Custom Gaming: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Zombicide

“It’s quiet.”

“Yeah, a little too quiet.”

The four brothers continued their patrol beneath the streets of the city. It had been days since they last heard from April or Casey, and the Shellcells stopped working at the same time. The normal rumble of the city streets had been replaced with… nothing. Mikey scouted ahead and signaled that the tunnel was all clear.

Raphael finally said what they had all been thinking. “It doesn’t matter what Master Splinter says, we need to go topside.” The four turtles began to climb up the ladder and pushed aside the manhole cover. The stale air was unsettling.

“Dudes, it smells like a sewer up here,” Mikey mumbled while staying on point. A shambling mass moaned and stumbled towards the sound of the turtles. The deep, scratchy call soon echoed around the turtles as the dead began to surround them.

“Please tell me you have an explanation, Donny…” Leo said as he drew his swords.

I absolutely love the game Zombicide. Maybe it’s the combination of tiny plastic toys (which I’m known for having a strong affinity for) or the simple fact that it is a game that allows me to scratch the urge of battling zombies while playing a strategic game. While I enjoy the characters included in Zombicide, the game is just begging for some customization. It doesn’t hurt than Guillotine Games provided blank character sheets either!

So I took my four favorite heroes of all time and set them free in a world filled with zombies.

Leonardo was the first one I concepted out thanks to the inclusion of the katana as a weapon in the Zombicide game. I knew I wanted him to start with his weapon which made him powerful, but did my best to not go overboard. The second level is consistently +1 Action across the board and I didn’t want to change it.

Born Leader allows Leo to give a free action to another Survivor, but they must use that action on their next turn – or it is lost. It felt like a good way to honor the turtles’ fearless leader. Tough was a simple choice and allows Leo to ignore the first wound he receives on each Zombie turn. The turtles have shells so that has got to add some extra protection.

The last tier again pretty much shaped itself. The swordmaster was a must include so Leo can dual wield katanas, while the ninja ability (the character makes no noise, period) was an obvious choice. The final ability option, +1 to dice roll: Combat makes Leo even more dangerous on the battlefield. I want to do some more playtesting, but this ability may end up changing to +2 damage with Kanata to allow Leo to kill Abominations.

Since Leo started with a katana, it just made sense to make sure each turtle started with their own weapon. In the case of Donatello, I wanted to give the bo staff a unique feel so I made it a melee weapon with range. The ability to pick off an incoming walker from a distance allows Don to hold the line. Plus since it is a melee attack, it’s targeted so you don’t have to worry about accidentally hitting fellow survivors in your square! The second level is standardized across the board.

Level three introduces two mechanics found in the instruction booklet, but not used on any of the existing survivor cards. Lock it down is a great ability, Don can close an open door for one action which allows the group to stop and catch a breath. The other option caters to Don’s more scientific side with Hold your nose. Once per turn, after eliminating a zombie you get a free search action – that can even be used outside!

The final level really allows Donatello to diversify. Ninja is an obvious choice and allows him become silent while closing doors. Double dice: Melee is a new ability that allows Donatello to roll twice as many dice as normal when making a melee attack. With the bo staff, it isn’t much but if Don can get a hold of a chainsaw, he does excellent work. The final ability gives Don some extra depth by turning him into a Medic if needed. This can be especially valuable when he also can seal doors as a way to heal the party.

I was so tempted to go Champion of the Battle Nexus with Michelangelo where he happens to be the greatest fighter of all time – but by making his first ability “permanently loud.” I decided against it and wanted to keep the group consistent. Giving Mikey a nunchaku seemed like a safe bet, though I wondered about giving him two. The nunchaku is an interesting weapon that can get very dangerous as Mikey levels up – especially if he gets a second one. The level 2 action is a standard.

Once Mikey has the choice with his levels, I liked the idea of letting players pick between making him combat heavy or evasion heavy. Slippery is a great ability and allows Mikey to run through groups with ease, while the a free combat action can allow him to kill lots and lots of walkers without hesitation.

For the final level, Mikey almost didn’t get the ninja ability but I felt the cycle should stay intact. It pairs well with slippery if the need is there, but if you really need Michelangelo to move, he can do double time. Taking a page from Wanda’s book, the 2 zones per move allow Mikey to cover the entire city in a single turn – especially when paired with slippery. The final combat ability gives him the skills needed to become a truly dangerous opponent in any form of combat – both melee and ranged.

Raphael was another character that had an interesting concept. Initially, I tried out with the weapon actually being “2 Sai” and taking up a single slot like the Evil Twins, but that came off as being too good. Instead, the sais are a simple, quiet weapon. The +1 action is standard, but in the case of Raphael I thought about changing it to “+1 free Combat action” to show his more aggressive side. In the end though, consistency beat out flavor.

Ambidextrous is a neat ability that really goes with Raph’s flavor. Don and Leo can easily only use one weapon, and Mikey’s easily distracted nature means he is constantly changing weaponry. But Raphael always has his two weapons. Ambidextrous allows Raphael to treat ALL weapons as if they were dual wielding. Mechanically, this also gives him an incentive to pick up a few guns along the way. If you don’t need ranged support though, Raph can turn his measly sais into real weapons thanks to +1 die: Melee.

The final level is where I really want to show how Leonardo and Raphael are two sides of the same coin. Is that all you got? is a twist on tough, but much more impressive. If Raphael would be wounded, he discards the equipment like normal – but doesn’t get a wound! He has to lose all of his equipment before getting injured. Ninja is strictly for flavor, but sometimes stealth is the key (now I wonder what happens if all the survivors are ninjas, where do the walkers walk?). The final ability just makes Raphael even more dangerous with melee attacks. These three abilities allow Raphael to pick from silent assassin, melee expert or big brawler and I love that this system allows for these distinctions.

The combination of the Ninja Turtles and zombies just feels so right to me. I love that this game is so open ended and encourages these kind of designs. Plus, many of the characters (especially the promotional ones) draw from pop culture so adding my own set of four just makes sense. For game pieces, you’re on your own. The easiest way would just use the four figures that match up with their bandana colors or you could track down the Mega Bloks TMNT figures.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a trademark of Nickelodeon, a subsidiary of Viacom. Zombicide is copyright Guillotine Games. Castles and Cooks makes no claims of ownership of these characters or designs beyond entertainment purposes.