Posts Tagged ‘The Walking Dead’

The first expansion set for All Out War feels like a bit of a backward step. It is a little unusual in that you don’t need a copy of the main box in order to play it, but the rulebook included is almost a carbon copy of the “Read this first” quick start rules that come with the core set. Looks like a cash-in at first, as this is the only way to get a “Governer” character for the game, but in the context of the comics theme that Mantic have implemented so well it makes perfect sense! What I hadn’t realised until recently was that the release schedule for AOW is based around graphic novel order, which makes this set a prequel of sorts, being as it is based around the two prequel novels, “The Road to Woodbury” and “Rise of the Governer”.


The solo rule set takes the form of a step-by-step introduction to playing AOW. Over the course of three scenarios, rules are gradually added in to ease a beginner into the game, starting with no guns and limited actions and leading up to nearly the full rule system. The box includes full sets of event, equipment and supply cards (themed for a solo game), dice, templates, scenery and range ruler, counters, 5 walkers and reference card, and a Brian Blake model and survivor card.


“Hang on,” I hear you cry, “But surely the Governer’s name is Philip Blake…?” 

This is true. And also not true. If you haven’t read the novels, I suggest you start there, as the scenarios are based on the pre-Governer days of Brian Blake contained within these very accessible tomes. (The stories are actually quite good, even if the concept of the walkers in the books leaves a little to be desired) The game doesn’t give away any spoilers, and doesn’t require you to read the books, but it adds to the flavour if you have. 


The first scenario starts with a very basic setup, a defined 10″ square (I used some of my Battle Systems clip-together card terrain for this), three walkers, three supply counters and Brian. The event deck is slightly limited, as is the supply deck (guns are removed) by the presence of a walker symbol in the top right corner, exactly like the quick start rules in the core box. In fact this is the same scenario as the first one in that book, but with one character instead of two. The rules introduce us to the basic turn sequence and key concepts (NOISE, threat, and walker movement), as well as the melee combat system, and basic actions.It’s a pretty straight forward gear-grab, with pretty limited options, and barring some horrendous dice rolls you should breeze through this one. You start with no equipment, so your first face-off with a walker is pretty daunting, but once you pick up a weapon from the supply deck you begin to feel a little safer. My first pick up was a tire iron (one extra white dice in combat – nice!) and it was pretty easy going from there. If you’re careful you can reach a supply counter without getting grabbed by one of the dead, but some of the event cards force them towards you so it’s unlikely. With a low threat level and small playing area, this scenario is over pretty quickly. So it’s on to part two.


Scenario 2 widens the play area to 15″ square (time to re-clip that terrain…), and adds scenery, the rest of the supply cards (the gun and ammo), and rules for shooting, MAYHEM and the “Hold Nerve” action. Once again, it’s a grab the supplies and run game, but this time you start with a weapon and there are five supply counters to collect. I was expecting to breeze through this one too, but a couple of dodgy dice rolls (where the hell are the head shots when you need them!?) left me constantly trying to get away from walkers, which dragged the game out over a few extra turns until the threat maxed out. You lose!!!! Tougher than it looked, the relentless rise of the threat level is a killer mechanic. It goes up when MAYHEM is caused, usually through gunfire, when there are models engaged in melee at the start of the melee phase, and via the event cards. The only way to bring it down is to Hold Nerve, which takes an action and reduces threat by one on a 50-50 dice roll! Certainly puts the player up against it! So let’s see how part three goes.


Scenario Three uses the same play area size and game components, and adds rules for equipment slots, the make NOISE action, and being bitten! But at least this time you get to go tooled up with a full set of equipment: Gun, knife, leather jacket and bandages. During this game Brian has to capture four walkers and bundle them onto his truck, rules for which are supplied as scenario-specific. After set-up and a couple of turns, during which I had captured two walkers and unceremoniously dumped them into the waiting vehicle, I began to think this one would be a push-over. 

Oh no. 

Another few turns in, with walkers piling into the game via the event cards, the threat level rocketing, and dragging a struggling walker halfway round the playing area to avoid the shambling onslaught, I was bitten! I got a third walker in the truck, but time, walkers and infection overcame me, and the threat maxed out again. Game over.


Overall it was a reasonable experience. The third scenario was interesting with it’s capture not kill idea, and it’s good to get “The Governor” as a character, even if he is a shadow of the madman to come. And the five walkers included are all original, so no doubles yet! But there are plenty of niggles. While the rules build up over time, they never get to the complete rule set found in the core set, and even at the end still feel like a beginner set. I had to refer to the main rules for a clarification at one point, something I wouldn’t expect to do with a stand alone box. Where there is a standard set of dice added you are supplied with a panic dice which there are no rules for here. The “Solo” event deck is mainly a re-worded pack with one different card. The supply deck is a half size pack with one different weapon, and has “keywords” included, which again have no rules in this box. For me, it really needed to include a few more differences.

 So would I recommend it? For an absolute beginner the gradual building of the rules works well. As in the main rule book it is well laid out, with plenty of tutorial side bars to explain what’s going on. But once you work through it you will want to get the main box anyway to play with the complete rules. If you already own the core set it will feel like a step back, rather than a separate entity, as you will have a near carbon copy of the rules. It might be best to look at it as a large booster pack with the extra accessories to keep as spares as well as the miniatures. But it’s going to feel a little pricey on that front.

As an aside, I’d like to say R.I.P. George A. Romero, without whom (despite his opinion of The Walking Dead!) none of this would have existed.

Officially in mourning. 

David Mustill

Advertisements