Yesterday we released the first part of this two part interview with Rob Burman, Social Media Manager at Mantic Games, the guys behind The Walking Dead: All Out War. You can find part one over here.
Picking up from yesterday, we were going into how Mantic have changed the rules when it comes to releasing skirmish games and it carries right on into their expansions and how the game will grow over its lifespan.
These expansions aren’t just going to be thrown out with a handful of models. As Rob goes into detail it’s clear that these are fully formed expansions that will develop the campaign and the game as a whole as well as adding characters for your armies. “They all come together, you’ll get the expansion which will come with a set of new characters, some new equipment, some new scenery as well, and then there are boosters which are smaller packs that come with a couple of characters and some more equipment as well.
“The Days Gone Bye Expansion includes a new gaming mat which is based on the Atlanta story arc. You get Dale, Jim, Donna, Allen, more Walkers, then terrain for tents, forests and a campfire, then you get more equipment cards. Then there’s a booster which has six walkers, four event cards, and four equipment cards”.
Speaking to Rob it’s clear that each of The Walking Dead comic’s arcs are going to be represented in expansions, so a few expansions down the line we’ll see characters growing and changing as well as new characters and new equipment. More importantly, the way you play will be able to change. “The size of the game is dictated by how many points you want to play, if you want to play 300 points you’re going to need a lot more survivors, characters, equipment and Walkers because a lot more is going to happen over the course of that game”.
You’d think that this type of expansion based game support would take years to reach fruition, with the development studio throwing out boosters stringing players along, but when Rob talks about Mantic’s current release calendar you can tell that it’s going to keep the game consistently fresh. “November is the launch, which will launch with the core set and the Days Gone Bye expansion. Then early next year we’ll get Hershel’s farm and some more expansions, basically everything funded in the Kickstarter. It’s not long actually”.
After talking about how the game will progress and what models we’ll get from launch, it’s interesting to get into the nitty gritty of the gameplay. A really basic scenario in the rulebook is called The Walking Dead. You have two bands of survivors setting up on either side of the game area – which is quite small sitting at just 20 inches by 20 inches, nicely fitting on a normal table; a change from needing designated game tables you have to fold out every time you want to play. In the middle you have the Walker zone, in there you put cars you can use as cover and different supplies. These supplies are tokens you dot around, usually near the Walkers.
After setting up you’ll alternately activate your characters. “You might move Rick and I would move one of my survivors called Sandra”, Rob very patiently tells me. “The big thing is you want to try to avoid making noise. You’ll make noise by running, shouting or shooting. A bit like the comics you can go in all gung ho but you’ll attract the Walkers.
“Say you decide you really need to shoot your gun here, you’re getting trigger happy. You’d shoot maybe one of the Walkers and you’d roll a set of dice for how good your character is at shooting. Maybe you kill the Walker, but you’ve made a load of noise. So then any NPC Walkers within 10 inches shuffle 6 inches towards you. They move in a straight line, if they hit anything they just stop, because they’re not very intelligent, and then you’re left with all these Walkers moving slowly towards you.
So each player will alternate character activations until they run out and after everyone’s finished moving or searching for items you have the Walker phase. During this phase you draw from the event deck. These might have something like “Roamers” where each player can move one Walker in a direction of their choice.
These events will change as the game develops. Take the “Roamers” event for example. There’s a threat level dial that goes up as you’re playing the game, if you’re on a low threat just one Walker will activate, but if it’s high threat then more will arise and you roll again to see how many you will move. Threat seems to be a huge mechanic and can really change what will happen in a game.
“You can actually play it solo if you want … you’ve got these rules of Walkers moving towards noise or attacking if you get in their killzone you can actually play it by yourself.”
Threat changes as the game progresses in a number of ways. “Some event cards automatically increase the threat level, you increase threat when you shoot a gun – because in the comics it gets walkers attention, like Pavlov’s dogs when they hear a gunshot they think it’s dinner time – also at the start of the melee phase, if anyone is in melee it increases the threat. And when you scream panicking you’ll increase the threat level. There are quite a few different ways to increase threat, so although there are only 18 points on the threat level, that goes up very quickly when you’re playing”.
Altogether the rules seem really simple. Rob tells me that it’s all about phases. “There’s the Action Phase which is like the moving around, then there’s the event phase and then there’s the melee phase where you do all the hand to hand fighting”.
There’s a pretty big reason for The Walking Dead: All Out War breaking down into these phases and the Walkers moving by reacting to noise. Rob explains that you don’t need two people to enjoy the game. “You can actually play it solo if you want. There are some campaigns which are just you versus the Walkers. Because you’ve got these rules of Walkers moving towards noise or attacking if you get in their killzone you can actually play it by yourself.
“The way the rules have been designed so you can play straight from the box, you vs the Walkers. There’s actually the Prelude to Woodbury expansion which is just solo. It’s interesting how solo gaming has come on so much, it’s something you’re expected to be able to do so we’ve made sure it’s in there from the beginning. That’s why there’s this simple AI mechanic for the Walkers”.
The killzone part of the Walker’s AI is pretty simple. As we know they move towards noise when they hear it and then they attack any survivor in their killzone and you roll to see how much damage they do. The killzone is a template that covers six inches in any direction of the Walker. Rob says that it can really sneak up on you in game. “It’s interesting because the amount of times I’ve played it and you think six inches isn’t that far. You’ll shoot your gun and maybe you’ll kill one Walker and then maybe another Walker will start shuffling towards you. Then when it comes to the killzone phase you realise how close they are as they lumber towards you. It’s a very tense game”.
“The great moment is when you watch someone play and it clicks they can use the Walkers. There was a brilliant bit the other day when I managed to surround Carl with three walkers. You almost don’t have to fight if you can use the walkers to your advantage, you can get your opponent all tied up while you go and get the objectives”.
The first thing you want to know when you hear about scenarios is how long will they take. As fun as gaming is, we don’t all have hours and hours to devote to one play session. That’s not going to be a problem with All Out War. “The Walking Dead Scenario, [the one we talked about earlier] takes about an hour. That’s the sweet spot for a quick skirmish game where you won’t get bogged down”.
But if you do have time on your hands, or if you’re able to wrangle a day every now and then to dedicate to the game, Mantic have you covered. “In the other expansions, like Days Gone Bye, you’ll get more specific scenarios and specific missions. In the expansion with Hershel’s Farm there’s about six scenarios, so you literally play through that story line”.
“That’s the whole point of hobby games, that core set is the beginning and hopefully you go out and get creative.”
Rob seems to truly enjoy talking about the game, more than happy to go over each rule until I completely understand. One of the things he reiterates is that they don’t want people to stick to just the scenarios they’ve written. “The amount of space you need is tiny, we really want people to go out and create their own boards or their own versions of Hershel’s farm.
“That’s the whole point of hobby games, that core set is the beginning and hopefully you go out and get creative. Treat this as the start of your addiction. We’re looking forward to seeing what people could do”.
And recreating scenes is a staple any fan can get behind. Although The Walking Dead: All Out War has the comic’s license, Rob assures me that fans who’ve only seen the TV series will be able to get into it as well. “It’s those kind of characters you’re used to seeing in the TV show and when they come to this it’s roughly the same situation with Hershel’s farm and the prison in later expansions.
“These are big places where things happen in the series and the comics mirror each other. Obviously later on there are instances where the TV series and the comic split off and we’ll have to see what happens then. But generally someone’s who’s into The Walking Dead can quite happily sit down and feel quite at home”.
So basically, if you have any interest in The Walking Dead, All Out War is going to be for you. It’s breaking all the rules about making and supporting skirmish wargaming and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.