Review: Zombicide Black Plague – back to the Middle Ages
When there was plague in the Middle Ages, it was not just ordinary one disease. For many people it was undoubtedly deadly, but on some people had this virus completely different effect. From ordinary people, they suddenly became fierce and unthinking creatures from hell.
Boxes must be, of course, really tall, bulky and heavy. And on its cover, we see ongoing medieval battle with swords, hammers and skulls flying all around. Undead monsters are scarier than ever in their robes and huge teeth covered in blood. We are almost afraid to open the box, not to get infected ourselves.
Fortunately, contagion threatens us only in the good sense – with entertainment. On top of all the evidence of the horrors of the time, we find a comprehensive rulebook, which in addition to rules serves also as mission guide for the players. These missions are referred to herein as an quests. But then, we find a box inside the main box, this time even with themed print. At its core lie honesty buried 65 zombie miniatures (apart from the classic crawlers, fatties and runners, there is also a new necromancer character!). And the same plastic graves are holding also bodies of six heroes, who will rise up to save the world again.
Whole match will take place on six large square game boards. These are reversible and their surface is split by lines in differently sized areas. Sometimes, there are buildings, sometimes open spaces, both will be soon filled wth the undead.
But we lied to you a little while ago, because that big box inside another box harbors not only plastic creations. For them not to live alone in the dark, wrapped by plastic, they have company also of other components. There are item cards, undead spawning cards and then the biggest surprise of the box – six plastic dashboards, that serve to track the status of heroes to individual players, together with one color slider mounted at the bottom. Brave adventurers are pictured on six cards with statistics of their abilities and skills for levelling up. Apart from them come with the game also dice, plastic corks for marking, six color bases and a pile of tokens (noise, exites, tasks or doors).
Thus we have reached the bottom, so lets quickly swim back up. At the start of each journey into the past, players must first choose a quest to deal with. There is ten of those and each first instructs you to deal with board setup. Players must deploy door, crosses of tasks, zombie spawn points and also the space, where heroes will start.
Each player chooses a character (or multiple characters), takes a plastic box and puts on it not only the main card with a picture, but also starting equipment in left hand (left opening). According to selected color, player also gets buds, which will marks starting zero injuries, as well as skills level by experience (blue at the beginning) and slides with arrow to point at zero experience. Miniatures are placed on starting position. Besides the plan will then lie inventory cards and tokens.
We all know, that in this game, everyone will work together against a common enemy. Yet players alternate in each round, when activating each surviving hero under their control (player can have several). Each hero usually has three actions for one round. These activities allow him to move to a neighboring area, but also search his current location and take the top card from item deck.
This is also the moment, when the players become interested in equipping their heroes. There are spaces for it directly molded in plastic box in form of three compartments – left and right are for weapons in each hand and place overlapping portion of hero card is used for armor. Individual cards will improve hero’s statistics, whether the possibility of attack from a distance or with greater efficiency (more dice or dealing more damage).
Players are from beginning of the game exploring the map and soon arrive in front of some building. Most of the interiors are hidden behind closed doors and heroes must open it with help of some of their weapons. And even here, they will often have to roll the dice for success. But at this moment, another element of gameplay starts to interest you – noise. Some actions produce noise (= tokens placed on the position of the hero), which later attract zombies. Hroes also can exchange items or rearrange equipment with their backpack. Storage has five slots created in dashboard, where you can insert the card.
But then players get to action and must attack. This can be done in melee or from a distance. Player has to choose target and ideally in a position, where is none of his teammates. He may be hit, if hero misses his intended target. Player then rolls a specified number of dice and counts number of hits, ie points higher than the required value for the weapon. Zombies are always dealt damage in given order. Hit’s strength (based on weapon) determines, if it’s enough to kill only ordinary walkers or even the most powerful fatties. Each killed undead rewards hero with one experience point, that is marked on the slider. Arrow moves across colored zones as number of kills grows and accordingly to it also improves hero skills.
