The Walking Dead can be credited for revitalising the zombie genre when it appeared first as a celebrated comic and then as the long-running TV show reusing characters and recognisable narratives from the comic. The continuing narrative, focusing on a central group of survivors from the Atlanta area of the States, challenged what we would expect; here the zombies, or Walkers to those familiar with the mythos, were not villains here. Instead the regular challenges facing the survivors is the regular discovery of other groups of survivors willing to do anything to survive and scavenge the last remaining resources of food and firearms.
Mantic Games have now developed their own tabletop game (All Out War) based on The Walking Dead comic book franchise replacing the recognisable characters with 28mm scaled miniatures. The game puts players in control of two opposing groups of survivors, each looking to collect all the available resource tokens in play. One of these groups features the key characters of Rick and his son Carl, central to the franchise. Players take turns to move their miniature around an established scenario with the use of a range meter to collect resources and avoid being attacked by the numerous zombies in the play area.
All Out War - The Game
Mantic have helped in creating a suitably post-apocalyptic atmosphere by supplying a printed full-colour game sheet featuring urban areas with disused roads and streets. There are flat cut-outs of barricades, abandoned cars and supplies, all presented from a top-down perspective.
Once one player has moved all of their characters towards their objectives, either by walking, which remains silent to the Walkers, or running, which allows further movement but generates noise that will attract Walkers and performing one of the available set actions, such as search, run or hide this ends the players’ phase.
Now at this point the game comes into its own as instead of simply returning to the first player, the game now demands that both players complete zombie checks to see if any Walkers are within a kill zone of a character. The Walker miniatures operate with their own strict set of rules and walk towards either player’s characters by the most direct straight line possible. Walkers react to “noise” generated by characters, if they choose to run across the game area or in regards to the random events generated in result of Event cards pulled at the end of every player phase.
At this point there is the drawing of a random event card that dramatically impacts on the gameplay. For example, a car alarm has gone off, drawing all the zombies towards one of the die-cut cars in a certain direction meaning that your previously “safe” spot on the table is now in the path of the hoard.
Players can attack Walkers and opposing characters throughout the game, using items and weapons collected in their searches or equipped to particular characters from the start of play. The Core Set, which this review is using, comes with one ready made scenario, with a clear and detailed plan of how to set-up your table for play. The set also comes with easy to follow rule set and within a couple of games players will be familiar with the use of numerous coloured dice used in attack and defence checks. Anyone that already has experience with tabletop gaming will instantly recognise the systems in place to enable such actions.
The question that players of this latest incarnation of The Walking Dead are going to ask here is: Does Mantic’s game capture the thrills and feeling of dread in just trying to survive against ruthless survivors and zombie hoards? The answer to that is a resounding YES!
Players will quickly recognise the themes of survival and the constant threat of a Walker attack cleverly embedded in the rule-set. Similarly, the rules allow more sophisticated elements such as addressing what could happen to a player if they are bitten by a Walker, how to use cover strategically, or create noise to draw walkers away from particular characters or create traps for the opposing player.
Fans of the comics will love the use of artwork in the character cards whilst those only familiar with the TV show will enjoy having Rick and Carl in their set. If players are completely new to the franchise this is not an issue as realistically the game allows players to extend their games beyond the scenario included to create their own game set-ups using the included elements and range of human characters to create their own groups and stories…
The miniatures in the set are, on the whole, excellent and are a joy to paint, the detail in the Walkers is extremely good and these characters show a wide range of sculpts, from zombie waitresses to old men. The sculpts for the human characters don’t seem to be as refined, and whilst clothing details are great, a couple of their heads seem a little bulky and large.
Components in the set are well printed and the card stock is durable. The printed table mat is also a great touch, creating added atmosphere and I wish that other game publishers included such details. The only concern I have with this is that the paper mat is going to take some wear, being folded and unfolded for each game. Mantic have produced a deluxe version of the mat (sold separately) but equally a dedicated gamer might want to create their own tabletop, and the images included in the scenario booklet showing what is possible certainly do whet the appetite for more.
Final Thoughts on The Walking Dead: All Out War
With this being a core set, Mantic has already released numerous game and character expansions to take the experience further if you like this set. Based on the experience I have had with the set, the opportunity to add different characters and scenarios is one that is appealing.
Similarly, the card cars and barricades offered in the set can be replaced with sculpted plastic ones, again as an added paid set. This brings me to the drawback of this set. It is a Core set and as such is there as a taster for what you could go on to develop with a larger table and range of elements. Like any miniatures game, the publisher is looking to hook gamers in to pay for more and fill their table with a full range.
With The Walking Dead: All Out War, I think Mantic have struck a nice balance with the Core Set. It includes enough to enable gamers to get hours of enjoyment out of it, and shows the possibility of a fully established and developed world if they choose to buy into the expansions. All in all there is plenty of meat on this set (pun intended!).