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Subject: A review from a dice-hater rss

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Vincent Pascaud
France
Saint Aunes
Herault
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My friends call me "Sly" during games. I can't propose alliances anymore.
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I must say for a start I was a little frightened I might regret my purchase when I first opened my Zombicide box : I was enthusiast while and after the Kickstarter, but then I looked at a French preview video, and heard a dramatic sentence that made me chill : “Zombicide, it’s a storm of dices. If you don’t like dices, fly away, you fool”.
And, I don’t like dices when they’re overwhelming. Looking at the rest of the video (in which we only see 3 or 4 turns of gameplay) the game looked simple, even scarily simplist.
To my great relief, my first game, and the ones after that, didn’t confirmed those worries.
The tutorial is effective, and should raise enough questions for you to check the rules and understand important points so you can play the next missions without opening too much the rulebook.
About that, unfortunately the rules are a mess. Important points are sometimes hidden in weird places, and quite a lot of in-game situations are not properly covered by a clear rule. Sometimes, you can have a guess, sometimes, you won’t. A FAQ is in progress and should be shortly in the Guillotine Website. All in all, it’s manageable to understand and with the exceptions of very specific situations, you’ll be able to play Zombicide without a headache – well, at least concerning rules ; headaches you will have, but good ones, we’ll see that later
But let’s now talk about the game itself ! Zombicide being very story-telling oriented, my review will take the shape of a session review, just so you can feel the ambiance.

During the first turns of the first mission, our survivors walked happily in the streets, opening a few buildings, taking down the few putrids we met, not very worried about those predictable brainless zombies. Quite rapidly, we found ourselves with 2 of the 3 supplies we needed to win, and 3 objectives out of 6, not speaking of reassuring weapons.
We began to think at this pace, we might just end this mission without a stress or a scratch. We were just killing the verry little opposition we met. One thing you must know about Zombicide : when you kill a Zombie, you gain experience. When leveling enough, your "Danger Level" rises, and the higher it is, the more zombies will spawn. So, back to our game... A survivor reached the Yellow level. And rapidly the Orange (WHAT ? You got a chainsaw, you want to play with it)

And, in a very insidious way, our mere walk in the street turned in a nightmare. In 2 turns, it became impossible for us to even walk without thinking carefully about the consequences. We had split into 2 groups of 3 survivors to cover more ground, and it became clear not only we would never be reunited again, but we’d have to sacrifice someone if the rest wanted to stay alive.
A first elogious comparison comes here : you get the sense of urge, growing threat and exponential danger of Pandemic. The hordes must be dealt with, cautiously managed and contains, in parallel of your efforts to complete the mission. It’s very delicate, and put you under a delightful pressure.
At several occasions, we found yourself in such situations we were already grieving our deads, and finally managed to get out of desperate moments thanks to clever and unexpected combos between rules and events.

Situation : El Cholo and Doug are trapped in a 2 zones building. They’re against some Fatties, that are not as easily killed as mere Walkers, but that El Cholo can slain thanks to his machetes. Getting out of the building is for now out of the question : it’s crowdy outside, and we’re hoping Wanda can attract the Horde out of the front door by showing her face in the other side of the street.
During Spawn, an Abomination rises (very, very few options to kill this thing !) and is attracted inside the building. There’s no way we could get rid of it, so we ought to go outside : but what for ? In front of the door, there is the Horde, death, no hope. In despair, El Cholo search the building… and finds what he was missing to make a Molotov Cocktail ! Goodbye, Abomination, hello, hope !
During this time, Wanda is rolling in the street to attract the zombies far from Cholo and Doug. She soon finds himself trapped : while she succeeded her mission, there are just too many Walkers to save herself. As a swan song, she ran into the crowd and start slaying with her chainsaw… An unexpected success makes her gain a level, and the Slippery ability. She can now ignore zombies during movement, whom are normally costing extra actions, and with her naturel speed she finds herself rolling with dexterity among zombies and finds a safe place. She’s still in sight of zombies and therefore still attract them : but she now has more flexibility to survive while helping others.
Tension and reversal of situations tells stories. And here comes a second elogious comparison : Zombicide has the story-telling feel of Mansions of Madness, with less madness and more blood. A turn of the game is not only a move and some dice rolling : it’s a scene that you can picture, that will make you shiver or laugh, and it doesn’t matter that much if you succeed or not.

The ending turns of our game allowed us to test the ability to make NOISE, and this, this is really good ! Zombies are attracted to Survivors they see, and if no one is in sight, they follow the noise. And noise, you can make on purpose, and therefore guide zombies in a certain manner.

