Zombicide: 2nd Edition

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Zombicide, the board game, has taken the world by storm with over 2 million copies sold since its release in 2012 and spawning a cult franchise of cooperative zombie slaying all over the world. In 2020, prepare for Zombicide 2nd edition! In Zombicide, zombies are controlled by the game, while players take on the role of Survivors who must cooperate in order to survive and thrive in …
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Exceptional Components
Stunning Artwork

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • More Zombicide
  • Fantastic miniatures
  • Easier set-up

Might Not Like

  • More Zombicide
  • Luck-based gameplay
  • Arbitrary estimated mission times
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Description

Zombicide, the board game, has taken the world by storm with over 2 million copies sold since its release in 2012 and spawning a cult franchise of cooperative zombie slaying all over the world. In 2020, prepare for Zombicide 2nd edition!

In Zombicide, zombies are controlled by the game, while players take on the role of Survivors who must cooperate in order to survive and thrive in a world overrun by the bloodthirsty undead. Find guns and gear to take the fight to the zombies through 25 different scenarios linked by a branching story as you pick your way through an infested city.

Zombicide 2nd Edition features refined and streamlined rules, including updates to target priority for ranged attacks, interactions with doors, and vehicle mechanics. A new dark zone feature, a zone that hides zombies from Survivor’s attacks, has been added as well. Zombicide 2nd Edition will include new components and miniatures as well, including plastic dashboards and new child Survivors. Returning players will be able to use their existing collection from previous Zombicide releases as well.

 

In Zombicide: 2nd Edition, 1-6 players take on the role of Survivors of the zombie apocalypse. Working together, they must make their way through the 25 missions of varying difficulty. Along the way completing objectives and, of course, killing zombies. With each kill, their Adrenaline Points rise. They’ll get stronger, but the zombies will be drawn to their actions, coming in greater and greater numbers. Can the Survivors make it out alive, or as some zombie’s lunch?

Back from the Dead… Again

Like it or not, Zombicide is an insanely popular series. Since its first incarnation in 2012, it has seen two further seasons in the modern setting. In turn, this spawned Zombicide: Black Plague and Zombicide: Green Horde, which gave zombie slayers a medieval fantasy setting. Then Zombicide: Invader took things into outer space. Each iteration has also had huge amounts of expansions, add-ons and what-not. And now, with Zombicide 2nd Edition, CMON are taking us back to earth and its original, modern-day setting.

Each version of Zombicide has learnt from and built upon its predecessor in terms of rules, mechanics and quality of life adjustments. For the sake of this review, I will be comparing Zombicide: 2nd Edition to the last modern-day setting Zombicide – Zombicide: Rue Morgue.

Firstly, I should point out that I’m a huge fan of Zombicide. Rue Morgue was the game that got me into the board game hobby. It regularly features in my game nights and I’d argue that it’s a great gateway game. I’ve used it to introduce several new people to the hobby whose previous gaming experience was purely videogame based. That said, Zombicide isn’t infallible. I’ll remain impartial for this review… or until CMON send me some freebies (that’s right – I’m totally for sale).

What’s in the Box?

Much like every CMON game, the box is brimming with stuff. You’ll get 88 unpainted but beautifully sculpted miniatures. Comprising of 12 Survivors (six adults and six children) and 76 glorious zombies in various forms, from standard walkers to runners, fatties and four dreaded abominations. Along with the standard stuff (dice, coloured bases, tokens, equipment cards, double-sided game tiles, and the always useful rulebook), you’ll get six lovely Survivor dashboards. These are lovely plastic trays where you can place your chosen Survivor’s ID card and the equipment (and wounds) they pick up along the way. It also comes with coloured coded pegs to keep track of chosen skills from levelling up and health. These are a very welcome first for the modern-day setting.

What’s New?

Survivor Dashboards aren’t the only new addition, CMON have included several QOL improvements. Positions of objectives, weapon crates and locked doors are printed straight onto the nine double-sided game tiles, which saves players from glancing back and forth from board to book, making sure everything is in place.

Survivor ID cards now have a description of each characters unique talents on the back, once again saving players from referencing the rulebook.

Although slightly unsettling, there are now child Survivors. They have one less health than their older counterparts, but each has the “slippery” ability, which allows them to walk through groups of zombies and avoid being overwhelmed.

The only way to defeat an Abomination is to use a weapon of 3 damage or a Molotov. Previously Survivors would need to search for a bottle and a rag to create a Molotov. Now the Molotov comes ready-made, although you’ll still need to search for it.

The shooting order has also (finally) changed. Previously, if a Survivor were to shoot into a group of zombies that contained a Survivor, the targeting priority dictated that the Survivor in the group would be shot at before the zombies. It was a terrible rule that truly outstayed its welcome (or was instantly house-ruled). Now shots that miss must be re-rolled to see if they hit the Survivor. This is pretty much what everyone did as a house rule.

Cars vs Helicopters

Rue Morgue featured a helicopter, but Zombicide: 2nd Edition brings back the cars of the previous two seasons. Personally, I preferred the helicopter. But as you needed to use a Survivor with the pilot ability, it did limit character choices on certain missions.

