Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zombie Game Roundup

Having played a few different zombie survival games, I decided to write a little comparison between them, not to find out the "best" but rather to understand the similarities and differences. In this little survey, I'm considering the following titles (in alphabetical order):
  • All Things Zombie (ATZ)
  • Fear and Faith (FaF)
  • Final Days
  • New World Disorder: Zombie Apocalypse (NWD:ZA)
  • Total AR:SE (a.k.a. Akula's Rules)
To get started, here is a comparison table, based on my experience with the games:

FeatureATZFaFFinal DaysNWD:ZATotal AR:SE
Includes game setting?yesnoyesyes*no
Zombie originscienceN/AmagicscienceN/A
Solo play supporthighmoderatemoderatemoderatehigh
Specific support for campaigns?yesyesnoyes*no
Included game scenarios6 with rules for customization1 (zombie themed)41none
Relative complexity of the rulesmoderatemoderatelowmoderatelow
Activation styleactivation roll with unit reactionsper-unit activation rollsIGO-UGO with card-based activationper-unit activation rollsmixed activation based on cards
Notes: * on the core book, not on the zombie apocalypse supplement. ** prices of PDF products at RPGNow in August/2011. *** PDF rulebook, not boxed set version.

To be honest, I think that all zombie survival games (or at least most of them) are suitable for solo play, since zombies aren't smart; their strategy most of the time is to charge any survivors in sight and that's easy to automate. Still, I included a "solo play support" row on the table to distinguish between games that have mechanics particularly suited for solitaire play from those that will require some work.

Fear and Faith and New World Disorder aren't strictly "zombie games": the former includes support to many different supernatural creatures, including skirmishes of monsters against monsters (vampires vs. werewolves anyone?) and the later is a modern/near-future game which adds zombies with the Zombie Apocalypse supplement. In both cases, you might pick them up if you don't need so much depth or options in your zombie games, but want those other genres as a bonus. On the comparison chart, they look very similar to each other and their rule sets have similarities in what they accomplish but not in how. Both have (distinct) activation systems to check how well a character may perform in a game turn, and they may complete a variable number of actions. While NWD has a strict alternate activation system, in FaF a player may be able to activate several characters before passing initiative to their opponent. Firearms are more effective in NWD but in both systems zombies are quite tough to destroy. NWD characters have more stats than FaF ones, but both keep character records simple and while NWD characters have gimmicks and skills, FaF ones have special rules. Like I said before, the implementation of the rules is different in either system and may suit the tastes of a player better than the other, but it's difficult to make hard and fast recommendations on this subject.

Comparing All Things Zombie, Final Days and Akula's Rules -- the three "zombie-specific" games -- is a little awkward as they are quite different, as evidenced by the comparison chart. There is a definite gradient in level of involvement and detail between the three: Akula's Rules is great for a pick up game and was designed for large tables, possibly with multiple players. All Things Zombie is the epic zombie game that can run single games but will really shine in a multi-game campaign of survival after a zombie apocalypse. Final Days stands in the middle, with a bunch of scenarios that can be played individually or linked together -- note however that there are no rules for campaigns, character development, recruiting new characters etc.

As stated in the beginning of this post, I have no intention of pointing the "best" of the games as that will greatly vary depending on a player's goals. However, I hope that this comparison is useful to someone looking for miniature games with zombies.

1 comment:

Slorm said...

Interesting post. I didnt know some of the rules, but I think that F&F + ATZ could be an easy fast and based campign wargame.