12th Mar2021

‘Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

Well, I am sure you all know that here at Nerdly we love a good zombie movie, and at the same time we’re also fans of CMON’s Zombicide game series. Having already covered both Zombicide: Green Horde and Zombicide: Invader, I often wonder what new ideas CMON will come up with next, besides a simple re-theme. Well, having now played it, Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead is perhaps the most unique iteration of the series to date – offering the only theme based on an existing intellectual property, as well as the most unique ruleset we’ve seen to date.

In summary, you might describe Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead as something of an entry-level experience in the series. The rules are drastically slimmed down with fewer challenging enemies, less complexity in item and ability use, and a generally slower pace that suits new or less experienced players. In most Zombicide games, the players need to make smart decisions and there is little opportunity to sit back. Failure to keep advancing towards your objective will almost always result in failure, whilst even if every decision you make is correct, you may still suffer an untimely end.

In Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead, the objectives are linked to the settings in the movie, with the players moving into the famous house during the first chapter, and then moving through the other sets as each objective is completed and a new chapter begins. More often than not, the players will only complete the scenario by working together, and indeed in Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead, the players must control all six characters regardless of how many players there are. So a solo player will control six characters, in a two-player game each player will take three characters and so on.

Whilst not as difficult as other Zombicide games in terms of the speed and ferocity of the enemies that come at the players, Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead keeps things interesting by ensuring that the player characters are mostly weaker, slower and less well-armed than those in other iterations. I say mostly because one of a handful of tricks that Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead has up its blood-soaked sleeve is that of having characters switch between Romero mode (basic, with few abilities) and Zombicide mode (with more powerful abilities.) When in Romero mode, the characters are considerably more vulnerable, in homage to the way in which characters in the movie are generally reluctant to kill “people” that have actually become zombies.

What makes this quite an interesting mechanic is linked to one of the two new zombie types. Firstly, there are no runners or abominations here – just walkers, fatties and then the two new types – relatives and breakers. Relatives come in the form of two bright red miniatures that represent Karen (who is also on the box) and the brother of one of the other characters. Should either of these two relatives turn up, the players nearby will immediately revert to their Romero state, weakening them immediately. Likewise, by killing a relative, players in the same space will immediately flip back to Zombicide mode.

I also mentioned breaker zombies just now, and this new kind of enemy adds an interesting twist to the difficulty that is unique to Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead. Whilst no more threatening than a normal walker, these breakers will – perhaps unsurprisingly – break down your barricades, which in some scenarios are integral to the objective. What this does – quite neatly I think – is slow down the players progress whilst only steadily increasing the overall threat level. There’s nothing worse in some of the other Zombicide games than rapidly being defeated by a series of unlucky enemy spawns. Clearly, that can happen in Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead and there are only a few weapons that can – for example – damage fatties, but it is still much less likely that you’ll be overwhelmed early.

Whilst I am talking about damage, another new idea for Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead is that of the specific item decks. In this game, the items are split into starting items, ranged weapons, melee weapons and common items. These items are each found in different regions on the map, meaning that you’ll head to a specific area in order to search for a firearm, for example. In general, the weapons are fairly mundane – table legs, knives, shotguns and pistols. Of the starting items, only the crowbar (of which there is one) can damage fatties, so among the objectives you’ll need to consider, simply getting access to viable weapons is one other thing you’ll need to do.

Some of the other well-trodden features of the wider series remain here in Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead, in particular the excellent build quality and use of miniatures. There are loads of zombie models to blast through and each player character is even represented twice among the minis, with one model showing their Romero persona and the other cast a more aggressive one to match Zombicide mode. The recessed plastic player aids are excellent and retain the usual slots for items to stand in, and the same XP slider as in other iterations. The one key difference here is the embossed “Night of the Living Dead” logo on them, which adds a real touch of class.

Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead is intended – I think – to be a relatively casual experience for fans of the movie first and the idea of the board game second. Zombicide fans will probably love it too, but I think it’s more intended to be one of just a few board games that occupy the shelf of a very casual collector. It’s a superb, self-contained package and unlike in other games in this series, you won’t feel like you are “missing out” by not buying into four or five expansions – because simply put, there aren’t any (well, except for a minor promo for Kickstarter backers.)

With all of this said, I could well imagine Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead being the only board game that some people own, and honestly, there’s a good chance it will be the one Zombicide game that I choose to stick with long term. I do enjoy these games more broadly, but the need to introduce more and more convoluted modes and features generally makes them harder to learn and teach. Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead effectively does the exact opposite of this, giving me an easy to access and less demanding Zombicide experience that tells a familiar story that players like to engage with. Overall, this approach makes Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead the most satisfying entry in the series for me.

**** 4/5

Zombicide: Night of the Living Dead 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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