Zombicide: Black Plague Review & Board Game Guide (2019)
The zombies are coming! The castles have been overrun! The militia has already been slaughtered and its soldiers are now rising from the dead. It’s up to you and a motley crew of survivors to live through this disaster.
A Brief Overview of Zombicide: Black Plague
Versions & Expansions
Unboxing Zombicide: Black Plague
How to Play Zombicide: Black Plague
Your First Game of Zombicide: Black Plague
The Pros & Cons of Zombicide: Black Plague
Zombicide: Black Plague FAQs
Zombicide: Black Plague is a standalone version of Zombicide, set in medieval times. Chainsaws, guns, and swords have been replaced with magic, crossbows, and well… swords.
If you’re familiar with Zombicide or with Cool Mini or Not (CMON), you’ll know that they’re known for awesomely produced games with big boxes filled with detailed miniatures. The Zombicide games are all known for highly-customizable rules and scenarios. It has often been described as a “sandbox” experience where players are free to create any story they wish. Luckily, there’s always been a huge fan following with a ton of homebrewed content ready to play.
It’s easy to see why Zombicide has become so popular, but let’s check out Black Plague and see if it’s just a reskin, or if it’s something more.
- Zombicide (2012)
- Season 2: Prison Outbreak (2013)
- Season 3: Rue Morgue (2015)
- Black Plague (2015)
- Green Horde (2018)
- Invader (2019)
- Toxic City Mall (2013)
- Angry Neighbors (2015)
- Black Plague – Wulfsburg (2016)
- No Rest for the Wicked (2018)
- Green Horde – Friends and Foes (2018)
CMON is known for fantastic production value in their games and Black Plague is no exception. Black Plague comes with 2 large sleeves full of fantastically sculpted minis. Hero minis and zombie minis come in different colors so it’s not necessary to paint them before playing the game. You may want to, though, because they look amazing fully painted and it really adds to the in-game atmosphere.
Color-Coded Hero Bases
One of the simplest components added to the game (that I wish developers would include more often) is the colored bases for hero minis. Call me old fashioned or just plain old, but sometimes it’s difficult for me to see who’s who at a glance, and the bright color-coded bases that sit at the bottom of the hero minis just makes everything easier.
As with other Zombicide games, players will get a series of double-sided map tiles that are very thick and durable, so no worries about breaking or warping.
The biggest difference between vanilla Zombicide and the Black Plague version is the awesome player boards. Each player will get a board for their characters that tracks everything. There’s a spot for player cards, equipment, and experience tracking. They’re durable hard plastic and just so much better than regular Zombicide. Without a doubt, CMON knows what they’re doing when it comes to game components.
Every turn each character will have 3 actions. If you decide to play more than one character, you’ll need to complete all of the actions of 1 character before moving on to another one. You can’t bounce back and forth between characters. You have lots of options for actions, 8 to be exact. This is where the strategy comes in.
On your turn you may…
Pretty self-explanatory. Keep in mind some spots on the board are going to be larger than others, but moving from one space to another is 1 action.
If a character is in a building with no zombies, they can burn an action to search the room. You cannot search in the streets. When players search, they draw 1 card from the equipment deck and get a free reorganization action.
3. Reorganize or Trade:
Players will be able to hold up to 5 items in their backpack, plus whatever items they manage to equip. If they want to equip a different item, swap things out, or trade with a player on another space that costs an action. The only exception is if you just searched, you’ll be able to reorganize your equipment (that doesn’t include trading).
4. Open a Door:
Who would have thought opening a door would be such a pain? To open a door you’ll need an item. You can’t just walk up and turn the handle. That would be too easy.
On each item card, there will be a door symbol, a number, and a noise symbol. If it has the door symbol that means the item can be used to open a door. The number shown is the dice roll needed to succeed. The noise symbol will either show a noise symbol or a noise symbol lined out. If it’s lined out, opening the door makes no noise. If it’s just a regular noise symbol, then place a noise symbol after opening the door.
