Wednesday, 2 May 2012

War Against the Walking Dead by Sean T. Page

War Against the Walking Dead by Sean T. Page is the sequel to The Official Zombie Handbook (UK). Sean's first book was very much a survival guide, which hopefully will help you to live through the first three months of a global zombie apocalypse. The sequel is a very different beast indeed. It not only teaches you and your fellow survivors how to fight back against the zombie hordes but actively encourages such a strategy. Put simply, sitting back and hoping for the best is not an option. At least not if you want to survive in the long term.
This brings me to the question I posed at the end of my last post - how do you expect your zombie apocalypse campaign to end? I don't expect many of you will have given it much thought. To be honest, neither had I. Plus, you can envisage as many endings as you have for reasons why the apocalypse began. I envisaged my campaign going in one of two directions. First, there was the happy ending. Team Vampifan helps find a cure for the zombie disease and slowly the world returns to normal. That was my original planned ending when I first started playing ATZ. After all, a zombie cure was part of the original ATZ rules, prior to Better Dead Than Zed being published. However, I have since decided that there is no cure for the zombie disease. Secondly, there was the uncertain but deadly future. All Things Zombie segues into an After The Horsemen campaign. Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and all kinds of supernatural creatures rise and threaten the world. Vampifan meets the woman of his dreams, Vampirella, and together they kick supernatural ass.
Well, I can tell you now that neither of those will happen. If I do play ATH, it will be a separate campaign from my ATZ campaign. My ATZ campaign will feature nothing but humans and zombies. Fortunately, I now have a long term goal for Team Vampifan and it is this - amass as many followers as possible and take the war to the zombies. I have set my campaign in the fictional Mayhem City, U.S.A. Vampifan wants to rid Mayhem City of every last zombie and reclaim it for humanity. Looking even further afield, he wants to destroy as many zombies in the U.S.A. as possible in as short a time as possible. Thanks to War Against the Walking Dead I have seen how the zombie apocalypse will end and the future is very bleak for humanity unless urgent action is taken.
Vampifan is chased by part of a meta-horde
Sean T. Page presents one possible, very plausible, outcome to the zombie apocalypse that I have to admit, really captured my imagination. It is the frightening concept of zombie meta-hordes. What is a meta-horde? It is when large hordes of zombies group together to form one gigantic horde numbering in the millions. Such a concept is not new. It was mentioned in World War Z by Max Brooks. The concept is also mentioned in The Walking Dead comics. Rick encounters part of one and promptly runs away from it as fast as possible. The novel Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne ends with the heroes fleeing a very large meta-horde and are saved by the U.S. Navy. Even attacks by helicopter gunships and a naval bombardment do little to thin the numbers of the meta-horde in Bourne's novel. Sean speculates that unless left unchecked, meta-hordes of 100 million zombies will form in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. In addition, about a dozen smaller meta-hordes, numbering more than five million zombies, will also emerge across the globe, including one in the U.K. They are described as "a tsunami of the dead, huge meta-hordes, which will at some point, extinguish human life from virtually every part of the globe."
Frankly, that scares the life out of me! All of which begs the question, how do you defeat a meta-horde? War Against the Walking Dead offers some solutions but they all come at a great price. Nuking the meta-horde is the favoured tactic but do you really want to create a large radio-active wasteland, assuming you can find a nuclear warhead in the first place? No, the best tactic is to stop the meta-horde forming in the first place. This is why Sean advises taking the war to the zombies as soon as possible. Left unchecked they will eventually form into a meta-horde. It may not happen for a few years but it will happen and when it does you are well and truly screwed.
Fortunately, War Against the Walking Dead offers loads of practical advice and tactics to deal with the zombie menace before it grows into a meta-horde. This is where the book really excels and these sections were the ones I enjoyed reading the most. The book is not without its faults. Again, it is marred by typo errors that should have been caught by a competent proof-reader. The sections on zombie outbreaks throughout history should be taken with a large dose of salt. Sean does labour the point about meta-hordes and he does have a worrying fascination with the pop group Culture Club. However, I am  prepared to overlook these flaws and award this book a 10 out of 10 rating. The main reason for such a high score is because this a book that made me think. It made me re-evaluate my thoughts on how a zombie apocalypse will end, and more specifically, how I envisage my own ATZ campaign will end. It has given me a long-term goal for Team Vampifan, which they didn't have before. And it validates my decision to collect as many zombie miniatures as I can. I now have an excuse to use my complete horde in a single scenario, although I'm going to have to come up with some new rules for using that amount of zombies. Team Vampifan versus 1,000+ zombies won't constitute an attack on a meta-horde but at some point my heroes are going to have to enter the centre of Mayhem City and deal with the horde that has gathered there. That's not going to be easy but it will be one hell of a scenario.

