PAX 2016 has come and gone for another year leaving us with excitement for some imminent releases, one of which is The Walking Dead: All Out War Miniatures Game (TWD). Being a fan of both The Walking Dead TV show as well as miniatures, I sat down and played out a demo scenario to see how it all worked.
Starting its life as a Kickstarter project in Feb this year by Mantic Games (also known for Deadzone, Kings of War, Dreadball, and Dungeon Saga to name a few), TWD is a skirmish take on the comic series by Skybound Entertainment as opposed to the TV show. As you’d guess, the game puts players into narrative scenarios using miniatures to represent a selection of one-syllable-named hero/villains. Some of these characters include but not limited to: Rick, Carl (Coral?), Shane, Glenn, Dale and Jim.
The leading man, Rick “Carl, what did you do?” Grimes.
Like all of Mantic’s games, TWD is easy to grasp and in under half an hour, I was able to fully understand the mechanics and was playing at a reasonable pace – even if I didn’t know how to best use each of my characters’ abilities.
In addition to the named characters, the game comes with a host of zombies “Walkers” which act like a semi-controllable character which all players can sort of control. I say sort of, as at times you get to decide which walker moves towards the closest, currently alive hero.
“Right. So the game comes with miniatures – exactly what a miniatures game needs. What else is there?”
“Have a guess”
Apart from miniatures, the game has a bunch of character cards, item cards and event cards. Card stock tokens are used to represent terrain on the game board (cars, barriers, barrels etc.). Rounding off the set is a 52cm square game mat, specialized 6 sided dice and lastly a rule book. All pretty standard. What sets this game apart from other small skirmish games, and what I found to be the most interesting aspect of the game, is the “noise” mechanic.
Allow me to explain:
Just about everything you do, every action you force upon your little dudes, can generate sound which in turn, can attract nearby zo walkers. For example, a character has a choice between sneaking and running to move across the board. Sneaking generates no sound but also doesn’t get you very far. Running on the other hand makes a bit of noise but obviously propels you further. Using a melee action is also fine on the quiet front where shooting a gun is going to attract a lot of attention.
Keeping with the Mantic theme of simplicity, everything is easy to understand visually and from a distance. The character cards have small sections imprinted around the border to show you where to store found equipment and at the same time, let you know how much stuff each dude/dudette can hold.
Scenery that can be searched for loot has a token advising as much and when flipped, clearly points out that the area has been “searched”. No mistake can be made or confusion created. Excellent!
The game isn’t all about searching, looting, telling a nearby survivors to shut up because they’re “Gonna get us killed”. The other major aspect of the game is combat. To harp on like a broken record, this is also made simple. Read your equipment cards if you have any and apply any bonuses they might give; a re-roll of a dice, a better chance to cause damage etc. You take the amount of dice as indicated on your character card + equipment, your opponent does the same. Roll off and cancel out any dice that are the same. Whatever is left is the amount of damage dealt. Still alive? Shunt back an inch and hope the retaliation isn’t bad.
Carl the badass, walking around with a knife and hockey stick.
Another thing that I thought was pretty cool (and expected of a zombie, really) is that any living fella who loses all their health also has a chance to rise again as a walker, determined by simple dice roll. Same goes with walkers; they may be easy to knock down, but they can onlybe kept down by rolling a critical hit during combat.
As the game was progressing, I was reminded about the threat tracker; a system to keep the game moving. Almost every action can add to this tracker and the higher the number the harder the game becomes. The start of every turn begins with a draw from the Event card pile which imposes a rule for a turn or spawns more walkers from the edges of the board.
Add to this every character has a limit before their mental state breaks down e.g. Rick can act fine throughout most of the game with a High Nerve, whereas Carl has a Medium nerve and starts to break down two thirds through. If the threat tracker rises above a characters nerve, they need to roll a die to see how they react to the situation. Most of the time, it’s a bad result, something like “run a distance directly away from the nearest walker” or “take no action to remain quiet”. That kind of thing.
The last thing I wanted to comment on is how the game has managed to capture the swarm mentality of the walkers. Not only do they instinctively move towards survivors, or appear from behind when least wanted, but they receive bonus combat dice the more walkers there are in combat – drastically.
Normally a walker is given one die for combat. Add a second walker to the fray and the additional Deadite is given two dice. What?! There’s a third in the mix?! They get three. The combat is then fought using all the dice the walkers have accrued verses whatever measly dice your survivor has. In short, if you’re surrounded then you’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Yeah… they aren’t getting out of this alive.
…and that’s TWD in a nutshell. As it was only a demo game the full rules or scenarios weren’t taken advantage of which is a bit of a shame, but something that kinda can’t be helped when trying to explain a brand new game system within a convention as loud as PAX. What I DID play though was a very tight, fast game system with potential to open up by using larger game boards, more interactive scenery and more characters to control per side. The miniatures are decent with defined detail and a decent amount of variation between the walkers.
The only thing I feel that lets the game down is the stock scenery. Using a piece of card with a car printed on it doesn’t help the immersion. This could be rectified if you’re willing to cough up for the “scenery booster” which includes 3d terrain and neoprene mats (the base game includes paper mats). So if you’re any kind of keen for The Walking Dead, the booster is a must.
Apart from that though, TWD is shaping up to be an excellent addition to any game collection. If I manage to get my hands on a copy of the game, read the rules in full and get a few decent and different scenario games in, I’ll report back with my second thoughts.
Until then dear reader, pray Negan’s reign meets a swift demise (I hate that guy).