Monday, 1 May 2017

Zombicide Survivors with Impairments - Creation (02)

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As I mentioned in my previous post, Zombicide is a game in which characters have 'skills'. With every zombie kill or objective achieved a character gains experience. At certain levels of experience, new skills are unlocked. These can be as simple as gaining one additional 'action' per turn to something as complicated as being able to influence the order in which zombies spawn each phase. There is a great list of skills you can choose from when creating a character and, of course, you can make up your own. The problem with making up your own skills in this context is that I wanted my survivors to fit into the existing universe as smoothly as possible. I will be sharing all the appropriate material in the final (third) blog post so that anyone with a copy of Zombicide can play with them.  Making that as easy as possible is important to me.

The box artwork from Zombicide: Rue Morgue.
A diverse group of survivors fighting the undead.
I also wanted to show that people with impairments also have skills, but I didn't want to fall into the trap Elsa S. Henry describes when 'flaws' just become a point balancing system. I didn't want to create the world's most dangerous wizard and then literally 'handicap' him with a dodgy leg. So my survivors have quite a mix of impairments and strengths.

I also wanted them to be diverse in other ways. In Rue Morgue, the cast of 12 survivors are an equal split of men and women. This is brilliant – many dungeon crawlers come with a male dwarf, male wizard, male human and lovely lady elf archer. The equal mix of Rue Morgue helps to guard against lazy stereotyping. But I wanted to turn things on their head, so my team of survivors is almost exclusively female. And they all feel like people who would genuinely survive a tragedy. I also have one male character (an older bloke who has survived years of being male and so has a good chance of surviving the living dead) and one gender non-binary person.

A bottle of peachy-coloured acrylic paint by
Army Painter called 'Survivor Skin'
I have also done my best to provide a cast of characters who are relatively racially diverse. I've already mentioned that Rue Morgue does make an attempt at racial diversity (although could do better), but the official Zombicide acrylics by Army Painter perpetuate one of the problems with miniature figures.  In the box there is a paint called Survivor Skin. It is a peachy colour which, when washed and then highlighted comes out a bright Caucasian. I've had to use Dirt Splatter and Bone Spikes in order to create a proper range of skin-tones. But the association between 'skin tone paint' and white skin must be a bit galling to anyone who wants to be a part of this hobby but doesn't match that mould.

My dream team would not be possible without the appropriate miniatures. Yes, you could get away with making counters or card printouts on bases. But one of the things I love about Zombicide are the figures. They're fun to paint and look great on the beautiful map artwork. So I went searching. It's extremely difficult to find characters with impairments. I had in mind a list of possible conditions and spent a lot of time trawling websites. I eventually settled on Hasslefree Minis. Their figures are notably more diverse and realistic in body shape than any other suppliers I found. I was particularly impressed by depictions of women and race. Of course, there are a fair share of shapely naked ladies, but there are also naked men, relatively heavy women, children and older people. I worked my way through my list and found appropriate models for almost all of them. Some would need modification – something I'd not done before – but that only added to the fun.

So, we come to my list of impairments. I didn't want my characters to have acquired their impairments during the apocalypse. The idea was that they had survived in large part because of the skills they'd accumulated in life before zombies, which had been shaped somewhat by disability. Some would have more limitations than others. But as a group they would be survivors. 

So we have;
  • A person with visual impairment 
  • A person with autism 
  • A walking stick user 
  • A wheelchair user (who cannot self propel – more on that later) 
  • A person of restricted growth 
  • An amputee 
  • A person with chronic illness 
 I'd like to talk about the rules I chose for these survivors.

Visual Impairment
A woman and her dog face down an
approaching trio of zombies.

I've already mentioned in my previous post the 'blind' rules of Warhammer 40k. I pondered simply not allowing a survivor with a visual impairment to use ranged weapons. But that seemed foolish given the circumstances – if you were to not have much vision but could hear the hoard approaching, it'd be worth shooting in their general direction on the off-chance. So for my special blind rule, I have gone with exactly the same modifier as Games Workshop – any ranged weapon used by a person with a visual impairment only hits on the roll of a 6. What's more, I've also included a range modifier – even if using a weapon with a longer range, it can only ever hit a model in an adjacent square.

I believe that this ruling makes sense when the character has long term problems with their vision – a sudden blinding would be much more of a problem.

I'd like to think that the biggest defining characteristic of our visually impaired survivor is that they come with a guide dog and an additional dog action. Dogs were introduced in a separate Zombicide box as companions to main characters, offering survivors additional attacks whilst also being a very mobile unit who can easily travel through zombies to search and retrieve. I think this should give our character not only some early on close combat ability, but also the chance to move forward, quickly grabbing objectives.

I had considered including a rule to say that she could not move without having the dog with her. As we play test, I'll see if that should be included.


I was very conscious when it came to our autistic character that I didn't want to provide them with 'magical' abilities. However, most of the autistic people I've known have been very good at recognising the way the world is going. So their skill tree is all about the more cerebral route to winning. They come with the Zombie Link skill which allows them an extra turn if zombies get an extra turn. This is always a very dangerous point in the game and it's easy to be overwhelmed. Our autistic hero, therefore, is always on the lookout and ready to deal with the hoards as they rush in.

