Never seen a Zombie movie before... unless "Village of the Dammed" counts, but man, that was so long ago. Black n' white from what I recall. Never really read any Zombie books either, until that is, I came across a fellow Red Sox fan called Stephen King, who had written one called "Cell". I seriously could have zombiefied him after that one, ending the story the way he did but I'll leave it to ya'll to find that one out.
But I do like good games - and I like those with a war/survival thing the best. Grand strategic, grand tactical, squad-level, I've played titles in all. So at a time when I'd been playing a number of war games by a company called Lock n' Load Publishing, I noticed a forthcoming foray called All Things Zombie - and I liked what I saw. Garish, cartoonish, single character focused, beautifully graphic - I mean, the maps showing "Desolate-Town USA" looked just gorgeous in all their almost photo-realistic, top-down, splendor.
Only one thing held me back. If you've read any of my past reviews of games from Lock n' Load Publishing, you'd have come across a theme called; "why can't these guys be as smart with their production quality, as they are with their ideas and art?"
Yep, I was very worried about the physical components I'd find inside the box - and as if in answer, almost immediately, some worrying consumer feedback began to emanate from those who'd purchased the first print run of the game; back-printed mounted maps that peeled along their fold, and playing cards fading. A large number of complaints in fact. These were enough to make me walk past the game's very attractive cover art for months at my local store.
Then I saw that LnLP announced that that ATZ had sold out. A second printing was planned for 2011. A couple of months ago, it became available and with it came the marketing statement:
"All Things Zombie is back and better than ever! All Things Zombie is back in stock. This second printing of the game features better gameboard construction and a stronger coating on the playing cards."
Well, that was enough to make me succumb to a purchase today. How do I feel on looking inside? I'm kind of... zombie-like impressed.
Box 'em up Fellas
As with most LnLP productions, a lot of expense seems to have gone into constructing the physical box. It's a good thing, as those who collect games will attest that resale value is as much a factor of the components inside as their outer housing. It's one beauty of boardgaming that I love. Given care, you can keep and play quality boardgames almost eternally; and then swap or horde them as you wish.
A good box design also goes towards addressing after-play storage and here, LnLP has succeeded with a single caveat.
Though ATZ's box is short in height, given the number of its maps (though mounted), counters, dice and chits - everything still fits safely after a gaming session, even with the inclusion of a single counter tray (gamers bring your own).
LnLP however, has not solved the dilemma of what to do with ATZ's playing cards, a deck of which forms part of its component repertoire. No game company really has - other than those whose boxes are extremely deep and offer a cavern inside over which a game's board usually sits. So, as with many of my card-driven boardgames, the cards for ATZ are housed in a plastic card box, ready to grab any time.
Interestingly, the blurb on the rear of the ATZ box makes no mention of these playing cards. More on this later. For now, just accept that they are there!
A Colorful Game - Colorful Rules to Match
The first thing that greets the gamer on opening the ATZ lid is the glory of a full-colored, 24-page (including front and rear cover) rulebook and LnLP has done a fine job in its manufacture. Double columned, with large font, well illustrated and clearly written, it has also been designed for extended life. Many times, I've belaboured publishers over rulebooks written on flimsy-stocked paper. Whilst, ATZ's rules are not hard bound, its pages are printed with a sturdy weight, cover included. This rulebook will be one that lasts.
Rules run to 16 pages including cover, note space and contents. Six scenarios begin on page 17. A campaign scenario and skirmish system follow, together with a page and a half of examples to finish things off.
Tonya, one of the game's "Stars" (the better class of Survivor), adorns the front and rear - as she does the game's box. Yeah, I'd share a coffee and cake with her... and discuss the niceties of automatic weapons maintenance of course.
A Lamination of Characters
Sounds poetic doesn't it? What this really refers to are the first contents found underneath the rulebook, a set of nine 8 x 5 1/4 inch character charts (referred to as Survivor Status Cards). Each Star and Grunt (collectively known as Survivors) has one. On it are various skill summaries and places to record possessions and health.
