Custom Gaming: Zombicide: Gotham City Heroes

People seemed to enjoy one of our first attempts at customizing Zombicide to include The Dark Knight himself, but truthfully, we always had bigger plans (much bigger plans). After extensive testing, at least four rounds of revisions, and plenty of character impersonations we present Zombicide: Gotham City. First up, the heroes who will take on the zombie apocalypse.

First a note, this is Zombicide: Gotham City, not super hero, or DC, or even just Batman. The reason is that we didn’t want any meta humans involved. So you won’t see us putting together survivor versions of Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, or even Green Lantern any time soon. We still wanted the characters to be grounded in reality as much as possible. That being said, Gotham City and the Rogues Gallery lend themselves to tons of fantastic character options, starting with Batman himself.

Batman

Of Batman’s eight abilities (well, technically nine), six of them we created just for him. While as a rule we don’t want to reinvent the game for every custom character, Batman just isn’t like the other survivors. We wanted to stick to the standard Zombicide card layout – though if Jesse were better with Photoshop, he would have removed the lines “card in reserve” and “card in hand” from Batman’s design and here’s why:

Level 1: Utility Belt, No Guns, starts with Batarang

The utility belt is Batman’s classic costume element that contains everything he needs for every situation. So the Utility Belt ability allows Batman to use any item he’s carrying as if it were in his hands. It’s simple, it’s flavorful and evokes the classic Batman is always prepared trope.

But in Zombicide, that could mean Batman could run around with a sniper rifle, a sawed off shotgun or two and a pair of uzis… and that definitely doesn’t feel like Batman. So the second ability is simple, No Guns. If Batman would equip a gun, he doesn’t. He can carry guns and pass them along to another survivor. We toyed with having him not even be able to carry guns, but in practice it means that playing at Batman removes searching as a viable action, which is such an important part of Zombicide that it didn’t make sense.

Batman may not be able to use guns, but luckily the man does love his gadgets. So, Batman starts with a Batarang. A silent ranged weapon that is essentially the Evil Twins, but with +1 damage, so Batman can kill Fatties.

Level 2: +1 Action

This is the standard level 2 ability and for play purposes, we are reluctant to modify it at this point. Plus, as Batman fights more zombies he’d probably get better at it too.

Level 3: +1 Zone per move or Ninja

Both of these abilities are standard in Zombicide as well, but have flavor backgrounds in the case of the Dark Knight. +1 Zone per move is a handy way of giving Batman a grappling hook as an ability, not equipment. It’s simple but works. The Ninja ability, which makes it so Batman doesn’t make any noise, is a call back to his training and the fact that he’s Batman and can disappear without a sound.

Level 4: I am the Night or Master Detective or Batmobile

I am the Night is a new ability that draws from Batman being beyond stealthy. The rules text is simple: Batman is not in line of sight of the enemy unless he is in the same zone as them. This means that if you take Ninja and I am the Night, Batman is effectively invisible on the board unless he goes in for an attack. I can think of a few scenarios where this would be very useful.

Master Detective is a fine callback to his searching skills. When Batman searches, he looks at the top three items and picks one to keep and discards the rest.

The last ability is the Batmobile. If you pick this ability, the Batmobile shows up in the street – on the edge or corner of the map closest to Batman as possible. And when it shows up, it does hit any characters in that spot. And the Batmobile comes with some special rules since it is a car after all.

  • Unlike most vehicles in Zombicide, the Batmobile only has two seats.
  • The Batmobile can kill Fatties if it runs them over (it still can’t take out Abominations), and still follows the standard rules of priority.
  • Survivors in the Batmobile may take a new action – Raising the Shields. If you shield the Batmobile, it can’t move until the next round but all survivors inside the Batmobile can’t be attacked and are considered not present for ranged attacks. Molotov Cocktails will still kill you though. Players must spend an action to lower the raised shields to move the Batmobile or get out.
  • When the Batmobile arrives, it includes one random piece of the Bat Arsenal. Like the pimp mobile, the Batmobile can only be searched once.

The Bat Arsenal are two new items that are not shuffled into the standard deck. Like the Twins or Ma’s Shotgun, the Bat Arsenal are unique items:

Advanced Batarangs are an upgrade of Batman’s starting equipment that can be tossed in a variety of ways letting you choose to target more enemies, or focus your attack, but do more damage. Which means that now a well placed Batarang could kill an Abomination – in theory. The only issue with them is that Batman doesn’t have a way to target with them since they are technically ranged.

The Bat-Grapple allows Batman to either shift away from trouble or save a teammate in the event of some rolls going wrong. Once per turn, for one action, Batman can either shift one zone (ignoring zombies) or pull another survivor into his zone from an adjacent zone.

Batman may seem pretty powerful with tons of unique equipment, but play-testing reveals a few things. First, Batman can never have more than 4 actions, which becomes important at later danger levels. Second, not having access to guns keeps Batman in check with regard to power level, since the Batarangs can’t be augmented by additional dice or re-roll and don’t have  chance for upgrades till red level (and that’s not a guarantee).

Robin

The boy wonder himself seems like the perfect compliment to Batman as he takes on the undead horde that is overtaking Gotham City. Unlike Batman, Robins relies more on his world class acrobatic abilities rather than fun gadgets

Level 1: +1 move action

Robin starts with an extra dedicated action move, letting him take advantage of his time spent in Haley’s Circus.

