Monday, 2 May 2016

Project Z - A Review

The contents of the Project Z skirmish game by Warlord Games.
Project Z is the brand new table-top skirmish war-game by Warlord Games, which was designed specifically to use with their range of 28mm scale plastic, multi-part zombie apocalypse miniatures. You could, of course, use any other appropriate figures from your own collections. This review is going to concentrate on the game itself, but I will also be mentioning the figures that were specifically designed for this game.
Upon opening the box, my first impressions were not favourable. You get one small 12 page Rules Manual, 1 equally small 16 page Survivors' Guide, 2 Player Reference Sheets, a sheet of thick card counters, 10 special six-sided dice (they use symbols not numbers), 3 decks of cards (8 Character cards, 36 Combat cards and 10 Survival cards), and plastic sprues to make 23 Zombies, 10 Male Survivors and 6 Bikers (including 2 on bikes). I was very underwhelmed by the size and content of the books. Upon reading them, I was even less impressed. The dice are gimmicky and ditto the Combat and Survival cards. The dice have symbols for hits (on 3 sides), for defences (on 2 sides) and for a surge (on the remaining side). The Combat cards are used to increase the number of hits or defences rolled on the dice. The Survival cards offer assorted tactics that can aid a side in the game. Players get 5 cards each if they're playing humans. The Character cards give stats for Movement (in inches), Resilience (armour class), Melee (number of dice rolled in melee combat) and Ranged (number of dice rolled in ranged combat). Some characters have Grit scores, which give dice re-rolls. Finally, all characters have certain Special Traits (something they excel in). Character cards can be for specific characters like PCs (for example, "Big Bazooka Mama") or for generic NPCs (for example, "Some Survivors x3"). NPC cards will list how many of them make up one choice, usually two or three of them. The card counters include Grit Tokens, Loot Markers, Reload Tokens, Wound Tokens and Zombie Spawn Points. The game also includes a very naff 6" ruler. I say "naff" because it is useless for measuring any distance greater than 6", which will quite often happen in a game. It just seems like a pointless inclusion to me.
So far, the only thing that has impressed me is the quality of the plastic figures. More on them later. So what is game-play like? In a word, adequate. The game is designed to be played by 1 to 3 players. A game Turn is divided into four phases as follows -
  1. Initiative phase
  2. Action phase made up of Movement, Shooting and Engage & Melee sub-phases
  3. Upkeep phase made up of Recover Shocked miniatures, Roll to Reload weapons and replenish Combat card hand.
  4. Spawn Zombies
In the Action phases, play alternates between active player first (i.e. the Initiative winner), then the next player and finally the Zombies in each of the sub-phases. Eight scenarios are provided in the Survivors' Guide.
The rules are not a total dead loss but they did not grab me like All Things Zombie or Zombicide did. Those games made me want to come back to them and play them again and again. I have played Project Z once and just felt underwhelmed by the experience. It is not a game I want to return to. Bummer! For a one off game, if you are short of time and have nothing better to do, they'll pass muster. But where they do fall down big time is in long term game-play. They have no rules whatsoever for character development or campaign play. In every game you'll choose from the same pool of characters and no matter how many Character cards Warlord Games provide that is eventually going to become an issue.
It seems to me that when Warlord Games acquired the rights to sell the zombie apocalypse figures previously made by Wargames Factory they wanted to make a game to go with them. Project Z is what they came up and I'm afraid they missed the mark with it. Zombie apocalypse games are still incredibly popular and there are many games to choose from. Too many, some would say! For a Zombie apocalypse aficionado like me, this period is gaming heaven. But I know which games are praiseworthy and which are turkeys, Sadly, Project Z fails on so many counts it must be regarded as a turkey. One to avoid, folks! The game retails at £30.00 from the Warlord Games webstore.
A Project Z game in progress. A promotional photo by Warlord Games. Note the "naff" ruler!
I did say that I'd mention the figures that Warlord Games make for this game and I have a few comments to make about them - both good and bad. First, the good news. Some of these figures were originally produced by Wargames Factory so you may well be familiar with them. Those sets were the Male Survivors and Female Survivors and the Female Zombies. Wargames Factory did make a set of plastic Male Zombies but they were of vastly inferior quality and very much lacking in surface detail. Conversion possibilities were also much reduced. Now that Warlord Games have acquired the moulds for making them they have added to the range. Their new sets include Bikers (mounted and on foot), Special Forces Troopers and brand new Male Zombies. All six of these boxed sets of figures are excellently sculpted and you can easily mix and match parts from each set, giving you maximum conversion potential. I can't recommend these sets too highly.
So, what is the bad news then? Price and quantity. Originally, these sets sold for about £25. For that, you got three sprues allowing you to make 30 or more figures. Now you get one sprue for £15. Oh, and you also get a set of Character cards and Survival cards to use in Project Z. Whoop-die-do! That works out as a price increase for less figures. I could live without the cards but some of you might appreciate them. But if you are buying multiple boxed sets then your spare cards will become surplus to requirements. Warlord Games should have included these cards in the game and added at least one more sprue to the figure sets.
Another Warlord Games Project Z promotional photo. You can't deny how great those figures are!

