A Review of Marvel Zombies: Heroes’ Resistance

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Marvel Zombies was originally a cooperative game on a Kickstarter here in 2022: in that game, the players play as the zombies. That is NOT the game we are reviewing here.

I have to admit, I don’t like zombies. At all. So, I had no interest in playing as a zombie, even if it were a cooperative game.

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Note that there was also a Marvel Zombies: X-Men Heroes’ Resistance game in that Kickstarter as well, where you play the last remaining heroes fighting the zombies! Now that sounds like fun for me!! That’s the game I wanted! Unfortunately, in order to get the Marvel Zombies: X-Men Heroes Resistance game, you had to plunk down $240 to get the Resistance pledge and get the core Marvel Zombies game (where you play as zombies) as well (see above). What?!?!?! That’s crazy! I can’t just get Heroes’ Resistance? Nope!! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Kickstarter!! I just wanted the Heroes’ Resistance!

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Fast-forward about 8 months, and I was able to find Marvel Zombies: Heroes Resistance in early December at Barnes and Noble for $34.99! This is the game I want: play as heroes fighting the zombies! Sure, there are some zombified heroes to fight along the way, but the core premise is that the players are playing Marvel Heroes (Hulk, Black Panther, Spiderman, Wasp, Winter Soldier, or Vision), saving bystanders, and taking out zombies! Now that sounds like fun to me! So, I picked it up!

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It was a little hard to find this game! I had heard it existed outside of the Kickstarter, so I sought it out! Strangely, when I was looking, the only place I could find it was locally at my Barnes and Noble! I could not find it online! Now, of course, as a I write this review, it’s available on Amazon and a few other places.

Let’s take a look!

Unboxing and Gameplay

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See Coke Can for perspective above as we open the box!

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There are quite a number of punchouts … see above and below!

The insert is pretty nice (at first … see below).  It houses all the minis and cards and some dice.

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In this game, each player takes the role of a hero and plays that hero:

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You can play Vision, Wasp, Winter Solider, Hulk, Spiderman, or Black Panther.  See the minis above.  Now each character has some unique special powers, as described on their player cards (below).

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Below is a close-up of the Winter Soldier’s card: Notice he has two plastic markers.  The top marker denotes how many hit points the hero has: if any hero ever goes to zero hit points, all players lose.  Note: this is not immediate!  Interestingly, this check is made at the very end of the turn, so if the heroes happen to achieve the mission results before the end of the turn and everyone dies, they still win!

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The left marker denotes “power”: many abilities in the game are powered by power.  For example,  Winter Solider can spend 1 power for his Combat Reflexes (see above).

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If there’s ever any doubt that this is a zombie game, seeing all the zombie standees set-up will relieve all doubt!  The zombies are also very intimidating!  See the picture above!  In this game, zombies do what zombies do: move towards the heroes and try to eat them!  There are plain zombies, fast zombies and tough zombies!! 

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Of course, some Marvel heroes have been zombified already, and act as very scary zombies!! See Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, and Captain America on the cards above. Once the Zombie heroes get on the board, the game becomes a lot harder!  They are much more difficult to defeat! See their awesome little minis below.

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In the game, the heroes will have to rescue bystanders from zombies.  Each bystander, once you rescue it, will give you some special powers: see their cards below.

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There are bunch of different scenarios in the rulebook, each  describing the set-up and objectives.  In general, the objectives are to survive, rescue bystanders, and escape! See the tutorial mission below.

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Using the cardboard tiles to set-up the city, you’ll see the set-up for scenario 1 like below:

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Players move around the city and fight zombies, trying to save bystanders!  Each player has 3 action points to spend on movement, opening doors, fighting zombies, rescuing bystanders, and a few other things (some special per player).

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Opening doors is a big deal: once you do, you reveal zombies within buildings!

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Combat is dice-based: each character has its own notion of “what’s a success” and “how many dice to roll”.  