What's beautiful about them, aside from their art, is the fact that LnLP took the care to have them laminated and for the most part, the effect works well. These charts aren't thick cardboard so the plastic gives them stability. The lamination however, hasn't been rendered on an individual card basis. Rather, it would appear that in the printing process, an entire sheet of charts was laminated at once, with the various cards then guillotined out. As a result, some cards have the slightest of ragged edges. One needed a little trim with a scissors to clean it up. Not a big thing but it shows that though LnLP has its heart in the right orientation, it still needs to fine tune production execution.
A turn track, similarly sized and laminated, completes the set here.
A Much Improved Deck of Cards
As mentioned, though the game box doesn't list them, part of the action of ATZ revolves around the drawing of Loot Cards representing the searching of buildings for items of assistance and Zombie Cards for the extra surprise that this game breeds - as if hordes of zombies thriving on map weren't enough.
A complaint with the first print run of the game lay with the uneven, faded look that many of these cards furnished. Obviously, something had happened in between the CMYK instructions of the art department and ink going onto paper in the printing press.
In line with the touted promise of great looking cards, the shrink-wrapped deck included in the new ATZ box is indeed thoroughly even in look and perfectly printed this time, all 72 cards comprising.
Most importantly, they're solid in feel. They're extremely well made.
Whilst not plastic or linen coated as in the case of casino cards (few games provide these nowadays), they're slightly narrower than those offered say, by GMT Games, Days of Wonder or Z-Man Games. Meaning that the standard 2 5/8 x 3 5/8 card protector sleeve will allow some space at either side. I see no issue with this at all. Sleeves aren't really needed in my opinion.
Yet, how's this for a curiosity? These cards have perfectly formed 90 degree angles at their corners. This seems very unusual. Not even the slightest curvature for protection. Is this a problem? Given the sturdiness of the cards, not really; nonetheless, it is a very strange design decision. So I've place my cards in card sleeves anyway.
The good news is, these cards are colourful, solid and mint. Well done LnLP on seeing a problem and resolving it fully.
Dice, Counters, Pieces and a Change of Direction?
A glorious collection of counter art looms next inside the box. But first; let's talk about six dice (5 white and 1 black).
The best way to describe these is... Throw 'em out. Straight away. Don't even look at their appalling quality, chipping, running paint and overall disaster-like nature. At first I thought these dice were themed - you know, purposefully chaotic. They're not. They're cheap. Unlike LnLP's usually enormous dice offered with its wargames, just replace them. Some nice faux-stone Chessex dice with blood-red pips will fit the bill in my case.
Ok, let's move on, because LnLP has in my opinion really made a big improvement with the most important physical element of any game: The playing pieces.
My reviews of LnLP's games have wavered from "fantastic" to "what were they thinking" when it came to the cardboard playing pieces of its games. In a nutshell, if you're going to provide die-cut cardboard gaming pieces representing armies, equipment and information chits (people, zombies, weapons and information chits in the case of ATZ), then you need to make them attractive, sturdy, legible and resilient to the many sessions of gaming hoping to be played.
Two sheets of die cut counters are supplied with ATZ. Really large, meaty ones representing a multitude of survivors and Zombies; 90 of these. And 88 smaller counters for weaponry and status chits.
Folks, as opposed to a number of recent LnLP games I've purchased (Dawns Early Light as an example), the counters supplied with ATZ Printing Number 2, are perfect. They're easy to read, beautifully illustrated, immensely mood inducing and lush to hold. They're gloss but very sturdy and easy to trim away from their sprues. Honestly, I was fearing either overly fat, spongy cardboard (see Band of Heroes 2nd ed) or at the other extreme, a thin concoction, impossible pick up even with the nimblest of fingers.
LnLP has finally found a quality printer and manufacturer here. May they prosper together.
A Novel for the Mind - A Map for the Eyes
ATZ makes no qualms about its raison d'etre. It exists; to entertain and how the zombies came to be, is inconsequential. What is important, is that they are everywhere, they're infecting people and it's our job to survive.
