In April 2018 CMON unleashed another Zombicide Kickstarter. This time it was Zombicide in space or, to give it its proper name, “Zombicide Invader.”
I mentioned back in March that I wasn’t massively interested in this – although Zombicide is my most-played game, I do have quite a lot of Zombicide stuff already, and I wasn’t a big fan of the monster sculpts.
Still, I kept an eye out and when the campaign actually arrived, the rules changes caught my attention:
- 2 Survivor types (Soldiers and Civilians) with bonuses and restrictions beyond their skill tree.
- Changed Targeting Priority – Tanks (Fatties) are now hit first
- Concentrate Fire (a solution to the problem of being able to do an infinite number of 1-damage hits to a 2-damage enemy without any actual impact).
- No test to Open Doors (no more wasted turns failing to open the things),
- Zombie splits no longer add extra zombies (no more 1-zombie-turns-into-3)
- Running out of figures spawns/activates Abominations rather than the zombie type you ran out of
- New ways of using equipment.
The campaign started off looking like they’d gone back to the model used for Black Plague – 2 tiers, 1 with the expansion (and a few high-tier-only stretch goals) and a basic one. I kept watching, intrigued but not wowed, and the campaign ticked along in a slightly strange position – $1.6 million after 13 days, which is obviously still a hell of a lot of money, but it’s also less than Green Horde managed in 3 days.
Most people predicted a big add-on around the middle of the campaign, to get more money out of existing backers, and drum up more interest. I’m not sure anyone expected quite what they got.
Turning to the Dark Side
Sure enough, the big announcement came, for a new product: Zombicide: Dark Side. However, this wasn’t a big-box expansion, it was a whole new base game! The confusing thing about it was that, even though it was a base game, you could only buy it as an add-on – so you had to get Invader to be allowed to buy Dark Side.
I really liked the look of Dark Side, I preferred the style of monster, and it had a few extra rules that sounded interesting (enemies hide in pits). If there had been a Dark Side-only pledge tier, I would probably have gone for that.
One thing I always keep in mind when I look at buying/backing games, is the possibility of getting a review copy. Given how much Medieval Zombicide we have, would I be ok with the core box-only version of Dark Side?
Well, it didn’t seem like that would be an option either, as Dark Side was going to be a “limited print-run.” This was new terminology for a CMON campaign, but seemed to be defined as ‘only making enough to fulfil KS + retailer pre-orders.’ So probably available at a mark-up from the same webstores selling KS exclusive content for previous campaigns, but unlikely to be floating around in the general world of shops.
Looking out for Number 1
I backed the campaign for a dollar. This allowed some time for the dust to settle, so that I could take stock of exactly what you got for what. I think this is where it landed.
Civilian Pledge – Zombicide Invader (6 survivors, 3 zombie types, 1 Abomination, 10 missions, 2 guns/robots) + 37 extra Survivors, 1 duplicate abomination, 16 extra/alt-pose monsters, 5 unique abominations, 8 each of 3 new enemy types, and 2 robots/guns. $100
Soldier Pledge – all of the above + Black Ops large expansion (6 more survivors, 1 new abomination, 2 guns), 4 extra survivors, 2 unique abominations and the mini-monster spawned by one of those abominations $150
Dark Side – Dark Side box (6 survivors, 3 zombie types, 1 Abomination, 10 missions, 2 guns/robots), 1 duplicate abomination, 6 figures of a unique enemy type, 16 duplicate/alt-pose figures of existing zombies, 3 KS-exclusive “companions” and 10 crossover missions for Dark Side and Invader. $90 added to either of the above pledges.
A Mad Dash
Zombicide Black Plague contained 6 survivors and 6 player dashboards. Wolfsburg, the big-box expansion came with 4 new survivors and 4 dashboards to play extra survivors, as well as a whole new enemy type. There was a small-box expansion that contained 5 new survivors and 2 more dashboards for a total of 12 (the ‘official’ maximum number of survivors the game can be played with.
As a stand-alone box, Green Horde has 6 survivors and 6 dashboards again. However, they figured that people already had access to enough dashboards by now, so focused expansions on new survivors, an enemy type, tiles, quests, equipment etc.
For the space-age, it seems that Dashboards are back in fashion.
Invader comes with 6 dashboards (as you’d expect)
Black Ops also comes with 6 dashboards. It also comes with 6 new survivors. It doesn’t come with a new enemy type (just an abomination and a robot). This was annoying, but somewhat understandable, as this was the only way (aside from buying 2 copies of invader) to get more dashboards and the game is (notionally) playable with up to 12 characters.
Then they announced Dark Side. It’s a standalone game, so it has 6 more dashboards, and 6 more survivors.
Now, if you buy the whole lot, you end up with 18 dashboards! There is no possible way to use more than 12, unless you are running 2 games at once. (Personally, I’ve never gone about 8 Survivors in a game and think that even 10 would give horrendous amounts of downtime). That’s a massive amount of redundancy.
