Zombies and small children? That’s mostly being a parent, isn’t it?
Well, this summer my kids (aged 7 and 9) and I have been getting our heads round the first two boxed sets for Mantic’s excellent The Walking Dead: All Out War game. Primarily for solo play, we find that playing cooperatively is great fun (indoctrination is the future!)
[Prelude to Woodbury – Click to Enlarge]
First, we tried the “Prelude to Woodbury” solo starter. Now it might seem a bit redundant having both starters in some ways – though with kids around, spare rulers, tokens and dice don’t hurt – and although the solo learning missions are a little linear, they quickly show the basic mechanics (or act as a hand refresher). However, the final scenario is challenging and different (capture walkers), especially if you try it with just a basic crew of survivors rather than the fully tooled up Governor (we got very badly bitten!)
The solo event deck is smoother certainly, but still works well mixed in. My only niggle would be the fact that the Solo icon appears on the card back, which is fine for sorting cards I guess but I find vaguely annoying. That said, it’s great to have a fleshed out supply deck, which adds variety to the standard mix. The pre-Governor governor is decent, a nice sculpt, and 5 more zombies are always handy to have. The extra gear really is also great, particularly the Beretta. It’s not a must-have, but it’s a mice-to-have for sure, especially for the price of 2 Boosters. However, I suspect you’ll get more bang for your buck from the “Days Gone Bye” expansion.
[Days Gone Bye – Click to Enlarge]
“Days Gone Bye” is a series of six linked scenarios. I had my concerns because we don’t have all the character booster packs, but we just followed the points-based variations where necessary. The fact that you can also build your own characters with the rules in this set is one of the major highlights for me (Ash, anyone?) and the kids have really enjoyed that particular aspect of it.
The first scenario is to break into Rick’s police station. Really tense, loved it. Rick got bitten straight away but they still made it. The expansion introduces Repair and Smash rules, which add a level of complexity without interfering with the flow or enjoyment (still perfectly accessible to the 7 year old). Later on, you have the terrifying tension of attempting to repair Dale’s RV (which comes in the basic game) while being beset on all sides by swarms of walkers, which is likewise a lot of fun and makes great use of the new Survivors from the set (Allan, Donna, Dale and the frankly amazing Jim). It also gives you more mileage for other characters with new versions of Sandra and Patrick from the basic game box. Oh, and you get more walkers, with a special mention going to the excellent punk walker.
With limited time, we also played out a sprint into Atlanta on a supply run that used the Gory Clothing rules (walkers don’t react to you immediately). The absolute fear in the kids’ eyes every time we drew an event card in case it was a thunderstorm (suddenly, you’re in clean clothes and surrounded by walkers) was a joy. Good times!
The set also includes a scenario for Rick’s horseback dash, which makes for a good quick solo experience, and a more complex night of terror in the woods which introduces rules for fire and, by extension, burning walkers. The forest map and tent tokens are a nice addition also (and all of the mats interconnect) and again, it’s more variety in play experience. The final scenario is a massive showdown between Rick and Shane (and their various supporters) and acts as a pleading alternative to the supply-based confrontation presented in the basic game.
Overall, Days Gone Bye is a fantastic purchase, and massively develops the game’s appeal. It’s perhaps unfair to compare it to Prelude as that, ultimately, is a pared-down version of the game proper rather than an expansion. Nevertheless, I would be putting Days Gone Bye at the top of my to-buy list after the main game.