Level 2: +1 Action

Level 3: Bola Hold or Slippery

Bola Hold evokes the image of Robin immobilizing a villain to prevent escape. Once per turn, for one action, target one zombie up to one zone away. That zombie is immobilized for the rest of the round and will ignore moving during zombie activation or any spawn cards, along with preventing it from attacking any characters in the same zone. Slippery, of course, is a standard ability and allows players to continue to take advantage of Robin’s natural agility.

Level 4: Ninja or Grappling Gun or Sidekick

Given the similar training that Robin received, it makes sense to give him the option of going Ninja and really taking advantage of his extra movement. Since he learned from Batman, we also devised a special Grappling Gun ability for him. This ability works similar to the Bat Grapple that Batman can obtain, but it is not a piece of equipment, and he cannot use it to shift. Once per turn, for one action, Robin can pull another survivor into his zone from an adjacent zone.

Finally, we were looking to flesh out some flavor for Robin and wanted to work in the idea of him as a sidekick. The Sidekick ability allows Robin to use the equipment of other survivors without having to spend an action trading. When standing in the same zone as another survivor(s), you can choose to use their weapons(s) in hand as if they were in your own. You may not use their cards in reserve or other abilities. You also may not combine dual wielding weapons across characters. This ability only works in one direction, Robin can use other survivor’s equipment, but other survivors would need to trade to use Robin’s.

Since Sidekick is a little complicated, here is an  example. Robin and Nick are in the same zone. Robin has two sub-machine guns and Nick has a shotgun with shotgun ammo. On his first two actions Robin uses his uzis. On his third action, he invokes Sidekick and uses Nick’s shotgun, but misses. Robin cannot use the shotgun ammo to re-roll the attack, since the ammo is not in Robin’s reserve.

Catwoman

With the anarchy and chaos of the zombie apocalypse, what better opportunity for Selina Kyle to do a little window shopping? Catwoman presents a really interesting combination of unique equipment and some abilities designed for a master thief.

Level 1: Starts with Whip

This was really a no-brainer. While we wanted to be conservative in terms of creating unique items that might upset the normal balance of the game, Catwoman’s gotta have her Whip. It is basically a pistol with two important differences. First, it has a range of 0/1, but is considered melee. So, it can be used to target a specific zombie (say a runner) in an adjacent zone and won’t hit allies but it always makes noise. Second, it can be used to pick-up objectives in an adjacent zone with line of sight, but the zone still needs to be empty.

Level 2: +1 Action

Level 3: Locksmith or +1 damage melee

Selina Kyle is a thief by trade so we wanted skills that  reflect that. Locksmith lets you open and close doors silently, without any items as an action. Giving her +1 damage melee doesn’t have anything to do with thievery, but it gives players a chance to decide how to use Catwoman and upgrade that whip a little bit or turn her into a melee based character.

Level 4: Slippery or Feline Senses or Comic Book Death

Slippery just seemed like a natural fit for Catwoman. Feline Senses again highlights Catwoman’s ability to find the best items. Once per turn, as an action, you may look at the top card of the equipment deck, then either put it back or place it at the bottom of the pile (Ahhh! cards do not trigger). This doesn’t replace her search action, but let’s her stack the deck a little bit.

We all know cats have nine lives, so the final ability lets Catwoman use them. With Comic Book Death the first time the survivor would die, respawn back at the starting zone with full health, and any starting equipment per the character card. Retain your current XP level and any abilities. Why didn’t we just call it “Nine Lives”? Well, let’s just say there’s another member of the Rogues Gallery with a penchant for reanimation…

Green Arrow

So Oliver Queen isn’t exactly a regular in Gotham City, but we just couldn’t pass up the chance to get some archery into Zombicide. Plus, we imagine that when the zombie apocalypse comes, the billionaires are gonna stick together, particularly the super hero ones.

Level 1: Starts with Bow

Another no-brainer. The bow rests between the rifle and pistol. It is pretty weak in terms of damage, but has a higher hit chance and can be used at decent range or point-blank.

Level 2: +1 Action

Level 3: 1 re-roll per turn or Free Combat Action

The whole premise here behind Green Arrow fighting the undead is that he would need to relearn how to shoot. The kinds of shots that would fell a normal human don’t work against the undead, but after a little expertise, Green Arrow adapts. This was the sentiment behind giving him either 1 re-roll per turn or a Free Combat Action.

Level 4: Slippery or Sniper or 1 die ranged

While by no means a complete acrobat, it stands to reason that Oliver is agile enough to get good position on the zombies, so Slippery it is. Sniper and +1 die ranged give you two options on how Oliver progresses. Either the experience allows him to begin to pick his targets, or he gets faster and is able to target more zombies at once.

The last item you need to really make these characters work is a figure. Unlike the Ninja Turtles, the DC Heroclix work perfectly for getting a prepainted Batman figure, or other Gotham character, in your Zombicide world! Plus, they are cheap online if you don’t care about stats.

Next up, the villains.

Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and Green Arrow are trademarks of DC Comics. Zombicide is copyright Guillotine Games. Castles and Cooks makes no claims of ownership of these characters or designs beyond entertainment purposes.

For the amazing artwork, check out Phil Cho and David Dembowski and of course, Neal Adams.