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Board Game(s) Review – Zombicide Season 2

zombicide2If you hate Zombicide because the scenarios are lopsided, the mechanics are prone to stupid and sudden demise and the story behind the adventures is less important than just killing every undead bog-gobbler who runs past your modified Dodge Challenger on his way to eat a Sunday meal, then you are still going to hate Zombicide Season 2. On the other hand, if you like Zombicide because it moves fast, looks bad-ass and lets you kill hundreds of zombies with an entertaining variety of firearms and landscaping tools, then Season 2 is just more game to love.

Let’s start with Prison Outbreak. If you haven’t ever picked up the original Zombicide, you don’t have to. Prison Outbreak is self-contained, and has the survivors discovering a prison that might provide great protection, if only there were not so damned many zombies inside. It adds a bunch more map tiles and gives you a whole lot of alternate sculpts for your favorite brain-eaters, not to mention adding a few new features that make for new and interesting ways to play.

Most importantly, however, Prison Outbreak comes with new zombies. Apparently, being in lock-up during a zombie apocalypse makes you grow heavy armor plating that renders you immune to gunfire. You can shoot these guys all day, and they’ll just laugh if off. They still fall down just as well is you can brain them with a frying pan, though. Personally, I prefer the concrete saw to the pan, but you make do with what you have.

The prison is full of new tricks. Barbed-wire fences keep zombies on the other side, but give you plenty of opportunity to blast them through the wire. Of course, this means that it also gets them all cornered in one spot, and then they let go all at once and you’re looking at a zombie flood that will have you building an ark and trying to remember where you can find two lemurs. And that’s not the only twist – there are guard towers where the zombies can’t go, security stations and locked gates, and rows of prison cells that will keep the monsters locked up until you can get around to them. Basically, there’s a lot more stuff to enjoy, as long as you already enjoyed all the old stuff.

Toxic City Mall is basically the same story – more stuff and interesting goodies – except that in this case, you have to own either Zombicide or Prison Outbreak if you want to use it. If you do own either of those core boxes, you’re going to love exploring at the mall. And by ‘love’ I mean ‘get to kill a massive variety of zombies and it will be fun.’ In real life, you would not want to explore the mall, especially if there were zombies inside, but even if it’s just a bunch of 14-year-old hoodlums who like to try on clothes at Abercrombie so that they can smell like a perfume sample. Though if it’s Toxic City Mall, you get to blast them with a twin shotguns, so that’s something.

The toxic zombies are just plain ridiculous. If you kill one of them up close, they explode and cover you in acid or poison or something, and you get hurt just as bad as if they just ran up and bit you. That means you have to shoot them, and you have to do it from a distance. Which, of course, is a problem if they catch up to one of your friends first, because just like in the base game, if you shoot into a space containing both your friends and some zombies, you will always shoot your friends first. The zombies use your friends as humans shields, I guess. Frankly, I never did understand the rationale behind that idea, but whatever, I play the game anyway.

There are a few new things to find at the mall, aside from overpriced t-shirts and enormous pretzels. For one thing, since people ran to the mall (having not seen Dawn of the Dead), there were lots of zombies at the mall. And that meant they were a good place for guys in Apache helicopters to fire rockets at zombies, and that means there’s a lot of rubble. Now you can’t just run through every building and down every street, because some of them are so blocked, even the jogging dead can’t get past.

You could also build barricades, but honestly, those are a death trap. The idea is that you flip a few shopping carts on their side and stack them high with last year’s calendars and used cell-phone covers, and basically spend a turn building an improvised wall to keep the zombies on the other side. And it will work, until the dead guys get an extra turn (and if you have ever played Zombicide, you know that they most definitely will get an extra turn, sooner or later), and then they just push the stacks of unclaimed gift cards out of the way and come eat you anyway.

So far, I haven’t mentioned the coolest thing about Zombicide Season 2, and it’s actually in both boxes – zombivors. These sound like people who only eat zombies, but it’s not. It’s actually zombie survivors, but all crammed into one word to make it sound original. The idea here is that when the dead finally take you down, you’re not all the way out. You were such a hard-charging bad-ass when you were alive that when you come back, you still remember who you are. Only now you’re a zombie, and you have bitchin’ zombie powers and you can suck up damage all day long. Plus you get a new miniature.

This is seriously my favorite part of Zombicide Season 2. My main complaint with Zombicide is how often I just get completely destroyed without much of a chance to even get started. Now, though, I don’t have to settle for two measly points of life. I get seven total, and that means I have even more opportunity to get surrounded by a horde of undead so enormous that they still end up doing something like 42 hits, which still kills everyone at the same time because come ON this game is ridiculous. Yes, OK, that still happens. But now if I kill enough zombies, I might get to be slippery, and that means I can outrun the hordes. Or, since I’m a zombie, I get an extra activation when THEY get an extra activation, and that means I can run away or blast the suckers, as I choose. There are lots of other horrible zombie powers that are just plain fun, and it’s awesome that I don’t have to be an automated bad guy, like in every other zombie game ever. And the best part is that Toxic City Mall has all the zombivor versions of the guys from the original game, so they can all join in the hilarity.

Now, if you’re not a fan of Zombicide, you can probably point to several different things you don’t like, and I agree. I like the game in spite of the shortcomings, but they’re still there, and they still suck. Like the fact that if you can’t win before you get to the red danger level, you will be statistically incapable of murdering as many zombies as you need to kill to win. Like the fact that you might be standing right next to your friend when you fire a handgun at a nearby walker, and still manage to turn and hit your buddy square in the face. Like the fact that the story is practically non-existent, and mainly all you do is run really fast, search things, and kill zombies like there’s no tomorrow. Those things all suck, and they do not change here. In fact, they might even get worse. So if you hate this game already, don’t bother with Season 2. It will not help at all.

I actually dig the crap out of Zombicide. I’ve played it about a dozen times now, which is a lot for me, and I’ve won less than half. And as a fan of the game, I found Season 2 to be a thoroughly worthwhile purchase. Yes, it’s just as flawed as the original game, but it adds so many fun new elements, so many new miniatures, and so many new scenarios that I think it makes the original game a bunch better. It would be even better if it made up for some of the failures found in the Zombicide, but nevertheless, I enjoy it. Which I guess is not very high praise – ‘it kind of sucks, but I like it anyway.’

Summary

1-6 players (but I would never play with more than 2)

Pros:
Lots more maps, scenarios, miniatures, survivors, and cool crap to do
Still looks drop-dead gorgeous, which makes a game more fun to play
Zombie survivors are kick-ass fun
More ways to play a really fun game

Cons:
Basically the same cons as with the original
Still not what anyone balanced would call a well-designed game
Can still be impossibly hard or lubed-up easy

I don’t make any apologies for liking what I like. And I like Zombicide Season 2. It’s not out yet – I only have mine because I pledged for it on Kickstarter. But you can preorder it here:

PRISON OUTBREAK

TOXIC CITY MALL

One Response to “Board Game(s) Review – Zombicide Season 2”

  1. Ken Harkin says:

    I love Zombicide and if Cool Minis Or Not who ran the Kickstarter ever pulls their thumbs out of their asses I might get my Season 2 copy.

    My friends and I immediately threw out the targeting rule forcing htw against survivors first. Our rule is misses hit survivors in the same area as the target unless the shooter has the sniper skill. We far prefer it and it works out much the same without the stupidity of the base rule. You still would rather not shoot at zombies near friends but it is no longer a death sentence. This is probably the most commonly modded rule I see on the forums, followed closely by the overpowered cars.

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