombies) spawn every turn, or whenever you open a door. I have found that this actively encourages players to avoid killing zombies, as the increase in experience can be catastrophic in the next zombie spawn phase. It also encourages players to run around opening every door to every house before gaining any experience points, as that way, every house is populated with very few zombies, rather than loads of powerful zombies.

And the crazy rule where if you fire a gun into a space containing heroes and zombies you have to allocate hits to the heroes before you can allocate any to the zombies, is such a gamey, artificial rule, it completely undermines that incredible theme.

Ultimately, using the same six characters, and understanding how zombies become more powerful as characters level up, has meant that every game I have played ends up pretty much the same way. In the first few turns, the fast characters rush around and opens doors, thus ensuring only a few zombies are present in the houses. Everyone searches until they get some good kit, and they actively avoid killing zombies or picking up objectives as much as possible, as this would raise experience and cause problems. Then everyone gets into position to snatch objectives, and the kid in the hoodie who has the ability to sneak through spaces containing zombies goes after the hardest to reach objective.

So, every game starts to feel a bit samey. The heroes do bizarre and unthematic things, and by about half an hour in, I am ready to pack up the game and do something else. The mechanisms of the game have ground away the theme, and I am all to aware that I am playing a game, doing something mechanical, rather than experiencing a gruelling experience in a zombie-infested city.

Then I put the game on the shelf, and I take a long look at that awesomely awful box art, and I get this twinge... I want to set the game up again. I want to play again, because maybe next time things will be different. Maybe next time the theme won't evaporate. Maybe next time I will feel as enthusiastic at the end of the game as I do at the start.

Because I don't hate this game. Not really.

I mean, I do. It's awful.

But not really.

What it comes down to is I like the theory better than the application. In fact, this is currently the only game I house rule.

Want to know what my house rules are?

Simple:

When you shoot into a space containing heroes and zombies, hits cause a wound on a zombie, and misses cause a wound on a hero.

Any ranged weapon can be used to make a basic close combat attack (to avoid friendly fire).

You can select the turn order the heroes move in.

And that's it.

Those three little changes allow my group to enjoy the game a little more, but I would be lying if I said Zombicide was a big hit for us.

It is a beautiful game (in its own way), and I do have a strong desire to play it. It is easy to learn, and it does create a sense of palpable dread and growing despair as you play. I can see why people enjoy it as much as they do, and I would never suggest someone is wrong for thinking it is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon; but for me, the reality of every game never lives up to the potential.

I think, ultimately, if you put a gun to my head, I would have to say I do not like the game. Which is a shame, really.

I can only imagine what Ethel from Accounts would think if she knew that.
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Roger McKay
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I recently bought Zombicide, and:

I enjoy it more than I would a pen.

Unless it was one of those Fisher Space Pens. Those are cool.


As for the game:
Great components, horrible rules, moderate theming. The swarms of zombies really feels terrific, but the wonky rules hurt the theme - a lot.

I agree with you about playing more than one character. I want to BE one person, not a team. I also find the character powers rather dull.
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Scott Hill
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Regarding the lack of variability - you'll soon be able to get additional Survivors via retail. Also, Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak add another 4 and 6 Survivors, respectively.
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Peter Cooper
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Regarding the lack of variability - you'll soon be able to get additional Survivors via retail. Also, Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak add another 4 and 6 Survivors, respectively.


And you can download the character sheets for other survivors and use proxy models: I think there are more than 50 available characters now.
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Roger McKay
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Regarding the lack of variability - you'll soon be able to get additional Survivors via retail. Also, Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak add another 4 and 6 Survivors, respectively.


"more money, more money, more money".
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Scott Hill
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RogMcK wrote:
Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Regarding the lack of variability - you'll soon be able to get additional Survivors via retail. Also, Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak add another 4 and 6 Survivors, respectively.


"more money, more money, more money".

Yes, we live in a world where one obtains goods in return for money.

I can't see that changing any time soon.
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Peter Cooper
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I also felt I needed to buy more once I had played the game for many, many hours. In terms of money (certainly in comparison with other games by CMoN) you get quite a lot for the price. But inevitably, if you play the game enough, you will want more variety. Which means more money.

Thanks for the review, though. I may not agree with everything in it, but I do see your point.
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Stephen Mould
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Great review, your experiences at starting to write it mirrored my own when writing my own review. However, I think i've had enough good stories from this game to come down nearer the love side of things. Except when I'm hating it.
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Kevin Outlaw
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Regarding the lack of variability - you'll soon be able to get additional Survivors via retail. Also, Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak add another 4 and 6 Survivors, respectively.