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For example, Winter Soldier gets 2 dice on a melee attack (see COMBAT BLADE) , and hits on 3+ on the dice. (You can also spend power points to add more dice: 1 per power points).

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Every zombie you kill gives you experience: the more experience you get, the more powers you unlock! Winter Solider starts with only the power in the blue zone (Assassinate) because his experience is 0 at the start of the game, but as he gains experience for killing zombies, he gains more powers!  At orange, he gets an extra action! At red, he can invoke Combat Reflexes! And dark red, he becomes a Hand-To-Hand Expert!

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… but, the more experience you get, the more effective and numerous the zombies are!  When you look at an event card, you activate all colors matching your experience level (strictly, matching the highest experience level of any character)!  So, you get better as the game goes, but so do the Zombies!

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You can also spend some of your action points to get a Heroic Trait!  Heroic Traits are cards you can discard to do cool stuff, but unfortunately, you can only ever have two. See some examples above.

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Like most co-ops, play alternates between the good guys and the bad guys until someone wins! The zombies can win in a number of ways, but essentially killing a hero does it.  The heroes victory condition changes per scenario (but typically you have to save some bystanders and escape). 

The components are pretty great, if a little tiny: the cards and minis all feel one size too small, but they still work fine.  In general, I was happy with the components!

Rulebook

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This rulebook was ok.  In general, everything was there.

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The rulebook gets about a B on The Chair Test:  See above.  Some of the rulebook edges are flopping over the side of the chair: you can still read it, but it could be better.

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The rulebook looks long (32 pages), but don’t despair! The last half of the rulebook contains scenarios.

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The rulebook starts great with a Table of Contents and labelled look at all components! 

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The next page helps you through some set-up: putting some things together.

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This set-up picture was nice to have, but it would have been better to be the introductory set-up scenario shown in the picture.  The steps were also unlabelled: bummer.

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In fact, the set-up spans two disjoint pages, making it that much harder to set-up.  Honestly, that was kind of a misstep in this rulebook.  But the game overview is good.

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But, the rulebooks shows lots of pictures, and describes a lot of examples! It tends to lean a little bit too much on the pictures (which are very good at showing  lot of rules) at the expense of slightly better explanations.  

Each scenario is described on its own pages:

The rules end with an index (which I did use):

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… and the last page includes some useful game info.

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In general, this rulebook was decent to pretty good. I was able to learn the game solo and then teach my friends (looking up some rules while playing).

Solo Play

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The game plays 1-4 players, so it does follow Saunders’ Law.  But, no matter how many players you have, there must always be 4 heroes in play!  That means the solo player must operate all 4 heroes by himself!  Luckily, the heroes special  powers aren’t that complicated (at first), so you can get into it.  Unfortunately, as the game ramps up, each hero has more and more powers to activate, so that makes each character harder and harder to play: the context switch between characters becomes longer and longer.

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I was able to win my first play solo in the tutorial mode.  And I liked it.  But I worry …  as the scenarios themselves  get longer and more complex (the intro was pretty short), each hero will be that much harder to operate! The heroes will have more powers to keep track of, thus making the context switches between heroes that much harder.

But, I was able to learn the game solo, allowing me to teach my friends cooperatively.

Cooperative Play

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Cooperative play is best at 4 players: each player takes the role of just one hero: that’s what we did! See above.

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Something that seemed to emerge from cooperative play was some roleplaying!  Andrew, who played Hulk, really got into it …  and he was joking about carrying doors and J. Jonah Jameson around!  And I made web sounds for Spiderman, Sara made Wasp buzz, and Teresa made Winter Solder … get depressed … like he should!  Knowing the Marvel characters really helped up inhabit these characters!  It  naturally encouraged us to roleplay, making the game more fun.

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Cooperation was bountiful: the Player Selected Turn Order really enhanced the cooperation.

