Game Review – All Out War, wave one

Game Review – All Out War, wave one

All Out War, a Walking Dead themed tabletop game will be my first venture into the world of miniatures.  I’ve played games which involve miniatures before, but All Out War feels different. It feels more like the old style miniature wargames, where the boundaries on game setting, missions, involvement, time and money are limitless. For my first venture into the world of miniatures, I’m reviewing the All Out War wave one sets.

All Out War is a game of fast-paced, head-to-head skirmishes in the world of the Walking Dead. Assemble a group of your favorite characters from best-selling comic series, kit them out with a variety of weapons, items and abilities, and battle to achieve dominance in the Walker-strewn Atlanta cityscape. Experience first-hand the desperate struggle for survival faced by Rick and his companions as you negotiate constant threats from both the living and the dead. This is gaming as it should be – fast, furious and fun!

Although I was excited to get stuck in, I was also a bit nervous about being able to grasp the complexity and also freedom these games give you. I’m a simple girl who likes to follow structure and rules in my games, so playing outside the confines of a zoned board was something I wasn’t used to.

All Out War: Miniatures Game, Core Set

My first job was to crack out the All Out War Core Set and get to grips with the basics. One thing stood out to me quite quickly with All Out War, and that’s the inclusion of a Quick Start Guide with the Core Set. The Quick Start Guide provides a stripped back version of the rules to slowly introduce players to the game. You work through two gaming scenarios, one which concentrates purely on movement, basic combat and searching, and one which expands on action and combat rules. Once you’re happy with the basics, have a read of the full rules and it will add some interesting new concepts to further enhance gameplay, but as you’re already au fait with the basics, it won’t be too much to deal with.

Game turns are relatively simple. Each survivor character takes two actions, with consequences to those actions being resolved in real-time. Once survivors have moved, it’s the Walker’s turn. Combat is resolved, then end-turn actions, before starting all over again. This cycle is repeated until the end game conditions are met, or everyone is dead.

So here are a few differences between All Out War and other similar games:

  • Walkers can be controlled by a player or the game
  • Movement is free flowing, and not constrained moving through zones
  • You can only search something once, supply caches are not endless
  • You can climb over things
  • Object provide cover or block the path of walkers
  • It’s not an us vs them style game, survivors can fight each other, as well as walkers

This last one was a bit worrying for me. In my house, we find that peace is kept much better when

we play cooperative games, rather than PVP, so I’ll just have to see how this one goes…

The box contents are amazing, you have everything you need to start playing the game. The miniatures are good quality, although we haven’t painted any yet, it is on our to-do list. I also like the basic gaming mat and scenery pieces, although the 3D printed scenery and enhanced mats look AMAZING!

Our first tutorial scenario went well. Despite the unfamiliarity of the game play, we got into the swing of things quite easily. The second tutorial scenario, however, did not go so well…

As suspected, the PVP scenario almost led to a domestic. It didn’t take long for one of us to turn on the other, tensions were raised, and the game did not run smoothly. Because of this, we decided to re-run the scenario as a team (using solo player rules), and progressed to using full rules, which turned out to be quite fun!

Let’s have a closer look at the tutorials:

Tutorial Part 1: Learning to Survive

The sun is setting, and Derek has sent Sandra and Patrick on a last-ditch supply run before it gets dark. They’ve come across a cache of food in an abandoned warehouse, but it’s surrounded by Walkers!

While pretty basic, this is a good intro the game. You deal only with the most basic actions and combat rules, and it’s a pretty good way to get used to how the turns and phases work.

Tutorial Part 2: Surviving on your own

On the outskirts of Atlanta, Rick is teaching Carl to shoot, and the noise of the gunshots has drawn the Walkers a bit too close. However, the Walkers weren’t the only ones nearby – a rival group has turned up, hoping for an easy score.

The second tutorial introduces the concept of the ranged attack. Despite our domestic due to the PvP nature of the scenario, it was a good way of adding more rules into the game.

Scenario: The Walking Dead

Two groups have located a large cache of potentially invaluable resources, and will stop at nothing to claim the supplies for themselves. Unfortunately, the resources are in the midst of a swarm of Walkers, and reaching them will be far from easy…

We ended up playing this scenario using solo player rules (one group of survivors) but cooperatively, to avoid arguments. In terms of tactics, we found that sneaking and no shooting was a really good tactic to use. By not attracting the attention of the walkers, it might take longer, but we could complete a scenario with very little trouble.

