06th Nov2023

‘Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

As I drag the latest massive box (or boxes) of Zombicide through my door, I often wonder whether it will simply be more or the same. The last time out, when I reviewed Zombicide: Undead or Alive, I was pleasantly surprised by new mechanics and features. However, the newest Zombicide game – Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance offers something else entirely. Gone is the endless list of unknown characters, and in their place, an impressive roster of X-Men heroes that almost anyone would recognise.

Typically, Zombicide has up to six characters working their way through zombie infested streets and buildings, collecting powerful items and dispatching the undead in their hundreds. This series is a classic dungeon crawler, and objectives might include collecting a few things, opening some doors, maybe even escorting someone from to A to B, but no matter what, the focus is on action above all else.

In Marvel Zombies, there are actually two core product lines and two modes of play. The one I am reviewing today carries the “Resistance” moniker in its title, meaning that you’ll be playing a team of heroic characters who are still human. In a parallel release, simply titled Marvel Zombies, the players will actually control a team of undead heroes as they devour their way through countless human soldiers. The content in both boxes can be combined to add more heroes (living or undead) to either mode.

In any case, I haven’t played Marvel Zombies and today I will focus solely on the heroic mode offered by Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance. In this box, we get exactly six pretty good heroes – Magneto, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Mystique and Colossus and exactly six undead heroes to fight against. In normal Zombicide terms, this is light on playable characters (normally ten or twelve) but heavy on boss enemies (as few as one in some games, such as Undead or Alive).

There are also hundreds of other miniatures in the box. Walkers (the most basic enemy) come in five dynamic poses, and then the more threatening brute and runner enemies come in two poses each. One unique addition to Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance is that of bystanders. These side story characters were clearly not deemed important enough to get their own character card, but can play an important role in the game if either eaten by zombies (bad) or rescued (good.)

Bystanders make up about 20% of the miniatures in the box and in honesty, I would rather have had half the number of additional heroes (on both sides of the fight.) Bystanders are fairly static, moving only at the end of each round and simply fleeing towards the nearest hero. This could easily have been represented by a cardboard token, but if nothing else it does serve to highlight how keen the designers are to make the importance of bystanders very clear.

If a hero is able to reach a bystander and spend an action to rescue them, then they take the bystander card and add it to a special slot on their player board. This conveys a bonus that changes or augments the basic rules of the game in often powerful ways. One bystander allows the hero to draw enemies to them at a time to suit, effectively controlling the pace of the onslaught. Another allows a hero to add a ranged attack to their arsenal.

In addition to the abilities added by bystanders, players also have access to heroic traits which can be drawn on any normal turn as an action. A heroic trait is a single use ability that mildly augments the hero – perhaps allowing them to absorb a wound, draw more power or similar. In other Zombicide games, this would normally be the search action – with shotguns and ammo being drawn, rather than superhuman reflexes. The transition is remarkably smooth, and features like this in Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance somehow feel completely natural in the existing Zombicide framework.

On that note, Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance captures the theme of both IP’s that it draws upon at the same time. It feels like Zombicide right from the outset, and at the same time, having reviewed the original Marvel Zombies lore, it covers that base extremely well too. Whilst some missions are easier than others, all of them convey a feeling of desperation from the outset.

Resources like the heroic traits and power – which regenerates every turn and can be spent to either add dice to attacks, or to trigger specific powerful abilities as the characters level up – are critical to success and need to be used sparingly. The player heroes die very easily when the zombies close in, so having the board position, relevant abilities and resources to fend them off is basically the game in a nutshell.

Somehow, as the game reaches its latter stages, there are always just a few too many zombies, and the zombie hero that just spawned is always the one you just don’t need for the current situation. It’s rare that you’ll lose too early in Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance, but you may well lose just one or two rounds before you think you can win – and this for me is how a good cooperative game should feel. There has to be peril, and there certainly is in Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance.

Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance Is one of the more expensive Zombicide products, yet there is a lot in the box, and there is also the unique possibility of adding that second core box to play a completely different mode with the same components and only minor changes to the rules. This, along with the massive Marvel IP gives Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance appeal that other dungeon crawlers (including other entries in the Zombicide series) just can’t match.

Very big and quite a bit cleverer than you might expect, Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance offers incredible, unbelievably detailed miniatures, action-packed gameplay and tactical decisions that you need to get right nine times out of ten or else you’re going to get eaten. This is a massively fun, ridiculous experience that creates an impulsive desire for “just one more mission” around the table. For me, it’s a highly recommended game and perhaps even the best in the excellent Zombicide series.

****½  4.5/5

A copy of Marvel Zombies: X-Men Resistance was supplied by Asmodee for review.

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