What I Liked

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Marvel Zombies: Heroes Resistance does have Player Selected Turn Order,  so that the heroes can decide per round in what order to play.  I’ve always really enjoyed this mechanism, as it helps encourage cooperation!  “What Order do we go in this time to make the best choices?”  I love that Marvel Zombies: Heroes’ Resistance has embraced this mechanism: it makes me like the game even more.  It gives us more choices!  (To be clear, this is coarse-grained PSTO, as players can choose the order to play, but each player has to take their full turn before the next player.  Other cooperative games, like The Reckoners have fine-grained PSTO where players can spread out all their actions across players!)

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The game also looked really great on the board and everything was every easy to distinguish! See above!  The colored rings on the heroes really helped!  It’s why I spent so much time looking for rings in Hour of Need: the colored rings really help distinguish the heroes from each other.   The zombies, as orange standees, are clearly zombies!  The Zombie Heroes, as green minis, are clearly Zombie Heroes! The Bystanders, as blue standees, are clearly bystanders!  This, coupled with the city tiles really makes the game standout on the board.

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I also liked that the zombies came out fast and really pretty terrifying! It really helped the game ambiance! If there were ever a game I didn’t want to come to life, it’s this one!  The zombie hoard was a bit terrifying as you saw more and more and more come out …

What I Didn’t Like

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By far my biggest complaint in the game was the Target Priority: see the rules above.  Basically, when you are engaging in combat, players are forced to fight certain enemies before other enemies!  If there are 11 Walker zombies about to tear you to shreds, but a Brute and Zombie Hero is on the same space you must fight the Zombie Hero first, then the Brute, the Walkers!  This makes no sense to me: I should be able to target the zombies however I want! If the Winter Soldier wants to kill the Walkers so that Hulk can take out The Zombie Hero, you can’t do that! You MUST fight the zombies in Target Priority!! I hate this rule! It takes away player choice for no reason.  What’s even weirder is that Marvel Zombies: Heroes’ Resistance has Player Selected Turn Order, a mechanism that furthers player choice, but then removes some of  that choice with Target Priority!  Very strange.  I may never play with the Target Priority rule:  I really despise it! I feel like the game is playing me rather than me playing the game.

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Another thing that seemed weird: the “1” on the dice is a “jaw with teeth”, but it kinda looks like a 6: see above.  “Did I roll 3 sixes?  Oh no, whoops! That’s a 1!”  I know the dice were doing that to be thematic, but the jaw choice looks a little too much like a 6.  It’s not a big deal, but it did trip us up a few times, really!

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I also didn’t love that you always must have 4 heroes in play.  That’s great in a 4-Player game, seems manageable in a 2 or 3-Player game, but I think it has major maintenance consequences and context switch problems in solo mode.  

Another thing I don’t like: once you punch out the zombies out and try to pack everything up, the game doesn’t really fit in the box very well.  This was surprising, given how good the insert is.  The box just doesn’t close all the way …

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Conclusion

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I was surprised how much I liked Marvel Zombies: Heroes’ Resistance, especially since I don’t like zombie games!! It was fun, the rules weren’t too complex, the game looks great on the board, each player feels unique, there are a lot of interesting choices, and even a little but of roleplaying seems to emerge when you play! Despite its zombie theme, me and my friends really enjoyed this. I think part of the enjoyment is that the Zombicide rules (that this game is based on) have gone through a lot of evolution to become the streamlined ruleset we see here.

Honestly, Marvel Zombies: Heroes’ Resistance might have made my Top 10 Cooperative Board and Cards Games of 2022 if it weren’t for the Target Priority rule! That one rule just sticks in my craw because it takes away from all the other great choices you can make in the game! Of course you can ignore that rule easily, and I honestly suspect a lot of people will accidentally ignore it (because it’s not thematic and easy to forget). My advice: ignore the rule and enjoy the game for what it is: 7.5 or 8/10 without the Target Priority rule. This is maybe a 6.5/10 with the rule: I really hate that rule.

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