39 comments:

  1. Can't wait. Rock on Team Vampifan.

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    1. It'll take a few years yet, as I have loads of ideas for future scenarios and team-ups, but it will happen.

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  2. The meta horde is a frightening thought and he's right about how to fight it but the group needs to be a good one, put me down for a place!

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    1. Will do, Fran. I'll find a place for you just behind Ray, Lol!

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  3. wow - that horde is mind staggering awesome!

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    1. Thanks, Shelldrake. I should take a more up to date photo of my horde as it has doubled in size since I took that one.

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  4. Heh, I am still at thinking how my campaign will start, but thinking how it should end (apart from everyone getting killed :D), isn't that bad. Now that you've mentioned it, nuking the place, making mutant zombies and traversing campaing from apocalypse to post apocalypse isn't that dumb. And I just loooove all the NBC troopers you can get, ah!

    As for your story, team vampifan might join the existing bunch of survivors in Camp Politation (you know, police station :P), then you can show us the "attack on the police station" scenario and make it a home for HSA, the Humanity Salvation Army (or something :P), and then you can start your zombie hunting expeditions :P

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    1. Actually, Mathyoo, I'm hoping that if enough people survive my Assault on Precinct 13 scenario they'll join forces. The police station would make a good base. See, we're reading from the same page, mate.

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  5. The metahorde is a great concept, and would be cool to see how your crew could handle that. You'll need a few more recruits (human meat shields) to protect you I think!

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    1. Adam, the idea is NOT to handle a meta-horde but to stop it developing in the first place. And yes, Team Vampifan is going to need a lot more recruits. Not just fighters either, but support staff like cooks, doctors, nurses, teachers, mechanics, construction workers, etc.

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  6. I like the idea of carrying the fight to the Zombies. Especially during the winter ala World War Z. The formation of meta-hordes does seem a logical progression and preventing their development would be the only way to a victory. I am now looking forward to seeing Team Vampifan and friends fighting 1000 zombies.

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    1. What I love about this book is that it gave me a goal for my ATZ campaign. Taking the fight to the zombies is a good strategy. Let's hope Team Vampifan can succeed.

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  7. What a great review; we're right behind you (literally)Team Vampifan!

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    1. Thanks, Michael. We're going to need all the help we can get.

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  8. Good review Bryan. As you well know I've read this book too and it agrees with my ideas as to how the apocalypse develops. It's well worth a read, but as you say there is a lot of twaddle (and repetition) to by-pass.

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    1. Joe and I discussed this book when we meet up two weeks ago. Thanks, Joe, for your comment. I almost awarded it a 9/10 rating because of its flaws but in the end, I was feeling generous and I thought the positive aspects of the book were what were really important.

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  9. I think it was 'Rise Again' (can't really remember!) that has the negative side of nuking zeds - the radiation speeds them! So need a test nuke first I think!

    Based on this 'meta-horde' idea, I'm thinking the Isle of Man looks like a good place to move to ...

