Louis Barna learns how to play Marvel Zombies at the CMON booth during WomnderCon in Anaheim, CA on Friday March 24, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Amidst the hustle and bustle of throngs of cosplayers and comic book fans who flock to the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday, March 24, the first day of WonderCon to snag exclusive merchandise, get front-row seats at panel discussions, books and Getting artworks signed by their favorite artists, there was a bit of calm as small groups frequented the CMON booth at the heart of the action to play tabletop games.
With all the colorful costumes and the sights and sounds of a busy convention surrounding them, WonderCon attendees were able to hunker down and play the new Marvel Zombies: A Zombicide Game.
“We love it,” said Geoff Skinner, CMON’s senior vice president of US operations, as he stood in the large booth and the guests played games around him. “We were able to return to WonderCon last year for the first time since the pandemic. We had the Marvel United game that had just come out and until then we hadn’t interacted with people directly and by far the most rewarding thing was seeing a 10 year old play it for the first time. It was fun watching them take the time to learn something and these games have a lot of strategy and they also get to pretend to be their favorite characters. Watching people come, sit down, play and try it and later say it was one of their favorite things at the convention; that’s one of my favorite things about these weekends.”
Marvel Zombies is the company’s newest game and is based on the 2005-2006 five-issue limited series of graphic novels created by Robert Kirkman, creator of the graphic novel series The Walking Dead, along with illustrations by Sean Phillips and Covers were written by Arthur Suydam.
CMON, which has released dozens of these types of games, used a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $500,000 to develop the new tabletop game. They were stunned when they received over $9 million in pledges in just 16 days from more than 28,500 backers earlier this year. The basic version of the game is available now from most retailers for around $34.99, however, enhanced and deluxe packs available to Kickstarter campaign participants started at $130 but included additional pawns , which were sculpted and put into molds by hand rather than being 3-D printed, and limited edition figurines. These more exclusive sets will ship shortly and are expected to be fully distributed to all Kickstarter backers by June.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Skinner said. “We couldn’t be more grateful for the fans who came out to support us. We had such a great first day; Within the first three hours we made $3 million and it broke all our internal records and we weren’t prepared for that. We hoped people would come out and like it, but just with the amount of people that came it was hard to keep up.”
Skinner said there has been a steady increase in interest in tabletop and board games since the early ’00s.
“Before the pandemic, I knew more people than ever who had game nights,” he said. “It could have been Cards Against Humanity, Zombicide, or Catan, which is very popular and influential. But I think the match that was put on the gas came when people were at home because of the pandemic and they were in their pods or with their families and didn’t want to sit around inside. Even with as much binge-worthy TV as there has been, you can only watch so much TV. It wasn’t just the increase in the number of people playing games again, it was the acceptance of different types of games and people looking for different experiences.”
Those who attended WonderCon were among the first to see all the exclusive parts of the Marvel Zombies game, intended for up to six players in the more exclusive versions. Skinner said the game designers took a direct cue from the comic book series, but there are a few things that set this game apart from similar games out there.
“We made the zombies our playable characters as opposed to our regular Zombicide,” he said. “In most other games, you are a survivor and try to escape the zombies in some way, shoot them down, or feed them. In it you are Zombie Hulk and you are Zombie Iron Man. You’re playing against other heroes that haven’t been zombified, and Spider-Man can step in and try to defeat you, and the non-zombie heroes can be your nemesis. You’re trying to stave off hunger, because the whole point of the comics was that every time they ate, they went back to normal and regretted what they had done, but they got really hungry again and couldn’t do anything about it.”
The game is mission-based, and there are multiple objectives available in the included booklet that require you to find ways to escape waves of SHIELD agents coming your way, or eat a hero, Skinner explains.
“It offers a lot of different ways to play depending on what mission you want to play, so you can often sit down at the table and play something you’ve never played from the same box before,” he added.
CMON also had two other games for fans to try, including new board games based on Scooby-Doo! and Stranger Things. These games were also available to guests in the convention’s general gaming area, which showcased dozens of new tabletop games.
If: 10am-7pm Saturday, March 25; 10am-5pm Sunday 26 March
Where: Anaheim Convention Center, 800 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim
Tickets: Badges range from $35 to $55 for adults; $18-23 for children ages 13-17, seniors 60+ and active military at comic-con.org/wca.