Wednesday, 8 April 2009

All Things Zombie: Better Dead Than Zed

All Things Zombie: Better Dead Than Zed is the new skirmish wargame from Two Hours Wargames. This is the second version of ATZ and whilst much remains the same there are enough changes to make it both different and better. What is it about? To quote the THW website - "Better Dead Than Zed sweeps you up and sticks you right in the middle of a catastrophic zombie outbreak. Who you are when the outbreak occurs is just as important as where you are. Because unlike other zombie games, where the zombies have been around for awhile, you won’t be able to tell the humans from the zombies until maybe it’s too late. Because it’s all happening to you just like it would on Day One. Confusion, chaos, and lack of information are just some of the challenges you’ll face when the world starts to crumble. Will you have what it takes to survive the first 30 days? Then what? ATZ takes you to where no other zombie game has before. Yes, it starts on the first day of the outbreak, but then let’s you continue your life building your very own future. It’s a game where every detail has been covered, as you first escape the soulless creatures that threaten you, then hunt them down and take back what’s yours. On the way there you’ll find out that maybe your most dangerous enemies aren’t the zombies, but maybe your neighbors or sometimes your friends. ATZ can be played solo, cooperatively with everyone on the same side, or competitively with everyone against one another. ATZ can be played as a one up game or part of an ongoing campaign. But it doesn’t matter which way you play it, as the goal of ATZ is to rebuild the world, as you knew it; except maybe this time with you in charge."
PLUS POINTS - Everything in the rules is explained very clearly with lots of examples. There should be no excuses for not understanding how combat works. Character generation is simplified and generating attributes and/or weapons is now dice based (better than using a deck of cards as in the previous edition!). Splitting characters into civilians, gangers, police, military and survivors is a good idea. I also like the fact that two months after the outbreak, police and military types can "turn rogue" if they don't have a clear command structure to follow (or if the player wants to go down that path). Allowing the campaign to start at the beginning of the outbreak is a huge plus. This is probably the single best change that THW has made to the rules! Previously the game began two years after the outbreak had started. The "Top Secret" section at the back is very good indeed. This is where you get to determine what happens to you and your family (if you have one) immediately after the outbreak has begun. The questions about what would you do and your response choices are excellent. I'd have to have a long hard think about how I'd respond, or rather, how my character would respond! I also like their random encounter tables. Finally, the game can be played with a group or by yourself and I applaud any game with the solo-play option.
NEGATIVE POINTS - To someone who has never played ATZ before these rules must appear daunting as there appears to be a lot to take in. However, the game does get easier to play the more you play it and as I said, everything is very clearly explained. There are however, a distinct lack of scenarios in here. The three starter scenarios to get you into the way of the rules look good but once you begin the campaign you are given three types of scenario to play, as it was before. These being Discover, Raid and Take Back. This means that the onus for coming up with scenarios is firmly on the GM. If you have a GM with a group of players this might not be a bad thing but if you are a solo-player you are going to have a lot of work to do and you'll have to make some major decisions, like how long does the outbreak last and how does it end. Info on these topics is unfortunately lacking and is left up to the GM.
CONCLUSION - I like these rules a lot. ATZ was the first zombie apocalypse game that I bought and as such I will always have a soft spot for them. If you have played ATZ before, you will find the new rules more streamlined and a lot easier to understand. If you are a newcomer to the genre then I can highly recommend this system to you. Price is $25.00 for the printed version or $20.00 for the electronic version.
Please note that if you order the paper version of ATZ:BDTZ (as I did) you get the PDF version for free. It seems remiss of THW not to mention this on their website. They had that same offer with the original ATZ and the supplement "Dead Heat" but in both cases the offer was made clear on their website. I wonder why they omitted to mention it this time?

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