For today’s Geeking Out, we’re taking a look at the latest board game offering from Mantic Games, and – after an inexcusably long delay – announcing the winner of our “Bat For All Seasons” Mystery Prize Giveaway!
But before we dish out the goodies, let’s take a little visit to pee pee pants city, shall we?
It’s that time of year when it becomes increasingly difficult to gift for geeks. Here at Geeking Out we love a prestige IP board game, especially one that offers features like solo play (for the idle nerd dad) and campaign play (for the regular group or otherwise). There are a lot of zombie games out there, so what can another one offer? Quite a lot, it turns out.
Well, first and foremost, you’ve got the Negan name. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the most recognisable characters from Kirkman’s creation, along with his signature precious Lucille (of which you get a lovely mini version as a token). Add to that Mantic’s excellent track record with The Walking Dead: All Out War (AOW) and Dungeon/Star Saga, along with designer Mark Latham’s continued involvement and wealth of experience (there is a definite whiff of certain space derelict exploration/alien horror games here), plus some intriguing extra mechanics to keep you busy, and you have a recipe for a cracking game that’s great festive value at £59.99.
Let’s open it up and see, shall we?
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Some immediately obvious components (fire, barricades, zombie “blips”), some obvious from AOW (bite/health). I hate games which feature obscure, confusing tokens by the bucket-load (I’m looking at you, Fantasy Flight), but here you have a good balance of functionality and quantity (plus little baggies to keep them in – check!)
The cardstock is nice and heavy, feeling like it’s of a higher GSM than, say AOW. It continues the prestige feel of this game; you’ve no fear of a tile tearing as you punch it. The boards themselves form the double sided modular factory complex that is Sanctuary, and could easily double up for any similar sized game (Kill Team or Deadzone, for example).
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As for the models, well, you get same walkers as the core AOW box. Not that surprising I guess, but would’ve liked new sculpts personally, or even from the booster sets (if wishes were walkers, eh?). However, the green hard plastic used is much better and the casts are crisp as all heck. Previous coloured plastic offerings have felt a little cheap to be honest, and whilst these may look like regular board game components they are of top miniature level quality.
Saviors (apologies for the Americanism, but there we are, happy Thanksgiving) are really nice, great sculpts. I like that the Negan sculpt is the new, non-Kickstarter/Mantic point version, though no doubt folk will moan about that the way I moan about the Walkers. Also, pre-order customers get AOW cards for these guys which is great (they’re getting boosters in wave 6, and the cards will be available with Mantic Points also, but still). But I’d just buy it for the oversized Lucille, personally (going to be blu-tacking that to the top of the spinner…)
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The card layout should be familiar enough to anyone who’s played AOW, and again obvious enough if you haven’t. Different dice types have various misses, hits and headshots clearly marked, making it quickly apparent the relative strengths of the characters. Equipment is clearly explained and marked, with some characters having space for extra stuff from the outset.
The various decks that come with the game govern the AI of the walkers and Negan himself. One of my favourite things about the game is the reference cards that the AI decks come with. No flipping back and forth through a rulebook required: it’s all there for you. The reference guide on the back of the rulebook is itself very clear, whilst the rules themselves are presented clearly in a logical order. If, like me, you have countless boardgame rulesets bouncing about the ol’ brain, having rules readily accessible is a must.
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The game presents 12 scenarios that can be played separately or as a campaign. One of the most satisfying, and integral, elements of the game is the fact that it’s much, much more than just a quest for stuff: it’s about earning Negan’s respect and gaining Reputation accordingly. Securing locations is vital, scouring for supplies essential, and shouting for his help may get you a hand but takes you down a peg. It’s these various push-pull elements that elevate the game as a whole to something rather special. It also means that co-op play is a curious balance, because you can’t let the rest of the team (or indeed, Negan) die, but you still want to come out on top. A word of warning: Solo Play is a pretty tough gig (not FFG Lord of the Rings card game tough, but It’s up there) – it’s nonetheless extremely satisfying, and almost embarrassingly gratifying to get all the glory for yourself.
The reason this game succeeds is it has many elements of great board games, zombie or otherwise, but wrapped up in a coherent, distinctive package. And the bottom line is that it’s really good fun, tense and exciting and just a little bit bloody. Totally accessible to the family as a whole (my 8-year-old clocked the mechanics immediately), and whether a board game veteran, a novice with a love of The Walking Dead, or just you’ve lost the will to say no after too much turkey, this is a fantastic offering from the team at Mantic, who continue to raise the bar for the hobby as a whole. A 5-star treat. Let the slaughter begin!
Here’s Negan! is set to start shipping on December 3rd, and you can pre-order it directly from the Mantic Games website.
COMPETITION WINNER TIME
Again, apologies for the delay, but the winner of our “Bat for All Seasons” Competition, snagging themselves a super duper mystery prize is…
Congratulations Gregg. Contact us via social media or by email at email@example.com within 30 days to claim your prize!