Four 11 x 17 inch maps are supplied for this purpose. Somewhere in the desert, there's a pizza shop called Meemos, some supermarkets, office car parks, some sparsely set houses and an orchard.
Wherever that is, the artists at LnLP have surpassed themselves (or should I say, kept up their amazing pace of imagination and skill exhibited in games such as Noville). They're the best in the business and playing a game of ATZ on these maps will be a thrill. The art is so evocative - you feel that "you are there".
So let's get down to business. The biggest complaint that almost killed LnLP's ATZ 1st printing in its tracks was its maps; the ones that began to fall apart soon after opening.
First up, ATZ provides 4 maps - but they're back printed across 2 mounted map boards. Whilst this hasn't changed from the first printing of the game, the game box does not make this clear at all.
Is this a problem? No, in that these maps are geomorphic, meaning that they are meant to butt up against each other regardless of edge, to produce a myriad of map configurations. Being back mounted, the theory still works. However, obviously back mounting will reduce the number of configurations that could have been possible and this is a shame. Buying a second set of boards is an obvious solution for the Design Your Own enthusiast.
Next up though, is the biggie: How well do these maps now hold up?
Well, I'm happy to report, very well so far. Reason being, they now appear to be plastic coated in some way. Whatever the method that's been used, it means that on unfolding, they are solid, confidence inducing and now do their job.
My Map 1 does show an indentation from a board edge placed on top somewhere in the warehousing process and my Map 2 shows a slight wrinkle during the gluing of a specific area but overall, I'm so happy that I really don't care! I might even go out and buy myself a second box for the extra bits thrown in.
LnLP has redeemed itself in my eyes.
That's probably the best way to leave things. A laminated Player Aid chart sits at the bottom of the box and it too is a fine piece of kit.
That all said, opening my 2011 ATZ 2nd Printing box has proven to be a surprisingly pleasurable experience.
Game play looks solid, preparing scenarios for play will be a breeze given the solid construction of its die cut chits. Quality, as a complete gaming production, is finally there.
I also like the intimate size of the 11 x 17 boards.
On their own a nice little solitaire gaming session can be run (this game has been designed for solitaire, team and competitive play against a zombie producing game machine). Butted length ways, the playing area noticeably expands. Along the small edges, and a sprawling vista unfurls. Once again, this game's art is unparalleled.
Yes, I was extremely nervous taking this game box home. Had I sacrificed hard earned dollars to whimsical quality control again? Knowing that this game has been all but perfect (what game ever will be?) has restored a lot of faith lost in LnLP recently with the debacle experienced in my purchase of White Star Rising.
So I'm now a zombie hunter hey? Grawesome!
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- Jimmy Gulliksson(Golachab)Sweden
- Very nice review!
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- you should take some pictures of the revised components and post them up for us.
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- Randall Shaw(Sokadr)United States
"Never really read any Zombie books either, until that is, I came across a fellow Red Sox fan called Stephen King, who had written one called "Cell". I seriously could have zombiefied him after that one, ending the story the way he did but I'll leave it to ya'll to find that one out."
I read "Cell" and enjoyed it even though I suspect I had the same response to the ending you did.
If you're only going to read one zombie book, make it "World War Z". One helluva read.
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Sokadr wrote:If you're only going to read one zombie book, make it "World War Z". One helluva read.Word. I open that one up every few months or so. It just sucks you in.
Great review, I may have to put this one on my list.
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- It's a great game. I own the first printing edition and the components were really good and didn't have any of the problems people were saying it had. I played it about 10 times and plan to play it more in the future. In my first plays, as it happens in any game, the rules were a bit difficult to catch, but with the help (almost instant) i got from the forums here, the games went a lot smoother.
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Nice review, being a Zombie lover and seen almost every zombie movie, read every book, played every game I would have to say that I would like to see pictures please. Having maid up some scenarios vehicles, Molotov's axes, swords, gas cans you can blow up or use as gas for you truck or car.
I like the mechanics of this game being reaction system in all, if they would just get a little more creative in the system that would help alot.
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