Walking Stick user

When I first started using a walking stick, I comforted myself with the idea that I was now carrying what amounts to a significant weapon in public in an entirely socially acceptable way. My user cannot move without the walking stick in his hand, which precludes the ability to 'dual-wield' weapons and move. There is also the possibility that a zombie might grab the stick from him and leave him immobile. However, his walking stick is a special piece of equipment. It has the same stats as a baseball bat but with the caveat that, on the roll of a 6, the damage it inflicts is much greater. This is meant to simulate a sharpened point replacing the ferrule and the survivor stabbing it through a vulnerable part of the zombie. As such, even as the group start a game, they have the possibility of dealing with all but the most powerful zombie - the A-Bomb Abomination.

Wheelchair user

This was my biggest modelling task and I was very pleased with the result. The wheelchair imparts the survivor with the hoarder skill (effectively allowing them to carry an additional item of equipment (other wheelchair users may know how easy it is to become a living shopping trolley) and webbing skill (meaning that any item of equipment they have is effectively close to hand and so can be used without swapping around your inventory). However, they cannot self propel. I envisioned this character becoming a mobile gun emplacement and her skill tree rather encourages this style of play. Working in tandem with another player, they could very quickly cut down on large numbers of zombies.


My amputee character is the 'toughest' of them all – a very physical fighter who, thanks to the prosthesis is very hard to kill. My idea was that the prosthetic arm would be a distraction to zombies – they would try to bite a part of her that was completely invulnerable. Obviously she cannot hold weapons in this arm – I didn't want to go for the Ash from the Evil Dead chainsaw look. But I believe her combat-based skill tree will more than make up for that.

Will you be ready...
A lego rendition of Ash from the Evil Dead film series.  A yellow lego figure with a pistol in one hand and a chainsaw sort of in the other (in the film it's strapped to the arm because his hand has been amputated) and a grey zombie lego figure lying at the other figure's feet.  He has been cut in half and red lego viscera is on the floor.  It is covered by a Creative Commons Licence and was photographed by Kenny Louie.

Chronic Illness

This impairment is the biggest departure from the standard skill tree of other survivors. In general, the game sees survivors becoming more and more dangerous as the experience builds. It's a kind of blood-lust, I guess – people building up a murderous steam as they fight. But our chronically ill survivor easily flags as the game progresses. Where everyone else is gaining an action, she loses one. And her ability to hit zombies reduces beyond that. She has the potential to be quite a liability – a position I very much recognise in myself (and in the way that disablist society talks about people like me). However, the truth is that people who lack capacity in general learn how to organise things as efficiently as possible. In that way, she's able to impart three additional actions to the survivors around her. We will see if she ends up getting left behind, but hopefully working as a team they can all survive together.

Person of restricted growth

I have worried about this survivor more than any others. I honestly believe that among people with physical impairments, people of restricted growth are some of the most badly effected by disablist attitudes. Jokes are still widely acceptable and, thanks to the conventions of the fantasy genre, 'dwarfs' are a mainstay of many wargames, boardgames and RPGs. I really struggled to find an appropriate miniature I was at all happy with and I felt that I did as good as I could. However, being a busty lady with a tight top, the character still feels rather more sexualised than I'd like. I also worried that my skill selection might make the character seem rather magical in their ability to bypass threats because of their diminutive stature. Because of this, I'm rather keen to introduce the special P90 assault weapon the miniature is modelled with as a piece of equipment. This weapon might encourage a slightly more mainstream style of play. I think playtesting will be very important here. I suspect it will be a piece of equipment the team have to fight to discover (or rediscover as the case may be).

I also plan to include wheelchairs in some games. They would naturally be found in hospital settings and might prove helpful to characters like the walking stick user and the person with chronic illness. 


I'd just like to take a little time to list the resources I used in the practical creation of my team of survivors. As previously mentioned, the miniatures came from Hasslefree Minis  [nude miniatures are featured on this website]. I will link to the individual miniatures I used 

Amir – Walking Stick User
Susannah – Wheelchair User
Neek – Visually Impaired Person
Anya - Chronically Ill Person
Vee – Amputee
Moira – Autistic Person
Joules – Person of Restricted Growth

In addition to these, I also used the Hasslefree Mini weapons sprue

I spent a lot of time looking for wheelchair users. Most were either steampunkified or rather ridiculous and inappropriate. Eventually I found a brass plate of wheelchairs ready to build from 4D Model Shop. I used some Green Stuff to bulk out some of the shapes and the finished models are a touch small. But obviously, come the apocalypse beggars cannot be choosers.

As mentioned, I did modify some of the miniatures. I cut off the machete blade Amir was modelled with and drilled out his hand to accommodate a walking stick made form a paperclip. Neek had the fingers cut from her right hand and her palm filed to accommodate the baseball bat from the weapons sprue. I then modelled new fingers and thumb from Green Stuff. Vee's hair was cut off and new hair put in place (I really loved the mask, but not so much the hair). But the biggest change was cutting off one of Susannah's legs so that I could pin it in a new position to allow her to sit. I felt that her pose would easily suit this and, with a rather massive dose of luck, I was right. I filled the cut leg with more Green Stuff. I then modelled all the bases to give them a street look, again with Green Stuff. All in all, I used around 10cm of Green Stuff strip and two whole paperclips.

A male figure holding a pistol and a walking
A female figure holding a baseball bat.

A female figure holding a pistol whilst sat in
a wheelchair whose back wheels are missing
A female figure whose leg has been sawn off and pinned back
in place with a paperclip.

I then created the ID cards and Equipment cards using the resources on the Zombicide website. I also found a fantastic blog post with equipment cards and fonts available for download.

In the final blog post, we meet our team of heroes!

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