Zombicide Invader is the brand new sci-fi themed cooperative board game, from publisher CMON. Designed by Raphaël Guiton, Jean-Baptiste Lullien and Nicolas Raoult, this instalment of the franchise is the first to venture further in time than modern day. In typical sci-fi fashion Humans have found a valuable fuel, Xenium, on an alien planet. Arriving on the planet the infected local population, the Xenos, aren’t exactly welcoming and start attacking. 1- 6 players will be spending actions, moving miniatures and chucking dice to complete objectives and survive. However, is this just another Zombicide with a reskin? Let’s find out!
Included in the rulebook is a 10 chapter campaign. Setup is dependant on the scenario chosen. The map tiles in use, the way they are orientated and which side of the double sided tiles is all listed. Where players start out, if there are already Xenos spawned, where Xenos will spawn from in future rounds is laid out clearly. This is also where any scenario specific setup rules are included, such as shuffling in hidden special objectives. Once the board is ready player split out the survivors evenly and it is just the intro lore text to go.
At the start of the game players have three action points to spend. This will later increase, with new abilities acquired, as experience points are earnt. Many actions are available but the commonly used ones are to move, search, pick up an objective or use a weapon. Moving to an adjacent space is simple if not on a space with Xenos – costing more action points otherwise. Searching will allow the player to find some new loot. This could be a new, hopefully better, weapon or armour. Occasionally when searching Xenos might spawn though this is handled more thematically than in past installments – with the Xenos not randomly being found in the same room as the survivor.
Using weapons sees the dice come into play. Each weapon comes with an amount of dice and a target value. First, choose some Xenos and roll the appropriate number of dice. Then, for each dice higher than the target value it counts as a success and can be used to kill a Xenos – unless it is a low damage weapon against something like a tank.
Ranged weapons come in two types, somewhat of a change from previous installments. Some are bullet based, while others are energy based. It doesn’t sound like much of a change though bullet based weapons can only be used inside. Do you dare running through an airlock – preferably with an Oxygen tank – without a working weapon or just a melee weapon? It makes the decision of when to venture outside a more meaningful one.
Each character is different. Even at the start of the game characters will have differing starting abilities and health levels. New in Zombicide Invader is that there are types of survivors: civilian and military. While military personal come with more health they are resigned to only searching for weaponry in designated map spaces. Being able to search anywhere, civilians sound great but they often cannot tank much damage, so there is a nice balance. Some characters start or can unlock the ability to use bots or turrets, with one of each included in Zombicide Invader. These are fun to use and can devastate the Xenos.
Once all survivors have had a turn then it is the Xenos phase. This is effectively the board having a turn to disrupt plans and spawn more enemies. Firstly, all of the Xenos on the board will activate, moving closer to noise or towards survivors in line of sight. If Xenos activate on a survivor’s space instead they deal damage – hopefully costing players their armour not their life! Next, for each spawn point a card is flipped from the Xeno deck. This sees more units added to the board accordingly. Once the board has been the first player token is passed clockwise and the next round begins.
Whenever an abomination spawns with it comes a new component mold (mould). Whenever the abomination then moves mold appears at its feet. While mold can be burnt – inactivated – via a flamethrower and a canister it isn’t just there for aesthetics. A number of the spawn cards, including those in the equipment deck, see Xenos spawn on every mold space. This can see a monumental amount of plastic miniatures appear on the board instantly. Whilst somewhat similar to the Horde mechanic in Zombicide Green Horde these are across the board not from one spawn locations.
Each mission has different ending conditions. These range from locating specific items to saving a trapped child. These can often bring in unique ways to fail a mission such as not saving the kid in time! This isn’t the only way to lose though. Letting a survivor die or letting an abomination spread the mold to connect spawn points can also lose players the game. Either way, at the end of the game, it is either time to replay the mission or if victorious move onto the next one!
The amount of Xenos that spawn and the number of times the abomination appears in the deck players needed something to help them. This is where the best improvement comes in, concentrated attack. In previous Zombicide titles players have been forced to run from abominations unless they have 3 damage dealing weapons. It might not be the end of running but now players can choose to chance their luck. Stating you are effectively focus firing on one target players can roll all of their weapon dice against one unit. Getting as many successes as damage needed will see the player pull it off, something risky yet exhilarating.
The components keep to the high standard expected from a CMON miniatures title. There is little more to say other than wow about the highly detailed and solidly made minis. They give the game an undeniable table presence, though it does daunt some new to the hobby. The new player board design works well with the way some items are attached to weapons. The layout allowing for a card to slide underneath another in the weapon slot. Otherwise, the changes are minimal.
Whilst more of a storage issue there is still little to no room to store tokens in the box. Nor is there something provided to put them into. Therefore, the tokens for the likes of spawns and objectives are left to rattle annoyingly around the box. This isn’t the first Zombicide, neither is it a cheap game. I’d of expected CMON to have been able to come up with something to fix this by now.
More than any other Zombicide title, in Invader players feel like they have a chance against the biggest enemies and hordes of Xenos too. Rather than fleeing from impossible to kill abominations players are empowered with concentrated attack to tackle the Xenos head on. This leads to more moments that rely on the dice gods. However, this is a game built on throwing dice and having fun. The Xenos are certainly more alien than Zombie, something that doesn’t 100% sit right with me for a Zombicide named title. The sci-fi theming stands up to the mechanics just as the modern and medieval settings did though and most importantly it is a thrill to tear though some Xenos!
[Editor’s Note: Zombicide Invader was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes.The game it is currently available from local board game stores, find your local store here]