Zombicide is a cooperative board game for 1-6 people. Rather than struggling amongst yourselves for a winner the aim of the game is for all the players to survive the marauding zombie hordes. The basic idea is not complicated: You’re a band of human survivors making your way through a town made up of beautifully printed game tiles. As you progress you can pick up weapons and gain skills; but, equally, as time goes by more and more zombies gather and they gain proficiency too.
The gameplay is clever enough that the zombies have a clear set of actions. They will always move towards you if they can see you. If they can’t see you they move towards the loudest sound. These mean that while you are physically moving the zombie pieces there’s no choice where to move them. That predictability in the zombie movement is what creates the deep tactical play involved in the game. You have to make complex decisions about the order in which you will do things – whether it’s worth searching instead of shooting, should one of you sacrifice yourself for the others to move on, should you risk making noise. Really we’ve spent more time talking and discussing scenarios in the games we’ve played than doing anything else. I love that, for a game that runs in a shoot-’em-up scenario, it involves an incredible amount of thinking and cooperation.
That said, there are wild-card moments when suddenly your carefully laid plans are foiled by, for example, zombies jumping out of manholes. Time to revise those plans and take desperate action.
Zombicide does involve a fairly steep learning curve. Some of the rules are less than obvious on their face and there are a number of steps involved in each round. We’ve found that the investment in learning how to play has more than paid dividends in actual play. Probably the best way to quickly get a grasp on the game is to watch one of the how-to videos. Then, once you are up and running, look at the Board Game Geek forums for clarification and suggestions for house rules. The best house rule we’ve found so far is that we don’t dictate the order in which the survivors can take their actions – the game designers say work clockwise around the board, we choose our order, thus making the game even more strategic.
Probably my only criticism of Zombicide is that the card used to track your character’s weapons and progress is fiddly to use. But even that has a solution. There’s a free iPad (or Android) app that makes the whole tracking process neat and simple.
Zombicide is pitched at being for 13-year-olds up. Personally I don’t think there’s any issue with younger kids playing it as long as they appreciate the discussions and tactical decisions rather than just looking for quick action.