It’s a No-Brainer: ‘The Walking Dead Board Game’ Reviewed

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Game NameThe Walking Dead

Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment

Designer: Cory Jones

Year: 2011

Players: 1 – 4

Ages: 13+

Playing Time: 30 Minutes

Retail Price: $39.99

Category: Horror Board Game

Components:

  • 1 Game Board
  • 6 Character Cards
  • 6 Survivor Game Pieces With Bases
  • 2 Walker Game Pieces
  • 16 Ally Tokens
  • 40 Scrounge Cards
  • 40 Encounter Cards
  • 30 Walker Cards
  • 16 Location Cards
  • 4 Badges
  • 1 Six-sided Die

From Cryptozoic Entertainment:

In The Walking Dead Board game, only the strong survive. The weak turn into walkers, and then turn against their former friends! Fight your way through zombie-infested Atlanta with your fellow survivors. Grab some weapons to clear a path. Visit destinations like the department store, the police station, old folk’s home, and the CDC. Find the tools you’ll need to live another day like weapons, allies, a car, or a swift mount. Take on the role of Rick, Andrea, or one of the other hapless survivors and scrounge for sweet weapons like a Shotgun or Crossbow. Keep your eyes open for new allies, but watch your back! When supplies start running low, it’s every man for himself. If you can make it back to camp with enough gear to defend yourself and those you still care for, you win!

The Walking Dead is a franchise that has been on fire for some time now. With all the zombie apocalypse exposure we’ve had in the past few years, it isn’t surprising that two separate board games have emerged featuring Rick and the gang. One game based on the TV show, and one based on the comic.

Unfortunately, the word on the street has been that both of these games are terrible. If I were on a jury, I would be dismissed because of the completely human trait of not being impartial.  Luckily, this isn’t a court of law, it is a game review, and I can put aside the negative hype and judge the game on its own merit. Plus, I have the advantage of discussing the game with my kids, who simply judge each game on whether or not they had fun playing it.

I’m talking about The Walking Dead TV show based board game from Cryptozoic Entertainment. I doubt that I will ever see the Z-Man comic book version, so I won’t be comparing and contrasting the two.

The object of the game is to visit each location at the corners of the board and collect their respective location tokens, and then make it back to camp at the center of the board. If you become a zombie, your goal becomes to stop the survivors from accomplishing this task.

The first thing you should know is that the board is made of mouse pad material. It is about 17” x 13”, so it is the largest board that I’ve seen that you roll up and put in the box. It looks great and I applaud Cryptozoic for going out on a limb and doing something different, but I can see where this would turn off some gamers.

There are six thick character boards, around 3” x 5”, with color pictures of the characters, a brief bio, and the special ability that they can use once per game. You can choose from Rick, Shane, Glenn, Dale, Andrea, and Lori. The abilities can be useful, or not. Shane can steal scrounge cards from every player in his region on the board, which can be very useful, while Lori can move any survivor one additional space, which is no where near as useful as Shane’s ability.

The cards are all standard size and thickness, and everything in the game features artwork and scenes taken directly from the TV show. If the kids aren’t old enough to handle seeing a decaying zombie with dripping entrails, then don’t let them around this game.

There are four different sets of smaller cards that you place at the corners of the board. You need to collect these during the game by visiting those locations. Each one also gives you some special ability that you can use the rest of the game and they really help. The character tokens are stand ups that slide into bases and have pictures of the characters on them.

Finally there are some tokens for allies that you can pick up along the way, a single red die, and “Team Survivor” and “Team Zombie” tokens that you will use once the some of the players have switched to the other side. This will happen; more often than not you will end the game as a Walker yourself.

I like the box insert, it has molded plastic spots to place all of the components and is covered with a black fuzzy felt like material. The big problem here is there are no finger spots to pull out the cards, so I found myself using a butter knife to get all the cards out of their spot in the box. This is annoying and I hope Cryptozoic uses a little more foresight next time. We placed some of the wedge shaped plastic character stands to have the decks sit in the box at a bit of an angle to facilitate getting them out of the box.

The rules are short and written fairly well, but we did have some situations pop up that were not covered in the rules, despite the page of FAQs at the back of the rulebook. We made judgment calls and kept on trucking. It’s not Arkham Horror, so the rules are simple enough not to cause a lot of hang-ups.

Gameplay itself is fairly straight forward. This is a roll and move game at its core. A turn involves rolling the dice, moving, fighting zombies, and passing the dice to the next player.

