As I mentioned previously, with help from my friends, I’ve made custom survivors for Zombicide. Over the next few months as I finalize the flavor and backgrounds of character, I’ll be discussing their design in this space. You can also find all the previous survivors in my Zombicide notebook.1 One thing to keep in mind as I present them individually, they were often designed as a set or to fit in with a previously designed set of survivors. Also, I’ve improved with design and balance in mind.2
Today, I’m showing off my own survivor. James the Field General is inspired by myself. I consider myself a pretty strategic person and generally helpful. I also tend to be a leader in games. I’ve also fired off a shotgun and a rifle a few times. I’m no expert but I can hit a target. Luckily there’s plenty of ranged combat skills available. I’m also on the smallish side and pretty quick. Unfortunately until the skills from the Toxic City Mall expansion and Season 2: Prison Outbreak were revealed there wasn’t a lot in the way of those strategic, tactical or leadership skills.
|Blue / Sniper||Red A / Gunslinger|
|Yellow / +1 Action||Red B / +1 free Combat action|
|Orange A / Slippery||Red C / +1 max range|
|Orange B / +1 die: Ranged|
James’s skills clearly lead him to ranged combat. His Sniper skill at blue level allows him to move with the larger group and not worry about killing his friends. At orange, he can continue to improve his ranged combat abilities by getting an extra die per ranged weapon per ranged attack. Incredibly useful if he’s got dual sawed-offs or SMGs. Otherwise, he can pick up the Slippery skill which allows him to move in and out of trouble with ease. All three of his red level skills focus on ranged combat. He can pick up an extra attack action or increase his range. Finally, Gunslinger lets him dual wield any ranged weapon, perhaps rifles or shotguns. Overall, it was a rough start. When I showed this character to my friends, they felt it was slightly out of character for me to be so focused on shooting things.
|Blue / Slippery||Red 1 / Born Leader|
|Yellow / +1 action||Red 2 / Is that all you’ve got?|
|Orange 1 / Destiny||Red 3 / +1 to dice roll: Combat|
|Orange 2 / +1 to dice roll: Combat|
So the second version of this character is unrecognizable when compared to the earlier one. Slppery is about the only thing that stayed the same. The ranged skills were given to another survivor. Destiny and Born Leader are strategic skills. The +1 to dice roll shows that this character can diagnose weak points and target his blows better than most. Finally, Is that all you’ve got? is another strategic-ish skill. I envisioned it as throwing items he holds at zombies to slow them down so he can avoid getting hit.
|Blue / Destiny||Red 1 / Born Leader|
|Yellow / +1 action||Red 2 / +1 free Combat action|
|Orange 1 / Slippery||Red 3 / Hold your nose|
|Orange 2 / Is that all you’ve got?|
This is the version of the character that’s seen the most play. With the idea that resources (equipment) are of strategic importance, James has morphed into a more tactical role. He gets to decide what equipment to keep for the team or discard in an attempt to find something better. With Hold your nose, he can search a zone he’s cleared of zombies for useful stuff even if he’s not in a building. So the precise-related skills from the second version of this character were again moved to a different survivor.3
|Blue / Lifesaver||Red 1 / Distributor|
|Yellow / +1 action||Red 2 / Born Leader|
|Orange 1 / Tactician||Red 3 / +1 die: Ranged|
|Orange 2 / Sniper|
With the release of Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak, there were a whole slew of new skills added. This allowed me to redesign most of the characters and well-define their roles. Also, there was a big philosophy shift on my part during design, now each character would get either melee or ranged combat roles unless they were just combat specialists.
So, James finally turns into the field general of the survivors. Using his strategy honed brain to control the apocalyptic battlefield. Lifesaver, Tactician and Distributor are all new skills which really let James shine in his role as a strategic leader. He can pull people out of trouble, go at any time in the player turn order that best benefits himself and the team. And at Red danger level he can somewhat control the spawns on the board. Born Leader stays in at Red level to make Distributor not an automatic choice. Finally, the ranged skills make a return with Sniper and +1 die: Ranged.
|Blue / Lifesaver||Red 1 / Distributor|
|Yellow / +1 free Move action||Red 2 / Born Leader|
|Orange 1 / Tactician||Red 3 / Regeneration|
|Orange 2 / Rotten|
With enough skills, this is the first attempt at designing Zombivors for the custom survivors.4 My general rule was subtract the secondary role from the character and add in a few zombivor only skills. There’s not much rhyme or reason yet behind the zombivor skill selection. It’ll probably need some re-balancing and adjustment in the future but I think this was a good start. Rotten let’s James move with the extra activation draws and regeneration keeps the strategic leader functioning even in dire situations.
So James has morphed from a ranged sniper into a precision killer into a resource manager and finally into a field marshal. This last version is very well-suited to how I envisioned an early character. The only thing that would make me reconsider his role is if there was a larger focus on vehicular combat. Steady-hand is so far the only skill and I’m not sure that’s enough to warrant any changes to the character.
Granted this is the first one, so by that I mean, future survivors.↩
Though certainly not perfect by any stretch.↩
It’s in theme to give that character precision bonuses, but it also didn’t hurt that the person he’s inspired by has terrible luck with dice.↩
Technically, it’s the second stab. We had one scenario go really badly and we made up zombivor versions on the fly. Not the best idea as they were mostly ill-informed choices.↩