lördag 10 december 2016

The Walking Dead: All Out War review

As you may have noticed earlier I backed the TWD: AOW kickstarter (if you read that out aloud it sounds like when you stub your toe in the middle of the night -- "Twudd! Aowww!"). If you didn't know, you can read a slight rant about the kickstarter and look at my first painted figures here with some more figures here.

Anyway, if you haven't been living under a rock for the last ten years you can't have missed The Walking Dead -- either the TV show or the comic. There have been boardgames based on both, and there's a cooperative miniatures game in the works based on the TV show. Like the LotR and Hobbit franchise, there are licenses for both the books and the movies. Hence the long title, The Walking Dead: All Out War, to set the game apart from the other games. This game is not cooperative, instead groups of survivors clash against each other with the zombies as sort of moving hazardous terrain.

The comic. The TV show is slightly more colourful. Slightly.
I must confess that I haven't read the comic and only watched a couple of episodes of the TV show. But who doesn't love a good zombie game? Well I do, and I liked how the game looked in the kickstarter. I didn't go all in like most people, but I got the base game and quite a lot of stretch goals for the princely sum of 75 dollars. I think I got a good deal. For the purposes of this review though, I'm only going to look at the core game.

Warning, lots of rambling and pictures ahead! (Maybe also some spoilers, I don't know.)

The contents of the base game, picture courtesy of Mantic Games.
First off, the core game retails at £35 but can be had for less online. Element Games sells it for £31.49 and Wayland Games currently sells it for £27.99. As you can see in the picture you get 12 zombie figures (called Walkers), six survivors, including the main character Rick Grimes and his son Carl. Each survivor has their own character card with their stats. You also get some equipment and loot cards, event cards, a threat tracker dial, custom dice, various templates and counters and card terrain. Oh, and the rules of course; one quick-start guide and the rules themselves. Not in the picture is a playmat which is 20 inches square.

Basic scenario setup. Note that I have 3D scenery from the kickstarter not included in the core game.
The quality of the components are good. The cards use illustrations from the comics and while they are not the same quality as Fantasy Flight Games uses I think they should last a while. My cards was slightly warped, but that doesn't detract from the overall impression.

Character and equipment cards with their corresponding figures. As you can see the cards are slightly bent.
The cardstock used in the templates are sturdier, but the arrow for the threat tracker is quite loose, so you have to be careful so you don't accidentally knocks it up to a higher level.

Kill zone template, threat tracker dial, walker reference card.
The miniatures are very well sculpted, molded in quite rigid PVC -- that hard but soft plastic that many boardgames use -- and preassembled. They are a bit bigger and chunkier than some other figures ranges though.

Left to right: Crusader Miniatures, Games Workshop, TWD, Bad Squiddo Games, old Citadel Miniatures.

The rulebook is well laid out with clear rules. On the back is a quick reference sheet that's actually useful. In my first game I was using just the back of the rules after two turns, except for a few minor stuff that I had to look up.

The back of the rules features a useful quick reference sheet.
The rules are quite simple, but do their business fine. There is only one scenario in the core game, a search for food and supplies. The survivors try to gather supply counters while avoiding getting bitten by walkers or killed by the other group.

First is the action phase. Players alternate activating their survivors, who can do two actions per turn -- but not two of the same -- so move, shoot, search, hide or some other action. 

When picking up a supply counter you also draw a loot card, since you can find useful items... 
...or a lurker suddenly jumping out and biting you.
Walkers react to noise (like someone running) or mayhem (like someone shooting). Deliberately making noise is an action, so if you want to you can draw walkers onto the other player's survivor.

Using guns quickly attracts a lot of walkers.
Next is the event phase. Here walkers automatically attack anyone inside their "kill zone". So if you are not careful and stray to close you will get attacked. Also, walkers attracted by noise but not reaching all the way might just be in range this time. 

Liam is in this walker's kill zone so will get attacked.
After that you draw an event card which depending on the threat level has different effects, from adding more walkers to the board, or allowing players to move a walker -- now do you go for the other player's survivors, or move them away from your own? The threat level rises on some cards, and if there is any melee anywhere on the board. This represents more and more walkers moving towards the noise in hope of getting some fresh breakfast.

The Hunger. Just like when the all-you-can-eat buffé opens. Note that threat goes up by one on this card.
Third phase is the melee phase. That's where everyone fights. Combats with multiple participants are broken up as far as you can into one-on-one fights. But everyone must fight, you can't divide fights so someone ends up without an opponent. Players decides if their survivors are attacking or defending, totals up the dice (there are red, white and blue dice, progressingly better) from the character card and any equipment the survivors are carrying, and rolls them. Whoever rolls most hit symbols wins and inflict the difference in damage on their opponent. In two-to-one situations just roll all the dice on the most numerous side together.

The rule I had to look up. Clear as sausage broth, as we say in Sweden.
The exclamation marks on some results is a crit. If a survivor rolled the dice, it means a headshot, the only way of putting down walkers permanently. In case of a firearm it also means it might have jammed so you have to roll to see if it still is working -- melee weapons are much more reliable but of course you need to get close to use them. If a walker rolled the dice it means the survivor was bitten. You can use handguns in melee if you want to, but it can attract more walkers and potentially lead to another fight. Survivors can only attack once -- they have to defend if they get involved in melee again -- but walkers can attack several times if new "meals" appear.

Liam is attacked by Patrick and a Walker. The walker's dice is counted together with Patrick's dice. Poor Liam!
Last is the end phase. Here you roll for any downed walkers or killed survivors to see if they stand up again. Yes, survivors that were not taken out by a headshot can come back as zombies! Then you check for victory conditions. In the core scenario one side wins if they hold seven out of nine supply counters, or if they kill the other survivors of course. Also, if threat has reached max level the game ends as it's too dangerous to stick around and each band of survivors retreat to their safe place -- whoever holds most supply counters win in this case.

