Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: All Things Zombie

The last zombie game in my playlist is All Things Zombie (ATZ), from Two Hour Wargames. It is based on the Chain Reaction system that can be obtained for free at their website, with modifications and additions to suit the zombie survival genre. That said, ATZ is a standalone book, there's no need for reading Chain Reaction beforehand. In this post I'll keep to a capsule review of the printed (or in my case digital) matter. Playtest reports will come soon.

Content: ATZ is a 92-page PDF that includes the rules for the game, definitions and behaviors for the different types of survivors and for zombies and rules for campaigns, starting at the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse and onwards. There are two expansions to the game but I'd say that the basic book has enough to keep you busy for quite a while.

The book is organized in several chapters and sections. The introduction presents an overview of the game setting and the reaction system. "Getting started" is about building your group of survivors, gang members or soldiers. "Rules of war" presents the game system: turn structure, actions and reactions, movement, combat, vehicles and buildings. The self-explanatory "Zombies" chapter contains all the rules for the living dead. Then come a few sections presenting a generic encounter system and three introductory scenarios which are good to practice the rules. The book wraps up with a comprehensive campaign system and the "Top Secret" chapter that won't be discussed to avoid spoilers.

Presentation: the book has color front and back covers and greyscale interior pages -- except for two color pages advertising some miniatures at the end of the book. The visual style isn't very different from the Chain Reaction 3.0 book, so you can check that out to see what the book will look like. Although the text is set in two columns, the font type may allow for booklet format printing (I particularly like printing rulebooks this way, to make them easier to carry around or leave them lying on a corner of the table while playing.) The book includes quick reference charts, summary and index, although neither have hyperlinks.

Writing: the text follows the same informal, conversational tone from the Chain Reaction 3.0 book, which makes it a good read. It is also more clear than the Chain Reaction book. For instance, there are more examples for the reaction tests that make them easier to understand.

Solo-friendliness: ATZ directly supports solo play through the Chain Reaction system. In fact, the text refers more often to solo play or cooperative play (which uses the same rules, only with control of the survivors split among players) than competitive play. In all cases, zombies are run by the game rules, not by a player. For these reasons, I'd say that ATZ is mostly geared towards solo gaming, and there are many battle reports to be found on the web that seem to confirm that.

All Things Zombie is a great effort at creating a niche product. Until the release of 5150: New Beginnings, I believe it is also the most recent book from Two Hour Wargames with rules fine-tuned to campaigns with a "role-playing" feel.

No comments: