Saturday, August 22, 2015

End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse

It had the Crabb working on it!

We have a household saying, "A little bit of zombie goes a long way." But the rest of the world loves the stuff almost as much as folks east of the Danube love dill, so we get to keep seeing more movies and reading more material about the shambling dead as the dutiful fantasists that we are. When I came across Fantasy Flight game book The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse, I glanced in its general direction not much else. Then I remembered that Christine Crabb mentioned that she had been working with the game-makers for some time, though she never could hint at what she was editing for them. Well, I opened up the book and there her name was. So I had to buy it, and it happened to at a newly discovered, for me, local area gaming store which didn't specialize in Magic tournaments-- indeed there was a D&D group setting up as we shopped.

Now the Crabb wasn't the only person in the "Credits." There was Andrew Fischer as the Game Designer, and a whole slew of others that mentioning would turn my enjoyment at writing this blog into work, anybody that I missed can yell at me later. The book itself is about 140 pages long, broken down into three main sections (excluding the intro and index), Playing the Game, Running the Game, and Scenarios. The interior art is really rather excellent, and the cover decent enough for a zombie game. The book itself was printed in China, which is a major drawback to me as a dude that likes homegrown games being about growing the home not overseas investment-- sharing ideas with other creative sorts from overseas is wonderful, products produced in grossly corrupt regimes to increase profits is, once again in my opinion, tacky.

The game mechanic is one color six-sided dice based on Character stats and "positives" versus other color six-sided dice derived from "negative" factors rolled against each other. The pools of dice nullify one another with the higher results reflecting success or failure. Failure results in the accumulation of Stress, as well leading to trauma and death both physical and, interestingly enough, mental. The running section is quick notes for how a GM can handle her games and the designer's, maybe the writer's, Tim Cox, thoughts on campaign length and Character advancement.

The scenarios are the parts which I enjoyed reading the most. Each is broken down into two subdivisions of during the breakdown and afterwards (the Apocalypse and the Post-Apocalypse). "The Night of the Meteor" deals with slow shambling zombies and throws in every dead creature as well, as if squaring the circle between Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead feature movies with steroids. "No Room in Hell" still has the shambling dead, this time without the undead farm animals and rats, which I think most established zombie GMs, like JerryTel and The Boy, will be most comfortable. "Pandemic" is the "new-rabies" virus where the fast zombie has a few "primes," think the vomiting meth-heads from 28 Days Later, sprinkled around. "It Ends with a Whisper" works in the traditional zombie from folklore, the undead slave, into a luddite take over of the world using a fictitious voodoo as its secret weapon, complete with zombi-masters.  Topping things of is "Under the Skin" where a parasitic infestation is the cause of the zombie outbreak, getting folks into the mood for gas-masks and moon-suits as well as parodying governmental approaches to recurrent disasters-- this one is the cleverest of all the scenarios, in my book.

Overall, the work is a King Kong on the "Smurf to Godzilla" scale of the Portal, a group that I hang out with talk about fantasy-based products with. The artwork inside the work is very nicely chosen. The authors took a well-established sub-genre and worked in new angles instead of deconstructing or rehashing the work of others before them. Each of the scenarios, both parts, are well worth the price of the material.

I bet my friends are so proud when I yell to them in public.

The next parts of the series, I will gladly read. Though I will do that on PDF, sorry game book distributors, I like supporting the American printing shop.

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