    Great review VtG and yes please for the new horde photo! although it mike take you several hours to set up and put away ;)

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    1. I fully intend to take some new photos of my horde later this year. I'd like to get my 100 Victory Force zombies painted first, as they'll boost the total number of painted figures to 800+.

      Yes, dropping a nuke on a meta-horde could create more problems than it solves. Mutated zombies? No thank you!

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  10. This was an excellent Bryan. I'm referring to the Blog, not the book, though, I'll have to check out both books now as well.

    If you'd not seen it before there is an RPG simulator called Outbreak: Undead. I say it's a simulator because of the mechanical nature of the system vs. a more role playing centric one (such as FATE). It gives some great mechanics on how to figure out what a group of survivors needs, as well as how new members affect the group as a whole. They give great attention to how specialists, such as doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, and artists all make their presence known in a group of survivors.

    After reading this post I think when I get to the point of running my own ATZ campaign I will have to add in some of the information from that RPG. As always,a great post, and LOTS of food for thought.

    http://outbreakundead.com/

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    1. That sounds fascinating, Varangian. I actually had a look through Outbreak: Undead when I was last in Travelling Man Games and wondered what it'd be like. I didn't buy it because I hadn't seen any reviews of it. Now I'm very tempted to buy it, just to mine for ideas. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      It was always my intention with this post to offer food for thought, so I'm glad I succeeded on that count. If zombie gamers think how their campaign might end then that's mission accomplished.

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    2. Bryan, I would check out their downloads. They have an annual for free (or a printed, in store copy for purchase) which might have some good information alone in it. The cover price was a bit steep if I recall. It's one of the books I dragged with me to the south Pacific, and never once cracked open... I should have known better!

      I now have the two books by Mr. Page in my possession, and am really looking forward to getting into them.

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    3. I spent most of today in Newcastle and I paid a return visit to Travelling Man Games, where I bought Outbreak: Undead. I will review it, but with over 450 pages to read, don't expect it any time soon! Thanks for giving me the push to buy it, Varangian. I'll check out the downloads soon.

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    4. What did you think of THW announcing that After the Horsemen will be human centric, with the other stuff as free supplements that can be added on? I'm curious about what it might be bring to the table that's new, and kind of excited to see.

      Also, I have a book recommendation for you: Zone One: A Novel. It's a zombie (of course) story dealing with the rebuilding and retaking of America, sort of. The author does a great job of creating a ZPAW popular culture, and that alone floored me.

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    5. My initial reaction to the news about ATH being human centric only was one of great disappointment. I really wanted to see stats for monsters and more supernatural entities, especially vampires and werewolves. However, having read of Ed's plans for ATH, including the free supplements, I'm rather intrigued by it now. It looks like it's going to be a post apocalyptic version of 5150: New Beginnings. It's a no brainer that I will be buying it.

      Thanks for the heads up on Zone One. I'm very happy to buy books that have been recommended by others. I'll add this to my shopping list.

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  11. Excellent review. I am wondering if you receive interest from the authors if you make us buy all these books, Bryan ;)

    So, how's my campaign going to end? Hm, bloody, I suppose :D
    As I have yet to start my campaign, I actually have not given any thought to long term goals. Well, I mean, apart from staying alive :)
    My rough "base" plot was: Gather the team, stay alive, find a base, establish a safe perimeter, defend.
    Then at some point the team will realise that the army or what is left of the authorities will not be able to get this situation under control. If they stay much longer they will run out of food or amunition or something like that. Over-fishing an area is handled in the core rules, if I recall correctly. So they will have to leave the relative comfort of their base and move somewhere else.
    That is going to be the "on the move" plot: Getting that convoy "zombie-safe" will take a few scenarios, too :) Then a few encounters while on the road. Meeting up with a few other survivors, finding a survivor camp or something like that.
    If everyone survives long enough, then there is the "a new beginning" plot: Building up a colony in a rural area, gathering others and especially specialists, trying to live an as normal life as possible (self-sufficient farming and all that) with the team and a few others securing the area, raiding the surroundings, etc.

