Zombicide 2nd Edition: Rio Z Janeiro Review - Small Additions Make a Major Impact

CMON and Guillotine Games are back with even more Zombicide, and this time around the franchise heads to Rio in the Rio Z Janeiro campaign expansion. Rio Z Janeiro is an expansion for Zombicide 2nd Edition, bringing in the new additions from previous expansions while also adding a few new elements of its own. The Wound Deck, Narrow Zones, Zombie Pulls, Thin Walls, and several new skills freshen up the original gameplay, and the stories told through the game's Objective Cards are far more engrossing than I initially expected. Rio Z Janeiro's little touches make a pleasantly major impact, and this is easily one of my favorite expansions in the franchise.

The tried and true Zombicide experience is well intact, so those who are familiar with the game will immediately feel at home, even if you've not played the other expansions since the 2nd Edition launched. If you have played at least 2nd Edition though, you'll be off to the races, and the new characters all feature a fresh set of skills to utilize alongside the rest of your team. The artwork in Zombicide has always been a favorite for me, from the variety of character designs to the incredibly detailed map tiles, and the setting of Rio is a perfect fit for the general aesthetic. The Sea Zones are a nice touch and brighten things up even more, but one of the best aspects of the game is in how you interact with map tiles in general.

(Photo: ComicBook)

Having the ability to break through certain walls is a fantastic addition, and while you don't always have the ability to do so, when you do you should absolutely take advantage of it. Being able to bust through a wall and move into an adjacent room without having to go all the way around and waste several actions on movement can really help you get to your bigger objectives in a timely fashion, and the limits (you can only break one wall per tile) keep it from breaking the experience. This saved me from wasting 4 turns just to get someone around to another door, which early on matters much more since you only have 3 actions until you get some AP built up.

Another big addition is Narrow Zones, which occupy alleyways and backstreets on the map. These have single spots that a person can occupy, so if there are two spots and you have people in each one, Zombies can't move into those spaces and attack you. You might think to yourself 'I should just camp out there then,' but the game also gives Zombies the ability to Pull at the start of the Zombie Phase, and it doesn't use their actions.

Let's say you have a person in one of these spots and there is only one available. You leave them there at the end of their turn so you can attack again, but on the next Zombie Phase, if a Zombie is adjacent to one of those Zones, they drag you into their Zone. As a miscalculation, I found myself in this situation, but it was okay since only one Zombie was in the adjacent space. Unfortunately, when Zombies Spawned, a Walker Rush card meant that all of a sudden there were 8 Zombies in that space with me, which means it would taken more actions to Move my next turn since they were in that space with me, but if I didn't do something I would simply die on the following Zombie Phase.

(Photo: ComicBook)

Zombicide is already a game of waves and things can get away from you quickly when you're not paying attention, and the Wound Deck only exacerbates this. When you take damage, you now draw a Wound Card as well, and these can either give you things like free attacks for payback or penalize you with severe injuries. One in particular I took was a broken arm, which meant that I could only have one equipped weapon until the end of the mission. Since reorganizing your backpack and equipping a new weapon is an action, having to go back and forth on a turn between ranged and melee weapons is costly, limiting what you can do in a turn, so the effects were felt immediately.

The new skills are versatile and do help even the odds a bit, especially ones like Master Planner, Capoeira Fighter, and Shine in Darkness. Master Planner lets you choose who gets the First Player Token next turn, which is extremely handy, while Capoeira Fighter allows you to open doors for free once per turn. Shine in Darkness gives you the ability to ignore dark zones and get an extra die when attacking in dark zones, making it a preferred skill for opening up buildings.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Rio Z Janeiro is how immersive it is. Most of this is communicated through the Objective Cards, which are necessary to completing a map and moving on to the next mission. They also often present a choice, and depending on that choice, you might unlock a Note, which reveals the next step in that small story while giving you some kind of AP Bonus and an Achievement. The campaign experience overall was delightful, as Notes and Objectives found in future missions tie into characters and events that happened earlier on in the game, and I found myself targeting the Objective Cards more out of wanting to see what happened next as opposed to just finishing the current mission.

Part of the expansion's strength is that it keeps the core gameplay, which I greatly enjoy, completely intact. This feels thoroughly like a Zombicide game and doesn't veer too far from 2nd Edition's base territory. While that allows you to just jump into the experience, perhaps the game could've used one additional feature in the combat to shake things up just a bit more. The only other real hangup is the Advanced Equipment and Epic Weapons Decks. The weapons there are fine, but after a few games the selection just feels limited, and I could've used a few more new types of weapons to choose from. A new Abomination would have been a welcome plus as well, as there are only 4 walkers, a brute, and a runner in the expansion.

(Photo: ComicBook)

Overall Rio Z Janeiro brings even more frenzied fun to the world of Zombicide, and the new tactical options provide new ways to interact with the environment and challenges to overcome. The campaign mode quickly immersed me into the world and its characters, and though there could have been a few additional elements to make the game that much better, it doesn't deter from what is an already fantastic experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Published By: CMON, Guillotine Games, and Asmodee

Designed By: Fel Barros and Fabio Tola (Original Design By: Raphael Guiton, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, Nicolas Raoult, and David Preti)

Story By: Umberto Pignatelli

Art By: Marcelo Eco, David Karpaccio, Giorgia Lanza, Nicolas Fructus, and Saeed Jalabi

Zombicide: Rio Z Janeiro is available in game stores now.

Review copy provided by the publisher