23rd Sep2019

‘Zombicide: Invader’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

zomb-invader-box

History has proven that CMON is onto a winning formula when it comes to the Zombicide series. What began as an ambitious project to reinvent miniatures gaming has since evolved into a hugely popular and long running series that has spawned (excuse the pun) multiple expansions and spin offs. Around this time last year, we reviewed the previous outing; Zombicide: Green Horde, awarding it a solid 3.5 out of 5. For this years big release, CMON are blasting us into space in Zombicide: Invader – let’s find out what the fuss is all about.

Firstly, surprising no one, is the fact that Zombicide: Invader comes in a huge box that is absolutely packed with miniatures. In summary, these minis are all brand new, but they include essentially the same classes of miniatures as you’ll see in the Zombicide games the world over. There are loads of basic workers that come in several moulds, then there are hunters and abominations. There’s also one super abomination and a healthy count of six hero miniatures, each of which will be used in every single game – allowing for any player count between one and six.

As always, the enemy is controlled by a set of automated rules that are fairly simple, and the objective of each mission in Zombicide: Invader differs based on specific setup instructions. There are quite a few in the base game for Invader, and thanks to the Kickstarter nature of how the game came into being, expansions are already being released to increase the number of missions, miniatures and additional paraphernalia.

Base game missions are fairly varied but returning fans will be familiar with the formula – sometimes you need to regroup and survive, other times you’ll be escorting survivors, whilst on a few memorable missions you’ll be searching for a particular objective whilst facing down an increasing number of enemy models. One thing I really liked about Zombicide: Invader over Green Horde, is the fact that the rules seem materially simpler. The lack of the trebuchet (or equivalent) really streamlines things, whilst Invader replaces the idea of a horde mechanic with its own black mould, which spreads and consumes rooms as it goes.

Zombicide: Invader is also considerably easier than Green Horde, based on the six or seven missions that I have played to date, in comparison to the overall campaign in Green Horde. But, that’s not to say it’s easy, it’s simply more manageable than it was in Green Horde, which on reflection I probably would have called out as being too difficult had I played the original game first. Invader‘s monsters are slightly weaker than those in Green Horde, whilst the mould that spreads throughout each environment is materially easier to deal with than when a horde card was drawn in Green Horde.

The new rules that Zombicide: Invader does introduce include the control of two non player characters (on most maps) that can be accessed by any player, depending on their level or whether they have picked up a relevant control token. These NPC’s include a combat robot and a spider turret, each of which is capable of cutting through enemies in short order. Unfortunately, both are fragile and generate noise when firing, making it a likelihood that you’ll allow them to bravely sacrifice themselves from time to time.

The quality of all the miniatures, boards and cards is top draw, as is almost always the case in a premium CMON title. The miniatures are very well done, with lots of detail and really good scaling between the smaller and larger characters. The heroes are all distinct, with three that fit into a soldier class and three that are classed as civilians. The difference in miniatures is obvious from one character to the next even within these classes, but soldiers are clad in huge suits of (Space Marine style) armour, whilst civilians are dressed in more sensible clothing.

One other subtle rules tweak which is (again) more manageable than some of those in Green Horde is the fact that soldiers can only search in security rooms, whilst civilians can search anywhere. As usual, action points can be spent on handing items from one character to the next, so if the desired effect for this design was for the soldier classes to lock down corridors and other locations almost Space Hulk style whilst the civilians flit from room to room searching, then Zombicide: Invader is a huge success.

As always, the item decks are filled with a wide variety of ridiculous items and weaponry, including various prototype weapons that occupy a separate deck and only reveal themselves on certain occasions when an objective token (or similar) is found. There are, of course, mundane weapons like submachine guns, hammers and so on, but the really exciting stuff like plasma cutters and miniguns is what you’ll desperately want to rifle through the deck for. When you do find a good weapon, it may also need a counterpart item like an ammo box or fuel (for the flamer) which adds a further challenge to the gameplay.

Combat is a simple dice rolling affair, and you can reasonably expect to see large swarms of aliens – sorry, Invaders – sprinting towards you from very early on. Thankfully, most ranged weapons tend to cut through the worker and even hunter enemies with relative ease, leaving the sheer number of enemies the main challenge. Larger foes are, predictably, a bigger problem though, and having two or three unfortunate spawns from the same location can put the players in trouble very quickly.

My view is that Zombicide: Invader is the best game in the series to date, if you allow for my slight bias towards the simpler ruleset and slightly lower difficulty level. I find vanilla Zombicide to be a boring theme, and of all the releases, the only one I haven’t played is Black Plague, which ironically is probably the one that I would most enjoy from a purely setting perspective. That said, Zombicide: Invader seems to have iterated the design forwards to include all of the lessons learned in the previous releases, and the sci-fi theme and abundance of explosive weaponry is hard to beat.

I was always a huge fan of Games Workshop and MB Games’ Space Crusade when I was younger, and that was because of how it made me feel, not because of how technically good it was. Zombicide: Invader is similar in the sense that it is fun, fast paced and simple to setup and play. It looks great and feels like good value when you see the contents of the box, so it’s a strong recommendation for me, and certainly my go to game from this series to date.

**** 4/5

Zombicide: Invader 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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