Combat comes in your typical 3 flavors: Ranged, Melee, and Magic. To engage in any kind of combat, first, check the weapon cards you have equipped. There will be 4 numbers along the bottom of the card that show all of the weapon stats.
I’ll explain more about combat in a later section.
6. Cast Enchantments:
If a player manages to scrounge up an enchantment they can use an action point to cast it. Enchantments are basically magic scrolls. Most will say “Once Per Turn” but there are some ways to metagame it, according to the rules. If a player has multiple copies of the same spell, they can cast each one on their turn. A single enchantment can be played multiple times in a round if it’s continually passed to a different character. Each character can then cast it once.
7. Interact with Objectives:
Interacting with mission objectives is going to burn an action as well. What these are can be anything but it’ll all be spelled out in the mission setup.
8. MAKE SOME NOISE:
Maybe you do want more zombies on the field… If you come up with some cunning trap or plan, you can actually attract more zombies to the board by just shouting and making a ton of noise.
These things ROCK! They look really cool and make keeping track of everything so much easier. There are slots to hold all of your cards. The center holds the character card, the left and right slots represent left and right-hand equipment, there’s a spot next to the character card to hold body equipment or armor, and there are 5 slots for item cards in your inventory. It also keeps track of all your experience and life!
I need one of these in real life to keep myself organized.
One of the best things about dungeon crawler games is all the sweet loot you get. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know what any of the gibberish means though.
Crossed Swords: If there’s a crossed swords icon, that means that the weapon can be dual-wielded and you can use one in each hand.
Opening a Door / Making Noise: If it has a door icon and a number, the item/weapon can be used to open a door. Roll a die, and if it meets or exceeds the number written (i.e. 4+), then you’ve successfully opened a door. Be careful though, because it might generate noise which will attract zombies.
Combat Numbers: At the bottom of the weapon card are four separate numbers. Starting from left to right they are:
- Range: The range of the weapon/item is the first number given. 0 means melee range and you have to be in the same target as the target. A 0-1 means you can be in the same space or 1 tile away.
- # of dice rolled: The second number tells how many dice to roll to check for a success. If it’s a 1 roll 1 dice. Make sure to check any character bonuses that may give extra dice.
- # needed to hit: Third is the number required to roll to succeed. 4+ means a roll of 4, 5, or 6 is considered a success.
- # of damage: If you’ve made it this far and succeeded on your roll then you can check to see how much damage you did. Most zombies only take 1 damage but the bigger baddies can soak up the hits.
Each character card has several color-coded abilities. If you’ll notice it matches the EXP indicator at the bottom of the player board.
Coincidence? I think not! As players gain EXP they’ll slowly move up the track. Once they’ve moved to a new colored section, they’ll pick a new ability. Keep in mind that zombie spawns are dependent on the highest level character, so if you have one guy tanking all the kills, you might find the rest of the group out-leveled and staring down an Abomination real quick.
Some maps will hold secret passages to vaults indicated by the board setups. They act as a quick safe passage (zombies don’t spawn in vaults) to move between tiles of the same color and an easy escape point. Keep in mind that once the doors are opened, there’s nothing stopping zombies from moving through it as well.
Walker: Your standard undead; slow moving, stupid, and bitey.
Runner: Zombies aren’t supposed to run! That’s cheating! They get two actions per activation.
Fatty: As the name might imply, they’re a bit beefier than their counterparts and require 2 points of damage to kill.
Necromancer: There’s nothing worse than one of these corpse puppeteers showing up in the middle of a swordfight. They still only take 1 damage to kill, but they’ll create a new zombie spawn point when they show up. They’re also complete cowards and run away as soon as they can. If you manage to kill them you can remove a zombie spawn point from the game, but otherwise, they’re just bad news. It’s always best to kill them before they run away.
Abomination: There is literally no weapon in the game that is strong enough to kill an abomination. That’s a little depressing, but there is a way to kill them. By using Dragon’s Fire to increase damage or using leveled-up player abilities, you will be able to kill them. It’s not easy, but it can happen. If you don’t have any of these, you might want to run.
