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City of Horror

, | Published: 2012
69 21 5
City of Horror board game

City of Horror is a backstabbing survival-horror game. As in classic zombie movies, a shambling horde is invading the city. The goal is to survive the assault. (Un)fortunately, surviving often means sacrificing some of your fellow players to the undead...

Each player controls several characters with different abilities; these characters can move to various limited-capacity locations, which they can then barricade and scavenge for items and weapons. Critical situations, such as zombies breaking in and eating a character, are resolved using vote.

City of Horror game in play
images © Asmodee

The basic game mechanisms are the same as in Mall of Horror (also designed by Nicolas Normandon), but City of Horror differs in both materials and game play in a number of ways: the city map changes each game, twenty characters are included, they can use antidotes (or die), action cards become scarce as the game goes on, you can gain points with other stuff than surviving characters...

User Reviews (4)

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I'm a Real Person
Smash Up Fan
I play yellow
Comic Book Fan
132 of 142 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 2
“City of Horror: or How I Stopped worrying and learned to love the apocalypse”

Zombbbiiiieeesss! Zombies have taken over your city. You and a strange assortment of survivors need to wait 4 hours before the rescue helicopter arrives. Before you get on the helicopter, you need to vaccinate yourself with the zombie cure, otherwise you are not allowed onto the helicopter. So, in the next 4 hours, you need to cure the members of your group and then hold off the zombies any way you can, sometimes at the cost of others. WILL YOU SURVIVE?

Game play
There are 6 different locations you can be, each location has a maximum number of occupants. The locations are:
An armory where you can get action cards to help defend against zombies, or humans.
A hospital, where you can get vaccines.
A church, where you can rest an exhausted player.
the bank where you can move the zombie wheel to another player. Zombie wheel determines who gets attacked first in the streets.
The streets, where you can pick up food for victory points, but are frequently attacked. If you try to move to a full location, you end up here.
The water tower where you can either look at the next hour card or, change your movement (depending on which side you use).

The turns all start by moving your characters to a new location (you must move 1 character a turn, or keep 1 in the streets). Then the hour card is turned, this shows where zombies appear, where zombies move, and where action cards or vaccines are dropped. After that you go through the locations in order (they are numbered 1-6) . First, deciding to use the location’s action. Then checking to see if the zombies trigger an attack. If they do, the people who are there are going to have to either stop the threat of attack, or vote one member out to be killed by the zombies. This is where the game shines. Players can try to gain a majority in one location to decide the vote, or make alliances with others to go against a group. Additionally, if it looks like you are about to die because of a vote, you can make deals with other players to save you in exchange for an item or a favor to be returned later. In the event of a tie, the person with the “leader” token provides the tie breaking vote. Leader does not have to be at the location.

After the zombie attack is resolved, if there are any items, you vote to see who gets which item (players can’t get more than 1 item at a location). This routine of location action, zombie threat, and item claiming happens through each location. When all locations are resolved, then players pick new movement cards, move their player, and the next hour card is turned.

Each character is worth a certain amount of victory points, and has a character action they can use. If a character uses it’s character action, it “exhausts” them, their card is flipped and they are not worth as many victory points at the end of the game. Also an “exhausted” character can no longer use it’s ability. A character can be rested and flipped back. Many characters with excellent abilities are worth less, while characters like the Grandpa (who can’t vote normally, and then votes once as his special ability) is worth a lot of victory points but is at a disadvantage and needs the ability to behave normally.

-The randomness of your characters, your starting locations, the location sides, the zombie hordes, your action cards and item drops give this game a high replay value.
-Despite randomness, there is still a lot of strategy in where to move (and when you should move there), when to use an action, and negotiating with your fellow survivors.
-Great balance. This game was really well thought out so that the scales rarely tip too far one way or the other for players. For instance, if someone dies, you are now at a disadvantage in points, but you gain the “Leader” token and are now the person who decides in the event of any tied vote. This allows you to get items from others and even choose who else will die in certain situations.
-Even if you feel like you have no chance of winning the game, you can have a HUGE affect on the outcome by where you move, and what actions you play. So you never truly feel out of the game. Sometimes just trying to get 1 person to live feels like a big achievement! Also, there are chances to come back and win.
-It is a very good social game, since one of the biggest parts is negotiation and collaboration.
-The scarcity of actions, make each turn very important, and adds importance to each move.

-Set up can take a little bit of time.
-Rules can be a little confusing at first.
-Game tiles don’t fit very well.
-Some are turned off by zombie theme.
-Randomness of zombie movement may annoy some.
-There is a way to “break” a location with certain characters. On the armory “B” side where you can get actions from the discard by discarding a card, the thief can just keep getting energy drinks and then steal from other opponents. So, changing the rule (once it burns down, the action is no longer available), and just telling the other players this so they can play defense is pretty important.