36 comments:

  1. An excellent review Bryan, and I'm simply delighted I gave Project Z a miss. Like you I thought the initial "Warlord Games" offer looked tremendous value for money. But as I already own "Zombicide" and "ZombieTV" (as well as "Savage Worlds") I was dubious as to whether I needed yet another rule-set. Ultimately I decided against buying into it (and "Mantic Games" Walking Dead too).

    However I am really looking forward to seeing your minis painted - especially the bikers and Special Forces, and if nothing else you could always do a "Zombicide" BatRep using the "Warlord Games" figures; especially with some rule tweaks for the bikers... Hmmm I might need to buy some myself now ;-)

    I am so very pleased though that you are enjoying this Golden Age for Zed-Wargaming. Your enthusiasm for the genre is horribly infectious and I dread to think just how much you've cost me over the past couple of years. It'll be Chibi games like SDE and Rail Raiders next... Hang on a minute!!! :-)

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    1. Many thanks, Simon. Warlord Games offered a good deal on the game and figures but the game is a big let down. The figures, however, will see use in ATZ and possibly Zombicide.

      Part of me apologises for causing you to spend so much money on stuff I've recommended and part of me says "good on you, mate, for going for it!"

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  2. good review Bryan, Chris has just bought the boxeset but I'm yet to hear his views on the game. i like the figures from WGf as you well know. There were some issues with using the bits from each sprue on other models as weapon combos were quite specific but with a bot of careful modelling you could get away with it. What a pity Warlord messed around with the price etc...

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    1. I totally agree, Andy. It is rather naughty of Warlord Games reducing the amount of figures you get whilst increasing the prices. Such is the way of the world!

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    2. it smacks a little of GW though, which i don't hold truck with....

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    3. Don't get me started on GW's pricing policy!

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  3. Very nice review of Project Z. Can you please tell me Bryan, the scale of the zombie and survivor miniatures, are they 25mm (or true scale 28`s even) or are they a decent 28mm/30mm that will fit alongside other collections?

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    1. Hil, the figures are all 28-30mm scale and will fit in perfectly with the likes of Zombicide figures and most other 28mm figure companies.

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    2. ah, thank you Bryan. That's interesting. I might get a set of the bikes for his nibs for a Christmas stocking filler.

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    3. Great idea. Actually I wouldn't mind getting a few sets of the bikers as they are so good!

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  4. >>> It'll be Chibi games like SDE and Rail Raiders next... Hang on a minute!!! :-) <<<

    lol Blaxkleric, see, we`ll get-cha in the end. Chibi`s will one day rule the world <-- *evil Fu Manchu`s mistress like laugh*

    **wonders if Fu Manchu even had a Mistress? Maybe a wife - Mrs Fu**

    Actually, I`ve been thinking more and more about zombie gaming using anime miniatures (or chibi minis as everyone seems to call them). Right now the choice is really only to do this in fantasy and medieval, like Black Plague does for Zombicide. But I`m just waiting for a group of suitable modern day `chibis` to be made so the thing can cross over into Walking Dead territory. We will soon have wild west chibi figures to play with (from Rail raiders) so that's a whole new genre soon to explore. Oh goodie.

    Your review of Project Z was very informative Bryan. I profess to an interest in this one, but will be good and resist. I would actually have said no BEFORE your review, but your review only strengthened my resolve.

    T

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    1. Thanks kindly, Tarot. Your thoughts on Chibis taking over the world will appal some and delight others. No prizes for guessing what camp I'm in! LOL!

      I suspect many people are more interested in the Project Z figures than the game itself. Perfectly understandable.

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  5. Nice review. I am disappointed in the quantity in the box contents. The price is more like GW prices only without the quality.

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    1. I was actually thinking exactly the same thing whilst at the "Warlord Games" stall at Salute. They seem to do so much now but their prices have definitely crept up to arguably be on par with "Games Workshop" in some ways; especially their army deals etc.

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    2. To both Simons, I couldn't agree more. It is an underhand tactic and seems like just the kind of thing GW would do. I would say that the quality of the Project Z figures is outstanding but the quantity leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

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  6. Well, of course Warlord Games is simply one half of Games Workshop who all defected and started a rival company. What gets me is this: to defect means planning, lots and lots of planning: this means the guys who created Warlord Games must have smiled with shark like teeth at their colleagues EVEN as they planned their mutiny. So I ask you, people who can smile fair and assemble so effectively; how much faith do you have in those same people that they are dealing fairly with their buying public, in all their current dealings?

    interesting thought, right?

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    1. An interesting thought indeed. I had forgotten that Warlord Games came into being with ex-GW staffers, but you're right. How interesting that WG is just GW reversed!

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  7. Great review. I kind of had a feeling Project Z rules would be meh. I won't bother with them, but I am interested acquiring some of the minis, for ATZ, even though the prices stink.

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    1. If I've saved you some money, then all is well and good. Although the figures are great, the prices being asked for them is not. I'll definitely be using my figures with ATZ as well.

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  8. sorry to hijack your thread Bryan, but kinda relevant too. I don`t know if you have them, but I`m REALLY like to see a review on Arcadia Quest and the new expansion: Beyond the Grave expansion.

    Now, I`m really stingy when it come to spending money on games. Not because I`m mean, but because I have to save so hard to get anything I want for my games, and so I like to read a lot of reviews and things first to be sure I don`t waste money. That's where your reviews are so good Bryan, they are always so very well thought out and considered. One such thing on the market is this Arcadia thing; but sadly I find (if you look carefully, you will find that) almost all reviews on any game by CMoN are almost all written by themselves or people somehow connected to them - which is a very old but highly successful marketing trick: they are thus, almost bibles on How to Market their own product (i.e. written to make you want want want). However this game and its cool looking expansion DOES interest me greatly. I think I want it - them - both hehe.

    If you own either of these Bryan, is there any chance you can review them sometime? I am patient so can easily wait to hear a good review before I start to consider saving pennies to get the things I like.

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    1. Sadly, I don't own any Arcadia Quest stuff, Tarot. I am aware of it and I have often looked at. I, too, was interested in the Beyond the Grave expansion because of its connection to the Undead.

      I am not a fan of the AQ games because they have a policy regarding their Kickstarters that I hate. Any KS exclusive figure will remain available only for the length of the KS launch (usually 4 weeks). If you want it after that, tough luck! This is one of the reasons I like Soda Pop Games so much. They have no KS exclusives. All of the stuff they show during their KS launch will eventually be available for retail.

      Now you could argue that something offered as an "exclusive" should remain exclusive and only be available to select few. But that is of little comfort to those gamers who only found out about the game much later or who through no fault of their own couldn't back the game at the time. I missed the launch of the original Zombicide game, something i deeply regret. I lost out on getting most of their KS launch exclusive figures. I have seen some for sale on eBay for ludicrous prices, which I just won't pay.

      It is a matter of concern to some gamers and of no matter to others. Finally, the AQ game and figures do not grab me in the same way as SDE and their Chibis do. I'm afraid I'll be passing on Arcadia Quest. Sorry, pet.

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    2. Sorry to contribute to the hijack here, but I have AQ,so maybe I can offer some help.

      Basically, everyone is competing against the other players to achieve objectives. I won't go into too much detail here, but while the game is pretty easy to pick up and fun to play, and had a nice progression system when playing the campaign, it was lacking something when it was just my wife and I playing, and after a few games, we stopped playing.

      I think that if you can play it in groups of 3 or more, it really comes into its own. The sort of game I would wheel out to play with the family at Christmas, but not great for regular gaming due to the need for extra players. Fun game, though, and it's what tempted me to get SDE, which seems better suited to 1-2 player games.

      Back on topic, I think it's shocking that Warlord games have meddled with the content if the WGF boxes and priced them like that. Sounds like it represents better value to buy the Project Z boxed game just for the figures.

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    3. Many thanks for your input, Jon. No need to apologise for hijacking threads. I don't mind it all.

      As I said, I did look at AQ closely and thought a lot about buying it. I soon came to realise that it would not be a good game for a solo player, especially when players are meant to play competitively and not co-operatively. Although SDE Consul play is meant for 2 or more players I find it still works as a solo play game. Of course, SDE Arcade play IS designed for solo play. This was a big reason why I left AQ on the shelf. I think you've hit the nail on the head - AQ is better played with more players, a minimum of 3+.

      You also worked out why I bought the bundled set of the Project Z game and figures. It worked out cheaper than buying them individually.

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    4. Thank you Jon, that was kind of you to chip in. I wish there were more like you on line. A MASSIVE thank you for your words. If only everyone in the hobby took a few moments to share their knowledge like that. The internet should be a useful and thriving source for sharing (especially within the gaming hobby), not just taking all the time. It makes me so sad that some people absorb free stuff other people write, but rarely give anything back. So on a deeply personal note Jon, I am very grateful you for helping answer my initial question.