There was just one problem.

After finishing the Quick Start tutorials, I scanned the rules and got us both up to date with some added features, before setting up the first ‘real’ game. The problem is, the main scenario is just the second tutorial scenario again, but you choose your survivors up to a points limit, rather than using the recommended groups.

This is fine for a little while, you can choose different survivors to change things up, but is it massively replayable? No. (Don’t give up yet though, keep reading…)

Zombicide Season One comes with eleven scenarios including the tutorial. Yes, it costs twice the price, but I would be prepared to pay more for multiple scenarios. Instead, All Out War packages things differently. You have a modestly priced Core Set, and additional scenarios are supplied with expansions. This probably means that overall the cost will rise significantly, so right now, I’m reserving judgement on value for money.

Despite the near divorce, we really enjoyed the game play in All Out War. The turns felt more free-flowing and natural, with common sense elements to make it appear more realistic. In fact, my favourite section of the Quick Start Guide is where you’re warned that you might come across something that hasn’t yet been covered in the rules, so to make things simple, think, “what would Rick do?” and do that…

There is also one other thing to point out with All Out War. It’s very obvious from the start that the game is based on the comic books instead of the TV Show, (Derek is the leader of the Scavengers, not that weird woman who forgot how to speak in less than 3 years) except Rick has both hands! To be fair, it might be difficult to include rules for one-handed survivors, and the miniature wouldn’t be quite a s pretty, but it does confuse timelines a little.

All Out War: Days Gone Bye, Expansion

Ok, so here’s where it get’s really good, and also, a bit weird…

Days Gone Bye is a narrative expansion to The Walking Dead: All Out War Miniatures Game. In this set you will find a series of scenarios to recreate the coming together and early exploits of the Atlanta group. The set also includes new characters, equipment, supplies, events and scenery to expand your regular games.

Yes! The Days Gone Bye expansion provides those extra scenarios we were so desperately missing in the Core Set. It also includes some new rules, such as actions to smash or repair objects, and the flaming ability, where things may be set on fire. There are also additional rules relating to scenery, which are good, common sense rules to consider during play.

The scenarios can be played as a narrative campaign, with the results of the previous scenario having repercussions on the next one, which is a great feature, but they can also be played as stand alone scenarios. Out of the six new scenarios, the first five are solo or cooperative, and the last pits two players against each other. Let’s have a closer look at the campaigns:

Chapter 1: Gun Running

Rick Grimes has woken from his coma, finding the world a changed place. After finding refuge in the home of Morgan Jones and his son, Duane, the three companions set out for Rick’s old police station to secure a stash of weaponry with which to weather the storm.

Great, a new scenario, and we can play cooperatively. We stuck with the sneak and no shooting tactic, and got through pretty easily. Problem was, it almost felt too easy. But as it’s the first scenario, we’ll stick with it.

Chapter 2: City Slicker

Leaving his friends behind, Rick undertakes the long journey to Atlanta to find his family. Forced to travel on horseback, Rick is overwhelmed by Walkers within the city limits.Now he is trapped in a city crawling with the walking dead… 

Unfortunately, as there is only one survivor in this scenario, we couldn’t play cooperatively, so one of us played as the Walkers. While this did cause some tension, we completed the scenario and the survivor succeeded. It’s a bit strange playing as the Walkers when you’ve just been on the side of the survivors, and you’ll also be going back to that side, but it did make the game more difficult. I worry that when playing cooperatively, our strategic placement of Walkers when instructed to do so would remove much-needed difficulty from future games.

Chapter 3: Campfire Tales

Reunited with his family and an old friend, Rick thinks he may have found some respite from the horrors of the new world. But the fledgeling group soon realises that there’s no rest from the threat of the Walkers.

This scenario is where it starts to get really good. The difficulty is increased and there’s a lot more going on.

Chapter 4: Running into Trouble

Rick and Glenn decide to brave Atlanta once more, and head into the city limits to find vital supplies. Covering themselves in gore from downed Walkers, they try to sneak through the heart of infested territory.

This scenario introduces gory clothing, which is great, unless you draw the thunderstorm event card! Despite this, the scenario feels very similar to the second tutorial and chapter 1 and 2 scenarios. I’m not sure how much longer getting from one side of the board to another is going to keep me occupied.

