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.

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