      Hmmmm, that’s interesting. I don’t mind the fact you ideally need a large number playing to get the most out of the game. I do often play in groups easily in excess of six people. But then again I also like the intimacy of one on one and solitaire, so big booty bummer there then :(

      This leaves me just wondering if the load of miniatures contained in the box is alone worth the price tag. I collect miniatures of this sort for my anime / chibi games without always especially intending to play the game they are purposed for, if you see what I mean. Hmmm I must think on it more.

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    5. Thanks Bryan and Tarot. I don't often raise my head above the parapet, but I like to help out where I can.

      Speaking of which, if you are only interested in the AQ box models, check out ebay. Often, you will find people selling just the monsters from the box, and sometimes the heroes (but more often, just the baddies). The kickstarter exclusives are, as Bryan pointed out, really expensive, but the basic box models can be had for a more reasonable outlay if you're lucky.

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    6. Your comments were very much appreciated, especially by Tarot. I find eBay to be something of a mixed blessing. At times I have picked up some incredible bargains from it and at other times I look at the prices being asked and say, NO WAY! But even so, it is still worth checking out on a regular basis, at least once a week.

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    7. Thank you so much for that Jon. Forgive me, I literally only just read your words this moment. That is massively helpful to me. I will check out ebay for sure. You are totally correct, it is the figures that interest me, and even a few from the base boxed set would be lovely to own.

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  9. No, that's good. I was recently asked "what do you want for Christmas" and I couldn't answer. It got me browsing for ideas on line and I came across AC by chance while looking at bits and pieces for Zombicide (at the time, I had ended up looking for Christmas presents for the guys and totally forgot I was supposed to be looking for me lol). Anyway, I saw the game and thought the minis looked compatible with other anime type things. So thought: I know, I`ll ask Mr Bryan, if anyone knows, HE`LL know for sure.

    Not keen on their policies either. I`m not personally fussed about who gets what first and who gets what after (though I can see how that would pee off many devout hobbyists), no, I`m more worried by their U-turn policies: promise one thing, wait six months and do the opposite (I listen to a lot of company interviews. You can tell a lot by looking into a persons eyes on you tube, or by hearing their voices on podcast. I always make a point of trying to talk to the `high ups` at the big game conventions for just this reason).

    Strangely, I don`t know why. But I really liked the look of the poses on the AC figures. To quote you from one of your posts "they just speak to me". But anyway, its all just speculation really. I doubt very much I`ll ever actually buy it. I know its in Other Realms in Cork City and am deliberately staying away so I don't do something silly like say: give me give me give me, and end up with a silly grin on my face all week as I sit down to paint 40 new minis hehehee. Must be good, I must be good.

    T

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    1. You raise another point about the game. I had also read some negative comments about the long wait backers had to endure before getting what they'd ordered. That does not inspire confidence.

      As for being good and not spending money on stuff you want (note, I didn't say need), I am the last person to offer wise advice!

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  10. No that's wrong isn't it. It`s AQ not AC duuuuh!

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    1. Have no fear. I know what you meant. I'm a trained proofreader and I do know how easy it is to make a typo error.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this. I was looking forward to your review but totally forgot about until just a few minutes ago. I was concerned the game game might be underwhelming given the page counts I'd heard about and your analysis confirms my reservations.

    It's a shame because the models I have from WGF before Warlord got them were excellent economy models. I was really hoping for something more involved that might feature a campaign system so I'll likely steer clear and keep looking.

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    1. I think that's a very sensible decision, HP. The game just does not lend itself to campaign play.

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  12. Thanks for posting this review. It pretty much mirrored what I felt when I read the rules online. Although I'm a big fan of ATZ, I'm in the market for an alternative set of zombie rules, just to scratch a different itch as it were. I read the rules for both Project Z and Walking Dead and ended up backing WD as the rules just seemed to have more 'zombie flavour'. I've read enough about PZ to make me feel that it wouldn't be very inspiring to play, and for me that is a must in a zombie game especially.

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    1. I also backed The Walking Dead Kickstarter. I was very impressed with the rules and the figures for it, plus I'm a big fan of the comics and TV series. Project z has lovely figures but a very poor set of rules. I think you made the right decision, Chris.

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    2. Yes, that partly swayed me also, but it was mostly reading the draft rules which did it. The only downside for me is no AI survivors, but I can probably use ideas from ATZ for that. In honestly, I'll probably sell the figures as I'm committed to 15mm for my zombie games. Just as well there are 15mm Walking Dead characters already out there!

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