Sunday, 6 July 2014

Surviving the Walkers

Get into the skin of your favourite The Walking Dead character and work together to survive the Walker apocalypse.

FOR fans of TV series The Walking Dead, it is three months and counting before the much-awaited premiere of the hit show’s fifth season in October. So what can die-hard fans do to fulfil their Walker cravings in the meantime? How about playing the part of a Walking Dead character yourself?

Now, The Walking Dead originally started off as a comic series by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. Although there have been a few board games based on both the comics and the TV series, this game is the latest one to be released.

It is a cooperative game, which can be played by one to four players; although, as with most games, the more people playing it, the more fun it gets. Players get to play one of six Survivors: Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie or Andrea. Each Survivor has a specific Leadership Ability that will come into play during the game, so don’t just choose your favourite character blindly.

The “board” actually consists of four large location tiles placed to form a square. They represent The Town, The Highway, The Farm and The Prison.

These tiles are dealt out randomly every time a game starts, so that the position of the locations always changes, keeping the game fresh. This is also important as players can only move to neighbouring tiles, not diagonally.

There are four decks of 25 Resource cards each, representing Food, Ammo, Equipment and Allies. After the location tiles have been arranged, these decks are randomly selected and each one placed next to one tile. (The rulebook has suggestions on how to randomise the decks.)

Not forgetting the Walkers, each player has to roll a three-sided dice and the number that comes up is the number of Walkers placed at the location nearest to them.

Each player starts out with two Allies (which are used to help boost your Combat score), two Food (which are used for either “healing” yourself or defying the Leader) and five Hit Points (which represent your life).

Everyone also gets to draw one Equipment card from the deck. If they get a ranged weapon (Handgun, Rifle, Crossbow and Shotgun), they can load up on the amount of Ammo stated as “start of game load”. Otherwise, Ammo and Equipment need to be collected by drawing from the respective Resource decks or trading during the game. The same goes for Allies and Food.

Mode of play

Now, if you like a game that can be finished in a finite amount of time, then this is a good one for you, as it is meant to be played in 12 rounds.

The first game for newbies will take extra time – about one-and-a-half-hours for our group – as everyone needs to get used to the rules and rhythm of play. But subsequent games should go faster – unless everyone starts bickering, of course!

Keep in mind that “cooperative” is the key word here, as the objective of the game is to prevent the Resource cards from running out before the 12 rounds are completed. Everyone loses if that happens and everyone wins (unless they are dead) if all the decks still have some cards left at the end of play. So this is not really a game for uber-competitive, non-team player types.

For those with Machiavellian tendencies, the nine Ulterior Motive cards can add a bit of conflict to the game. These cards contain specific missions, like “Death Wish: Add 10 Walkers to the Locations during the game” and “Hoarder: Stockpile 9 Food”, but are strictly optional add-ons to the game. Players are dealt these cards randomly, and are not to reveal their mission until it has been accomplished.

Now, each round of play consists of three stages: Taking Your Turn, Combat, and End of Round.

One thing we liked about this game was that the Leadership position (marked by a sheriff’s badge) rotates (clockwise) among the players, with a new Leader every round. The first Leader is whoever throws the highest number of a six-sided dice before the game starts.

Players should read the Leader’s Ability and discuss strategy at the start of every round. It is also now that two Event cards are dealt to every player.

Event cards are what move the game forward by presenting scenarios and choices to the players. Examples are “Always Hungry: Add 1 Walker to your Location for each Food you have”, “Survivor’s Dilemma: If you are at The Prison, draw an Ally card. If you are not at The Prison, add 1-3 Walkers (roll three-sided dice) to The Prison” and “Accidents Happen: Each Survivor who is not at the Leader’s Location loses 1-3 Hit Points (roll three-sided dice)”.

In Taking Your Turn, the Leader goes first by deciding where to place everyone. The Leader can then draw a card from the Resource deck at their Location, and give or receive an item from any other Survivors at their Location. These two steps are optional, and can be skipped.

They then have to play both their Event cards, but in whichever order they prefer. The cards are discarded after this.

Play then moves clockwise to the next Survivor. If that player wishes to defy the Leader for whatever reason, they can discard one Food and move to an adjacent tile of their choice. They can then draw a card from the Resource deck at their Location, and give or receive an item from any other Survivors at their Location. Again, these two steps are optional, and can be skipped.

Unlike the Leader, other players need only play one of their Event cards, and can choose which one they wish to play. Both cards are discarded afterwards.

Next is the Combat stage.

Each player needs to decide on their weapon at the start of this stage.

Combat Points are gained by rolling six-sided dice. Every five Combat Points kills one Walker.

Those with ranged weapons at the same Location add up their Combat Points, while those with melee weapons (Katana, Machete and Lead Pipe) fight solo.

The End of Round stage is where the damage is dealt out.

Each Walker left at a Location deals one damage to the Survivor(s) there, ie they lose one Hit Point per damage. Survivors at the same Location decide among themselves how much damage each person gets (much potential for conflict here!).

If there are no Survivors at the Location, or the Survivor(s) has already been killed off, then the damage is dealt to the Resource deck. One Resource card is removed per damage.

After this, Survivors can heal by giving up one Food for a Hit Point, marking the end of the round.

Changing things up

Now, the Rulebook suggests two modes and two difficulty levels for play.

There is the Standard Mode, where if your Survivor dies, you get to continue playing by picking a different Survivor from the unused pool. And the Hardcore Mode, where once you’re dead, you’re out of the game.

The two difficulty levels are Beginner and Expert.

For the Beginner level, everyone shows their Events cards and can openly discuss strategy during each stage of play.

At the Expert level, you keep your Event cards hidden and only read them out when you play them. And strategy can only be discussed at the beginning and end of each round.

There are also other gameplay variations suggested in the Rulebook, including only having one Leader throughout the game or having the Leader go last in the Taking Your Turn stage.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for players to come up with their own modified game rules either, once they get used to the standard rules. This means that this game is good value for money, as creative players can come up with variations to keep it interesting and fresh.

For those who want more, but prefer playing by the book, there is the Woodbury Expansion set, which adds the Woodbury Location and The Governor to the game, and offers a different way to win.

Overall, the game scores for incorporating realistic elements from The Walking Dead world.

However, newbies to card-centric games like this one might find it a bit heavy-going at first, as it is more about strategy and tactics than just killing Walkers.

Just don’t keep sticking together all the time, and this game should be a great way to while away the time between The Walking Dead episodes!

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Board game , Novel Games , The Walking Dead


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