    I have not given the zombie hording problem any thought up to that point. Sure they will not stay in the urban areas when there is nothing to feed on anymore. And seeing that they can be active a quite long time without something to eat, the problem of them coming to rural areas horde-wise is quite "real", I suppose.

    My inital thought was: "Okay, let's leave them there. They are going to burn out eventually, won't they?" and that is probably the road the team will take. I honestly don't know this, because this is one of the things I am planning to let my players decide :) I will tell you the outcome if it ever comes that far.
    But with your review in mind I can envision the group meeting a scientist babbling about meta-hordes and swarm intelligence... Okay, I'm shivering right now! :D

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    1. Stefan, what a wonderful reply! You've obviously thought a lot about which direction you want your campaign to go. This is good. Having a goal, even if it's as simple as securing a safe camp, gives you something to aim for.

      Another point to bear in mind is this, how long will a zombie remain active before it decays and rots away? Depending upon temperature this could be as short as a few months or maybe a few years. However, the theory in "War Against the Walking Dead" is that zombies will remain active for far longer than logic would dictate. Whatever it is that reanimates their bodies gives them much greater longevity. Of course in your campaign, you may well be right and your zombies may "burn out eventually." It's your game and how it ends is up to you. But for me, I love the idea of meta-hordes forming and Team Vampifan will be doing all it can to prevent that from happening.

      I wish you all the best for when you do start playing.

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  12. Nice review Bryan this book sounds good. Will add it to the list. I agree and like your idea about taking it back at the zombies. I just don't see how it would recover due to the significant losses to humanity's population, certain life skills/trained people lost etc

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    1. Thanks, Simon. No one said that fighting back will be easy, but it is doable if the survivors get their act together and co-operate. The sooner the fightback begins the greater humanity's chance of survival.

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  13. Great review Vampifan. I've now got this book at the top of my to read list, I always respect your approval of all things Zombie. Long live the Meta Horde :)

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    1. Thanks, Phil, and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

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  14. I really loved the Meta-horde in beyond exile, it really hammered home the idea of certain destruction facing such a horde, a really scary thought, on another topic, I really didn't like World War Z, I have tried to read it twice, but just can't get through the micro stories, I find i just can't care about any of the character, and found myself picking holes in the stories, on the other hand I am now re reading Rise again, and it is one of my favorite book, great characters and good writing style, love it, Bourne's books are great to and will get another read.

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    1. The meta-horde in "Beyond Exile" sure did make me sit up and take notice. World War Z can seem a bit disjointed due to its narrative style, but I had no problem with it. As for Rise Again, it's an awesome book. You should enjoy it a lot.

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  15. Hmmm ... I dont think I want to live in a world where a zombie meta horde rampages around, either way, incorporating this idea into your campaign sounds interesting, good luck with that Team Vampifan !

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    1. I wouldn't like to live in a world with rampaging meta-hordes either, TE! Team Vampifan are going to need an enormous amount of luck.

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  16. Great review!! I've just bought both the Sean T Page books off the back of these reviews, you should be earning some kind of commission :)

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    1. Earning commission is a nice thought, Headnhalf, but receiving thanks from my followers is all the reward I desire.

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  17. Bravo! Great as always. However, one clarification.

    ATH is strictly a human centric PA game. No zombies, no aliens, no mutants, etc., just humans versus humans. If you’re looking for that sort of thing try All Things Zombies and 5150: New Beginnings, both are fully compatible with ATH.

    Wonderful article!

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    1. Thanks, Ed. I already have ATZ and 5150:NB. Indeed, the campaign I've been running on my blog these past thyree years has been devoted to ATZ. I hadn't realised that After The Horsemen was dropping the supernatural elements. If that is the case, what's happened to All Things Horror?

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