Chapter 5: Ready to Roll

Rick persuades the others that they have to keep moving to stay alive. Unfortunately, the RV needs major repairs before they can pack up camp. While they’re working on repairing the transport, a herd of roamers emerges from the woods…

Love this scenario. Very different to all the others, and again, lots going on and lots to keep track of.

Chapter 6: Bad Blood

Rick has saved the camp, but the bad feeling that has festered between him and his old friend Shane has boiled to the surface. On a hunting expedition, Carl gets lost in the woods, and Shane chooses his moment to get Rick out of the picture and steal his ‘perfect’ family.

Oh dear, we’re back to PvP, and there’s no way around this one. Again, it’s difficult in story mode to play a side you’re only temporarily going to be on. Having played for Rick’s team all the way through, I didn’t really want Shane to win! It’s a difficult scenario, you have an objective you can’t complete right away, and tactically it’s difficult to work out how to bide your time. Not my favourite scenario, but it does bring something different to the table.

Days Gone Bye also provides you with advanced rules for building custom survivors, so you can create your own characters to add to future games. Despite All Out war being based on the Comic Book world of The Walking Dead, you can bet your ass that the first character I’m creating will be Darryl…

It’s a nice touch, but there’s one big aspect of the expansion I haven’t yet covered relating to characters.

Each scenario provides you with recommended characters to play with. Except seven of these aren’t included in the Days Gone Bye expansion box, or the Core Set. If you want to play with the recommended survivors, you also need the Booster packs for Andrea (also includes Amy and a Walker), Carol (also includes Sophia and a Walker), Glenn (not owned), Lori (also includes Craig and a Walker), Morgan (also includes Duane and a Walker), Rick on Horse (also includes a Walker), and Shane (also includes Reggie and Walker Shane). Each booster pack also includes some additional equipment cards, relevant survivor cards, and sometimes an alternative character card for a survivor in the core set (or an alternative Shane card with Rick on Horse).

So the dilemma is, spend quite a bit more money on getting all the booster sets to play with the right survivors, or make up your own groups from the survivors in the Core Set and Days Gone Bye Expansion. This would (if I didn’t already own all the Wave One kit) cause quite a quandary for me. If I’m playing a Walking Dead themed game, something inside me needs to stick to the Walking Dead world. I couldn’t have, for example, Rick and Derek on the same team, or Carol and Andrea fighting each other. It may sound silly, but it just wouldn’t feel right. On the same note, had all the characters been generic ‘survivors’ and not characters from the comic books, I would be fine putting together my own groups, interchanging survivors between teams, and probably more comfortable trying to come up with my own scenarios. But then this wouldn’t be a Walking Dead game, would it?

I just feel as though in order to play the game the way it was intended, you need all the booster packs, in which case, they shouldn’t be optional extras. I also don’t understand why the Core Set and the Days Gone Bye expansions are sold separately. It would make much more sense to me to bundle these together. I would much rather pay circa £60 for the two than buy them separately and feel like I’m lacking a full game with just the Core Set. Even better, I would bundle in all the boosters too, except the boosters are way overpriced individually. For the entire wave one, I think you could easily spend £100 for the lot, but with this weird separation of kit, you’re looking at £154.41, eek!

All Out War: Prelude to Woodbury, Solo Starter Set

This is where All Out War gets really weird. 

The Prelude to Woodbury us a standalone single-player adventure featuring Brian “The Governor” Blake and his exploits from before he rose to power in Woodbury and encountered Rick.

So, in addition to the Core Set, and the Days Gone Bye Expansion, Mantic have created a Solo Starter Set. You might be thinking, how awesome, none of my friends will play miniature games with me, so this set is perfect! Except, both the Core Set and Expansion scenarios except one can be tweaked to play solo. So what’s the point in creating a completely separate set????

The Prelude to Woodbury: Part 1

The dead have begun to rise, and Brian needs a place to hide. He decides to make his way to his parent’s empty townhouse to wait for rescue. He stops to scavenge for food on the way, but he’s not the only one who’s hungry!

The first scenario introduces you to solo play. If this is your first time playing All Out War, then great! If not, there’s not much difference between this and the Core Set, which also explains how to play solo. Plus, it’s the exact same scenario as Tutorial 1 in the Core Set, just with one survivor, not two.

