20th Aug2018

‘Zombicide: Green Horde’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

zombicide-gh-box

Ah Zombicide. Now an iconic example of how to pack a box full of plastic miniatures and glossy cardboard, then launch a big budget Kickstarter, this a series that almost needs no introduction. Many fans of miniatures based board games love it, whilst a lot of the people who dislike it don’t seem to have ever actually played it. Ask any gamer about Zombicide and you’ll be met with only one of two reactions – cool indifference or gibbering excitement – there is no in-between. No one in the board gaming world (and I do mean no one) can pretend that they haven’t heard of this game. Yet here I am, entering the world of Zombicide via the Green Horde core box, which is just the latest in a long line of releases – will I regret having waited so long, or has my time been better spent elsewhere? Let’s find out shall we?

Let’s talk about what we’re looking at here first of all. I’m reviewing the Zombicide: Green Horde core set only, which contains a “mere” seventy two miniatures and about six boards that are used to support ten basic quests that can be played immediately, without any need to understand or own any other aspect of the Zombicide universe. However, for those that Kickstarted Green Horde (and indeed those interested in obtaining everything the universe has to offer) there’s also a large Horde Box expansion available already, which contains God knows what else, plus since Green Horde takes place in the Zombicide fantasy universe, it is fully compatible with Black Plague and all of the characters and mini expansions that come with it.

First things first and back to the fact that this is a core set review only; there’s still an absolute ton of stuff in this box. Ten quests (most of which support up to six players and can last for two hours, easily) is more than enough to begin with, plus there is enough randomisation in the game that few experiences play out the same way twice. Seventy two miniatures is a ridiculous amount too, especially considering the diversity on offer and particularly, the quality. As always, CMON miniatures are exceptionally well made – the orcs (aka The Green Horde) are a gang of ugly brutes, whilst the heroes are a fairly diverse and likeable mix, even though they are largely aligned to the usual tropes (male barbarian, female sorceress etc.)

The boards, I’m not as sure of. This isn’t a quality or a quantity issue – it’s one of interpretation. There are a ton of boards (each of which is double sided) and between them, the game is able to create a lot of variety among those ten core missions (plus probably more in other booklets that I haven’t seen) yet the details on them are hard to pick out. Green Horde introduces a few new terrain features which include hedges (fairly obvious) and waterlogged spaces (hard to spot) among other things. As a new player, I felt the game lacked clearly marked spaces outlined by white lines or another recognisable feature – but in any case it isn’t a insurmountable problem.

The instruction manual is very good however, and whilst Green Horde is considered to be a “difficult” place to begin playing Zombicide from (due to the extra toughness of the orcs, the extra environmental rules and the introduction of a horde mechanic) the manual takes nothing for granted. Every rule is explained in appropriate detail, from the basic movement and attack capabilities of the heroes, zombies and special character.s Green Horde even has an appropriately scaled miniature trebuchet that comes with a host of rules – including friendly fire! Examples are provided and the visual representations of things like line of fire, suitable movement and so on are very good.

One interesting thing that Green Horde’s manual does make clear is that in all but one or two introductory scenarios, you’ll need to play with a full compliment of six heroes. Whether those heroes are played by one or six humans (or any number in between) is up to you – the game accommodates a wide range of player counts within minimal changes thanks to the fact that enemy behaviour is automated. There is no need for a dungeon master here. Actually getting the orcs onto the board is handled via a card deck that can spawn zombies in relatively small numbers or it can form hordes or unleash tough, special enemies. When the horde card is drawn, it is then added to over several turns (usually) until it is unleashed – at which time the players are in real trouble.

Dispatching orcs in Zombicide is mechanically simple, although I’ll admit to the fact that Green Horde is a tougher game than I was expecting it to be. Combat is largely driven by what weapons a character is holding or which spells they wish to unleash, but it boils down to a fairly classic combination of how many dice can I roll, what score do they hit on and how much damage they do? Interestingly in Green Horde, there is a fair mix of glass cannon (runner and necromancer) enemies, as well as a few that are, erm, titanium cannons. The abominations in Green Horde are near as damn it undefeatable, but then again you do have that trebuchet, right?

Gameplay in Green Horde varies considerably from one scenario to the next, which is one of the most attractive things about it. In one scenario you might be driving the zombies towards a specific location to trap them. In another, you might need to seek out a specific enemy, defeat them and then make your escape. In one, memorable quest, you’ll fight desperately from street to street with no hope of overpowering the enemy and with only a slim chance of surviving if you can reach a certain location within a turn limit. Another favourite of mine takes the fight directly to the horde, which I also enjoyed. Whichever scenario you choose, as I mentioned earlier, will be wildly different depending on the rub of the cards – which is a good thing until it kills you.

In any scenario, Green Horde is a game about killing zombies and moving your team around the map in an efficient way to meet the objective. I can kind of see how this does appeal to some people and not to others. I enjoy games of all kinds whether they are based on abstract tile placement or all out war and of all the miniatures combat based games I’ve played, I’m happy to admit that Green Horde has entered the ranking rather highly. There is practically limitless variation in how enemies can be deployed (and unleashing a horde is terrifying) and there are tons of item and monster cards to work through in order to keep things interesting.

I may also have given the impression that Green Horde is quite simplistic, but that’s not the case. Sure, you’ll run around killing zombie orcs, but the game doesn’t lack for sophistication. Each player receives a plastic board with pegs on it that track their experience level, skills, spells and items. Defeating enemies makes them stronger. In the game world, noise is a key factor and whilst some activities make noise regardless, on other occasions you’ll want to use it intentionally to drive the zombies to one place or another. There’s a lot more to discuss actually – like searching, opening doors, moving barriers and how different terrain features work.

All of these things surprised me about Green Horde. I wasn’t expecting a game that was either challenging or smart, but the Zombicide engine allows for both. The combat is simple to resolve and doesn’t have a ton of different rolls that all link back to the original roll, which I think is because the enemy is AI controlled and so plentiful. The game relies on players achieving a high body count among the enemies in order to level up, make progress and ultimately, to survive. The game also players well no matter what the count is, whether one or six players are involved. The only slightly weird situations are those where one player controls more heroes than the others.

I feel as if I am now at least familiar with the Zombicide series and so I can at last at least comment on whether or not I think it’s worth your time and effort. Frankly, if you like miniatures combat or dungeon crawling type experiences, then I think it certainly is, but if you don’t, then nothing here will change your mind in comparison to any of the other games you’ll have played or at least looked at. Given the number of features – noise, levelling up, the horde and so on, then I’d say the saving grace here is the relatively straightforward way in which it’s all delivered and presented to the players. It’s a quick, fluid experience that gets players directly into the fight as quickly as possible and sustains the action from start to finish. As such, no matter which Zombicide you choose to play, it’s well worth looking into – especially considering how impressive the package inside the box is, and how much scope there is for expansion.

***½  3.5/5

Zombicide is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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