So after last weeks post, I thought I would write a little review of Black Plague and show a few pictures of the painted models in action. Basically, like all Zombicide games (there are a few out there now and more coming) the basic premise is that all the players work together (co-operatively) against the game to win. Thus, everyone wins or no one does. The rules work for any sized groups and can even be played solo without any issue. The setting is ‘fantasy medieval’ and the concept is a black plague (yes get the name) has been set loose by some Necromancers. This has infected most of the people and made them into Zombies. To win the game scenario you have to do various missions aiming to survive or defeat the necromancers.
The game a heart is quite basic. There are the heroes (6 or more) characters an they have to often get objectives – the red X counters as shown below. There are about 10 scenarios in the base game and more official ones on the manufactures site. There are loads of fan made ones as well. It’s fairly easy to create your own as well.
The game mechanisms are fairly simple really. Every hero gets a turn to move and perform 3 actions, at the start. That can be to move, attack (with ranged or melee weapons) if they have them, shout/make noise, search a building(which they can can only be done once per turn, trade with other heroes in the same area, or cast spells. At the end of the turn the first player rotates around the characters.After all the heroes move, the baddies get to action – which is to move towards the closest hero visible or if not the most noise – thus the reason to make noise at times. Zombies move one square normally but there are some ‘runners’ who get two action per activation. After that the zombie spawn points (seen above in the bottom right of the picture), each get a card draw for them to see how many and what type of zombies come on there.
In Black Plague you can also spawn Necromancers from these cards, as seen in purple below. They create more spawn points. They also move and take one action but rather than going for the heroes they run for the closest spawn point to exit the board. If they exit then their additional spawn point becomes permanent. Killing a necromancer allows a spawn point to be removed. If a necromancer escapes when there are 6 spawn points on the table the game is automatically lost.The other way of generating zombies is to open doors into rooms. When this is done you draw a card for each room in the building that the door was opened to. So at the start there are few monsters on the table but as you start opening doors and searching for objectives and items you find more zombies and they just keep appearing on the board. Now to add interest to the game you keep track of the number of kills each character makes. This is like a very basic D&D etc As you kill more things you go up in levels. Each character has different skills they get as they go up in the levels. So this makes each character unique. Thus the reason for the different characters.
Added to that though, the zombies spawn at the level of the highest character, so there is an inbuilt escalation mechanism in the game. As you do more, you encounter more zombies and kill them. That gains you more experience and skills but also increases the number of zombies around…Weapons, spells and equipment are all done through cards – you start with some basic items and have to search rooms to fine better ones (or an occasional Zombie). All characters can use anything (spells , bows etc.) but some of their skills make them better after different things. The specifics for the effects are all shown on the cards – range, number of D6 to roll, the damage done and any special effects.
Heroes have a few hits – which can be saved if they find the right armour etc and zombies either die or don’t. You need to do enough damage to them in one strike to kill them. But a swarm of Zombies kills a hero pretty quickly so care has to be taken as no hero is invulnerable.There are some specific rules for big baddies – like the one above who in the standard game can only be killed by collecting specific items and combining them. This means you can’t just kill everything without some tactics and planning, It also adds to the escalation concept in the game.
One of the challenges with this escalation is that some of the later activation cards allow specific types of zombies to have double move.Added to that, if you run out of a particular type of model when spawning zombies, then all the models on the board of that type get an extra activation. This often ends the game for us – in a loss. So although overall the game is not massively complex rules wise, it requires some planning and thinking to win. The rules say 14+ I would think most kids who are used to gaming will be able to play if a few years under that age, as long as parents etc were also playing. But the tactical aspects and planning becomes a little deeper.
But during the course of this game it is challenging. If you like to always win then this game may not be for you. We as a group loose at least as much as we win in the games. We likely loose 2 for everyone one we win. It’s no cakewalk to victory. I actually really like this about the game and it says something that we all enjoy if just as much whether we win or lose.Deciding when to open rooms, when to split the party and when to stay together, and who is best for what actions are all part of the discussion around the table. You can predict zombie moves to an extent but not completely, and the randomness of the combat mechanism, based on D6 rolls means there is no sure thing.So, the pictures here are from a game this week, actually the second game of the night. Three of us played, so we took 2 hero characters each. Between 7 and 11 in the evening we played 2 complete games, losing the first which was a hard scenario and moving to this more basic medium difficulty one for a second game. I won’t spoil the surprise of the result of this one. The scenario was simple – just collect the the 8 objectives spread across the buildings. These were supposed to be trapped villages, but a couple were really zombies – the only way to find them would be to get the objective and see if it was a different colour on the back, which meant zombies.As you can tell for the earlier pictures in the post things went well early on. We spawned few zombies so could search and gain objectives. The part split up and we took on different buildings in small teams. We also encountered a few necromancers but killed them to keep the spawn point numbers in control. We did get the Abomination – which could only be killed by lighting a potion of dragon bile with a touch. Of course we did not find those items, so we had to ‘dance’ with that to ensure it did not get too close to anyone. But half way through the game things were looking good. There was not too many zombies on the table, a couple of necromancers had escaped, increasing the number of spawn points and the tension, but things looked ok.However, in an attempt to get an additional objective my dwarf – Samson bit off more than he could chew and died. The runners came up fast and killed him off in his vain attempt to sneak in and claim one of the two remaining objectives we had to get. He was lagging behind the other characters in kills so was trying to catch up and failed. You can see the typical character control sheet below. This shows the weapons etc and the kill tracker at the bottom. This is a very nice looking game I have to say!This did not end the game though – in some scenario’s a hero dying does lose the game but not this one. The problem was though that the escalation of threats was getting more than the we could handle. Our searching for weapons had not been wonderfully successful and more zombies were coming on the board than we could cope with!In the end it was a necromancer who lost us the game. A couple of necromancer move cards came up and one got off the board before we could kill him. At that point we already had 6 spawn points out. So that was an auto loss. We thought we might do it till close to the end but it was not too be.Still we had a great deal of fun and it was an enjoyable game. In fact I never have not enjoyed Zombicide. The ones you loose are as much fun than the ones you win. A horde of Zombies killing you all makes for a light evening somethings.
Overall, as I said although not crazy complex or massively tactical this game provides a fun light gaming. You do end up playing the ‘period not the rules’ as they drop into the background. There are plenty of decision points and the escalation in the game adds tenson. It’s not massively tactical but far from just a die roller either. For an evenings light gaming with friends IMO it’s hard to beat. The ability to support any number of players with ease is a bonus as well.