The Prelude to Woodbury: Part 2

Brian is not yet the villainous leader he will become. He lives in the shadow of his brother Philip, who has lead the group to Wiltshire Estates, and upper-class gated community. Philip has sent Brian out to explore the streets and come back with something they can use to survive.

This scenario is basically Tutorial 2 from the Core Set, with half the scenery and Walkers. Again, it teaches a solo player how to shoot, but if you’ve played the Core Set, you’re not getting anything new here.

The Prelude to Woodbury: Part 3

Philip is dead, and Brian has become the leader of Woodbury. However, he needs a way to inspire loyalty in his people. He has discovered that they love the spectacle of arena combat, with the added threat of chained Walkers, but of course that means that someone has to chain them up in the first place…

This scenario is a little different. While not wildly dissimilar to previous scenarios, your objective is to capture walkers, which is a new element.

This is the set that most confuses me. On its own, it’s not enough. You’d be in the same disappointing position you were at by the end of playing the Core Set, so you would still be looking to purchase at least the Days Gone Bye Expansion. At which point, you would realise that you don’t really need the Solo Starter Set to play solo at all, and probably feel a bit annoyed.

At most, this is just a booster pack. There’s no need to repackage what is essentially the Core Set with fewer miniatures and brand it as a solo starter set. Solo players would be fine with the core kit, and Brian with his capture Walkers scenario could happily be just another booster.

Yes, the event cards and rules are reworded to apply to a single player, but you don’t need to be a genius to apply the original cards to a solo player either. It just seems a lot of faff, for something that isn’t really needed.

The Verdict

If you’ve stayed with me this far, well done! I realise this is quite an extensive review, but I had a lot of stuff to go through!

All Out War is a difficult one for me. The game is really good, and I like the ‘common sense’ rules and ‘realistic’ mechanics. I just can’t get over how badly the whole set has been packaged together. Wave one should be sold as one game, no expansions, no solo starter sets, no boosters. The boosters especially just aren’t worth the cost, and yet true Walking Dead fans will find it hard to play without them. If Mantic really wants to justify the cost, I think adding at least one scenario to each booster pack would go a long way to fixing the issue.

Personally, I would also like to see some non-comic book storyline specific scenarios. As in, ones that don’t directly relate to storylines in the comics. For me, this reduces replayability as I would always want to play with the appropriate survivors for that story, whereas adding in some generic, but very different scenarios would allow me to feel more comfortable being flexible with the survivors I play with and subsequently having fun putting different teams together. But maybe that’s just me…

I would also like a little more variety in the scenarios. I hope that future expansions will introduce buildings or alternative settings to being out on the streets or a field. At the moment, some of the scenarios feel very ‘samey’, and I think adding in structures will help break this up and allow for some very different objectives to be introduced.

I almost feel a bit unsure about how to sum up this review. It’s an excellent game, and I’m really glad it was my first real miniature experience. I can certainly see why people say that getting into miniatures is expensive! If Mantic ever switches up the way this game is packaged and considers bundling the components together for a reasonable price, I would definitely recommend checking this game out, especially if you have a soft spot for the zombie-themed games or the Walking Dead.

As it stands, I think you have a choice. If you’re a fan of miniatures, fancy the zombie genre and have the cash, I would splash out and get the whole kit. The more you have the less frustrated you’ll become, and the more variety you can introduce. If you love the zombie theme but don’t want to invest so much, I would get the Core Set and the Days Gone Bye Expansion. Yes, you’ll need to substitute some survivors, but you’ll save your bank balance a potentially big hit, and you won’t miss out on anything huge. As for the Solo Starter Kit, I’d be tempted not to bother. Even playing the Core Set solo you already have more variety and replayability with a selection of six survivors over one.

The RRP for the All Out War sets I have reviewed are:

All Out War Core Set – £34.99
Days Gone Bye Expansion – £24.99
Morgan Booster – £13.49
Walker Booster – £13.49
Shane Booster – £13.49
Rick on Horse Booster – £13.49
Carol Booster – £13.49
Lori Booster –  £13.49
Andrea Booster – £13.49
Prelude to Woodbury Starter Set – £24.99

And they can be found at independent game stores, which can be found using this store locator.

Thanks for reading!
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