We've covered the situation regarding two competing The Walking Dead licensed board games debuting this year, and have even taken an in-depth look at the TV-focused offering from Cryptozoic Entertainment. Today, however, it is time to look at the comic book version from Z-Man Games.
While the game is not scheduled to hit store shelves until August, a limited number of first-print copies will be available each day at San Diego Comic-Con at the Skybound Booth, Booth # 2729. Each copy will be specially stickered for this initial release.
The Walking Dead: The Board Game is a 1-6 player experience that stays true to the look and feel of the comic book. The first and most obvious way it goes about this is by embracing the black and white color scheme. While not completely devoid of color, the game's style is a bit jarring for the average gamer. However, for fans of the comic, it is a spot-on design choice. Many of these components were shoed off in an interview of at BoardGameGeek last week, and as someone who has read much of The Walking Dead''s run, I can attest that the game has great visual appeal.
Charlie Adlard, the artist who draws The Walking Dead, has contributed eight original pieces of artwork to this game. Below is an exclusive look at this art, a brand new look at Rick's escape from the hospital during the opening story arc of the comic series:
But enough about the look of the game. How does it play? The integration of theme and gameplay here accomplished goal number 1 for almost any game: the game's mechanics encourage player actions that are in line with the subject matter and theme. This is what separates rich gaming experiences from abstract strategy, and where the label "pasted-on theme" is applied to games which fail in the endeavor.
The central conflict is the survival of humans in a world of limited resources where you are not sure who can be trusted. Zombies are the background threat, not the focus. The path to victory lies in strategically moving groups of players around the zombies to avoid direct conflict, and sparingly using firearms to get out of the toughest situations (loud noises do attract the horde, after all). We spoke with game designer Keith Tralins about the challenge of creating a unique game that would both honor the source material and stand out from other zombie games on the market. He had the following to say:
Our approach to the game was really focused on creating an experience based on “The Walking Dead.” It’s Robert Kirkman’s world, and this is a chance to play in his world, with his rules. It’s actually about finding a safe haven from the zombies, and just like in the book, the key to winning is in avoiding the zombies. And I think that’s where this game both fits in and is different. You can’t escape the zombies; they’re everywhere. You’re probably going to have to throw down with them. But if you do, you want it to be quick, you want to win with no injuries, and you want to get out of there. The last thing you want to do is start blasting away, calling attention to yourself. Just like in the book…they’re usually only fighting zombies to defend themselves, get to where they have to go, or secure a location.
The goal of the game is to be the first player to scout several different locations on the board. These are determined before the game begins, and are chosen from a selection of twelve different locations including the campsite, Wiltshire Estates, and many Atlanta-based buildings. The locations span all of the different settings seen in the comic's first 12 issues, so don't worry, you won't have to go to the CDC!
Players can accomplish their goals as part of groups, or they can break out on their own in search of a solo victory. This act of splitting off actually takes place at the start other player's turns, where they would normally be expecting to control your character as part of the group and benefit from your added strength. Instead, they'll be surprisingly short-handed as you go off on your own. This blend of co-op and multiple "traitor" mechanics is one of the major reasons that The Walking Dead is a board game worth keeping an eye on.
For those who simply cannot wait to see more of this game, there will be previews of the cards posted to the official The Walking Dead board game product page next week.