Zombies have been done to death, if you pardon the pun. Which is why I skipped on the Zombicide series. When Zombicide Black Plague, with its fantasy setting arrived, my interest was renewed. Now I regret not getting in on the action earlier.
Zombicide Black Plague is a 2016 spinoff of the highly popular Zombicide series by CoolMiniOrNot. The difference being the setting. Zombicide is the usual post-apocalyptic Zombie infestation. In Black Plague there are no cars or guns, you need swords and sorcery to save the day.
For the TL;DR version click here.
Opening the box
Specs on the box
- Ages 10+
- 2-6 players (you can play solo and there are also rules for going up to 9 players)
- 45 – 180 min (The duration of the game depends on the mission being played)
The box is crammed full of good stuff. Tokens, cards, map tiles and of course the usual gorgeous CMON miniatures. New this time around are the player dashboards. These neat little trays allow you to easily keep track of everything that you need to and if the table is bumped you won’t really have to worry too much.
Another new touch is the packing instructions on the inside of the miniature box. Usually repacking the miniatures for a CMON game is a trial an error exercise until you get used to it. It’s highly annoying, I’m glad to see that they have stepped up their game and thought about this. Everything packs away nicely, I just need another baggie for the tokens and they can go under the miniature trays.
I have to say that the boards/map tiles worry me. They bend if you play on a hot day. It actually looks quite bad but a night packed away in the box and they are right as rain again. Annoying, but it does not make the game unplayable.
The cards in the game require these 41mm x 63mm sized sleeves. Be warned that if you do use them, then the cards will not fit back into the slot in the insert.
As I’ve mentioned, this edition of Zombicide has a fantasy setting. Bows, swords & magic are the order of the day.
Each of the missions, called quests in the rules, are preceded by a bit of story that sets the tone nicely, even the font in the rule book is from days gone by. The map tiles depict smithies, stables, temples and are all period perfect.
The theme is really well represented.
The first step to the setup is to select a quest. There are 11 in total, and they are linked together, but an overarching story. Once you have the quest, you will need to find the correct map tiles and arrange them according to the layout for the quest.
Then the doors to all of the buildings and objective markers will need to be place on the map along with the zombie spawn points. Some missions include underground vaults which are set up next to the map. These can have 1 or more entry points which will also need to be indicated on the map with tokens.
Then each player selects which character(s) they would like to play. Each quest has a predetermined number of characters; if you have fewer players then some players will receive extra characters. Dish out the starting equipment to each of the characters. You can do this randomly but some equipment is best used by specific players, i.e. give the bow to the archer.
The turns are divided into player phases and zombie phases. It starts with the player phases.
During his turn the player will activate each of his characters, one at a time. Each character will start with 3 actions. These can be used to:
- Move 1 square or room
- Make an attack
- Break open a door
- Pick up an objective (you need to be in the same room)
- Pick up an item in a vault (you need to be in the correct vault)
- Search a room (only 1 search per turn)
- Reorganise your equipment
- Make some noise
- Trade equipment with another character standing next to you
So, generally speaking you will spend your turns trying to accomplish the quest objective. That means working together to access mini objectives that will allow you to accomplish your goal. Also you will be trying to kill zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. Some actions that you perform will attract zombie attention, like hammering at a door, or just yelling at each other.
There are 3 types of attacks that you can perform in the game. Melee, magic and ranged attacks. All of them are dependent on the type of weapon that you have equipped. Each weapons card will tell you how many dice to roll and what target number you are aiming to get. In addition to that they will say how much damage a hit from this weapon will do. This is vitally important because not all zombies are created equal. Some of them need to be hit by a weapon with strength of 2, if you don’t have a strong enough weapon, you cannot hurt it at all!
The biggest zombie, the Abomination needs a hit of strength 3 to kill it. In the base game there are only 2 ways to kill one of these monsters but luckily you will only face 1 of them at a time, so you can just try to run away, usually. Only 1 of the characters is capable of killing the Abomination in combat, but to do so he will need to be fully levelled up and have the correct weapon equipped. That’s no easy task. The other method of killing it is to create dragon fire! For which you will need to search for 2 specific items in the search deck, luckily there are 4 of each of them.
Successfully killing zombies gives your characters experience points, which in turn grants them special abilities which makes them increasingly more powerful. However, levelling up has some risks.
The zombies will not be making life easy for you; in fact they will be trying to make you one of them. The start of the zombie turn all of the zombies on the board activate. That means they will walk towards the closest character that they can see, failing that, they will move towards the location with the most noise, remember you actions can create noise, additionally each character creates 1 noise by default. If they start their activation in a square with a character they will attack that character, dealing 1 point of damage.
This damage can be blocked if you have managed to find armour; if not then you’re wounded. 3 wounds and you’re dead. A zombie to watch out for is the runner. It activates twice each turn. So it can move and attack, or attack twice or move twice. Very dangerous enemies.
Next all of the spawn points will spawn new zombies. Draw a spawn card per point and place the appropriate number of zombies there. Sometimes you might actually run out of zombie miniatures. If that occurs then ALL zombies of that type get a free activation. That’s bad, you need to thin the herd or the herd will thin you. Some spawn cards can cause double spawns on the next spawn point and others can grant extra activations to all zombies of a give type. These can be a mixed blessing.
One special spawn card spawns a Necromancer. These are humans who raise the zombies. They bring with them an additional spawn point. So the number of zombies appearing increases, a lot. If you manage to kill him then you can remove one of the spawn points on the board. If you can’t kill him then he will try to run off of the board via the next nearest spawn point. This is very bad as his spawn point will become permanent. Once there are 6 spawn points on the board and a necromancer escapes then you lose instantly!
Another way to spawn zombies is when opening up a closed building. You need to draw a spawn card for each room in the building to see what monsters were trapped inside.
The game ends in a win if the objective is accomplished. It ends in a loss if the Necromancer that brings the 6th spawn point to the board escapes or if all of the characters die.
This is a really solid game. If you’re looking for a tactical, fantasy themed game then this is the game for you. I love the way your characters work together and need to help each other in order to survive. They can also hurt each other too… firing a bow or casting a fireball into a melee can be dangerous 😉
There’s a ton of dice rolling and lots of card drawing which means it there is a fair amount of randomness which some people don’t like. I love it ‘cos you never know what is going to happen and this can lead to a very tense and entertaining experience.
Often I have found myself on a merry chase running away from zombies that I just could not hurt until I found the right tools for the job. There have been times where I found the bigger weapons straight away and just dominated but that was few and far between.
The solo experience is not bad either, if you happen to find yourself alone on games night.
I cannot wait for the Kickstarter exclusives to arrive to spice the game up.
Can I play this at a braai?
Aside from the boards/tiles warping this is a great way to spend the day with some good friends. You don’t have to worry about any real time reactions so can step away and not have to worry too much about what’s going on.