I LOVE this game. It is such a great game to play with a group of 4-5 people. It is very engaging and has an excellent blend of luck and strategy involved. The social aspect of bargaining for your character’s lives and making deals feels true to how people could act in such dire situations. You need to rely, and help others, but most importantly you need to make sure your team survives. Most games we have played are low scoring, the winner can have between 8-12 points. This means each person who is saved, each extra victory point is very important and could change the game. It is a challenging game, and if people don’t work together it can quickly turn into a slaughter. I can’t recommend this highly enough if you enjoy negotiation games with strategy and that are heavy in theme. Obviously the content is a little gruesome so I wouldn’t recommend for a family.

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Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
oddball Aeronauts fan
132 of 143 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“It ain't the zombies you need to worry about here.”

City Of Horror is surprise surprise a zombie game, you’d have to have been living in a cave not to have noticed board game designers obsession with this genre. To be honest I find a majority of the zombie games on the market all a bit samey and at worse dull.

The biggest issue I have had with the zombie games out there is they completely miss the point of the genre, it has always been about us humans and how we do terrible things to each other (just watch any of Romero’s movies) the zombies are this slow encroaching doom that we bring on ourselves, usually through some stupid or greedy action.

Well I’m pleased to confirm City of Horror gets a lot right, its all about the humans. The survivors in this game are a mixed bag of the staples of horror and disaster movies, including a slimy suit, a hard nosed cop and of course everyone’s favorite a pregnant women. Let’s be clear from the off, this is not a nice game, at some point during the proceedings you will exhibit all the most base and loathsome characteristics of the horror genre scumbag. You can shake your head and look all holier than thou, but i bet you’re the first in line to shove a defenseless pensioner to the flesh munching hoards to save your skin.

And now a word on the components, this game is stunning. Once it’s set up and everything is ready to go it looks so inviting, in a post apocalypse kinda way. The art on the board and cards is all of a high standard, and all looks suitably gloomy and horror movie like. Its a nice big board that slots together and even has a 3D water tower that is assembled and overlooks the ensuing carnage.

All the cards and board locations have a well designed icon on them referring to all the various actions, for my first couple of play through’s I needed the reference sheet to remind me what these were, but after a while you get the hang of it.

The board is split over six locations a Church, Gun Shop , Hospital and a Bank. These are where all the main carnage will ensue but there is also the aforementioned Water Tower and the Crossroads (you don’t really want to be standing out here in a zombie apocalypse).

Each of these areas all have strengths and weaknesses, but i’ll get to that in a bit.

So the game is actually pretty straightforward, each player starts with a random selection of survivors, each of these has one specific action most are usually a one time deal as it will cost you important items to recharge them.

The game is played over four turns each representing an hour of time. Your goal is to survive till that last hour, make sure you have amassed enough vaccines for your survivors and then get to the choppa!!

And that all sounds pretty easy right, well its not. For starters supplies are very limited and each turn some will randomly appear on the map it then becomes a scrabble to see who can get to them first.

A players turn goes something like this:

If your up the water tower you can take a look at the forthcoming invasion card – this will give you a clue as to where stuff is going to drop and where the undead are going to show up, this is kept secret only the players in the tower will know this and it can be a major advantage.

Then everyone selects a movement card. They are all simultaneously revealed.

Then the invasion card for that round is played and whatever zombies and supplies it states get put down.

Then its time to move. Each player moves a character to the location on their selected movement card from earlier. But be warned locations have limited space, and if its full up you might end up left standing out in the street (not a good idea). Hey that guy in the water tower mysteriously got his people to the church where the vaccines dropped, swine!

Resolve location – Or as I like to call it the poop hits the fan round. Each location has a ability whether its picking up vaccines at the Hospital or refreshing your special abilities at the Church. All of these powers will involve discarding action cards and trust me these are limited and once they get low things can get really desperate. Then to make things worse you have to check if your building is still secure. Each of the areas has a max limit to the amount of undead that can be thumping at the doors, when its reached things go from bad to really really bad.

The Vote – Ah yes, you know earlier when I said this game was mean, well this is the point when you find out who your friends are. Each player has a colour and the more of your colour you have at a location means you get more votes. Now this might just be resolving who gets the pick of the goodies there, but it can be much worse. If the undead are coming through the doors the only option is to chuck someone to them and save your skin (you see where this is going don’t you). This is when it becomes a desperate negotiation for supplies and who gets to live, when a location has an even split of votes you can see everyone casting looks of suspicion between the others, or maybe a subtle nod in the direction of that annoying accountant who’s been hoarding all the food.

