Review: Zombicide – Toxic City Mall

Zombicide has gotten quite a few different expansions out since it was first released, with many of them sufficient to work as a base game. I had a lot of reservations with Zombicide. While the quality of the components were great, aspects of the game play were lacking. Some parts were downright broken and needed house rules to fix (side note, totally feel vindicated on altering the shooting rules as an upcoming medieval version has something similar). However I have to grudgingly admit for a crazy zombie destroying experience akin to the video game, Left4Dead, Zombicide can be a lot of fun.Toxic_City_mall_box

Toxic City Mall is another expansion to the game and closer to a true expansion unlike Prison Outbreak and Rue Morgue (which were stand-alone games). There are only 4 survivors and a pittance of special zombies in Toxic City Mall. It is more designed to work with the base Zombicide game, however there are a few missions in the rules that integrate with Prison Outbreak. While you can mix and match zombies, equipment, and map tiles with Rue Morgue, I don’t believe there are official scenarios in the rules of either book.

Toxic City Mall introduces a few interesting elements to the base game. The most notable are toxic zombies. These are special zombies that spray toxic goo onto their attackers. If killed in the same zone as their attacker, they essentially get a free zombie attack and can inflict a wound onto a survivor. They get higher priority for shooting compared to zombies of a similar type (i.e. toxic runners will get eliminated before regular runner zombies). Toxic zombies come in all types, even a toxic abomination. Toxic abominations have a special rule that convert regular zombies into toxic ones, making them a priority to tackle as they can end up converting a horde of zombies into more lethal versions.

The game also introduces some other small board effects like barricades and rubble. Rubble essentially are piles of debris that block line of sight and movement, allowing you to tinker with board layouts creating choke points and cutting off avenues of movement. Barricades are only used in select scenarios. Barricades require a whopping total of 6 actions to build. The plus is that all players involved in building one get 5 experience.

Barricades are interesting as they don’t block line of sight or shooting, only movement. Lastly, they will stay up until a zombie in an adjacent zone gets an extra activation (either due to splitting or specific spawn cards). They can be a very effective means to corral zombies and allow you to pick them off from shooting. However if a horde builds up and you are unlucky to get an extra activation, you could see that barricade crumble and a mob of zombies piling into survivors.

The likely biggest change to the game however is the addition of zombivors, zombiefied slain survivors that have resurrected as newly undead. Oddly they are still good guys and are allies to other survivors. Slain survivors are simply removed. The next turn their survivor character card is flipped over, carrying over any remaining equipment and experience their living version had, and finally switching out model figures. Toxic City Mall has player cards and zombie version of figures for the original Zombicide included.

A zombie version of one of the new survivors.

A zombie version of one of the new survivors.

The zombie versions have similar skills, except they lose the general extra action at the yellow level and instead gain a bonus specific action. Further, they are much tougher and require 5 wounds to be eliminated. I really love this about the expansion and it addresses one issue I had with the base game. It’s much more forgiving allowing a player to essentially get a do over if their survivor character becomes the main course in a zombie feast.

There are more goodies and equipment cards like assault rifles and hollow point rounds. Toxic City Mall also introduces an extra level red mode. Essentially your character just keeps leveling up gaining more skills by restarting the experience track. This also allows them to equip some special, vicious weapons if they are lucky to find them. It’s a minor addition but something some people might like in making their zombicide games ‘go up to eleven.’

The Good – The toxic zombie types are a good addition to the mix. They shake up the tactics some emphasizing ranged attacks in order to take them out. Adding barricades and rubble to regular maps is also something that can add a little variation to most scenarios. The zombie versions of survivors is likely the strongest addition and something I feel helps address the flaws in the original game.

The Bad – There is some excitement you might get picking up the expansion on the prospect of adding mall tiles, until you realize they pretty much are just additional buildings and special road sections. While there are a few tweaks with the toxic zombies in game effects, they don’t add much else to the game play and sadly abominations are still just huge bullet sponges.

Abominations lead into gear a bit. A fair number of cards are unusable for much of the game. Ultra red cards are only good if a player is in the red level (although they can be discarded for 5 experience). Also quite a bit of equipment comes down to combining it with other existing weapons to make them more effective, rather than just adding to players’ arsenal directly. Search actions are so limited, it can become a chore trying to find decent gear. This is compounded as some missions require creating molotovs, and being able to get all the correct combination of gear cards to make one can be frustrating.

The scenarios are alright but nothing stands out as tremendously innovative. You are still searching for certain gear or going after particular objectives in a set sequence. About a third of the ten missions require having the Prison Outbreak set (and bummer for you if that is your base set for the game). Missions are bigger and longer, however I do wish an additional 1-2 scenarios were provided that were smaller in scale and a little easier to tackle.

The Verdict – Toxic City Mall is a good expansion for Zombicide. The silly shooting rule is still an issue, but allowing players to pop right back into the game again as tougher versions is a great addition. The toxic zombies are a nice way to add some challenge and variation to the zombie horde without adding too much complexity. Plus it’s very modular. You can easily add more equipment and toxic zombies to the regular base game and breath some new life into old scenarios.

The same can be said for rubble and barricades. A difficult mission can be altered in layout to make it a little easier. At the same time, tried and true strategies can be shaken up some (like throwing a large chunk of rubble down in Y-Zone to make it a long gauntlet to run). Again, some small bits and pieces to add to your regular game.

There are more missions to play, different gear to equip, and weapons to tear into zombies with. I’d say if you wanted one expansion to buy for your Zombicide game, this is the one to pick up. There’s a lot here to really supplement the base set and breathe some new life into your frantic games of zombie destruction.