“I want to experience it firsthand. I want to know what it feels like to be turned!" - Reed Richard, Earth 2149
One of the trickiest elements in adapting Zombicide into the Marvel Zombies setting is the nature of its Super Heroes. In Zombicide you take on the role of the every-man, utilizing whatever scavenged supplies and weapons you can to survive. Here, we are dealing with specific Super Heroes, each with a specific arsenal and iconic skillset. So, how do you keep the “search and procure” themes of the original Zombicide while staying true to the nature of Marvel Zombies?
Michael Shinall here, co-designer of Marvel Zombies: A Zombicide Game, and that question is exactly what we’re going to dive into today.
We’re going to start by briefly speaking about how the Search system worked in the original Zombicide, for those just coming into the franchise. Then, we’ll look into how we’ve modified it for this version of the system. In Zombicide, Survivors have access to a special Action known as Searching. This is the primary way you find useful Items for your Survivor: new weapons, protective gear, etc., etc. It’s one of the core mechanics of the game and brings much excitement to the table as you never know what you will find. A chainsaw? A frying pan? A bag of rice? It could be anything! That element of discovery is one that attracts many to the system. Unfortunately, that logic stops working when you apply it to Super Heroes like Doctor Strange or Scarlet Witch, who aren’t going to randomly come across a weapon and start firing.
The solution to this was twofold. First, each Super Hero has their own Attack. You won’t find random Weapons through the game. The second, and the focus of our talk, is the existence of Zombie Traits. Mechanically, these function very similarly to how you’d Search in the core Zombicide game. During your Turn, you can spend an Action to tap into your undead nature and draw an Zombie Trait. Your character is limited to holding two of these at any time, but you can swap them out if you gain more.
In normal Zombicide, once you attained an Item, you had it forever (unless you traded it or whatnot) and it usually represented a new Attack of some kind. In Marvel Zombies: A Zombicide Game, Zombie Traits grant you a 1 time use Skill, usually at the cost of increasing your Hunger Level, as you are tapping into the ravenous nature of the virus.
And while this might seem like a simple mechanic swap, it actually affects the overall flow of the game in a deeper way. In core Zombicide, once you’ve decked out your Survivor, it’s time to get down to some good ol’ fashioned zombie extermination. Part of the gameplay flow is that, in the early game, you’re slowly building up your arsenal and your Survivor before becoming a powerhouse-zombie-killing-machine. By changing the dynamic of Zombie Traits to being single-use Skills (rather than new Attacks), it means that at no point during the game will gaining additional ones be “suboptimal.” So, you’re always going to want to take the time to get new ones. The parallel here would be, in core Zombicide “Sure, my weapons are good, but I could find something better!” whereas here its “Ok, I expended my Infected Traits… I need new ones! MORE FLESH!”
One of the other changes I cited above is that Zombie Traits represent new Skills, rather than Items. While new attacks are certainly interesting and much of the fun in core Zombicide, combining new Skills from your Zombie Traits along with the innate Skills brought by your Super Hero allows for other forms of customization. Changing your tactics on the fly to meet whatever threat you’re currently facing “Oh no! A surprise room full of SHIELD Troopers!” “Oh no, a normal, lone Thor!” different traits will help you in each of these situations.
This is just one of the ways we’ve modified the core Zombicide experience to better fit the setting. But at the same time, it was our attempt to keep every element grounded in the fundamentals of the game as well. As we’ve said, this is a new version of Zombicide. If it wasn’t Zombicide at its core, then something would be amiss!
And that will cover it for today. We have lots more to unveil as far as mechanics go, so stay tuned for our next article! Until then.
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