By October 14, 2013

Zombicide: Season 2 Toxic City Mall Initial Review and First Impressions

Zombicide is a co-operative, collaborative team based tabletop game that pits 2 to 8 players against a horde of zombies. It’s one of our favorite games to play during board games and burger night, and I’ve written about the game several times.

Zombicide Season 2 was announced on March 2, 2013 via a Kickstarter funding campaign. The community pledged over $2.2 million. Depending on the amount of money you pledged you could get all sorts of nifty products and add-ons.

We bought almost everything, and the first wave of our Zombicide 2 items arrived this week.

We played it for the first time this Sunday, and here are my thoughts.

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The first shipment of our Zombicide 2 pledge. Additional survivors will show up later this year or early 2014.

We bought the dog companions (they help you fight and get stuff!) and the zombie dogs (they’re super dangerous!), and I really wanted to use at least the dogs in our first play through of Zombicide 2.

I figured that the Toxic City Mall expansion would add enough new stuff without being overwhelming and so we played it first.

Some noteworthy rule additions in TCM include:

  • Some zombies are “toxic,” which means if they are in your square when you kill them you take a point of damage. These zombies are green.
  • If your survivor dies they become a “zombivor.” Through sheer will, these survivors become half-human, half-zombie. They can take three extra points of damage, progress (mostly) like a regular survivor and unless noted by the scenario die at the end of the mission. These rules were published a little before Zombicide 2 was released, but the Toxic City Mall expansion makes them official.
  • Ultra-red threat level and ultra-red weapons. Characters level up by killing zombies and completing objectives. As they level up, the game becomes more difficult by spawning more zombies per turn. In the original Zombicide the highest you could go is threat level red. Toxic City Mall introduces “ultra red.” You return your character’s XP counter to 0 but keep all of your acquired skills and extra actions.

    As you level up again you acquire new skills, but not additional actions.

    You can also use special weapons, ranging from the FN P90 to .44 Magnum revolvers with bayonets to a light saber. If you aren’t in the ultra-red threat level yet you can discard these items for a 5 XP boost.

We also played with some “frenzied” zombies from the Prison Outbreak set, which means they can only be killed with melee weapons. These zombies are brown. I sort of did this unintentionally, as they were mixed in with the bonus zombie pack

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Ultra-red weapons are ultra-powerful.

I feel like the figures are even more detailed than last time. Check out this zombie:

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One of the new abominations has bunny slippers on :D

Game play

We played the first mission with eight players. The Toxic City Mall expansion has rules for going beyond more than six players. In our case, it was two more cast iron skillets and one extra spawn zone.

We must not have shuffled the zombie encounter cards very well, because we were swarmed with toxic zombies. At one point we were surrounded, and it became impossible to escape. We even lost three Zombvivors who reanimated, took five points of damage from killing toxic zombies in their square, and died again.

I was ready to write toxic zombies off as terrible, but we broke for dinner and gave the mission another go — this time with only six players.

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Our burger theme for the week was Zombicide: everything had to come in a can except for rice, the burger patties, and the buns. Yes, even the bacon was in a can.

We re-shuffled all of the item and encounter cards, and this time the toxic zombies were much more measured. They were far easier to handle intermixed with three to five spawns of regular zombies. Distributed this way, the toxics were more like an accent and less like a corrosive steamroller.

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Two survivors and a trusty canine companion hold a barricade against a tide of zombies.

My main problem with the expansion (and the base game, for that matter) is that the rules are not very clear, and alternate from being very specific to being very vague. For example, plenty of ammo only works with certain, named weapons — none of which are in the expansion. There are new weapons that use shotgun ammo, and new weapons that use pistol ammo, but since the cards are very explicit we did not allow families that shared common ammunition types to benefit unless explicitly named.

This is a big problem since about 80% of our gaming group owns firearms, and we’ll probably house rule it going forward.

Combining types of zombies made it difficult to know how to handle “all XYZ zombies get an extra activation” cards. Does that mean all walkers, or just gray walkers? I couldn’t find the answer in the rule book, so I consulted boardgamegeek.com.

As we understand it, there are species of zombies (normal, toxic, frenzy) and then types of zombies (runners, walkers, fatties, abominations). If we read the summary on the BGG forum correctly, even though the card mentions types, we’re supposed to only move species of that type. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but neither does the ammunition commonality thing or how slippery works when a car’s in a space occupied by zombies or how ranged weapons have to target survivors first.

Anyway, we are always learning more about the intricacies of the game, so I’m sure we got quite a bit wrong the first playthroughs.

The rules for dogs are also confusing, and we had to spend some time talking through the dog manual as a group before deciding on how to interpret it.

The “easy” first mission took us over three hours to complete. At the end, we were laughing, cheering, and having a great time. It helps that our group already loves the game (and I guess so would anyone else who spent $250+ on the Kickstarter like I did) and that we have played so many games together already. We were willing to overlook a lot of the confusion, and I think most of us wrote the rules discussions off as first-time complications.

I’m looking forward to playing again this Sunday, and trying to crack the second mission.

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