"The world evolved and so did we. We learned in a couple of months what a soldier might need years to learn. The lives we had, the people we were, are all gone, and we have accepted that. We are survivors and we are here to bring the future."
Of all the products I got with my Zombicide Season 3 parcel, Ultimate Survivors #1 was the set I was most looking forward to receiving. Why? Because it takes your Zombicide Survivors to a whole new level, making them much stronger and preparing them for campaign play instead of one-off games. I really want to run a Zombicide campaign and the new rules provided with this set will help accomplish that goal.
The biggest change between normal Survivors and Ultimate Survivors is that Ultimate Survivors now start all games with two Skills at the Blue Danger Level instead of one. This will make a big difference and greatly improve their survival chances. The six figures that come with this set are upgraded versions of the six Survivors found in the original boxed set of Zombicide - Amy, Doug, Josh, Ned, Phil and Wanda. I am very pleased that Guillotine Games chose these six to be their first Ultimate Survivors because they have been around the longest, plus, I have a soft spot for them due to me using them more than any other Survivors. Let's take a look at them.
Amy is very well armed with a Katana and Sawn-Off Shotgun in her hands and a .44 Magnum Revolver and Hand Axe tucked in her ammo belt. Her first Blue level Skill is +1 Free Move Action, which is self-explanatory. To this she adds the very useful Medic Skill. Once per Turn, she can freely remove one Wounded card from herself or any other Survivor standing in the same Zone as her.
Doug is still armed with his twin Uzi Sub-Machine Guns and he has a Pistol in a holster on his right hip. He starts the game with the Matching Set Skill. When he performs a Search Action and draws a weapon card with the Dual symbol, he can immediately take a second card of the same type from the Equipment deck. Shuffle the deck afterward. His second starting Skill is Hoard. This Skill allows him to carry one extra Equipment card in reserve. I guess that explains his big backpack and coat of many pockets.
Last in line is Josh the Street Thug. Josh grew up poor in a tough neighbourhood. Surviving day to day was all he could do before the zombies. Now there's no more law and no one can tell him what to do. Josh finds his street smarts in high demand by other survivors. Respect, worth more than all the money in the world is his reward now.
Josh is armed with a pair of Pistols, just as he was in normal Survivor mode. However, I decided to gold plate the Pistols to convert them into the Evil Twins, which could be found in a Pimpmobile car in Season 1. Note that although the Evil Twins are two Pistols, they only take up one space on a Survivor's ID Card. It seemed appropriate that Josh would find them and want to keep them. Josh begins with the Slippery Skill, which allows him to move through a Zone containing Zombies without penalty. To this, he adds the Jump Skill. He can use this Skill once per Activation to Move two Zones into a Zone which he has Line of Sight. Movement Skills, like Slippery, are ignored but Move penalties, like having Zombies in the starting Zone do apply. When Jumping, he ignores all Survivors, Zombies, barricades and holes in the intervening Zone. Any other obstacle, such as rubble, prevents the use of this Skill.
Ned has kept his Sniper Rifle and Frying Pan from being a normal Survivor but has replaced his Baseball Bat with a Pistol. I did wonder why he still has the Frying Pan, which is next to useless, but then I noticed that in the Equipment Deck found in the Angry Neighbors expansion there is an Item called The Holy Pan, which can only be used by Survivors who reach the Red Danger Level and it's a truly awesome weapon. Perhaps, this is what Ned has found. It would explain a lot. Ned's first Blue Level Skill is +1 Free Search Action, which is self-explanatory but he can still only Search once per Turn. His second starting Skill is Scavenger, which complements his first Skill extremely well as it allows him to Search any Zone on the board, and not just indoor rooms. That really is a fantastic Skill to have!
Moving on, we come to Phil the Cop. Phil is a policeman through and through, even though there isn't really a police force any more. He still wears his uniform, keeps his issued sidearm and sees it as his duty to protect civilians; at least, those that are still human. Being a cop keeps him sane, if a bit of a stick in the mud.
