This year, I had the distinct pleasure of attending CMON Expo, the weekend was full of gaming, painting and oogling all the lovely pretties that have become synonymous with Cool Mini or Not. For those not familiar with CMON (that’s an acronym for those keeping score at home): the company started as a website that rated painted miniatures, a lot like HotOrNot.com. While that aspect of the company exists, CMON has since established itself as a publisher of great games, many of which have, of course, some cool minis in the box.
Two I was especially excited to try were Blood Rage and Zombicide: Black Plague, both games that are in production and are to be released. Having played them through, I can say for certain that they’re now on my must-own list. Let’s go over each game.
If you like Smallworld, you’ll love Blood Rage. A map-style conquest game that has familiar elements including fixed game turns (read: finite length) and a victory point system. With that said, Blood Rage is a much more layered. It both feels as though it requires both more skill and more luck to earn the victory and the game itself feels more furious.
The game plays fast, even with 4. While we were learning it took about 90 minutes, though actually gameplay can be easily distilled down to 1 hour as shown in this gameplay video.
The concept is that you control a proud viking clan, represented by some cool looking miniatures. It is Ragnorok — the end of the world — and your clan is seeking glory. You can solicit help on your path to glory from a variety of mythical creatures, pillage lands to help you on your quest to glory, and improve your clan to be ready for end.
What’s interesting is how the luck element plays into this game. Cards that are upgrades to your forces (including the ability to take trolls or other mythical creatures), and quests that can increase your victory points and cards that modify the strength of your force in a battle are somewhat randomly distributed. They’re shuffled and dealt into a number of piles, each of which start with a different player who looks at the pile, chooses one, and passes the pile on. If you want to know what opportunity cost feels like in a game, this is the game for you.
Like going into decline in Smallworld, game turns reset, dealing a whole new set of upgrades, quests, and battle strength cards to each player.
Battles are fought between two or more (yes more!) players. While strength of forces garrisoned in the territory are calculated (like Smallworld) to determine victory, battles also have a bluffing component, where battle strength modifiers can substantially change the tide. Instead of battles feeling stale and automated, they’re instead highly engaging with high stakes. Failing to win a battle means all forces in the territory die. Failing to win a battle includes ties in battle, which wipe out all forces involved.
Strategy is how you play the hand you’ve been dealt – to maximize opportunities you’re presented to earn the most victory points. Victory points are earned through winning battles, dying, and going to Valhalla (by losing battles and having an appropriate quest card) and holding territories at the end of the turn (again with a quest card). Combined with the fact that quests are randomly distributed, it also keeps the game from feeling stale on subsequent plays – you’ll never find the same path to victory twice.
Things I love about this game:
- VIKINGS (also, GIRL VIKINGS!)
- High luck & high skill game, meaning the game has a high replayability and is enjoyable when playing with a mix of people who are both familiar and unfamiliar with the game.
- Plays short and furiously, providing a high fun efficiency (where fun is a measure over time)
- AMAZING looking models (that I plan on painting)
- Butchering the names of the territories is a fun mini-game that is free with purchase
ZOMBICIDE: BLACK PLAGUE
Zombicide is my jam. I love the game, I love the models and I love how much character the game has. Aesthetically, it’s irreverent, spunky, and kitchy. When CMON announced Black Plague, a Zombicide set with a medieval fantasy theme, they couldn’t take my money fast enough. Or anyone else’s for that matter, as the game funded in the blink of an eye and its Kickstarter is sitting nearing 2.2 million dollars as of this writing.
For those of you not familiar, Zombicide is a cooperative game where you and your closest friends try to survive the apocalypse. You are all survivors, playing against zombies, who operate on a simple algorithm and don’t require players to control them. The game is fun in that there are a number of scenarios and expansions that continually keep the game feeling fresh (at least as fresh as a game full of zombies can be).
In Black Plague, the models are arguably better than ever, the rules are slightly modified to make things more fun, and the cards and upgrades are befitting of the medieval fantasy universe. The components of the game have gotten a bit of an upgrade — instead of a character sheet, you get a fantastic character dashboard which better organizes inventory items, weapons, and experience earned.
Some other notable changes:
- You don’t shoot your friends first, when you shoot into a square with zombies and quest companions. You only shoot them when you miss (doh!).
- You may have noticed there’s a new enemy model – that’s a necromancer. That’s just because a medieval zombie apocalypse wasn’t enough.
- Food items (equivalent to water, rice and canned beans) can be discarded for XP (hooray for not wasting search actions anymore!)
- There is a cellar map addition that basically creates tunnels within maps for survivors AND zombies. Can you say Leeroy Jenkins?
The bottom line is that if you loved Zombicide, you will love this game. You can currently back it on Kickstarter.
If you’ve never played Zombicide, check out this short Zombicide Let’s Play to get a feel for the game. And if you want to see how easy it is to paint some zombie models, check out my Zombicide painting tutorial.
Both Blood Rage and Zombicide: Black Plague are slated to be released to the public (read: Kickstarter backers) towards the end of the year, with expectations to hit store shelves in shortly after (October for Blood Rage, January 2016 for Black Plague).
What do you think of these games? Do you back games on Kickstarter, or do you wait for them to hit your FLGS? Let us know in the comments!
Interested in other tabletop games? Want to paint miniatures for you games, or watch other Let’s Plays? Check out Teri’s YouTube Channel for videos about tabletop and miniature wargaming.
Game and component photos courtesy of CMON.