Wanda attracting the zombies far from the others allowed Amy and Nick to reach the 5th objective. Now, Wanda is our last hope of getting to the exit : with 8 zones of move per turn ignoring the zombies, she’s really the only one standing a chance.
She joins El Cholo and Doug in their building, while Amy is screaming like hell to attract the zombies in the right corner of the map.


Amy and Nick in the right bottom corner, with the noise tokens. On the left, in the little building, the other survivors.


The zombie crowd on the street, seeing no one, are attracted to noise, giving peace to the survivors hiding in the little building.


Quickly, Amy & Nick are eaten alive by a massive crowd of zombies !

Unfortunately, despice this heroic sacrifice, we got out of minis (even the Abomination pack, which is extra zombie minis provided to people who got the game on Kickstarter), cause we were not killing zombies, just attracting them from a point to another. Out of minis means additional activations for them, and this usually means the end.
Wanda was on the last objective, carrying the 3 supplies needed to win, but she got bitten.
It was a close one, and we might have win if we killed a little more zombies.
ALL IN ALL, the dices I was so afraid of are not at all all-mighty : you can easily calculate the odds, and choose to take a risk, or not, and even so it’s easy to think of a backup plan with the others survivors. The dices just bring the right amount of fear to completely miss, and the right amount of hope to get yourself out of a death-situation with a particulary good roll.
ZOMBICIDE isn’t a game of luck. It’s a game of ambience, and of management. Yes, seriously ! Managing the zombies and the placement of the survivors, the noise, to control the crowd and limit the population, is really well done and interesting. It happened a few times that we stopped playing for fifteen minutes to discuss the best strategic angle before a new turn.
I’m surprised and happy about this game.

On the + side :
- The ambiance
- Great story-telling
- Nice management of leveling : the stronger you become, the more zombies there is
- Just the right amount of luck
- Tactical aspect is here, even with simple rules

On the – side :
- The rulebook is a mess
- The boards are nice, but very similar. Where is diversity ?
- The missions are are not balanced, and certainly not going from the easiest to the hardest. The first one is one of the most difficult, and the 2nd one is so easy it’s just not worth playing it. For 10 missions, even only one not worth playing is 10%. One can doubt about playtesting the final version of some missions !

I think Zombicide had everything to be a major hit – and can still become it. If the missions were better, there would be no doubt.
Yet, it’s obvious you can’t get the best of Zombicide with the missions of the box : one will have to wait for missions submitted by players.
But this is going to happen, as Guillotine Games provide us with everything we need to create missions, and encourage it.
They even already submitted new missions on their website, including a 6 missions campaign.
Word of the end, I think it’s a must-have if you accept to take the time to stay tuned for new missions released by users – one will be published every month on the game website.
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Geoff Burkman
United States
Kettering
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Putrids...nice!
 
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Scott Hill
United Kingdom
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Great review.

Just one point, though:

Vinsssounet wrote:
stay tuned for new missions released by users – one will be published every month on the game website.


In the Designer's Note about the custom scenario competition, it says that they'll publish the best of the custom scenarios weekly, starting December!
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Vincent Pascaud
France
Saint Aunes
Herault
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My friends call me "Sly" during games. I can't propose alliances anymore.
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My wife and I are offering painting commission services for your miniatures !
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My bad, indeed !
Even better

Let's not forget to mention the best week scenario will win an exclusive survivor mini. Very engaging.
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Carroll Best
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Sir Vinsssounet, great review!! I just had the game delivered Thursday and plan on playing tomorrow night. Your review just got me very excited to play as I love the idea of more zombies spawning if someone or a group does too well!! It will definitely make us all take notice of trying to be "the biggest badass", and try to work together more as a team.
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Stuart Holttum
United Kingdom
Southend on Sea
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Great session report....terrible review.

I knew exactly what you were talking about....because I already own the game. So "Abomination set", "rapidly the orange", "slippery", "fatties", "noise"......all quite meaningless to someone wanting to know about the game.

I very much like the idea of using a session report as a review, but you need to make sure that the terms are explained. In the examples above, you need to talk about the difficulty levels, about the different types of zombies, about the special rules, otherwise nothing makes sense.

Well-written, atmospheric....but no good as a review - sorry!
 
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Vincent Pascaud
France
Saint Aunes
Herault
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My friends call me "Sly" during games. I can't propose alliances anymore.
badge
My wife and I are offering painting commission services for your miniatures !
Avatar
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I shall say you are quite correct Stuart !
This was written as a session review and I did not thouht enough of the consequences for total strangers of Zombicide. Those points you noticed ought a little explanation indeed. I altered the review a little after your advice !
Thanks for pointing that out
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