Night of the living dead was the first Romero zombie movie in 1968 and brought us the flesh-eating zombies we fear and love today. There was a movie called White Zombie released in 1932 but this portrayed Zombies as slaves rather than horrendous, rotting, reanimated corpses so Romero is the reason we have the types of Zombie we do today and why some people feel “Zombied” out.
I on the other hand still like Zombie stuff and so bought Zombicide Black Plague from a Facebook board game group in 2019. It has spent a good deal of time at the table and I am almost finished painting the figures. I have also spent a good deal of time and money 3D printing doors, cardholders, chests and all manner of accessories to enhance the experience.
Then I saw a Kickstarter for a new CMON Zombicide game, Night of the Living Dead, A Zombicide Game. This was the game of the film that started it all and I backed it immediately.
It took about a year but finally, the game arrived and with it my Kickstarter extras, Night of the Living Dead: Dead of Night box with extra characters, Deputy Vince, Chief Mclelland, Karen and Johnny figures in two forms, Romero Mode and Zombicide Mode. With them are the accompanying double-sided ID cards and two additional 2 equipment cards, the meat hook and Karen’s trowel. There are also 2 Ghoul miniatures of Helen as a Zombie.
If you have played any Zombicide game you will be very familiar with the way the game looks and feels but this is not a cash grab to bring us the same game we already have with different characters and tiles.
Yes, it’s the same sort of game, pick your character, build out the map and find weapons and items to smash zombies and complete objectives. This is true of every game though isn’t it, “you have a board and you move around it to win the game”.
Being similar to something doesn’t make it a copy of that thing and whilst Night of the living dead is a Zombicide game it’s also the movie it is based around and, if I have understood the rules correctly, this makes it quite different.
In Night of the Living Dead, A Zombicide Game the Ghouls, Zombies are called Ghouls now, by the way, the Ghouls come in four flavours, Walkers, the typical style of shambling 1 damage to kill type, Fatties, 2 damage to kill and fat, Breakers, they can break through your barricades and take 1 to kill and lastly relatives, relatives take 1 to kill but perhaps are the biggest pain in the game.
You see, there is a new mechanic in play that changes the game and if I am honest, I am not sure I really like it. It’s not a bad change and its probably personal preference but I just don’t like the Romero mode.
For those of you unaware of how Zombicide works I should explain how the game plays. Initially, when you set up the game you choose a character and a scenario, you take your character mini, a character card and a player dashboard. Your dashboard holds your currently equipped items and a backpack which has slots for other items you find. There are also pegs to track your hit points, a counter to show your selected skills and most importantly, a threat level tracker.
When you kill a Ghoul or successfully perform specific action you gain a skill level and this is tracked on the aforementioned tracker. As your skill level increases you become more threatening passing through each of the colour coded zones, Blue, Yellow, Orange and Red, and each time you draw a Ghoul spawn card you spawn the number of Ghouls indicated for that zone, the higher your threat, the more Ghouls that spawn.
The game continues in phases, during the survivors’ phase you can perform three actions, maybe more depending on your skill level. You could choose to search, move, open a door, barricade a window or door, reorganise/trade, you could perform a combat action, pick up an objective token, perform a car action or you could do nothing, but the first time you do nothing you lose all of your other actions.
I will use Barbera’s card as an example of the skills and how they are distributed. In Romero mode, Barbera has one skill in Yellow, in orange and one in Red. They are, in Yellow, Slippery, you can move out of a space with Ghouls in with no penalty, in Orange +1 action and in Red +1 move action.
When you flip the card, you become Slippery in Blue, you get +1 action in Yellow, you can choose between +1 free combat action or +1 free move action in Orange and in Red you can either roll +1 combat dice, +1 free move action or Barbarian where you can substitute the number of on the melee weapon with the number of Ghouls in your zone.
As you can see, having to shift back into Romero mode can be frustrating, especially when a relative shows up in the middle of a hoard. When the relative is removed from the game you switch back but they become a focus that you may not want to deal with and why would seeing a dead Johnny affect Ben for example?
Getting into Zombicide mode is pretty straightforward in most scenarios, for example in the first scenario you are tasked with barricading the house. You can switch to Zombicide mode if you give the Winchester 94 to another survivor by using an action to trade.
You could choose to omit this switch if you wanted but the game is a lot easier than other Zombicide games I have played. Seriously, at most I have lost twice in all the time I have played. I have been through the 10 scenarios in the rule book and the additional scenario on the CMON website.
There are ways to make the game harder but other Zombicide games have struck a better balance between fun and difficulty level.
The game is of the usual CMON quality with beautiful sculpts that look like the characters from the movie and its always nice to see some genuine passion being put into a project. To be clear my favourite movie of all time is Dawn of the Dead, the correct one, the 1978 movie where Peter says, “when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth”.
That would have been a far more interesting movie to make a game from come to think of it. You could have started in the studio, moved to the Mall, had to secure it and then clear out the zombies and finally you would get attacked by the biker gang. Stephen, Peter, Roger and Francine could have had special skills based around their actual characters, Stephen “flyboy” would have been a bad shot but able to fly a helicopter to go to other missions and Peter and Roger would have been excellent shots while Francine would have been friends with them all and secretly a strong independent woman who levels up to learn to fly and saves herself and Peter. Incidentally, each of the actors in the movie is in their 70’s now!
In fact, it’s because of that movie I am scared of zombies today. I have all the Romero movies on DVD and would never get rid of them despite me not owning a DVD player for the last 8 years.
There are mechanics that add to the game however, barricades, for example, can be built in front of windows and doors and can only be removed by one type of Ghoul, time or certain events.
What we have then is Zombicide easy mode with an irritating mechanic. Switching between the two modes means constantly switching out the character models, changing the pegs and all because a relative turned up, was killed on the next move and so everything goes back to the other mode. This is quite a fun thing to do the first time it happens but by the time you are partway through the second scenario, you will be as jaded to the idea as me.
We “tweaked” our game with some house rules that would not necessarily be popular and have been writing a scenario that involves starting at the farmhouse, using the car to get to a village (using Zombicide black plague tiles), finding food and items and bringing it back to the farmhouse.
Night of the Living Dead is not the best Zombicide game, but it is good. If you have a games collection it’s one that should be in it however if you are new to Zombicide, this is not the place to start, or finish really. Its another Zombicide game with great minis and some fun to be had but this will not be your go-to game for a night of undead bashing.
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