Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Zombicide: Black Plague

I am not a fan of zombies. The zombie, to me, is an anathema; a genre that inspires little more than a mildly depressed and torpid disinterest, a faint air of fatuous disgust, and all mingled into a general malaise that will have me rolling my eyes and wishing I were anywhere else. My willingness to play zombie themed games is roughly equivalent with my desire to undergo inessential and painful testicular operations.

Having said that, I was more than willing to give Zombicide: Black Plague a go, newly arrived from the glorious Kickstarter, a friend of mine had recently received his copy and was eager to give it a go. Luckily, I rolled into the club in time to join in. If I can't get excited by zombies, I can get excited about enjoying a game experience with people I like.

Zombicide: Black Plague is a dungeon crawl style of game, with players having characters that move around the game board trying to achieve their quest before they are overwhelmed, or before... well, most of the time it will be overwhelmed.

There are some very clever mechanims in this game, the spawning and movement of the zombie pieces is thoroughly excellent, and goes a long way to building tension and engagement. The general mechanics are fun and simple. The game, in all, has some really good things going for it.

However, the game feels like it runs too long. In the single mission I have played so far (and I have only played one), 40 minutes were absolutely brilliant, and then there was another hour of moving in and out of rooms searching for the 'solve this mission' card (essentially a weapon that would allow us to kill the enemy). This is not good game design in my view. Some turns felt completely wasted, others felt like there was no choice, or at least very little. Any game where a player thinks - well I suppose I should just pass until I get the chance to flip a card and see if it allows us to win - is just not fun.

There will be games where the tension ratchets brilliantly, and the cards come or don't come, and the characters get it just in time or are killed - and they will be a blast. However, there will be games where it drags interminably, with players having little real choice or agency in the game, and they will be like some weird form of dental torture.

I really hope the extra stuff that will come from the Kickstarter will take the game from what it is, toward its potential, we shall only have to wait and see. When I compare it to the experience you get from playing something like Fantasy Flight's Doom or Descent, or Plaid Hat Games' Mice and Mystics, it is, currently at least, just not in the same league.


Serenissima is an old school trading in the Mediterranean game, originally published in 1996, it encompasses a mix of trading and conflict. With superb artwork and pieces, which include plastic galleys as well as the trade good and sailors that fill them up, Serenissima is a game that looks very nice on the table.

Dominique Ehrhard is a favourite game designer of mine, not least for the sublime Condottiere. He is also to be equally appreciated for his artistic abilities (he created the art work for Condottiere and Serenissima). Serenissima is an early design, originally published in 1996, it is both a game that retains a lot of enjoyment, and a game that feels it's age compared to the slick mechanical designs of today.

I should note that the version of Serenissima I am talking about is the older one. A newer version (2nd ed) was published by Ystari and Asmodee, and from everything I have read the newer version brings the old game back with revised game mechanics.

In any case, Serenissima is a highly enjoyable mix of travelling salesman problems mixed with the tension of defensive blockading and attack. It is a highly enjoyable roller coaster, where players are doing their utmost to monopolise trade and get their goods through to the ports that will assure them the most profit.

Clever use of investments is key, as is making sure you appropriate enough varied ports to give you access to a variety of goods. The use of ships loaded with sailors to blockade sea zones and attack the opponent is also something that requires consideration. The game can swing from the mind bending complexity of working out where your ships can move and what they can trade, to an arms race to decide the fate of a port or trade ship.

All in all the game was highly enjoyable, and has made me interested in seeing how the second edition plays.

Friday, 4 December 2015


It has been a little while since my last post, I have been caught up with some freelance work for Spartan Games and Modiphius, which, while very exciting, has left me without the time required to spend on things like updating my blog.

In more recent times I have found my game time dominated by miniatures games and role playing games. I'll come back to writing more about specific games on another day, but we have been playing quite a bit of Fantasy Flight Games Edge of the Empire Star Wars RPG - and enjoying it rather a lot.

Ambling over on Kickstarter I happened to run across a new role playing game that I really love the look of: Wurm. Or rather, an English translation of this French role playing game. The art is gorgeous and evocative, and the setting, Earth some 35,000 years ago, is something I absolutely adore.

This setting seems to me to be rife for wonderful stories that blend history and mythology, a vast expanse of unexplored wilderness and a world of monsters, real, created and imagined.

I have long been fascinated with the history of our species, with the worlds that different people in history lived and experienced. But I have been especially fascinated by our early history: a world filled with a mix of human-like races, monsters and mystery.

In any case - Wurm looks absolutely stunning, well worth checking out.