Tuesday 23 January 2018

Tabletop Review - The Walking Dead - All Out War: Wave 3

Welcome once again to the wonderful world of Mantic's comic-based IP, and a setting which should be familiar to all fans of The Walking Dead... As Season 3 brings us "Safety Behind Bars" at Meriwether County Correctional Facility. Once again we have an expansion box and a cluster of character packs to rummage through, so it's on with the riot gear, out with the baton and always aim for the head!

The Expansion box contains the now-familiar list of components: the ten page expansion rule book, paper map/wave 3 checklist, heavy card scenery and counters, 18 supply/equipment cards, 4 event cards, 4 new survivor miniatures, 2 new walker minis, and 6 character cards. As expected, the whole set is themed heavily for the prison setting. The playmat is a snapshot containing cells, a guard tower, a communal area and plenty of yard space. There is also an armoury scenery overlay for use in certain scenarios.

The additional rules included involve opening, closing and barricading doors, plus specifics on using the unique gaming area presented by the prison setting. This includes using the inside of buildings for the first time, and the rules for movement get a hefty tweak to reflect this (Tip of the day: Don't get pursued by walkers through building interiors. You have been warned!)

The other brand new rule is for armoured walkers! These operate in the same way as regular walkers, but to represent prison guards who have died and risen in their riot gear, these rotters get an extra red defence die plus the ability to ignore the first headshot symbol (!) from each attack roll made against them! Formidable indeed, as this is the only way to remove them from the board! Using them is optional except in one of the scenarios, and they only cost 5 points more than a regular walker.

Two things hit me when I opened the box for the first time.

  1. The contents felt a tiny bit light. Only one sheet of scenery (the scenario rules call for less than usual) and with the campaign and character building rules all sewn up, the rulebook is mostly just the narrative campaign and some specific rules that you won't use outside this setting. But...
  2. The real selling point in this game is the miniatures, and once again we have not been let down. Crisp, clear, single piece sculpts with great characterisation, and just the right level of detail. Not too fussy to paint, but looking good enough to leave bare. If anything the sculpting is improving as the series continues! The box has the four prisoners encountered by Rick's party in the "abandoned" prison: Dexter, Thomas, Axel (You follow me?), and Andrew, plus two new walker sculpts. All of the characters are instantly recognisable, even without an orange jumpsuit paint job, each in a pose directly from the pages of the comics! Not only are you getting great figures, but it really feels like Mantic have done their research on this.

Miniature-wise, this wave is rounded out with upgraded versions of the main survivor party, to reflect their experience and roles at this point in the story. So we get Rick and Glenn in riot gear, Andrea with a sniper rifle and Maggie in a "Prison defender" support role. There is also a returning Morgan to make the numbers up (like Negan, it's a while before Morgan should strictly speaking be back...). It may feel a little bit of a swizz having to buy the same characters again, but between the miniature quality and the powered-up cards there's plenty to justify it.

The supporting cast for this wave include all the kids, Billy and Ben, and Susie and Rachel, each coming doubled up on stands as support characters, as well as a glance into the next lot of releases: Wes, Eugene, and Harold Abernathy all come with a "Governor" faction symbol on their cards... Look out also for additional cards packed in these boxes for Hershel and a stonkingly good Tyreese!

This stage of the story wouldn't be complete without everybody's favourite character making an appearance, and what an appearance it is! Probably the best mini so far, Michonne is dynamically posed, with samurai sword, cape, boots and bandana, and comes packaged with "Mike" and "Terry", (in)complete with missing jaws and arms. There is even a section of chain so that you can link them up! Superb!. The art of keeping the fans happy is to make sure you take care with the important parts of the IP, so this is the opportune moment to produce their best miniature in the range.

A minor drawback for me is the inclusion of another walkers booster pack, this time called "Roamers". One of my favourite elements of All Out War is the non-repetition of walker models. Every box has a new sculpt waiting to surprise you, but this box, like the previous walker pack, is just 6 repackaged from the starter box. It may just be me being picky, and I'm sure the ability to cram more walkers into the game is enough reason for people to buy it, but it's a little disappointing to not be opening a new and gruesome mix of monsters.

Just to compound the irritation, the pack comes with some of the equipment cards I was hoping would be added to the game... Crossbow? Check. Chainsaw? Check. Cricket bat...? Maybe that's pushing it. To be fair there are also 4 new event cards to ramp up the living dead menace, so not a total cop out.

Also in the bundle for this wave, we have a chance to look at the deluxe version of the gaming mat. This is a slip-resistant neoprene version of the 20" by 20" paper prison mat contained in the expansion box. The 3mm rubber makes for a sturdy base, certainly wheightier than the paper, and the slip-resistant pattern means your game isn't going to move easily on the table (or blow away in a stiff breeze, a distinct possibility with the paper mat...) The colours are vibrant, and brighter than the original mat, and the construction looks solid so it should stand up to repeated plays. Like the paper mats, the 4 current deluxe mats can be combined to make one big 4' x 4' game area as the designs all match up. Nice work on that one! At £20 each, not a bad purchase at all. My only gripe would be one which afflicts many game mats... the buildings pictured will really limit your game choice. The addition of terrain models to cover them up could be a solution, but it's a big area to fill.

Maybe I am being a little picky here and there, but it is hard to criticise such a well-presented and supported product. Seriously, take a look at their shop page, you can deluxe the hell out of this game! There are some really nice prone player/walker tokens, nylon rulers and counters, and mdf kits to cover all scenarios. With teasers all over the place for the forthcoming wave 4 (Woodbury!) expansion, this game keeps getting it right, and long may it continue. Still waiting for that cricket bat...

By day, David Mustill is a Human Workhorse for a chemical company, where he occupies his free moments visualising grisly fates for those around him.

Naturally, every possible moment away from this existence is spent gaming and painting miniatures.

A steady diet of rock, metal, punk, comics, gaming, miniatures and genre movies has moulded David into a nerd-for-all-seasons, a renaissance geek, for whom no gaming company or genre is too obscure, and no graphic novel is unreadable.

He is currently the Chairman of Milton Hundred Wargames Club, which affords him the privilege of running the Broadside Games Show. He will not let you down. Unless you're after selfies. He is rubbish at selfies...

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