The goal was just to run out into the city and find some food. Simple as that. Some bags of rice, some bottled water, nothing fancy. But now you and your crew are surrounded by the shambling dead, big hulking bloated corpses are rounding the corner, quick-as-hell runners are hoofing it down the street, and some huge abomination lurks in the distance. In any other story, you'd be dead meat. But this isn't any other story, this is Zombicide 2nd Edition, so rev up that chainsaw, aim down the sights of your rifle, and get ready to make a zombie mess.
Zombicide 2nd Edition is a tabletop zombie-fighting board game for one to six players, produced by CMON. In Zombicide, players take on the role of six different survivors struggling against hordes of living undead. The rulebook contains 25 different missions, which each have their own unique set-up and goals needed to succeed. In this cooperative game, players win if they accomplish the goal of their mission, and lose if even one of the six survivors drops to zero hit points and dies.
In a game of Zombicide there are two main phases, the Player Phase and the Zombie Phase. In the Player Phase, players use their three action points per round to move their survivors around the map (created by placing together modular, fully illustrated tiles), search for equipment and weapons by drawing a card from a large deck, roll dice to attack zombies with their weapons, and more. As players kill zombies and achieve objectives they gain "Adrenaline Points," which unlock special abilities but also raise the overall danger of the scenario.
In the Zombie Phase, zombies attack anyone that they're in the same square as them, move based on sound (loud weapons generate sound tokens) and line-of-sight, and then more zombies are spawned at dedicated locations. It won't take long for the board to become overwhelmed by these shambling (and sometimes running!) undead, and players need to work together to keep the zombie threat at bay and get to their goals as fast as possible.
As mentioned above, this is Zombicide 2nd Edition. Zombicide was originally released back in 2012, and has since spawned well over a dozen expansions, standalone sets (including a fantasy, wild west, and sci-fi setting), and even an official Night of the Living Dead tie-in (which we reviewed here). And through that long process of releases, the rules have been refined, updated, and streamlined. All of those learnings went straight into the release of Zombicide 2nd Edition, and a game that already ran fairly smooth is now a well-oiled, zombie dismembering machine.
Along with smaller quality of life improvements (it's now a bit harder to accidentally shoot your teammates with friendly fire), one of the largest changes to the game is the addition of Kids. Kid survivors start with two health instead of three, leaving them extremely vulnerable to attack. But they also all start with a special ability called "Slippery," which lets them move through hordes of zombies without it impeding their movement. Thematically it makes perfect sense, kids are smaller, faster, more agile. And mechanically this new addition truly ramps up the thrill of the game, and offers risk and reward built right into the core of each character. There are also changes to how cars work (yes, you can drive a car in this game!) and you can choose to drive carefully, or go full speed ahead to smash into crowds. For a full list of all the changes between first and second addition, check out this very helpful thread.
Another element of the game that's advanced over the years is the quality of the sculpts for the miniatures. Zombicide 2nd Edition now comes packed with twelve unique survivors, each with their own highly detailed sculpted miniatures. And the zombies also come with a few alternative sculpts as well, to keep your game board looking dynamic all throughout.
One important note on this game is the idea of tone. It may sound silly to talk about tone in a game called Zombicide, but it's important to know, going into this game, that it borrows heavily from Grindhouse and '70s pulp gaming. So the big, bloated zombies are called "Fatties." The best weapons in the game are called "Pimp Weapons." And there's a general sense of wild abandon when it comes to death and dismemberment. All this is to say, it definitely has a vibe and a specific feel to it that purposefully runs a little behind where we're at with nomenclature and gun-worship, to the service of an Exploitation Flick tone.
My only real complaint about the game is its single-player experience. The game is listed as playable from 1-6 players, but whether you've got a table of six gamers or you're playing solo, you need to control six survivors. If you're new to the game, they recommend playing with as many players as possible, because solo gameplay will require you to juggle the abilities, actions, and turns of six fully realized characters. In the playtests of this I conducted alone, I ended up spending a lot of time flipping through the skill list to keep track of who on my team of survivors could do what. When I playtested this with our larger group, it was much easier to focus on my one or two characters. It's something I got used to the more I experimented with the game, but I do wish there was a way to modify the solo-player experience to use less survivors.
The Bottom Line
Zombicide 2nd Edition takes an already solid game and tightens all the screws, creating a fast-paced, fun, nail-biting experience we couldn't put down. Through the various missions we played we desperately searched for food (Mission M1: "City Blocks"), barricaded nuclear zombies (Mission M7: "Grindhouse"), and packed up our car and got the hell out of town (Mission M21: "Heavy-Duty") among others. Each mission offered a different flavor of play, created different stakes, and tested our team in myriad ways. Even the introductory mission (which I've set up for photographs throughout this review) slowly teaches the basics without hand holding. And it doesn't need to, because when you understand the core concept of Zombicide, the game just goes. There's no fiddly-ness to this game, it's lean, it's mean, and it's wonderfully straightforward. If you like "Dungeon Crawl" games, of which this feels like a modern urban analogue, Zombicide will check all your boxes. If you already have the first edition, you can check out the second edition rules here. And if you've never stepped into the blood-soaked world of Zombicide, this edition is absolutely the place to start.
Get This Game If...
- You're a fan of dice-rolling, resource grabbing, and/or zombie killing
- You want a collaborative gaming experience
- You've always wanted to play as a child shredding a zombie with a chainsaw
Avoid This Game If...
- You're looking for something a little more family friendly
- You're looking for a game in a non-modern setting
The copy of Zombicide 2nd Edition used in this review was provided by Asmodee.