This is the first in a what may become a regular feature on the site. We write about a game we played, maybe the narrative of the meta-game after one session, or how the game tied together over several plays and the story that came out of it. We’ll also talk about what kind of beer we think would match the game, either overall, or on this particular day.
Black Plague is the latest in the Zombicide series by Cool Mini or Not. These games are all pretty similar in theme; survive the zombie apocalypse. Complete certain scenarios on a number of custom built maps. Unlike previous Zombicide titles, which take place in a modern setting, Black Plague is set in a fantasy kingdom. Instead of bikers, sheriffs and farmers taking on hordes of zombies, you have a nun, a magic user and a dwarf, among others. Cool Mini or Not are a company whose games, unsurprisingly, feature lots of cool miniatures. The games drip theme, involve plenty of dice chucking, but are generally well regarded. Any time they launch a new game on Kickstarter it is almost guaranteed to break $1,000,000.
The Story Begins…
The group of adventures huddled together in the narrow street as they edged into the village. They’d heard tales of survivors, and were here to see if they could find them, and if possible, rescue them. But the dead still stalked these streets, and at any moment they could come rushing forth to devour the brave adventurers. There were a number of buildings to check, some noise coming from different places. Were they survivors, or the undead? From a distance, and noise alone, it was impossible to tell, the only option to delve further into the village.
Armour rattling and clanking, the warrior, Clovis, approached the nearest door. The village elders had informed them of secret vaults beneath the town holding powerful artefacts, tools that would help the heroes in their quest. Clovis strode up the door, gazing purposefully ahead, and swung his sword. Rather than the expected crash of the door shattering, he slipped on a small pool of blood, yelped in surprise, creating a minor ruckus and disapproving glares from his companions. The door remained unscathed. He coughed, recovered, rolled his shoulders and went for it again. This time, his misjudged his stance, and planted his face into the door. The door still stood. Once more he steadied himself, and once again, a swing and a miss.
May The Dice Be Ever In Your Favour
It took us nine dice rolls to get through that door. Nine. We only need to roll 4+ on the dice, and it took nine tries. Three valiant heroes, men and women who have faced impossible odds, overcome hordes of zombies only to be stopped by a piece of wood. But this is what can happen when a game involves that much luck. But my god, when these games are good, they are good, and this time, it was magnificent. This was an experience that reminds you what games are about; friends, gathered around a table, cheering each other’s successes, cursing their own luck, laughing when something goes stupidly wrong and general all round applause and amusement when things go so, so right.
I’ve never played a Zombicide game before. In fact I’d only ever played one game by Cool Mini or Not previously. I liked to tell myself that the miniatures that this company are known for aren’t necessary, they don’t add to the game, that the game would be just as good with wooden cubes and meeples, but my god these miniatures really do help with immersion. At the start of the game you pick a character, and you can’t help but pick up the corresponding miniature and gaze in awe at the lovely figure that will represent you on the table, how perfectly it matches the art on your player board and how much bigger some of those monsters seem compared to you.
I mentioned the dice, and how that luck can impact the game, but it’s not the only form of luck. When you (eventually) open the door into a house, each room in the house spawns some zombies. This is determined by drawing a card from the deck. The more powerful you become as you play the mission, the more powerful the monsters generally become. You either get more of them, or sometimes just bigger ones. There are also cards that let all zombies of a certain type activate (i.e. move or attack), or make you draw two cards for the next room! This sequence also happens at the end of every turn, as there are a number of spawn points where zombies pour in every turn. A few bad cards drawn at the wrong time can see you go from a controllable game, where you’re close to victory, to being inundated with a horde of mindless zombies, or a conga line of “fatties” – large, shuffling zombies that are clearly on their way back from the zombie bake sale.
I can’t help but feel that in the game we played, even though we felt like things were going bad at times, overall, we got kind of lucky with the cards, and we managed to stay in control of the game. There were many fun moments, from the elf using his uzi-like crossbow to slay hordes of fatties, to poor Clovis, who despite his initial inability to open doors, ended up being the personal door smasher for Baldric (myself) and Silas (the elven archer). It was a great experience, and it makes me eager to play Zombicide again, hoping, of course, that lady luck will be on my side once again.
Exhausted, approaching the last house, the door was kicked in. Cursed undead, but ahead, at the far end of the house, the last few remaining survivors were visible. Silas unleashed a hail of bolts, taking down a number of the foul beasts. Clovis, weighed down by expectation, exhausted after a long day of smashing doors, looked at the remaining zombies. He didn’t think he could make it; he couldn’t fight his way through the zombies and then rescue the survivors. Suddenly from behind Baldric returned, fire dancing in his hands, before gushing forth and enveloping the remaining zombies. Clovis, his determination renewed, rushed in, herded the terrified survivors out, and a roar of triumph and victory let rip from the mouths of the heroes as they retreated from the damned village, ready to fight another day.
As I said, this game oozes theme, which is often seen as an American trait in board games, which immediately makes me think we’ll need an American beer to match. Lady luck will keep you on edge the whole game, so I think a steady and unsurprising beer will do the trick, something relatively easy to drink, light hearted and fun. This, my friends, is a job for the classic, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Drink it, play it.