For your first game, you’ll be using Quest 0 which acts as a tutorial with some special rules to ease you into the game.
Follow the initial setup on page 39 of the rulebook. In this scenario, players will be trying to reach a safe room where a wizard is holding open a magic portal to safety. The rules are fairly simple in this first game in that everyone is trying to make it to the portal.
Some special rules for your first game are that if ever an Abomination is to be spawned in the game you will instead spawn a Fatty zombie. The chances are relatively low that you would even spawn one in your first game, but if you do, just put out a Fatty instead. This is so you don’t get a Total Party Kill on your first game. Abominations are nasty.
There are 3 objectives tokens on the board which basically represent door keys and count as 5exp for whoever picks them up. This can give players a much needed initial boost in exp.
This first scenario will teach a lot of the basics and will get you familiar with the movement, spawning, and some of the special rules of the game. This will take you a little over an hour if it’s your very first game of Zombicide or a little less, depending on how familiar you are with the rules.
Zombicide: Black Plague is generally thought of as a much more polished version over the original. The rules are much cleaner and streamlined. The player boards are a far superior to the originals and its overall production value is just better.
Players who aren’t into the medieval theme may enjoy the modern setting of Core Zombicide better, but if the theme isn’t an issue, or if you prefer the medieval them, Black Plague is considered superior in all other aspects.
Zombicide has been plagued (pun intended) with ambiguous rules since its inception. Although many of the more blatant examples of odd rules have been fixed, there’s still a lot that doesn’t make thematic or mechanical sense. For example, the rules about using a ranged attack while a space is occupied by both a zombie and a player character have been argued quite a bit. Luckily, there’s a slew of homebrew rules online that players have banded together and created to make things a bit more polished.
Why would I purposefully make noise?
It seems like a bad idea, but once you get a few games under your belt it will make sense. Perhaps you need to lure some zombies away from a Necromancer so that you can deliver a deathblow, or maybe a horde of zombies is moving in to split the party. You can even set up some nasty traps by setting down dragon fire and making some noise around the area. Or maybe a character is trapped in a dead end and needs a clear path to escape. We’ve been programmed by zombie movies for decades now that noise=death, but zombies are stupid and you are smart.
Is it just me or do the suggested play times seem off?
This is true with almost every board game. It says that you can finish a game in about 60 minutes… but depending on the scenario and your level of experience, consider adding another hour just to make sure you have enough time to get through the game.
- Awesome miniatures (as always) by CMON
- A ton of minis in one box
- Fun hack-and-slash but also strategic gameplay
- Plenty of quests straight out of the box
- Huge fan support and custom made quests online
- The player boards are awesome and help keep everything in order
- Lots of rules, but the rulebook does a pretty good job of teaching through tutorial quests
Which should I get: Regular Zombicide or Black Plague?
- Black Plague is the better game
- Rules are better defined in Black Plague
- Minis are cooler (subjective opinion)
- The theme is less common in Black Plague
- Black Plague comes with the awesome player boards
If you really don’t like the medieval theme then go for regular. You’re going to have a lot of fun either way, but if you don’t care about the theme and just want an awesome game, then go for Black Plague.
Stats at a glance
Zombicide is an awesome game. Despite a flood of zombie games coming out in recent years, it manages to stand apart by being everything we originally liked about the genre.
Zombicide players hack and slash while completing objectives against a neverending horde of zombies. It’s fast-paced, strategic, and (most importantly) it’s a blast to play.
The theme works really well and all of the characters, abilities, and equipment are all geared towards a medieval brawl with the undead. I personally love zombie-themed everything and Kendra couldn’t care less, but she loves the Middle Ages and thinks the game is awesome.
If you’ve been debating… definitely give it a try. If you own Tabletop Simulator and want to take Zombicide for a test run, there is an official mod to the game that allows you to play regular Zombicide through the game. It’ll be a little bit cheaper, especially if you can find it on sale.
If you think I’ve missed something, have any thoughts about Zombicide or Black Plague, we’d love to hear from you.