Zombicide is a series of cooperative zombie killing board games by Guillotine Games and published by CoolMiniorNot (CMON). Zombicide Black Plague, released in 2015, is a medieval version of Zombicide and with the upcoming release of Zombicide Green Horde, which is compatible with Black Plague, we thought we would revist and review this classic release.
Zombicide Black Plague can be played with 1 - 6 players controlling a combination of up to 6 survivors (players are able to control between 1 and 6 survivors each). The rules for scaling up to 12 survivors (and as a result 12 players) are included in the rulebook, but there are only 6 survivors included in the Black Plague Set, with more available to add with expansion packs. Playing with less than 4 survivors is quite challenging, more so than normal, because of the loss of the combination of options that the survivors give you and also because of the reduced ability to remove zombies from the map each turn.
Zombicide Black Plague is a balancing act of searching for better equipment, keeping the zombie levels down and exploring new areas to complete objectives and that ultimately requires teamwork and communication. There is no lone-wolfing in Black Plague and any survivor who moves too far from the pack can be overwhelmed quickly.
The Zombicide Black Plague rulebook sits at 56 pages total, but most of this is art, great gameplay examples and details of a 10 quest campaign. The rules themselves are very straight-forward and consists of the actions the zombies take, the actions the survivors can take and how to read equipment cards.
Zombicide Black Plague takes place on boards marked out with zones for buildings and streets. Survivors have three actions each a turn, which can be used to move between zones, open a door (through physical force), search for equipment, reorganise/trade equipment or take or activate an objective. After the survivor's actions, the zombies act. Each turn, zombies either move or attack (except runners which get two actions) and automatically deal one wound each to a survivor in the same zone, the players decide which survivor takes the damage. If a zombie can't attack, it moves towards the nearest survivor they can see, and if they can't see a survivor, they move towards sound. Certain actions in Black Plague make noise and whenever you make such an action, you put a noise token on the board. Noisy actions are things like breaking down a door with an axe, casting a fireball, or just being a survivor, as the survivors automatically count as a noise token themselves.
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Zombies are generated either when opening a door to a building or at the end of every turn from the Zombie spawn zones on the maps. They are spawned by drawing cards and comparing it to the highest survivor experience level, and playing as many zombies as detailed on the card. Most zombies only require one damage to kill, but some require two or three, and this damage isn't cumulative, so if your weapon doesn't do that much damage in one go, you're wasting your hit on the zombie. This leads to some panicked situations where you're running to search for better weapons, whilst also trying to keep the zombie levels down and avoid the zombies you can't kill.
At some point during gameplay, you will also spawn a Necromancer, the cause of the zombie troubles. They try to escape each turn and bring with them another zombie spawn zone. Killing a Necromancer is usually a mission requirement and getting close enough to one to kill them requires fighting through, or simply running through a horde of zombies and taking damage as they attack your survivors. You can target them with ranged weapons, but only after you've taken out all other zombies between the ranged survivors and the Necromancer.
Zombicide usually starts with the best of intentions, with the team of survivors rhythmically searching buildings and taking out zombies, but there always comes a point where things get crazy and desperate, shortly followed by desperately crazy and its how the team handle that point that decides if you win or lose. Frantically going for objectives sometimes works, but leaves you very open to being overwhelmed if it does all go wrong. Setting up a steady zombie removing system each turn also sometimes works, but by far the most effective way is finding a high damage weapon early on that lets you remove the higher wound level zombies, because they are usually what sends things spiraling out of control. A poorly timed and executed dash after Necromancers can also be deadly.
It must be noted that Zombicide Black Plague is a premium product. The miniatures are fantastic and very detailed, the boards are sturdy and each survivor gets a plastic board that displays the items in your survivor's hands, and allows quick access to all the items stored in their backpack and also has a bar and markers for experience points (which unlock abilities as you kill zombies and take objectives) and wounds. It doesn't sound like much and you don't notice it during gameplay, but you notice the absence of it when you play other games and you may find yourself wishing you had a handy plastic holder for all your board games. The miniatures for Black Plague can easily find use in other games, as the zombies and survivors are perfect for any fantasy RPG or wargame.
Zombiecide Black Plague is at its heart a very simple and straight-forward board game and while it is a lot of fun, it is very reliant on the teamwork and the stories you make together with your friends. If that's not your thing, you may find the game repetitive. If you do enjoy a cooperative game Black Plague is an excellent example of a teamwork-based boardgame, and there is enough variety out of the box for many challenging games.
The Bottom Line:
Zombicide Black Plague is a premium product with high quality components. The game itself is very simple to learn and the challenge and the most enjoyment comes out of working together with your team to complete the objectives against the overwhelming zombie hordes. Black Plague is on the right side of challenging, but can sometimes be hampered by awful equipment draws. Overall it's a great and enjoyable product and while not very deep in terms of strategy or rules complication, offers interesting teamwork gameplay with some great miniatures.
Get this game if:
You want a challenging cooperative board game.
You love smashing zombies.
You loved Zombicide and want to go at it medieval style.
You want the awesome miniatures to use in other games.
Avoid this game if:
You don't want a copoperative game.
You want a game of deep strategy.
You're scared of zombies.
This copy of Zombicide Black Plague used for this review was provided by Asmodee UK.
Zombicide Black Plague has premium components, excellent miniatures and wonderful production values. The game is fun and challenging if you like cooperative games as most of the enjoyment of playing comes from the teamwork and coordination with your friends, rather than any kind of deep strategic element.