Like all good zombie flicks it all starts civil and soon descends into finger pointing threats and petty squabbles, and then some poor ******* get’s shoved to the hoard. its usually at this point you start to find out who your friends are. This is when the action cards come into play, you see these have a variety of skills be it moving zombie hoards to a different location, or a good old shotgun that will blow a bunch of them away, or maybe you’d like to put a gun to one of the other players heads and steal their vote, yeah it can get nasty. All of these cards play beautifully into the theme and encourage the mayhem to just keep on coming.

Coming back to the characters. Each has a skill that functions similar to the action cards and locations. These are brilliantly thematic. That pregnant women I mentioned earlier well she can give birth and then has two votes, the granny well she can’t move but you can use her power so she can, the kids can hide avoiding votes and zombie attacks. Depending on your characters each game your strategy is going to be different. There is (of course) a downside to these powers, once used they reduce the victory point value of that character, and that may very well be the difference between wining or losing.

And then there’s a bunch of other little thematic delights, the crossroads there’s nowhere to hide but there is a truck full of food that you can ****** for the victory points (hopefully you don’t get an empty can) but they also give you a useful negotiating tool. And that Water Tower and the Armory, using explosives near them will catch them on fire, use too many and they blow. The Tower comes crashing down killing anything on or near it, some nice act three carnage to add to the mayhem in true Hollywood style.

And then finally that fourth hour rolls around and the chopper arrives and its a mad dash to get on-board, if you’ve got the antidotes that is, otherwise your going no-where brother. Then the points are tallied, characters, food and then you get to snarl and snipe at the victor.

So should you get this game? Well if your a fan of the zombie genre and are looking for something that has the thematic feel of those stories then this is the one for you. But be warned this is not for the faint of heart, to get the most out of this game you need to be pretty thick skinned. With the right gathering of people this is a barnstorming tense couple of hours of game play, alliances will switch constantly bargains will be made and deals welshed on. By the end you’ll have a story to tell and probably a few less friends, but you’ll have had a big rotting pile of fun.

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Smash Up Fan
133 of 157 gamers found this helpful
“Beautiful but blind-luck finger-pointing game”

I brought the game from Essen and it was my biggest investment at the fair. Not only fnancially but emotionally too: i read the rulebook, watched the gameplay videos, preordered it, got the authors signature and promo card… and basically I was really enthusiastic about it.

The more it is unpleasant now to say, that I regret buying it.

During the first few games we felt like there was no real emotions on the table. Much rather: overcalculated moves and blind luck. I decided to gave this game three more runs even after I thought it was just kind of ‘meh’… and well, it still is kind of ‘meh’ game for me.

First of all it is very random game of blind moves. You base your strategy on a hand of cards you draw at the beginning (random or draft) and abilities of your characters (random). Come to think of it: game gives you like 5-7 cards + 4 moves (because there are 4 turns) + 3-4 characters… basically 15-20 decisions to make during the hour long game.

And at times game really drags on (box says 45 minutes, our games tend to last twice as much). The worst moments are the movement selection phase – when players try to consider all the possibilities. And actually games encourages this “overthinking attitude”, since it is really unforgiving. At times bad move can cost you two of your characters in one round. Furthermore you find your move “stupid” only afterwards, because you couldn’t have known where the zombies will come up. I must also say it is hard to explain the game to new players, since there is a lot to take in at first – and knowing the flow of the game gives you an unfair advantage.

The moments of backstabbing and negotiation (the selling points of the game) occur at times, but there’s really not much to them – nothing more than finger pointing. To its defense: This game is beautiful. I would say ‘overproduced’ really. But sadly that’s not good enough for me – not why I bring my games to the table.

Player Avatar
113 of 154 gamers found this helpful
“Backstabbing in the midst of a zombie invasion”

This game is actually pretty good once you get the rules down. You will start out slow as you attempt to understand how the game plays. There are a lot of things that you need to look out for when you play the game. Meaning there will be constant flipping of pages and referring to the rule book (especially individual character abilities). That said, the learning curve is a bit steep but it is manageable still.

The goal of the game is to rescue as much survivors (you start with 3) AND immunize them by giving them injections. Both of these criteria needs to be fulfilled before they are considered ‘saved’ and yield victory points.

But what really make this game shine is the ‘negotiation’ part of the game where you have to decide which character to sacrifice during a zombie invasion. There are no combat checks in this game, and when or where the zombie invasion happens is decided by a pile of cards you draw every turn. This card can only be seen by people who stand at the watch tower. So people at other location doesn’t know where the zombie invasion is (and this is how people at the watch tower gain negotiation leverage. By offering a zombie invasion forecast in return for benefits).

That said, after one session of this game with your friends, you will probably know who among them are ******** and ******** lol. While it is fun the first few times, it gets a bit old after replaying it many times. You just get immune to the back stabbing. Part of the fun of the game is not knowing what to expect from new players/strangers and if you know your friend is an *******, he will probably act like one in game as well lol.


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