I have no desire to spend more money on a game I hate. Or probably hate. Or something.

Fool me once, and all that.

"You can always buy more" is never a good response to "I don't like this."

But, joking aside, I do get your point for people who like the game but feel the variety is lacking. There is definitely enough additional content for people who want to go beyond the "starter set."
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Scott Hill
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RedMonkeyBoy wrote:
Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Regarding the lack of variability - you'll soon be able to get additional Survivors via retail. Also, Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak add another 4 and 6 Survivors, respectively.


I have no desire to spend more money on a game I hate. Or probably hate. Or something.

Fool me once, and all that.

"You can always buy more" is never a good response to "I don't like this."

Well, I only read the first half of your review!

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Scott Hill
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Outzone wrote:
The weird rule about friendly fire everyone complains about...

Not everyone complains about it.
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They call me Mister...
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Outzone wrote:
The weird rule about friendly fire everyone complains about...

Not everyone complains about it.


No. I actually like it. A lot.
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Kevin Outlaw
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Ibbo wrote:
Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Outzone wrote:
The weird rule about friendly fire everyone complains about...

Not everyone complains about it.


No. I actually like it. A lot.


It's all right. I don't think he literally meant everyone. You didn't miss out on an international Zombicide questionnaire or anything.

However, I think it is fair to say that it is one of the more commonly complained about elements of the game, which is saying something for a game that includes player elimination.
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They call me Mister...
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Yeah, I see what you're saying but whilst I haven't done an actual tally I've seen maybe as many people saying they like the rule.

But, hey, it's all opinion right?
 
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Scott Hill
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Ibbo wrote:
Yeah, I see what you're saying but whilst I haven't done an actual tally I've seen maybe as many people saying they like the rule.

Given this and the fact that people that dislike the rule are more likely to say so than those that like it, it's almost certainly the case that there are more people that either like, or are neutral about, the rule than those that dislike it.
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Julien Le Jeune
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There are enough survivors with Steady Hand to suit anyone who would be hatin' on that rule.
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Ian Allen
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I agree with pretty much everything the OP said, with the exception of adding 3 more things that annoy me.

1. Cars - riding around in cars and running over 20 zombies a round is not fun and most people in my game group hate any car-related maps. It takes the suspense and strategy out of the game and just turns it into a guy with his arm stuck in a fishtank full of flies, slapping around with his flyswatter.

I would like this better if there were a house rule that if you kill a dozen zombies in one patch of road, the car has a 50% chance of getting stuck on all the bodies every time it passes over the spot ... or something like that ... maybe and/or you only have 1d6 rounds worth of gas unless you find more gas by searching.

2. The Abomination - he looks great, and the fact that he is impossible to kill unless you have a Molotav or a crazy combo of red attack bonuses is interesting, but the fact that he moves at 1 speed every round is not. In our games he never kills anybody. We just always keep moving and make sure we stay a few steps ahead of him. BORINGGGG.

I would like this better if there were a house rule that he moved 50% of the time 1 space and 50% of the time 2 spaces - or maybe each round he moves 1d3 spaces. Or maybe just make him move 2 all the time .... anything to actually make him dangerous and not just a slow moving point for the party to avoid all game long.

3. The Noise rule. Something about it irritates me, although I can't put a finger on it now since I haven't played in a good while. I think it would be more interesting if every time a person fired a gun (once or muliple times that round in that location), there was some chance (2 in 6 maybe?) of spawning a couple of new zombies.

I think it would be fun if it was like the Walking Dead show, where you can chop zombies up all day, but the minute you fire a pistol - a couple of zombies are going to rise up out of the gutter or tear through the closet door or wake up out of the car they died in or whatever, and join in the attack. This would make the use of guns something you only wanted to do in an emergency, like in Walking Dead.

I disagree about the character selection - with the expansion and the season 2 stuff and the promo characters, there are a LOT to choose from.
Now whether they have interesting abilities or not .... not sure - the game hasn't hit the table in a while in our group, although I am going to try and remedy that soon.

I totally hate the shoot survivors first rule and agree with the other suggested house rules.
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Joshua Leslie
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RedMonkeyBoy wrote:

"You can always buy more" is never a good response to "I don't like this."


I think that there is are several expansions that address that specific concern is a totally great response to said concern.

