Thursday, October 19, 2017

Let's Review: Evil Spares None

What is it?:
Evil Spares None is a cooperate horror board game that I helped Kickstart a few years ago.

The setting:
It's based on the typical “slasher flick” type movie we remember. You take on some high school students trying to get away from the slasher while trying to who's behind the mask. The victims, I mean students, are forced to flee , running through the town, passing by those killed by the Psycho and those yet to be killed. and collect evidence to discover who the killer is.

The system:
The system is a bit of a mess. At the start, you get 2-3 characters to start with. But, you can only activate one to begin with and hope you get the chance to put the rest in play. Or just activate them as your other characters die. During your turn, you get three actions with your characters, but you have to burn an action to switch to another character if you have more than one in play. Characters have a Health stat, a Combat stat, and Brains stat, in addition to a special Active ability and a special Stand-by ability. They seem to have a huge amount of variance between them and I haven't played enough to see how balanced they are.
In between player turns, the Psycho gets to move one space and draw cards. These cards usually let him move more, so he can catch up with you before you get a chance to even move your first character.
When it comes to drawing Action cards, you have to be in the right spot on the board to get the chance to draw them. And you need those Action cards. You also need to make it to the right spot to reach a Stranger before the Psycho gets there first. Strangers can become Townies, who you can sacrifice to save your own skin, or can become another Character. And, for even more fun, you need to reach the bits of Evidence left around so you can solve the mystery... And hopefully use it to survive when the Psycho comes calling.
When it comes to placing new parts of the board, you're suppose to do it randomly, but that's really hard when the tiles are double sided. Draw the wrong one, and everyone is fucked. Hard.
The one thing that goes smoothly is combat. It's simple dice rolling and comparing Combat stats between the Characters and the Psycho. Weapons and other Action cards can help the players, and Evidence and Townies can be “thrown at” the Psycho to avoid the combat. But, as the Psycho increases in power, he becomes harder and harder to defeat... Well, slow down, really, in combat.
As you play the game, there are a few score boards you have to keep track of. The first is the Stalk-O-Meter, which tracks who's the Target of the Psycho and who's going to be next. Being the Target is bad. Very bad. Then, there's a Psycho score board and a Player score board. The Psycho score moves up based on what the Psycho cards do. And some Psycho cards are conditional upon the Psycho score is. The Player's score moves up by finding Evidence and hurting the Psycho. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to get those all figured out.

Is it worth it?:
I hate to say it, but...
I paid $25 for the game and I don't know if it's something I really want to play again. As one of my friends who played with me said “These rules are way more complex than they need to be.” That sums up my feelings. I think it could have used a bit more playtesting to simplify it. The idea is sound, but the execution was fumbled. Now, I do feel like I got a good amount for what I paid for, but I wouldn't have bought it blind like I did.
While I did have to put the game pieces together (which means putting stickers on things), I didn't mind that. My only real compliant was that the character pieces are wooden things with “Minecraft Avatar” versions of the characters. Why not just have a profile picture or just name instead? Minor, but not something that really sold me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Blast From The Past: All Flesh Must Be Eaten

Welcome to the world of survival horror! Good luck!

Ah, zombies. What can be said about zombies that hasn't been said a million times over by now?
Honestly? Not much. But, in those early years of the zombie craze, a game named 'All Flesh Must Be Eaten' was published. And it was good.

All Flesh, or AFMBE, is a universal zombie system that covers all kinds of characters, genres, and types of zombies. It's a point-buy system, for both the zombies and the characters.

The system divides characters in the three different types: Normals, Survivors, and Inspired (later Powered or somesuch). This allowed the Zombie Master (ZM) to create the tone for his games right off the bat. Since Norms were the lowest in terms of points, they'd die quicker in games, thus really creating a sense of dread for the players. Survivor were more powerful, but that doesn't necessarily mean they could survive longer, depending on the zombies. Inspired/Powered provides some magical back-up for some settings. I haven't seen it done too much, but you can have characters of different types. I avoid it because people who play Norms are going to drop like flies, which can make for hard feelings. Inspired are some where between Norms and Survivors in terms of points (as they blow a lot of points for their powers), but can be added in to groups of either. A group just of Inspired would be interesting (and something I may investigate for a future campaign).
If you can't come up with a character, or yours died due to some bad rolls (this game isn't forgiving for characters at all), you can pick an Archtype. Because the game doesn't have classes, they created a solid list of Archtypes you can use in a pinch or for inspiration. They made so many, there's two whole books of them. There's Archtypes for cheerleaders, private detectives, bikers, Game Masters, rich people, poor people, urbanites, country boys, strippers, porn producers, necrophiliacs (ew, mega ew), soldiers, video stork clerks, cowboys, inventors, and anything else you can imagine.

