Zombicide: Campaign Mode

Last year, Wendy and I purchased Zombicide at GenCon and it languished for a while. Eventually we broke it out when we had some friends over, played it and were hooked. I really wanted to play again but our setup in that apartment didn’t really allow for doing that. Then we moved to a larger place.

Now we have enough space to leave our table set up for games. So we started playing Zombicide. The base game is pretty good but a few missions in, it started to feel stale. In parallel we’ve been playing Imperial Assault with a few friends and the campaign nature of it is addictive. Each mission we’re stronger and the Empire is stronger and choices you make affect later games. What if we did the same thing for Zombicide? We really enjoy Zombicide as a two player co-op game so how do we extend that to make choices meaningful?

It turns out there’s no single, official way of running a campaign for Zombicide. Summarizing the options I’ve found:

  • The Switch City campaign is provided for free on the Zombicide site. This is structured such that with each mission you can choose your exit path, changing the next mission you face.
    • Each mission has a base threat level that you start from so while you don’t exactly carry everything over, you do have some sense of advancement.
    • You’re mildly encouraged to hit Red threat level because that allows you to carry over one piece of equipment to the next mission.
    • This requires the base game and extra zombies as it was a kickstarter reward associated with all the extra zombies it came with.
  • The Three Little Wishes campaign associated with the Season 2 kickstarter gives some use to food and water. Between missions, these can be spent to heal wounds that characters have suffered.
    • XP, threat level, and gear accumulate from mission to mission.
    • I like this since it makes food items useful. Thematically, it feels better than just getting food to be discarded.
  • The Arson campaign also provided for free which requires Season 3 (Rue Morgue + Angry Neighbors + Kickstarter extras).
    • Same carry over mechanics as Switch City.
    • Expects extra minis above and beyond the base boxes (kickstarter extras).
  • The Ultimate Survivors box comes with rules for leveling your characters with abilities which carry over from session to session.
    • Survivors accumulate experience cards from game to game but start the next mission at base threat level. For instance, you may get an experience card to get +1 free melee attack with a fire axe, or +1 damage with fire axe, or starts with pistol, etc. Some abilities are clearly better than others.
    • Zombvivors stick around.

We ended up going with Ultimate Survivors, using all of the survivors from it and playing through the Season 2 missions in order, with a couple tweaks / clarifications. First, if any character perma died (couldn’t become a Zombvivor, or died while Zombvivor), that counted as fail and we lost the campaign. Second, if all characters turned into Zombvivors, we failed. Someone had to stay a regular human after all. Third, if we failed a mission, we’d reset state to how we started the mission and try again. Each mission start was effectively an auto-save checkpoint. Fourth, no equipment, wounds, or threat carry over from mission to mission but experience cards do.

So while going through Season 2 we concluded that the difficulty ratings for the missions are bogus. The real difficulty comes from how many spawn points there are. Also, some of the extra experience options are WAY better than others. +1 damage with fire axe means that it’s possible to kill an abomination from the start since you start with a fire axe. Combined with Ultimate Wanda’s Bloodlust Melee ability[*] and we had a surprisingly easy time with abominations.

If we were to do it again, I think we’ll carry over equipment & threat, allow food to heal between missions, and run in ultra-red mode. Starting missions in red threat level seems like it’ll be the appropriate amount of scary, as this felt just a little too easy.

[*] Bloodlust melee: Spend one Action with the Survivor: He moves up to two Zones to a Zone containing at least one Zombie. He then benefits of a free Melee Action.

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