There are a ton of survivors available in expansions which totally address the issue of wanting more variety than the 6 that come in the original set. Yeah they cost money, but if that increases the enjoyment of the base game, it might be money well spent.

If someone thought that Settlers of Catan was a cool game, but their issue was that they wanted to be able to play with more than 4 people, pointing out that there was an expansion that allows the game to be played by 6 is totally valid.

 
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Kevin Outlaw
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glookose wrote:


3. The Noise rule. Something about it irritates me, although I can't put a finger on it now since I haven't played in a good while. I think it would be more interesting if every time a person fired a gun (once or muliple times that round in that location), there was some chance (2 in 6 maybe?) of spawning a couple of new zombies.


In another thread, way back in the mists of time, I suggested a new rule where the bigger, nastier spawns are triggered by noise: Each round, you add up the noise you caused, and add it to the total from previous rounds, and every time you hit a certain amount, the threat escalates. I thought something like that would have been cooler than basing the threat escalation on experience.

It wasn't a fleshed out house rule or anything, so I have no idea if it would work, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
 
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This game has plenty of crap rules (Cars, lack of diagonal LOS, zombie splitting) - but the friendly fire rule isn't one of them.
Without it hand weapons would be useless.
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Mike Goss
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It's good to see that some of the hype for this game is finally calming down.
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JimbobJones wrote:
Mr Skeletor wrote:
This game has plenty of crap rules (Cars, lack of diagonal LOS, zombie splitting) - but the friendly fire rule isn't one of them.
Without it hand weapons would be useless.


I don't think he's saying that it's a bad rule from a gameplay perspective. Everyone Most people who complains about it (myself included) understand its purpose from that end.

But thematically, it's horrible, and takes me out of the game.


Correct! I understand why the rule is there, or else people would only ever use guns, but its a horrible solution to the problem thematically and is too "gamey" of a mechanic.

A better idea would be to spawn EXTRA zombies when you shoot a firearm, and then people would want to use hand weapons just to stay quiet, so they don't have to face a zombie horde every round.

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Kevin Outlaw
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JimbobJones wrote:
Mr Skeletor wrote:
This game has plenty of crap rules (Cars, lack of diagonal LOS, zombie splitting) - but the friendly fire rule isn't one of them.
Without it hand weapons would be useless.


I don't think he's saying that it's a bad rule from a gameplay perspective. Everyone Most people who complains about it (myself included) understand its purpose from that end.

But thematically, it's horrible, and takes me out of the game.


It's funny actually: I use the house rule that you allocate hits to zombies, and misses to heroes. The result is, I don't actually play the game that differently to how I would play with the rules as written. I know how bad my dice rolling is, and I know if I fire my shotgun into a space with heroes, there is a very good chance I am going to wipe them out. As a result, I tend not to shoot and still use the hand weapons.

However, if I really need to, I can push my luck a bit when it looks like there are no other options available. I may only use the house rule once in a whole game, but just that once - that agonizing choice - makes the experience marginally better.

Rolling a handful of dice, seeing all the misses, and knowing you killed your friend and it was all your fault because you are a rubbish shot feels more thematic and fun.
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JimbobJones wrote:
Mr Skeletor wrote:
This game has plenty of crap rules (Cars, lack of diagonal LOS, zombie splitting) - but the friendly fire rule isn't one of them.
Without it hand weapons would be useless.


I don't think he's saying that it's a bad rule from a gameplay perspective. Everyone Most people who complains about it (myself included) understand its purpose from that end.


If I'm in a street punchon and some guy has me pinned down with a knife at my throat, I don't know if I'd be happy with my mate pulling out a shotgun and trying to blast my assailant off me.
Reminds me of The King Kong remake (the second one) where a guy uses a tommygun to shoot the centepedes off his friend (WTF?!?!)

Anyway that being said redmonkeyboys houserule is a good one I think, as it still encourages you to NOT shoot into a friendly square.
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JimbobJones wrote:

I don't disagree with you to that point, but if you're in a city block with a dozen zombies, would you want your friend to use that gun? Or would you assume the gun will hit you despite a half dozen zombies being between you and your friend?

It isn't an issue of "might hit your friend" I have a problem with. It's the "will hit your friend" that I think is stupid -- those are some magical (evil) bullets.

I actually like Carbon Copy's houserule for it a lot, as well.


Well I'm pretty sure bullets will just puncture right through that zombie skin.
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