The board at the end of my first game. The walkers and survivors are all clumped up in one quarter of the board.
There are some more nuances to the game than I have listed above. For instance, a lone walker is a pushover in melee, especially against a survivor with a weapon, but two walkers are actually quite dangerous. Getting swamped by more than two walkers usually means you end up as someone's breakfast!
Liam's nerve is low so he has to roll the panic dice each activation if the threat level is higher. This result means Berserk. 
Also, some survivors have lower nerve than others and have to roll the panic die when the threat level rises. This can mean that they cower in fear, run away in panic (making more noise) or going berzerk (rolling more dice in melee). Other survivors have leader abilities or personal abilities that can help or synergise with other survivor's abilities.

At first I thought the playarea was too small, thinking it a bit cheap on Mantic's behalf to only have a 20 inch square playmat instead of the usual two or three foot square. However, the small playarea leads to a more claustrophobic feeling, if the mat was larger it would be like the cardio scene from Zombieland. You know, this one:

So all in all it's a good game. It runs smoothly, is a good fun with some nailbiting and laugh-inducing moments. There are different tactics involved, do I try to grab the supplies fast, or do I try to take out the other gang first. The starter is quite cheap at £35, but I feel it isn't really the good value it seems. There are some detractors.

My main gripe is the lack of replayability. You get six survivors, with some equipment, giving you two gangs of around 100-120 points depending on how you kit them out. You can't swap the survivors around a lot because the cost varies too much (Rick costs 50 points while Liam costs 10 for example). You could swap the middle cost ones between the gangs to give you some variation and yes, you could see how Rick fares without his gun, but that's not much if you want to have two equal sides. Mantic is releasing Booster packs with a couple of survivors and some equipment which I think is is not that big a hit on your wallet for £13.49 . Even having just one or two more options when building your groups will be very useful.
Shane booster pack, with Shane, Reggie and (spoiler?) a walker version of Shane.
Another detractor is that there's only one scenario included -- "The Walking Dead", where you search for supplies. I know Mantic has planned a bunch of scenarios following the comic storyline introducing new characters, locations and equipment in various expansions, so I guess you are meant to buy those too. Which is fine by me, but it would have been nice to have at least one other scenario in there. It's like that staple pitched battle in mass battle miniatures games where two armies happen to meet on a field, line up opposite eachother, and have a go.
The first expansion, "Days gone bye" with more characters and presumably other scenarios and rules.
My next point is solo play. Zombie games lend themselves to solo play very nice, since you can try to survive against just the zombies. The event deck though is geared very much towards competetive groups of survivors, so small tips for solo play is included. And indeed I played my first game against myself, controlling both groups, but that's not the same. Also the basic scenario gets old very fast when playing solo.

Proper solo rules are instead included in another expansion called "Prelude to Woodbury". This is a "Solo starter" that includes one survivor, five zombies, a solo rulebook and all game components necessary, so more dice, more card templates, another threat tracker, and a solo event deck. For 25 pounds it's a bit steep to get if you already have the core set, as the only thing you need is the scenarios and the event deck. The extra survivor is nice -- it's the "The Governor" Blake before he became governor, for those of you who have read the comic -- but the rest is just filler. £15 for the rules, deck, and The Governor had been a more fair price.

Prelude to Woodbury expansion with Solo rules. Unnecessary components though... and why more cars?

Furthermore, while there are some brief rules on how to assemble your survivor group, there are no character creation rules or campaign rules. As I was a backer on kickstarter I received a PDF rulebook when the kickstarter ended which contain those rules, but the printed rulebook does not. That means that Mantic has decided to move them to an expansion instead. Which means that you probably need to shell out 25 bucks more to get them, bringing the game up to around £50-60 cost. I think it would still be worth it though, I'm just thinking it would have been nice to have them from the start.

I know Mantic is a business and have to earn money, that's not what I mean. But it would have been nice to have say, seven survivors and a few more equipment cards in the box and provide a second scenario to ensure better replayability, Even if this raised the cost to £40 I think it would be a better deal. (I'm trying to be objective and look at it from the perspective of someone who has just bought the core game here.) I also think they should have included the 3D terrain car models and supply counters in the core game as they really do enhance the look, but maybe pure boardgamers are not that bothered by cardboard terrain, and at least Mantic sells them separately so you can chose if you want them or not.

The terrain booster. The cars are hollow but quite nice. Everything is repeated twice.
So what's my final verdict?

If you like zombie games and would like a nice little beer and pretzels (or shits and giggles) game to play with a mate for about an hour, this is the game for you. Especially if you have read and like the Walking Dead comic, but it's not required to enjoy the game. This game is well worth the £35 retail price. Be prepared to shell out a little bit more though if you want to play around with different survivor groups. Buy a survivor booster for more options.

If you just want to play solo you could pick up the solo starter for just £25, but that would only give you one single survivor to play with. It's supposed to have more scenarios though, so might last a while if you add a survivor booster.

If, however, you want a game that you can play solo, develop your character, or perhaps run a campaign against a mate, then this game could still be that game, just be prepared to buy a lot more than just the core set and a few boosters. You would be looking at at least £60, assuming the campaign rules are in the first expansion, then you will have to add the terrain booster for added prettybility (yes I just made that word up), solo starter and other boosters. I suspect this is what Mantic is aiming for though, hooking the fans of the comic for the long run. And they may just have the game to do just that.

All in all I give The Walking Dead: All Out War 4 out of 5 headshots.

2 kommentarer:

  1. Interesting. I am looking forward to having a go with my set.

    1. Interesting. I am looking forward to having a go with either of your sets :-)


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