Not everything CMON have added is to make the game easier. There are optional rules for seasoned zombie slayers which increases the difficulty. Abomination Fest allows for multiple Abominations to be on the board at one time. Dark Zone rules make searching buildings even more daunting as rooms without light (once again, handily illustrated on the game tiles) reduce visibility to zero to one range, and accuracy rolls for ranged weapons must be 6 for a hit. Meaning a Survivor will have to go in swinging to defeat any undead assailants – unless they’ve been lucky enough to find a flashlight.

Playing the Game

The 25 missions will see 1-6 players taking control of six Survivors (unfortunately CMON are yet to introduce a scaling system for less players). They’ll be tasked with various objectives, which range from collecting items, creating blockades to killing a certain amount of zombies. Most missions have multiple objectives that must all be completed before heading to the exit.

On a players turn they have three actions (more can be earned by levelling up), players can do a combination of move, search, open doors, pick-up, shoot, melee or use a special skill. With the exception of ‘search’ players can use the same action more than once per turn. Most of these actions create noise, which is used when moving zombies. Collecting or completing objectives nets Survivor experience points (now called Adrenaline points, to be more thematic), with enough Adrenaline Points players can level up their Survivors and acquire new skills, these can be simple skills like “run” which allows a character to move two/three spaces per move action rather than one. Or they can allow players to add +1 to each dice roll when using a certain weapon. Regardless of the skill, most are invaluable when facing down hordes of the undead.

Combat comprises of selecting a weapon, grabbing the required amount of dice displayed on the card, rolling and seeing how many of those dice count as hits, once again, this is dictated by the weapon card. Walker and Runner zombies can be taken out by weapons with one damage, Fatties can only be taken down by weapons with damage of two or more and Abominations need five… or a Molotov.

Take a Breath

Once all players have carried out their three actions or decided to rest. It’s the zombie turn. This involves one player moving zombies either to a Survivor that a zombie has a line of sight on or, in the event of no line of sight, towards the area with the most noise. Then a player draws a card for each zombie spawn point on the map, starting at a pre-defined zone one and move clockwise. Rue Morgue used dice to decide where zombies would spawn, but this way allows for slightly more tactical play.

The zombie spawn cards tell players to spawn what zombie type and how many depending on the highest players level. Occasionally a player may draw an activation card, which can mean all walker types zombies gain an additional one-off action immediately. Or players may draw the newly introduced “Rush” card, which works like a standard spawn, except once the zombie type and numbers have been spawned they immediately activate. This can cause chaos, especially if it happens to be a Runner Rush, as those guys move two spaces at a time.

The game then returns to the Survivor turn and continues this way until either all objectives have been completed and all Survivors have escaped or when one Survivor is killed. Yep, all it takes to lose the game is for one Survivor to lose all three health points (two in the case of a child survivor) to die.

Thoughts

Although Zombicide: 2nd Edition is a vast improvement on previous titles and the need for tactical thinking has been somewhat increased, especially with the Dark Zone rules, at its core Zombicide still is very much luck-based. The game can change dramatically with a bad dice roll or an unlucky zombie spawn. Each mission comes with a difficulty rating and an estimated runtime. Sadly, due to the luck-based nature of the game, these are extremely arbitrary. One mission was estimated to take 45 minutes. My team managed it 15, thanks in no small part to lucky zombie spawn card draws. Another was estimated at one hour. However, we spent nearly two as an Abomination spawned within the first two rounds and caused non-stop trouble.

So if you weren’t a fan of the previous Zombicide titles, chances are this one won’t change that. CMON have released expansions for Zombicide: 2nd Edition, in the form of Zombicide: Washington ZC and Zombicide: Fort Hendrix. These add a legacy feature where choices affect the story and Survivors carry on from mission to mission with their equipment (provided luck is on their side). So maybe that could sway you.

Warts and All

However, if like me, you love Zombicide, warts and all, then you will adore Zombicide: 2nd Edition. The luck-based system absolves players of any wrong-doing or error. This in turn makes for a light and enjoyable gaming experience. Survivors feel much more balanced this time around. Each one has a great skill set and is more than capable of handling themselves in the zombie apocalypse. An early Abomination spawn can hinder your game, but it makes finding the elusive Molotov that much more satisfying. The art is more striking than ever. CMON have outdone themselves once again with the quality and detail of the miniatures. The Survivor Dashboards are a welcome addition. Each of the quality of life improvements makes the game a more streamlined experience. And, ultimately, it’s great to see the original cast of iconic Survivors back on the table.

Cooperative Gaming

Zombicide is without doubt one of my favourite games and was the first cooperative game I ever played. I was first introduced to Zombicide in late 2012 and this was the very first edition of the game. I didn’t know at this point in time that such a thing as a cooperative game existed. By that, I mean teaming up against the game, as I had worked alongside other players playing against other players in the past. Teaming up with friends in the post zombie apocalypse world, just wow!

