Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Walking Dead Board Game

Please note that this is the rough draft for a review I wrote for Please check out the final draft of the review here.

Given how popular AMC’s The Walking Dead has become, it’s no surprise that it would branch out into various forms of merchandising. This of the series what you will, you can't deny that it's become hugely popular. A board game based on the property was inevitable, really. So it is that Cryptozoic Entertainment (most well-known for their Trading Card Game version of World of Warcraft) has brought us this game. But is it worth it? Let's find out.

So the first thing you’ll notice when you open the box is the smell. It’s not a bad smell, per se, but it smells much more chemical than any other board game I’ve played. That’s probably because of the board itself. Instead of the normal cardboard that most board game boards are made out of, TWD has what is essentially a giant mouse pad for its board. This was an interesting choice. It has some advantages, such as not having to worry about it sliding around on your table at any given moment. But it also has some disadvantages, such as needing to be rolled up tightly to be put back in the box, which leads to one end of the board being curved in just a little bit. It’s not a big thing, but it is a little annoying. All in all, I’d say the pros and cons of this design choice balance each other out. It’s definitely worth noting, but it’s not really a reason to buy or not buy the game. The rest of the game components are far more traditional. You have one die, three decks of cards, several plastic clip stands for the player markers, and cardboard pieces for everything else. It seems pretty high-quality, all of it. Nice pictures, sturdy cardboard. It should last quite a while under normal use.
There are six character cards and corresponding player markers. Each is one of the main characters from the show, and each has a unique ability that can be used once during the game. While the abilities are supposed to differentiate  the different characters from each other, their limited use and, frankly, limited usefulness don't do much to make playing the game any different with the different characters. My group rarely even used the powers. They had so little effect on the game that it was easy to forget about them. Though I guess it is nice that there are six options to choose from with a maximum of four players. At least that way you're unlikely to get stuck with a character you don't like. (Please no jokes about not liking any of the characters. If that's the case, why are you playing this game?)
The point of the game is to be the first survivor to visit all four corners of the board, collect a token at each corner, and get back to base camp alive. Sounds easy, but as things are in TWD, it's a lot harder than it sounds
Most of the time, you’ll only be using two of the decks of cards: the scrounge deck and the encounter deck. Scrounge cards generally are useful items that help you fight off zombies, while the Encounter cards are, for the most part, zombies that you have to fight off. Combat is simple: You roll the die, if you roll equal to or above the power of the encounter card, you win. Rolling a 6 is always a win. If you fail, then you lose of of your ally tokens. (That is, they got bitten and turned into a walker.) If you have no ally tokens left, then you got bit and turn into a walker. Congratulations. The problem is that most walker cards are have at least a power six or higher. You can increase your odds by using the various weapons you can find in the scrounge pile, which you add to your die roll. But be careful. The encounter deck (and therefore the zombies) get reshuffled when it runs out, but the same is not true of the Scrounge deck, so once those cards have been used, they're probably gone for good.
Oh, it might be good of me to mention that unless you land on one of the lucky "No Encounter" spaces on the board, you have at least one encounter every turn. It's possible that you might have two or even three, if you're really unlucky. At each corner, you always have two encounters before you can claim the token at that corner and move on to the next corner.
That's the rules in a nutshell. Pretty simple, really. While you'll definitely want to read to rulebook to get all the finer points of the game, especially about the rules for when somebody turns into a walker, since that's not as straightforward as it seems at first. Overall, The Walking Dead Board Game really is a rather simplistic game. In terms of complexity, I'd say it falls somewhere between Candyland and Monopoly. Seriously, if it weren't for the fact that this is a Walking Dead licensed game with some decently gory pictures on the cards, I'd swear it was a Parker Brothers family game. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean I loved those games as a kid and I honestly don't mind playing most of them if that's what the rest of the group is up for, but personally I crave games that are a little more complicated.

Bottom Line: Whether or not you'll like this game really comes down to what kind of a game you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a more hardcore or nerdy, or a more European-style board game, then this really isn’t the game for you. If you want something a bit more casual and simple, something that’s quick to learn, then you'll definitely want to check it out.

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