Obviously, CMON knew pre-campaign that they had Invader available. Some people have speculated that this was meant to be next year’s KS, and was only dropped now because the campaign wasn’t performing as well as anticipated, but that’s pure speculation. To my mind, they knew that the extra dashboards were coming, and it would have been really easy to cut some of the excess survivor/dashboard content in Black Ops, give us an extra zombie type.
What you actually get
With all that said, if you get all 3 big boxes, for $240 you’ve got nearly 60 survivors, 40 missions, 10 unique enemy types, 10 abominations. That’s still a lot of mileage in terms of re-play value.
$240 is around £180 right now, 36 hours of play. 40 missions at 1.5 hours is 60 hours – So even if you beat every scenario first time, and never go back to try it with a different enemy/survivor line-up, that’s still £120 to the good in terms of value. Zombicide is one of the few games I can be pretty confident about getting the required table-time to turn that theoretical content into actual hours: less than 6 months after getting Green Horde, it was already at #9 in my all-time most played stakes, comfortably the game that has had the most hours in 2018 (Black Plague is currently down in 4th, I’d expect it to end the year in about 3rd).
Part of me wanted to just get this. It would probably end up being fun, and it would probably end up being good value.
Part of me was feeling the squeeze (on wallet and on gaming time) and was tempted to skip it altogether.
If Dark Side hadn’t happened, I think I’d have been happy just waiting for retail, and trying to bag a review copy of Invader. Knowing that won’t happen (and that it’s probably now or never for Invader) left me more tempted to get stuff.
Zombicide: Busy Neighbours
As an added complication a friend, who lives just a few hundred yards away, has also backed this. Most of our Zombicide play is just me and my wife, but 4 player games with him and his wife are the next biggest category. As I own all the Medieval stuff, it seemed sensible to let him shell out for space-age.
The trouble is, my son is 17 months old, meaning my wife and I can no longer both go out in the evening without weeks of planning. His daughter is 5 months old, meaning they’re just starting to try to get a proper evening/bedtime routine for her, and options for the 4 of us to play a game of an evening have pretty-much dried up in recent times. By 2019, when Invader etc are due to arrive, it seems fairly likely that bed-times will be pretty-much locked in, and our evening game sessions will be a thing of the past. Afternoons are a theoretical possibility, but only if my lad learns to stop grabbing by the time he’s tall enough to reach more than an inch or two in from the edge of the table.
One possibility, was to try to piggy-back on his KS, maybe get a Dark Side as an add-on. Of course, at that point, I knew I’d start wanting to the exclusive aliens, and then it doesn’t take long before the saving in money vs all the extras I’m not getting starts to look like bad economic sense, and it’s better to just get the whole thing myself. Obviously, we could try to split the pledge, but that felt like it would just get messy (who wants Deckard, Starbuck, Leeloo and Judge Dread, and who gets 4 random made-up folk?)
By the standards of previous campaigns, Invader didn’t go too overboard on add-ons. There was a boxed add-on for the various new enemy types, and all the usual plastic replacements for cardboard stuff. The most interesting (if strictly superfluous stuff) were the add-on survivor sets including a gang of orphans (meh), a plague doctor and his associates (mmm…) and a Kabuki Troupe (ooo!) The Kabuki troupe are completely superfluous, given the 40+ survivors I’d end up with, but they also seem much too cool to skip (if they release a Samurai version of Zombicide, I’m getting it, no matter how much it duplicates what I already have)
“Luckily,” I drafted, just after the campaign ended, “the way CMON run their pledge managers, I can postpone the decision” perhaps CMON are getting wise to people’s tricks, because the email for the pledge manager arrived very quickly for this, with deadline of the first of July. Remarkably soon all things considered.
I ended up backing Folklore fairly heavily, which tipped this year’s overall costs some way into the red, but decided to sell-up on L5R and Runewars (Although Runewars needed painting first). Then I found out about an opportunity to late-pledge of 7th Continent and CMON’s new game Death May Die. Both of these were pencilled in for July, after I needed to make my decision. There was also no news on Massive Darkness 2 or anything like it.
In the end, I decided not to get the game, although it was a real wrench of a decision. Knowing that Darkside basically won’t have a retail release and not getting it now means not getting it, really gets you right in the FOMOs.
Obviously, my ultimate assessment of a campaign where I spend $1, and don’t get a game, is going to be very different to my take on a massive campaign where I go more-or-less all-in. Overall though, I think I’d have to say that I’m disappointed in this one. They clearly had a lot of cool ideas, but the overall execution felt a bit of a mess – the stretch goals weren’t coherent, they missed a lot of obvious notes for the homages, and several of the ones they did hit disappeared under a (presumed) flurry of legal activity. $3 million is still a huge project, and (presumably) counts as a massive success for CMON, but it’s also a big drop compared to previous Zombicides.
I’m sure that Zombicide Inavder will still be a fun game, and I hope I get to play it at some point (with any luck I’ll get to review the Invader base-game). I hope I won’t regret not backing it (that’s a lot of negatives in that sentence). In the end though, CMON didn’t do enough to convince me that this warranted £100+ of my money