Phil is now armed to the teeth. He still retains his service Pistol and Shotgun but has added a Knife, a Machete, a second Pistol and a second Shotgun to his arsenal. This is rather anomalous as a Survivor can only carry five Items (six if they have the Hoard Skill, which Phil doesn't) and here we have Phil with six weapons. He begins the game with the Starts With a Shotgun Skill, which is self-explanatory. His second Blue Level Skill is Lifesaver. He can use this Skill once during each of his Activations. Select a Zone containing at least one Zombie at Range 1 from your Lifesaver. Choose Survivors in the selected Zone to be dragged to the Lifesaver's Zone without penalty. This is not a Move Action. A Survivor can choose not to be rescued if his Controller so decides. Both Zones need to share a clear path. A Survivor can't cross barricades, fences, closed doors, holes or walls. Lifesaver can't be used by a Survivor in a car, helicopter or observation tower, nor can it be used to drag a Survivor from a car, helicopter or observation tower.
As you'd expect, Wanda has kept her trusty Chainsaw but has swapped her Sawn-Off Shotgun for a Pistol. Her first Blue Level Skill is 2 Zones per Move Action, which allows her to Move one or two Zones per Move Action. Entering a Zone containing one or more Zombies ends her Move. For her second Blue Level Skill she gains Bloodlust: Melee. She can spend one Action to Move up to two Zones to a Zone containing at least one Zombie. She then gains one free Melee Action.
There is one other important component to this set and that is a deck of Experience cards. Playing in Experience mode allows Survivors to earn Experience cards. These work just like Skills and enhance the Survivors' abilities. Equipment and experience points still reset between games but Experience cards remain from one game to the next, until the Survivor is definitively eliminated (or discarded). A Survivor earns an Experience card of the player's choice each time he reaches a Danger Level he never reached before, including previous games. The selected Experience card counts as a Skill and is immediately active. A Survivor can hoard an unlimited amount of Experience cards during his lifespan but may have only a single copy of each. Experience cards stack with other game effects. A weapon's Accuracy number can never be brought below 2+. If you use the Resurrection rules, a Survivor keeps his Experience cards when he turns into a Zombivor. The Zombivor can earn additional Experience cards.
To give you an idea of what the Experience cards are like most list a specific weapon and a Skill that can be used with that weapon. For example, there are three cards listing .44 Magnum but they each provide a different Skill - +1 Die: Ranged, +1 Free Ranged Action and +1 to Dice Roll: Ranged. So, they are like Skills but are specific to just one weapon. There is an obvious downside to these Experience cards and that is they only apply if your Survivor is armed with the weapon listed on the card. They are great if you start with or quickly find the weapon you have the bonus Skill for but otherwise are no good at all. This has obviously been done for play balance.
Full rules for using Ultimate Survivors are provided with this set, along with the deck of 110 Experience cards, the six 28mm scale figures and their ID Cards. Zombivor versions of the figures are not included but their Zombivor stats are provided on the back of the ID Cards. If you include Zombivors in your games then just use their normal Zombivor figure when an Ultimate Survivor is resurrected.
One point occurred to me about this set. The rules do not state when a Survivor becomes an Ultimate Survivor. That would suggest it is up to the players to decide. I'd suggest that your Survivor has to survive at least one game before he can even be considered to be an Ultimate Survivor. You may feel that Ultimate Survivors are too powerful but remember, these are optional rules and you don't have to use them. Also, these rules are meant to be used for campaign play. If you only play one-off games you don't need them.
Personally, I love this set and I can't wait to try out these six awesome characters in a few games or more. For veteran Zombicide players, this set is highly recommended. For the casual gamer or newbie, it is not an essential purchase. If you missed out on this set from the Kickstarter launch, I'm sure it will go on general sale in the near future. Just be patient.