Playing Zombiecide: Black Plague

I’ve played a few games of Zombicide: Black Plague. After the look at its contents, now it’s time to talk about what I think about the game itself.

If you’ve never played a Zombicide game, let me tell you that they’re a lot of fun. Unlike traditional games of one versus the rest, where usually the owner of the game plays the bad guys and your friends get to be the heroes, Zombicide is a fully cooperative game. Everyone plays the heroes, working together to complete a mission and the zombies are controlled by a deck of cards and a few simple rules. And there’s no single winner. They win or lose together (although you can still try to claim all the credit or blame the others).

While the rest of the Zombicide games are set in modern times and are compatible with each other, Black Plague lets you play Zombicide in a medieval fantasy setting. It uses the same game engine, but you aren’t supposed to mix them together (unless you want to play some time travel scenarios to kill Necromancers with shotguns, that is).

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If you already know Zombicide, what’s new with this one? Bear in mind that I haven’t played Season 3, so some of what are new mechanics for me might not be so new. You still have your walkers, runners, fatties and the abomination; but now you’ll also face the Necromancer.

When the Necromancer enters the game, he places an additional spawning point and unlike the zombies, the Necromancer will try to flee from the Survivors through the nearest spawning point. If the Survivors are able to stop him in time, they get to take a spawning point off the board. If not, the new spawning point stays and now, if there are 6 spawning points on the board the mission fails.

It’s a simple addition that adds a sense of urgency and it’s a nice counter for those groups who are loot hoarders. Like my friends. I’m glad the “let’s keep searching while we’re still on blue” technique now has it’s risks too. Because the Necromancer doesn’t care what colour you’re in. Specially combined with the next addition to the spawning deck.

The Zombie Spawning deck includes a new card that completely changes the spawning mechanic and can utterly destroy the best crafted plan with an unlucky draw or two. And I love it.

I’m talking about the double spawn.

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What this nasty new card does is that on the next spawning point you take two cards instead of one. And one of those can be an additional double spawn card for the next spawning point.

Best of all? If you draw a double spawn on the last spawning point, you don’t keep it for the next spawning phase or it goes to waste. It reactivates the first spawning point! That’s totally awesome and makes the zombie phase way more unpredictable and dangerous.

To me, those are the most meaningful changes. Other changes include that the fatties no longer come with extra walkers or that when shooting into a zone with survivors, the misses will hit them. A nice little change is that now the starting gear is no longer randomized between the characters. You decide as a group who gets what, and that helps with taking advantage from the character abilities from the start.

While at first the game might seem more close combat oriented, there are still bows and crossbows and a lot of spells. So there’s no real need to risk entering a zombie infested zone. Unless you like it, because shooting is for elves.

One of the most obvious things missing from previous Zombicides are the Zombivors. And I’m glad they’re gone. While they’re a fun addition, they effectively increase a survivors wound count from 2 to 7, and to me they made the game too easy. While my friends are happy to become Zombivors I try my hardest to finish the missions without turning into one. Whatever your opinion about them, be aware that they’re not part of Black Plague (and if there’s a Season Two, I hope they’re not part of it).

With the new plastic character trackers now your backpack is bigger. Plus you won’t lose any items when you’re wounded! You’re able to hold five items on your backpack, plus an item on each hand and an extra slot for the armor. What’s nice is that each character can use that last slot to hold something special instead of the armor. The mage for example, can carry a sword, allowing him to always have a couple of spells at hand and a sword in case he needs it.

Or any other combination of items you’d like, because there are no class based restrictions or anything. This is Zombiecide! Don’t tell me that mages can’t cast spells wearing heavy armour, because they totally can! Even the dwarf can cast spells. But he won’t do it, because he is a self-respecting dwarf.

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Most of the games we’ve been decimated, surrounded without hope, caught off-guard,… and the one where we were doing best, once we started to think that we might do it, a chain of double spawns and Necromancer cards lost us the game because it allowed the Necromancer to escape and it spawned another Necromancer. Because there was nobody taking care of that half of the board! Because every time we split up we got overwhelmed by zombies! So much fun.

So, do I recommend Black Plague? Yes! Yes! Yes!

As you might have guessed, I like my games to be challenging. After Zombiecide’s original box I felt that difficulty was missing, and Black Plague brings it back and them some. If you’ve never played a Zombiecide game, it doesn’t get any better than Black Plague.

If you’re a Zombiecide regular on the fence, does it add enough to justify the purchase? Not really. It plays like Zombiecide, so it won’t bring much variety to your gaming sessions. But if like me, you find the fantasy setting more appealing it is a worthy replacement for your regular Zombiecide games.

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