Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apocalypse Z Review

This is a review of the Apocalypse Z add-on by Exploding Goat Games.

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto it, but I found a company called Exploding Goat Games. An interesting name, but then so was Politically Incorrect Games (now called Precise Intermedia Games).

But I read about Exploding Goat Games coming out with one of the first licensed products for Mongoose Publishing's Battlefield Evolution: World at War. It is based on a viral apocalypse that causes what else... Zombies! (Hence the Apocalypse Z).

Now I am a huge zombie game fan. And I devour zombie games like candy. I own the likes of Zombies by Twilight Creations, All Things Zombie by Two Hour Games, Hunger, Zombies must Feed, etc. So I had to check this one out too. I had high expectations of this game. I don't know why, I had never heard about Exploding Goat Games, but I guess since it's a zombie game... there was an expectation. I'm guessing that this is from all the different games I've played and novels such as World War Z.

I have to say that reading World War Z really jaded me to a lot of Zombie genre in general. That book is so good on the social commentaries and story line, that I now consider it the definitive work for what Zombie games and movies should be judged against. I am going to attempt to keep that prejudice out of this review. I will make references in some areas, but it is for reference only.

So with that particular disclaimer out of the way, let's get on with the Review.

The physical product:
The book is a softbound, soft cover book. The cover art is very well done with a group of non-infected making what looks like their last stand against a horde of Zombies.

The interior of the book is black and white. This might offend some people, but to me it set the mood of the game. After all there has been an apocalypse and the black and white drawings help to convey that feeling. The interior artwork though is not up to par as the front cover. While it would have been great to have such artwork throughout the book, from a business perspective I can understand why not. From a gamer/user standpoint... it would have been nice to have better artwork. But I still liked the interior of the book. It is well laid out and presented well.

Each Unit description (both Zombie Army and Human Army) have a short story to introduce that unit. Each of the Zombie Army Unit short stories are very grim. While the Human Army Unit short stories attempt to convey hope for the future of the human race.

The book is divided into Zombie Army creation and Human Army Creation.

The Zombie Army has multiple unit types, not just your stock shamblers. The unit types are:
Zombies (Stock) and Brutes (tougher zombies)
Bile Zombies... you guessed the "Vomit / Disolving Acid Unit".
Plague Zombies .. come on, you know what they do... (no safe sex here folks)
Soldier Zombies... they remember how to use weapons, though not very well.
Zombie Abomination ...mutant zombies!
Zombie Bats
Zombie Beasts
Zombie Hounds
Zombie Monkeys
Zombie Super Soldier (better than Zombie Soldiers)
Zombie Overlord (who else would lead the hordes of the mindless living dead)

Now each of the units are unique and there is a rarity factor to them. For every number of X units you can have 1 unit of Y.

Now having the animals as Zombies I personally do not like, but it definitely adds flavor to the game and keeps it from being Zombies come and are killed, lather rinse repeat. Having the animals definitely makes it so players can recreate movies such as the recent remake of "I am Legend" starring actor Will Smith. And as a pure wargame, it is definitely a plus to have all the different units.

The Human Army is called "The Enclave". They are humans surviving in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. They have a number of units as well. They are:
Militia Squad (average Joe civilian with something to kill zombies with)
Penal Unit... where bad people are thrown at the zombies... ie BAIT!
Firefighter Platoon... this one I found Odd, but I guess saving people and using a huge fire axe to smash the skulls of zombies is a good thing to have. But I'm guessing they are there to counter the Plague Zombies due to their self contained breathing apparatus.
Riot Police Squads
Zombie Cleansers... dissolve the living dead for... er... um... a living!
Swat Team
Watcher Infantry (essentially professional soldiers from before the outbreak)
Watcher Special Forces
Heroes. This is a difference with the Zombie Army. The Humans get Heroes. Their rarity (or ability to take them into your force) depends on type of unit they can be fielded with.

The Heroes are: Monica Banks, fielded with a Firefighter Plattoon. William Hamilton, fielded with either Riot Police or Swat Team. General Blake Palmer, fielded with a Watcher Unit.

There is a very small Enclave Armory list. I'm sure it is small due to constraints of room in the book and a .223 calibur hunting rifle should have the same or very close stats to a .223 M-16 or AR-15. The core rules should also have more weapons listed, so why repeat what's already been put out there.

There are scenarios in the book which are well thought out and have victory conditions, not just "KILL, KILL, KILL".

Each Army has special abilities that are not included in the core rules by World At War, which is nice that this add-on is unique.

The book contains a section about some manufacturers that make Zombie mini's and mini's that would work for the Human Army. This is quite nice, especially since some people might go "WTF?!? where am I going to get a Firefighter Platoon from?"

They talk about scenery and this is where the book actually stumbles and falls down. Instead of listing such great companies as World Works Games, Old Crow and Armorcast to get terrain from, they state that there will be articles on the Exploding Goat Website that cover terrain making. Sure that's great, but what about someone who actually has never played a mini game and picks this up on a whim?

As a whole I like this book and it brings a lot to the table in the way of Zombie Wargaming. There are some items that were not present in the book that would have made it a home run instead of a triple play. There is no mention of Ferals, children who were forced to grow up and survive without their parents or other members of human society. Rules in the scenario sections would have been nice to have. Also, no LaMO's (Last Man On Earth). While using a hero to take on the human army would suffice, it would have been nice to have rules covering this without having to work it out ourselves.

I do like this add-on. It brings a lot to the table for World at War and allows for actual army building. With the advent of Modern Warfare coming from Mongoose Publishing, the Apocalypse Z add-on will allow players to re-enact such battles as the "Battle for Yonkers" as detailed in World War Z. Or players can create "weird science" or alternate World War II scenarios where the Germans are experimenting with inmates in the concentration camps and create the whole zombie threat during World War II.

While there are some blemishes, the add-on is strong and I do recommend it for those looking for so much more than the normal "ok you fired your handgun, now d6 more zombies appear, lets see you get out of that". It offers solid army building rules, special actions, and special rules all for the Zombie war enthusiast.

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