Once you pick (or get assigned) your character type, you get to put points into stats. There's six of them in the game. The typical three physical: Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Then there's the mental ones: Intelligence, Perception, and Will. From these you get your derived stats, things like Life Points, Endurance Points, Speed, and Essence. Once you get your stats figured out, you move on to Qualities and Drawbacks. There's some Qualities you'd have to be stupid to not take (like Fast Reaction Time) and some that you know you're probably not going to need (stuff like Wealth and Resources). My real problem with the game comes here, as it's very easy to abuse the Qualities and Drawbacks if you know what kind of game you're going to be playing. And aside from the ones you abuse for points, there's not a lot of 'good' drawbacks. By that, I mean the ones that really help you flesh out your character and make them feel real, without crippling or hindering them.
Lastly, there's skills. And you're going to wish you had more points for them no matter what type of character you have. Since this is a D10 system (Stat + Skill + D10 = Results, pray for 9 or better), you really need those combat skills high to make sure you're going to be able to drop those zombies before they drop you. But, you won't be able to have a wide selection of those combat skills because each combat skill requires a new skill for each weapon. If that confused you, let me break it down like this: Let's say you want to be able to use shotguns and handguns. If you want them at level 3, that's going to cost you six points. Three for Handgun, three for Shotgun. If you want to be able to fight, you can take Brawling. But, for two points per level, you could take Martial Arts... Which next to no one does. And there's a lot of skills you're going to want to have to survive. Dodge, so you don't get shot. First Aid, so you can keep people alive. Stealth, so you can sneak past zombies. You get my point. Unlike every other resource, there's no way to get more skill points (at least from what I've seen). Which is very frustrating.

When it comes to combat and damage, things get kind of cool. Rather than having you roll 5d8, you roll 1d8 and multiply it by 5. Since the multipliers can change due to range or other factors, it makes it really easy to figure out damage in combat. Different types of weapons, like slashing weapons and bullets, do more damage to unarmored targets. If you want to make combat to go even faster, they give you the average damage done, so you don't even have to roll. In fact, the whole system can be done without dice, but it's not quite as fun. One thing I really like is how they did guns. Rather than giving you a list of guns that people would argue about, they just give you the type of gun and caliber of the round. From there, you can figure out the magazine size and anything else you might need. Nice and easy. Of course, everything besides the weapons are a little dated (cost and stats for a PDA, when was the last time you saw, much less used, one of those?) but still a decent list.

But, I think we all know where this system is going to shine: That's right, the zombies. While it's a little confusing at first, it's amazing once you figure it out. In addition to giving the zombies stats and skills, you can also figure out their weak spot, what the feed on (and how often they need it), how they make other zombies, and other cool powers. Spread throughout the books, there's a great amount of fun and unique powers. Things that make it so technology doesn't work around them, they can taint the ground when they die, they can even move their detached body parts. Using this system, you can make any zombies you've seen in fiction, from the fast and furious 28 Days Later zombies, to the classic Night Of The Living Dead slow and purposeful flesh eaters. And you can mix and match. You could make slow but smart zombies, fast and strong zombies, zombies that can track the living themselves and tear open cars to get to the delicious bits inside. You can also throw your players for a loop. Imagine your players taking careful aim at the zombie's head... And having it keep walking with its skull blown open because the weak spot is the spine. If they have one at all. The system can also handle weirder things, like vampires, be they like the Last Man On Earth type (the original I Am Legend movie with Vincent Price, a true classic of zombie and vampire cinema) or some real horrific monsters. Sparkly pretty boys need not apply. By fudging things a bit, you could probably make werewolves and aliens, too. In fact, one of the supplements, All Tomorrow's Zombies, includes rules for making playable alien races. Using the various books, the Zombie Master (a GM by any other name) and the players can have a lot of fun coming up with unique characters and monsters.
If you're worried about balance, you don't have to. As you add stats, skills, and other abilities, you add to the zombie's Power. The total power is roughly how powerful a zombie is. You total up the points for a Norm or Survivor, by adding together the same things (skills, stats, and Qualities), and see which one is higher. That's enough to figure out how many zombies you need to create a threat for the group.

When it comes to setting, AFMBE doesn't have one, it has tons. Deadworlds, as they're called, are plentiful. In the core book, there's six unique and interesting Deadworlds to choose from The first one is the standard Romero style zombies and outbreak. But, there's one during World War Two, another at the turn of the last millennium (the year 1000 AD), and another that's decades after the end of the world as we know it. Two of them are set as the world is ending, including a set of religious/divine zombies. The last one lets you play zombies. How's that for different? Each one of the supplements gives you even more Deadworlds to play with, as each one usually includes two or three more. That's not including the one that's nothing but Deadworlds. It's great for a pick-up game or for those of you who can't come up with a setting on your own. There's no shame in that...