Once players have their turns finished, enemies get their chance to react. They have one action point, which can be utilized (based on position) to attack or move. Heroes can get wounded, if they share location with some zombies. But here comes an opportunity to exploit equipped armor, that can stop the strike. And then, new monsters appear. Their number and strength depends on the level of heroes, specifically on color field of the most experienced.
Game can end by a win only, if players meet the conditions specific to quest, but there may be also defeat. That may occur, if all heroes get eliminated. Scenarios also include their own specific terms for victory and loss. Also new is an escaping necromancer, who since the discovery is trying to abandon the board through the nearest zone. His escape ends the game also unhappily for heroes.
Zombicide: Black Plague is a continuation of the line of games, which carry great idea and share cooperative focus. At the beginning with first installment, there was a couple of shortcomings, but authors managed to deal with them and since then, zombies offers spectacular cooperative experiences with each new box.
This time, we are moving out of modern times with cars and guns and thus creating its own separate line of games. Black Plague is stand-alone box, in which you get everything you need to battle zombie infestation and you do not need to own any other game from the series. This makes it also possible entrance point for fantasy fans, who were repelled by the modern setting.
Game is sufficiently different and it all begins and ends with processing. Dashboards make things a lot easier to track and game thanks to them looks even better. But a very important element are items. Newly, heroes can also find armor, that can stop wounding hands of zombies. You still need a bit of luck with dice to defend. Novelty in fighting are shelters, that serve as shortcuts (not only for players!), but you can also find some super powerful weapons in them. With shelters, even more fun comes into play.
Players in exploration of the board may come across necromancer. His appearance card belongs among usual spawn zones (cards), so a new element of uncertainty comes into play. Players can stumble upon a dark wizard anywhere on the map. They simply run into the necromancer card in the deck of zombie cards, which otherwise determine number of new monsters added to the board. Necromancer enters through this evaluated position and gets some new monsters as guard.
Necromancers but also is gameplay part, where one of the fundamental problems shows, that is associated with concept of Zombicide publishing. Emphasis on expansion, which must be purchased separately and only some of them are part of the main box, which is quite annoying given price of the game. Here, we are talking about necromancers cards, which players can use to further customize the difficulty and experience of their adventure. These cards and new necromancers are not part of the main box.
Difficulty of the whole game remains similar, because necromancers make it a little higher, while stronger weapons and armor level it back. And yet, there is one more thing allowing heroes to get stronger – we have not yet mentioned ability to use magic! They can alter some ways situations are handled. Making the game even more variable.
But even bigger news, however, is changing priority of hits during combant. Newly, heroes are not immediately at risk, if they share their position with zombies. They can receive friendly fier only, if the shot misses. This is excellent news, because it is finally possible to make some risk decisions, if necessary. Otherwise, however, priority of hit allocation remains, so to injure necromancer, you must first wade through all his bodyguards.
So are all those new elements in balance? Fortunately, yes. Game has a nice touch of fantasy and it is probably the best game of the series. The only reason, why you can find it unpleasing, might be your lack of interest in fantasy theme. Of course, individual matches are still long and reach out easily to two hours. And there is also the constant luck. Rules are well prepared, although labeling of adventure difficulty is not correct. Basic box can lose its breath, if played extensively, because it is not as variable, as a complete kit, which you can get with more investments.
Zombicide: Black Plague is great game to have fun. All proven elements, that we love about this game, are at work again, while some issues were erased. There are well resolved visibility, excellent sound, that attracts the attention of the undead and improving your characters. All this in even better processing. Zombicide: Black Plague is great zombie fun with many new stuff!
Review: Zombicide Black Plague – back to the Middle Ages
Zombicide: Black Plague is an upgrade, that went down in history. Mix of medieval fantasy and zombies works even better. There are various improvements to address some of the criticisms of previous seasons, but also some sharpened blades of new stuff and ideas. As a whole, game is now even more fun and beautifully executed. And there is necromancer to deal with! But even this game was not spared of some cons, but there is not enough of them to become truly significant. Maybe the length. Zombicide: Black Plague came at the right moment and is changing not only the environment, but also those little things, that make a fun game even more entertaining.