Game Review: Zombicide – Black Plague

First post for the 2016! I didn’t do much painting during my holidays, but I did play the new Zombicide: Black Plague game.

I’m one of many who supported this Kickstarter by “Cool Mini or Not” (with Guillotine Games) and I don’t think anyone was surprised when they beat their target. (Four million dollars received, with a $125,000 goal.) I think they have some great games and a very good reputation by now.

So far, four out of six games have been won. The first loss was in the Quest #0 – the tutorial. One of my mates was firing a crossbow at zombies and missed – hitting me twice for 4 damage. Dead! He re-rolled (plenty of bolts) and missed twice again – still dead! The objective was to reach the exit with all survivors – so that was a group loss. (We restarted and didn’t let him near a crossbow.)

Black Plague is very similar to the original Zombicide – essentially the rules are the same for actions, combat, and zombie behaviour. It’s a fantasy version of the “modern-day” original.

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Dashboard, with “Baldric” the Wizard

First off – the game board and pieces are excellent quality. Very thick card stock. Colours, images, etc are wonderful like in the original and the zombie figures are all different sculpts. The new “dashboard” for survivors is excellent – meaning survivor cards can be smaller, you can see all your cards better than before, and the slightly flexible pegs (I don’t see these breaking, and they give you spares) make marking your wound status and skills much easier and clearer than in the original. You shouldn’t lose the built-in experience tracker and it’s not going to damage your survivor card.

Differences: Each survivor has three wounds, not 2. Ranged combat doesn’t automatically hit survivors first – you only hit a survivor if you roll a miss. Each survivor can potentially hold 8 equipment cards, up from 5. (Basically two hands, a body slot and a five-card backpack.) Many of the skills are the same, but there are many variations or new skills. (Total 80 skills!) For example, “Bloodlust: Combat – As 1 action, move up to 2 zones to a zone containing a zombie and get a free combat action.” Fatties spawn on their own!

Necromancers: Necromancers have 1 wound and 1 action just like walkers. (There’s only 1 in the basic game.) When one spawns you immediately put down a necromancer spawn zone and draw a spawn card to see what friends he brought with him. Then – he RUNS AWAY from the survivors. Necromancers try to escape – moving to the closest spawn zone that isn’t where they arrived. If you kill one before he escapes you remove a spawn zone and it doesn’t have to be the one where he arrived. This can give some control over where zombie will spawn, but if a Necromancer escapes and there are six spawn zones on the board that’s instant game loss.

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So close…

Above is the end of the second game that was lost. We had cleared a path through to the exit chamber and could have had everyone out in two turns. What defeated us was our initial thought of concentrating zombie spawns in one area. This made it easy to move around without running into many zombies until we were ready to, and our first “Dragon Fire” (3 damage, kill everything in one zone) scored 19 experience: 1 Abomination, 3 Fatties, 2 Runners and 9 Walkers. The first necromancer spawn had been in a building and as we killed necromancers we removed the outer spawn zones. This rapidly became a problem as each new Necromancer escaped the board the following turn. The moral of the story: keep at least two spawn zones well apart from each other!

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Too many zombies knocking on your door? Throw out a flask of Dragon Bile.

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…and follow it up with a Torch!

It’s a fun game that makes you think and plan. It doesn’t play out the same way as the original – yes, it’s quite similar, but there are enough differences to make it distinct. If you have played the original a lot, then nearly all of the strategy that you have learned from that will apply to Black Plague. Overall, I’m very impressed with it from all aspects – components, rules, & game-play.

I’m looking forward to getting some of the extra survivors to try some of the new skills, and alternate necromancers! I plan to paint all the survivors (they’ll be great in my D&D games) but I don’t know if I really want to paint the dozens of zombies.