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Subject: Paper & Pencil Vs The Living Dead rss

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Rob Robinson
South Yorkshire
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I fight lost wars, see light, fear sight
I open my mind, need flesh, fear mine
Dead & Alive... hmmmm, Peter Jacksons superb zombie film Braindead goes by the name Dead Alive in the U.S. although it's classed as 'unrated' it is approximately 2.5 minutes shorter than the 'full' European version. I wonder if that's where the designer got the name from?

Alas I digress...

Dead & Alive is a free downloadable PDF file which requires little in the way of setup or components. Just a pencil, a piece of paper and a D6 or so will be sufficient enough material for you in your solitary quest to escape from the city choked with the living dead, who are intent on biting your face off and eating out your guts.

So it's a solo game, played out on a gridded piece of paper of 12x12 squares. You start at the bottom right of the map and try to make it to the harbor at the top left hand side of the page.

Each turn you roll 2D6 and check against a chart to see what type of building you move into, and then roll 2D6 again and once more check against a chart to see what the building contains.

The buildings contain an assortment of stuff... weaponry, food, health packs, Survivors and the dreaded zombies.

Once a zombie is encountered you roll a D6, and kill it on the roll of a 6. Any other roll results in you losing a life. Of course the items you find help you dispatch the undead, as they all add a certain bonus modifier to your roll, depending on the item found. But they will break on the unmodified roll of a 1, so keeping reserve items is a good idea.

Any Survivors you find tag along with you, allowing you to roll an extra die for each. These characters like yourself are able to use and carry a weapon, so the more survivors the greater the chance of killing those greedy ghouls.

The zombies don't just appear one at a time either. In some instances you may uncover a building containing anything up to 4 Zombies. If there are only two of you at this point you're going to end up in pretty bad shape, as for every zombie you fail to kill during any round of combat you (or your Survivor colleague) will lose that many Life Points. Any survivors reduced to zero health during the battle will also join the ranks of the undead and try to feast on your flesh. So you'll need to be ready to kill them once they join the other side, and before you can progress to the next building.

Luckily there are firearms which allow for long ranged combat. If you miss you don't lose any health. the trouble with firearms (and chainsaws) is the noise sometimes attracts other unwelcome zeds. You roll a die at the end of the round, and on a 1 another zombie joins the fray. Firearms also have a tendency to run out of bullets... and chainsaws are fuel dependent.

Speaking of fuel you may find Gasoline. This refuels the aforementioned chainsaw, and can also be thrown into an adjacent building Molotov cocktail style. there is a 1-6 chance that any adjacent buildings will catch fire, but you do get to move into the shell of the now burnt building for free as long as your own building doesn't catch fire and kill you in the spread.

Overall it's a very well put together little PDF. You are only limited by your imagination and the blandness of the components used. It's also extremely difficult. More often than not you will die on your first move, but when you do get tooled up and find a few Survivors the difficulty does lessen a little and you end up wanting more and more zeds to attack your hardened mob of survivors.

One area I wish would be addressed is that most of the map area is a waste, and that's a shame. I guess that players will cut straight across the maps diagonal, ignoring the mass of unused squares to either side. I tried and failed to come up with a suitable solution, but I hope the designer can come up with some way of utilizing these ignored areas, either in the form of some kind of random blockages which need to be skirted around, or random areas that need to be reached first etc.

I converted the game to Cyberboard format the other night, this cuts out a lot of mucking about with dice and pencils, as the buildings are pulled from a tray randomly and give you a random item each time. It also adds a little in the form of eye candy. Although my graphical skills aren't up to much it does help.

Overall: 7 Headshots out of 10
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Christopher Brandon
United States
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I very much appreciate your great and thorough review of my little game. I have the first Dead& Alive story (scenario) that I will be posting tomorrow that adresses the direct march issue you raised. Try it out and let me know what you think. It too is quite difficult, but it does add a specific narrative and goal outside of simple escape. It has it's own game map as well!

Included in the scenario is an optional rule to increase the challenge when you have additional survivors with you. It is a simple change that should add to your challenge. I will post tomorrow morning and hope other Dead & Alive players will try it as well.

Stay Alive!
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