Speaking of supplements, there's quite a lot of them. The ones I strongly recommend are One Of The Living and the Book of Archtypes (both one and two). These books add in so much more to the game and several rules you really want to have. One Of The Living helps you take the game from a “Beer and Pretzels” type game to a full campaign. It helps your players make better characters and helps the ZM think long-term about the game. Not only goes it give you the science of how a corpse decays, but how people react when under stress for long periods of time and start losing the things they need and want. It's something you don't see in a lot of RPGs. Mind you, you probably don't need stuff like that in most other games.
The other supplements boil down to “(Blank) but with Zombies!” Things like wrestling (which has some surprisingly in depth information about wrestling and some terrifying Deadworlds), Kung-Fu Action stuff (which caused the Shaolin Soccer Mom Archtype), a sci-fi setting book (that has a “Star Wars but with Zombies!” Deadworld), and one that is titled “Dungeons and Zombies.” Take a wild guess what that's about. The good news is that no matter what you're thinking about, there's probably a supplement and a Deadworld you can use.

When my gaming group is a player short, and we know in advance, I'll come up with something using AFMBE. Recently, I came up with an idea for zombies in Vietnam. I call it “Tet of the Undead” as the game takes place during the Tet Offensive. What's worse than Communist rebels in the jungles of Vietnam? Undead Communist rebels in the jungles...

I'm also using this system to develop a Silent Hill game. The rules are flexible enough to handle the bizarre and terrifying monsters, to give you mechanics for the effects of fear, and even rules for psychic powers.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let's Review: ZOMBIES!!!

What is it?:
ZOMBIES!!! is a board game by Twilight Creations with a bunch of expansions and sequels and so on. The game is designed for 2-6 players, but I advise you to have as many as you can get. To call it a 'board game' is a bit of a misnomer as it's really a tile game. It requires a few d6s. They give you two in the box, but I strongly suggest getting one for each player.

Just keeping walking and pray she doesn't see you...

The setting:
The set-up for the game is pretty simple: You're a survivor trapped in a city full of zombies. There's a helicopter coming, but it's only got room for one... The expansions (that I have) just add more stuff, like a mall and an army base. If you want, you can limit the game to just those locations. I prefer to have more “fun”, and require using a ton of space, and add them in.

Welp, you're screwed...

The system:
Playing the game is pretty simple: Roll d6, move that many squares. Fight any and all zombies you enter the space of while moving. Collect things in the square you occupy. It's very similar to Munchkin, as in your goal is to kill things and screw over your friends. You can do that in a few ways. Each player draws three cards at the start of the game and refills their hand as they use them. Some of the cards allow you to get items if you're lucky enough to make it to the right location... Which is very hard. Otherwise, you can help yourself or screw over your friends with the cards, Make it so someone has a negative roll, that zombies can't be attacked, and etc. At the end of each turn, you roll a d6 and move that many zombies one square. Most people do this to clear their own way and block any and all other players. Tile placement can screw people, too, as you can block off paths and dead end them (pun not intended but fitting) or you can place a location that has a lot of zombies right in their path.

Winning the game boils down to two ways: Either reach the helicopter tile first or collect 25 zombies. If the helicopter tile can't be placed, I think we know what happens...

The game is very simple, which is both good and bad. The simplicity makes it easy to pick up, but it gets boring after playing it a few times. When you add in all of the cards from all of the expansions, you get a huge deck to draw from. Since you can spend things to keep rolling, and then people can use cards, some combats can last much longer. And if you get the wrong kind of people playing the game, they'll try to make it last as long as possible. The incessant screwing over also causes things to slow down, as there's a few cards that can fuck everyone over. If you get the right people playing, you can actually have a pretty fun time. Once everyone knows the rules and develop their strategies, it can play quickly and smoothly. Screwing over your friend to help you advance can be fun. Screwing them over just to be an asshole is probably going to be fun for just you.

Is it worth it?:
I bought this game years ago, before the 4th expansion came out. Back then, it was a little cheaper. Now, it's about $30 for the core set and near $15 per expansion. If you buy more than one expansion, buy a Bag O' Zombies. Not only is it cool to buy a bag of little plastic zombies, but you'll probably need them. The Bag is about $13 for 100 or so. That might be a bit much for a game you're going to get bored of before too long. That said, if you can find it at a decent price and want a fun little Halloween party game, I'd say go for it. Otherwise, you might want to skip it as there's a ton of other zombie games out there.