All players start at the center of the board in camp. Walkers can’t go into camp, so it is the only safe spot on the board.

Each player selects a character and gets five scrounge cards from the scrounge deck. The scrounge cards are the weapons and items that you find to help you against the zombies. The number of cards in the deck varies with the number of players. Once a scrounge card is used and discarded, for the most part it is out of the game. So when the deck runs out, you are on your own.

Similarly, each player starts with two ally tokens, and then two more per player are placed next to the board that you can pick up at various points during the game. The ally tokens act as “Hit Points”. If you are bitten, you can surrender an ally token to survive the bite. Unfortunately, if you are out of ally tokens and get bitten, you’re dead and become a Walker. The great thing is that the walker-players have their own deck of cards that can really screw over the players who are still alive.

The encounter deck lasts forever; you just reshuffle it if you run out. The walkers just keep coming. On your turn you will roll the die and move that many spaces in any direction. The space you land on will almost always involve having an encounter but some spaces specify that you will have no encounter, and some spaces give you a bonus to your attack roll (these are nice spots to land on).

Most encounters involve meeting one or more walkers. The cards have a strength value on them and you need to meet or beat this number in order to avoid getting bitten. You can play those scrounge cards from your hand to assist you. You might use a shotgun, or a couple of baseball bats, or whatever cards you have left to add bonuses to the die roll. Then it’s just a matter of rolling the die, adding your bonuses, and hoping you win.

As an example, Rick lands on a blank space on the board and draws an encounter card. Watch Out! It’s a walker pack with strength of 8. Rick has a handgun which gives him a +3 to his roll but he rolls a 4, for a total of 7. This isn’t enough so Rick surrenders an ally token and the encounter is over.

There will be times when you’ll need to roll a 10 and you have no cards to help you. Take heart though, any roll of a six is an automatic win for the player, so it is never impossible to win. Mostly you will get annoyed that you used all your gear and then rolled a six, so your gear is all wasted as you would have won no matter what. Oh well, what can you do?

When you reach a corner spot, you have to stop there regardless of the roll of the die. Each corner involves having TWO encounters. If you survive these you get to keep one of the tokens for that location. These give you some very helpful abilities. The police station lets you add +1 to all future attack rolls, and you will need it. The toughest cards to beat are the Walker Horde cards with a strength of 10, ouch.

Some encounters might allow you to draw extra scrounge cards, or tell you that nothing happens, or some other problem that does not involve fighting walkers. This does add a bit of variety and give you something to hope for.

Once you are bitten, your token is placed on its side. On your next turn you will choose a walker token and place it wherever you were killed. For the rest of the game you will draw cards from the Walker deck, and use these to try and stop the other players by turning them into zombies too.

That is really all there is to it. The game is simple, but it is HARD. If someone can pull off a win as a survivor, rest assured that they had a big combination of luck and good card playing. We had one game finish with a survivor win out of a half-a-dozen games played. If you are easily discouraged or don’t like those kind of odds, well now you know what you are up against.

I didn’t mind this. I earned that win and it was by the skin of my teeth. The kids liked being walkers and trying to stop me. Usually, they won as the zombies, which gave them great satisfaction. Luck plays a big roll in the game. You need to draw the right cards, and if you are constantly rolling a one or two on the die during movement, you’ll have a lot more encounters than everyone else. This will quickly lead to your death. If you hate games with a lot of luck involved, then you will probably not enjoy The Walking Dead.

The biggest problem I had with the game is that in a four player game the third person to be killed is out of the game completely. You can only have two walker players, so the third person killed basically has to sit on the sidelines and watch while everyone else has a good time. This is the one design flaw that I believe should be addressed. The games are short, so it isn’t a huge problem, but it really seems unfair to that third dead player.

For this reason, the sweet spot for this game is three players. In a three player game you will not have this problem. The solitaire game is fun too. The rules do not change, you have the same goal, but you won’t need to worry about running into other players that were turned into walkers.

I can’t deny that I had a good time playing this game. More serious gamers should stick with games like “Last Night on Earth”, but casual gamers and teens should enjoy it, especially those players who are fans of the show. Management of your scrounge cards are crucial as they can be rapidly used up. Ally tokens, once used, are gone forever too, so use them sparingly and only when you have no other choice.

To sum it up, I liked The Walking Dead board game from Cryptozoic and so did my kids, but it isn’t for everyone and it does have its problems.

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