Sunday, 14 October 2012

ATZ Final Fade Out Rulebook

The book that all ATZ fans have been waiting for is now available as either a PDF file or in book format. Let me state from the outset that this is not a supplement for ATZ - it is a brand new rulebook that replaces the old Better Dead Than Zed (BDTZ) rulebook. I should also add that this will be a very biased review, as I was one of the playtesters of these new rules. Even so, I'll still give you my honest opinion about the rules.
So, why bring out a new rulebook, given that ATZ-BDTZ was so popular? Put simply, BDTZ was lagging behind other new games and supplements that Two Hour Wargames (THW) were bringing out. THW's core rules, Chain Reaction, had been updated to version 3.0 and so to make THW's most popular rules systems compatible, a change was needed. In the case of BDTZ, this was a good thing. It certainly had its critics as some folk thought it was too complex and badly laid out. At the core of all THW games is the reaction system. If you are used to the old style IGO-UGO gaming system this can be a difficult complex to grasp, but once you get your head around it, you'll surely agree it is a much more logical way of playing a game.
There were a lot of changes made to FFO and I'll comment on some of the more noteworthy ones. Stars now get the Star Power advantage, which allows them to reduce damage they take. If they roll well enough they can reduce it enough to ignore altogether. Just remember that a Star's advantages have no affect against zombies. Star power can be given to certain Grunts and I am going to give it to Big Sil, Angie and Gap and possibly newcomers to Team Vampifan to help improve their survivability. Stars and Grunts now gain three skills - Physical, People and Savvy. I welcome this addition, as it brings an element of role-playing to the game. Attributes are now determined by rolling 3d6 and adding the scores together for a result of between 3 and 18. Stars must roll for one attribute but may freely choose the other one. Grunts only get one attribute and must roll for it.
The Reaction Tests have been reduced in number, which should make the game run a lot faster. In Sight Tests have changed the most and will probably be the most common Reaction Test taken during the game. They can be taken multiple times during a turn, depending upon circumstances. They are now taken by everyone in sight of one another. Previously you rolled for each team and applied the result to all involved. Note that zombies do not trigger In Sight Tests.
The Ranged Combat rules have hardly changed at all. Those wishing to use archaic weapons like bows should check out After The Horsemen for weapon stats. Flash Bang Grenades have been dropped, which is a shame in my opinion. I'll still use them but refer to BDTZ for their rules. Note that the Weapons Table on p.23 differs to the one in the QRS pages. Use the one on p.23.
Melee Combat has undergone the most radical of changes. Characters no longer split their Rep when fighting multiple opponents but count full Rep instead. This is a double-edged sword for humans because zombies also fight at full Rep. As always, Melee Combat should be a last resort. Shooting zombies is always preferable to fighting them.
The rules for Vehicles have changed, and sadly, not always for the best. Some vehicles are slower than in BDTZ. Speeds are now 12", 16" or 24". The best new rule that has been introduced is that vehicles that are not stationary will move every turn, even if the driver fails to activate. This makes a whole lot of sense and is much welcomed. Vehicles are limited to a maximum 45 degree turn per action, as opposed to a 90 degree turn in BDTZ. The Ramming Vehicles and Bashing rules are now much simpler. I actually prefer the more complex rules from BDTZ.
Zombies are now Rep:3 although if they are in Line of Sight of a human they become Rep:4 for activation purposes only. I can see the sense in this. Most zombies just stagger around aimlessly. But once they spot a human they become much more animated. As mentioned before, zombies will now use 3d6 in melee instead of 1d6 - a big difference! The rule change that I am most proud of is that I convinced Ed that the Easy To Hit Rule should be renamed the Easy To Kill rule. This very useful rule never did make zombies easier to hit but it certainly made them a lot easier to kill. I helped make quite a few changes to the rules but this is the one that made me most happy! In melee combat, a maximum of four zombies may attack a human. I prefered the old rule of six zombies being able to attack at once. The "Harry, Are You Okay?" rule has now been expanded so that you now know how long it will take an infected person to turn into a zombie... and it's pretty quick!
Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) were an optional rule introduced in the I, Zombie supplement. Now they are an official part of the rules but they do work slightly differently to the rules in IZ. I was a big fan of PEFs and I'm pleased to see their inclusion in FFO. They add an element of uncertainty to a game and that is definitely a good thing.
The number of basic Encounters have increased from three to nine, with five of them being voluntary encounters and four being involuntary encounters. This is another welcome change. Three special encounters that can be played in weeks 1, 2 and 3 of the Outbreak have been included to add even more variety. Plus, you can download the special Day One Encounter for free if you want to start your campaign right at the very beginning.
A list of many pre-generated NPCs are included at the back of the book. I doubt if I'll use these lists much, if at all, as I like to design my own Grunts. But the option is there for those of you pushed for time, so I'm not knocking their inclusion.
The biggest change between FFO and BDTZ is that FFO is much more streamlined and easier to play. The way it has been laid out has been well thought out. Most, but not all, of the changes are changes for the better. I was immensely proud to be asked by Ed to be a play-tester of this rulebook. It was an absolute labour of love. I have looked at other zombie skirmish games but I truly believe that ATZ-FFO is the best zombie skirmish game on the market. You may say that I would say that, being so closely involved in the development of this game, but I'd still have said the same even if I wasn't a play-tester. BDTZ improved a lot upon the ATZ first edition rules. FFO improves a lot upon BDTZ and is light years ahead of the first edition rules. I am immensely looking forward to starting my FFO campaign, which, of course, will be fully chronicled in my blog. A brand new Team Vampifan will ride again!
A hard copy book format edition of FFO costs $25.00, whilst a PDF format edition costs $20.00 from the THW webstore. I highly recommend this product to anyone interested in zombie gaming and I award this book a 9 out of 10 rating.