Zombicide is something else and I instantly fell in love with it. It also made far more sense to me as a zombie game. I used to own Zombies by Twilight Creations back in the 00’s, a game where you had to kill Zombies, but also stitch up your opponents along the way to be the one to win. This was fun (could be very long) but after Zombicide came along, Zombies made no sense to me anymore and the box set started gathering dust on a shelf.

Left For Dead

Straight away the game reminded me of the video game “left for dead”. So many similarities to this. You work with other players selecting a unique survivor to begin with, then position the survivors on the starting space of the board. There are assorted missions to select in the rule book or many more available on the CMON website to download (a nice bonus from CMON). They all have the basic premise of “complete the mission” and “get out”! At the very start of the game you have basic kit to get by with.

However you can search for better (You’ll need it). Zombies spawning are minimal in the beginning, but the more you kill, the more adrenaline points a survivor accrues which in turn leads to a greater amount of zombies spawning. What starts as a few can lead to dozens by the end. But to aid the survivors, as you increase levels of adrenaline (points) your survivors pick up more abilities as well, a levelling up if you will. Every survivor possesses a unique set of skills making them invaluable to a mission and some balance is key. Working together is essential as going alone will almost lead to certain failure and being eaten. This one is intense!

Cool Mini or Not (CMON) are the creators and they have done a wonderful job with this. Zombicide was their first Kickstarter gaming project and (from what I can tell) it has brought them much success. Since then, they have introduced so many further expansions, new themes and now they are on to their second edition of Zombicide. Now they have even integrated this game with a Marvel theme which looks incredible. When I noticed the second edition coming. I took a break from the game, selling off most of my original gear and then backing the second edition Kickstarter due to their being similar content, but much improved gameplay from their original. I wanted the excitement as well of the Kickstarter campaign. They also have a sensational artist working on these games as visually the games all look spectacular. The mini’s, the survivors, the zombies, the rule book and boxes all look stunning. For those that have the ability to paint the mini’s as well, that is something to behold.

What’s improved from the original set to the 2nd edition? You have the same original survivor cast of 6 but they have introduced a further 6 child survivors with slightly altered rules and new abilities allowing for a greater variety in team. Then they have tidied up a few rules, adjusted a few rules/survivor abilities making for a better gameplay. The set up is faster with the design of the board and components. My favourite addition is the Abomination abilities, that adds a heightened threat level for sure. Overall CMON have made an already great game into a far slicker awesome game.

Time To Escape

So, when the board is set, the survivors are selected, it’s time to play. Play always commences with the survivors (players) going first. Each player takes a turn beginning with 3 actions which could be movement, combat, search for gear, swapping kit, opening a door (if you have the right tool), jumping in or moving a vehicle, or perhaps something unique to them based on their individual skill set. You can do combinations of these actions for as many actions that the survivor has available. Play continues round, if a building is opened, that could reveal something unpleasant, and when all players are done the Zombies have a go.

Try and avoid finishing a turn in the same space as a zombie as after all players have had their turn those Zombies in play activate, that means they take an action and it is either movement or strike. If they are in the same square as survivors then the survivors are going to get hurt.

If no players are present in a Zombie square then they move towards the nearest (noisiest) group of survivors. Some move quicker and some are tougher to kill with the dreaded abominations being the most challenging. Season 2 of Zombicide has seen a whole host of Abominations with abilities which has proven far more challenging in these games. We’ve even tried A-Bomb festival rules where by we play with multiple abominations, it is a touch crazy.

You might be wondering, why kill zombies if that means more spawn as survivors level up? Great question, you would think evade, evade, evade where possible and kill as few zombies as possible. Unfortunately the zombies spawn from the pool. If you spawn zombies, but there are none to add to the board from the pool as they are all out, the zombies gain extra activations when they cannot be spawned and then things get very messy for survivors. There’s very much a balance required of zombie management and completing your mission objectives. Team strategy and tactics are everything.

Additional Content

CMON are great at adding to their products and Zombicide is no exception. If you have played you will have noted a lot of their survivors bear resemblance to popular celebrities in the public eye. My personal favourite being Yuri (Jack Bauer from TV series 24).

Yuri is just a quality asset in the team of survivors. CMON have produced additional sets of survivors for second edition including “The Boys”, “Ironmaiden” and “Ghostbusters” packs. Something which I have not acquired (yet) but would love to get my hands on for a game with. This is additional content comes at a price though. However, there is much more free content on their website usually in the form of additional missions which is very cool to keep this game constantly fresh.

Final Thoughts

What has impressed me with the second edition is the little learnings from earlier editions and feedback CMON have taken on board. They’ve made adjustments, amended the rules and improved what is already an awesome game. I commend them for this. I don’t think you can go wrong with this game and it has made me think very differently about game type. It’s especially great in my collection when I know other players are not feeling a competitive game against others, so the option of having a game to work together on is invaluable. I now own a few other cooperative games because of this one. However, Zombicide is a regular feature on our table top.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • More Zombicide
  • Fantastic miniatures
  • Easier set-up

Might not like

  • More Zombicide
  • Luck-based gameplay
  • Arbitrary estimated mission times