Friday 29 May 2009

Unplugged Gaming Reviews

All Things Zombie: Better Dead Than Zed
Miniatures Wargame/RPG System
Available now from Two Hour Wargames
Review by Brad Harmer

There is nothing quite so hard to review in the world as this: the flawed masterpiece.

This is the second incarnation of All Things Zombie: Better Dead Than Zed from Two Hour Wargames, re-planned, re-mastered, and packing a campaign system. And first things first - this game is huge. The scope for long-term campaigns, encounters and resource management in a post-outbreak world is of the type normally only seen in RPGs, and if you got into this game, there is more than enough here to keep you occupied for at least a year's worth of gaming, if not more.

Players take the part of "Stars" of their own zombie story, with a posse of NPC "grunts" as their sidekicks, friends, dependents and disposable assests. The game mechanics take care of the zombies, so there's no need for a GM, and co-operative play is possible, with multiple Stars of the story. Players determine a few base stats, and away they go.

Like most wargames, the rulebook is designed for reference purposes rather than to learn from. As a reference work, it's great. Sections are easy to find, the index is comprehensive, and everything is clearly laid out on the page. Trying to learn the game from scratch, however, is a little harder, as the subject seems to jump about from subject to subject. Two sections on setting up terrain? Not introducing the zombies until halfway through the rules? The game system seems like a hell of a mess on paper, and certainly needed a more concise turn-sequence reference sheet, and possibly a few more detailed examples of play. Once you get your head round it though, it seems innovative, attempting to blend the best elements of wargaming, RPGs and video games.

With that said, All Things Zombie is quite possibly the only zombie campaign game you will ever need. Zombies!!!, Zombie Plague and Last Night On Earth are trashy zombie blasters, in the vein of The Evil Dead and Braindead, but All Things Zombie is dirty, gritty and The Walking Dead, or 28 Days Later. Running a campaign in All Things Zombie, you will discover that humans can be more dangerous than zombies, fuel and food are valuable, and chainsaws are much more trouble than they're worth. The is the Advanced Squad Leader of survival horror - and I mean that in the best way.

Like many works before it - Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile, The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, or even Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now - All Things Zombie is both blessed and cursed by its depth and length. The aforementioned works may be clunky and unwieldy, but to edit or truncate them in any way would dimish their impact as a whole. All Things Zombie suffers exactly the same flaw - but these flaws are side effects of the impressive bigger picture.

All Things Zombie is not recommended for the casual gamer. It's complex, and requires a fair amount of record keeping if you intend to play it to its fullest. Those who are looking for a truly realistic and gritty zombie "sim", however...look no has arrived. - 8/10

All Things Zombie is available from RPGNow.Com priced $20.00 (£12.50).

Sourcebook for The Squared Circle RPG
Available now from Day Dreamer Interactive
Review by Rob Wade

Have you ever dreamed of being a wrestler? Of course you have, it’s only natural for somebody of age E14. The pyros, the theme music, the thousands upon thousands of adoring fans chanting your name or telling you that you suck. Either way, it’s nice to be being talked about.

Well, chances are that’s never going to happen for you, so why not stay indoors and play an RPG instead?

Puroresu is an expansion to the already extensive Squared Circle Wrestling RPG system, adding a cavalcade of new features including:

• 6 new classes
• 11 new skills
• New Hardcore Weapons and Deathmatches
• Backstage Combat Areas
• Targeted Submission and Damage System
• Status Effect rules
• Increased character level cap (15)
• Multi-class characters

In addition, the creator has seen fit to furnish purchasers of this sourcebook with an updated character sheet to encompass all the extra features and allow you to start integrating them straight away, which is handy really, being as this book does really make a tremendous difference to the game mechanics.

The rule book also includes a number of new characters, as part of two new main federations. To say that this book represents value for money is an understatement. However, part of the fun is that you can create your own character, which the framework in place allows for to a tremendous level.

Let’s get straight to what I like about this book. Having given it a go myself, I can say with utmost authority that this game works at a technical level. My co-writer Brad and I spent an evening testing out the mechanics using a severely cut-down version to resolve matches, bearing in mind that we had never played the game before.

Even with that in mind, the system allows you to effectively resolve a Pay-Per-View card quickly, with good and varied results for every show. The system flows easily, and if you get into it, it genuinely does feel like you’re running a wrestling federation (though there’s no option to ruin the ending of the competing shows, Eric Bischoff style – though I’m sure there’s a sourcebook on the way that addresses that).

The level of detail in this system is nothing short of superb. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it, and it shows: There is nothing conceivable that you could think of to do with wrestling that is missing from either the base rulebook or this expansion. At a push, you could say the Chris Benoit “child-suplex” expansion is not included, but be honest with yourself: are you really going to use that move often, especially considering the end result of that particular heated and personal feud?

It’s clear that a lot of love has gone into this sourcebook, as evidently Eric Moreau is good at envisaging which parts need to go together and which don’t, creating a complete set of rules for each different area of the expansion.

Saying that, the book does seem like it could easily have been truncated into smaller volumes and still have been viable. Obviously, if you want all the aspects of this volume, it’s an absolute bargain, but then if you would only need one of those elements, you might feel like you don’t really get your money’s worth (though if you do, just remember that anything with a set of statistics for “hot coffee to the face” has got to be worth picking up no matter what the cost!).

That said, anyone who wants a truly involving gameplay experience themed around professional wrestling would be an absolute fool to ignore Eric Moreau’s Squared Circle system. The Puroresu sourcebook can be purchased from, priced $11.50 (£7.25) along with the original rulebook. Please support this guy, his work is simply superb. - 9/10

The base rulebook for The Squared Circle is currently available in the Emotionally Fourteen Amazon Store. The price you pay is the same as buying from Amazon, and Amazon donate a percentage of the sales toward our hosting costs.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, dispute moment here. ATZ: Better Dead than Zed is wonderful... no arguements... I was eagerly waiting for it to be released and haven't been disappointed. My dispute is with your comment on Zombie Plague being a Trashy Zombie Blaster. ATZ 2.0 is what you play when you've been down in the dirt for a while and you want to play the game like you were living in a movie. Zombie Plague is the game you play to get down and dirty in the first place... it's fun easy to get into and does not have the initially intimidating ruleset that ATZ 2.0 does. Zombies and LNOE are both cheap knockoffs of the real thing... no arguement... but ZP is a gateway zombie game for zed head enthusiasts. Good review otherwise... TwoHourWargames works hard for each gem they put their time into for us.