32 comments:

  1. Nice to read your review. I may give these rules ago at some point especially if I can get hold of a printed copy.

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    1. I always prefer printed copies to PDFs when it comes to books.

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    2. I have to agree. PFDs are very useful, but I need a printed version in my hands. Old School.

      Can't wait to receive my printed copy of FFO. The customs office used to be faster.

      Whiteface / Oliver

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    3. I certainly much prefer books to PDFs. I am unashamedly old school!

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  2. Jury is still out on new rules for me. Will wait on your adventures to see if I buy it. Thanks for the review.

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  3. I've enjoyed my read through of both FFO and ATH. I'm really looking forward to some games of FFO, the rules seem much cleaner.

    Thank you for the review, and thank you for helping to play test it!

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    1. Thanks, Varangian. I can't wait to get started on my new campaign.

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  4. I need to get hold of this. I am thinking on getting the book instead of PDF though.

    Good review mate! Looking forward to the new and improved Team Vampifan

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    1. Cheers, Johnny. I'm glad you liked the review. I'm hoping the new and improved Team Vampifan fares better than last time.

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  5. Your review is spot on. ATZ:FFO is the cat's pajamas. The streamlining has produced a very smooth game experience. I use Ragers reasonably often so I'm going to have to figure how to adapt them for melee. Probably just have them melee at Rep 4. I really like the new in sight test, it allows all parties to act and gives a bit of the flavor of the quick draw. Have you ever used ragers?

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    1. I agree with you, David, about how streamlined FFO is. I'd keep the Ragers and indeed, Smart Zombies, at Rep:4. I have used Ragers once in my BDTZ campaign, and I'm sorry to say that I'm not a fan of them. I am not at sure if I'll use them in my FFO campaign.

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  6. I think I like them because I really enjoyed 28 Days Later and they do a good job giving that feel.

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    1. You'd almost think that the Ragers in ATZ were based on the infected humans from "28 Days Later." Neither are zombies but a totally different type of threat. I think you're a brave man to use Ragers so often in your games, David! Rather you than me!

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  7. Great to hear your thoughts on the new release, Bryan. I downloaded the PDF right away and have given it a quick read. I'm excited to get things started.
    Thanks for the hard work!

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    1. You're most welcome, Adam. Enjoy the game.

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  8. Looking forward to receiving my copies that I won on Sean's blog!

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  9. Cheers, mate. I think ths will be a must buy. But I'll leave it for a bit to wind up my curent game. thanks for the insight.

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  10. Sounds exciting. As my zombie horde grows during Zomtober I am beginning to scout around for a rule set to use. This one looks like a likely candidate.

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    1. I would certainly recommend FFO to you, Rob, but bear in mind, I am biased!

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  11. Thanks Bryan, My reading of the rules seems to have brought similar conclusions to your own. I am still not convinced as yet, I usually need to play through the rules a few times before I am. On a more positive note I am looking forward to trying it out though and will keep you informed via blog action. All the best Clint

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    1. I do have a big advantage in that I have played the game, or at least certain aspects of it many times. Although I have yet to play a complete scenario I have play-tested most of the rules.

      I look forward to seeing how you get on with your own zombie campaign. Best of luck, Clint!

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  12. What! Still no entry on BGG?
    Tell Ed to shake a leg! ;)

    Thanks for the review!
    I'm looking forward to this new ruleset, but I won't have time for any ATZ 'til next year. All my stuff but a few boardgames is boxed up in storage due to a move...

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    1. It's not that long until 2013 and you'll soon get back into gaming. Best of luck with the house moving, apeekaboo.

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  13. I have to say your BatReps were what got me to buy BDTZ, but I've had a bit of a time sitting down and trying to read through the rules from start to finish and remembering it all. I'm glad to hear FFO is streamlined and am thinking of ordering it, do you know if the printed book still includes the access to download the PDF as well?

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    1. That's a very good question and to be honest, I don't know the answer. Whenever you ordered the hard copy in the past you were always able to get a free PDF download at the same time. There's nothing that says that this is still the case but on the other hand there is nothing to say it isn't. I'd drop Ed an e-mail if I was you, just to be sure.

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    2. I decided I was going to want the printed rulebook whether it included the PDF or not so I ordered it, and it does include the option to download the PDF. Just thought I'd let you and anyone else wondering know for certain. Thanks for helping them out on the rules update.

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    3. That's great news, Ogre Sage. Thanks for sharing that info.

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  14. Good review, I'm looking forward for your next battle reports!!!

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    1. Thanks, Zerloon. Hopefully you won't have too long to wait.

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