So all of us have probably noticed how relevant Zombies are to pop-culture today. I mean, you can’t get away from them! You have Zombies in comic books, video games, television, full-length novels, and now on the tabletop. The wonderful things about zombies is that they inherently bring a sense of tension and fear because of the reputation they’ve garnered over their years of existence. The ambiance is already there for any medium of entertainmnt, and you almost have to try and make the story uninteresting. Emotion and desperation are at the forefront of almost any zombie story. But beyond all of this, my favorite things about zombie stories is that they are rarely centered on the zombies. The undead are a background piece that highlights a larger topic of human nature and the strength of the mind. How much can each person take? How much can you trust the people you travel with? These are all questions that you can explore within Zombie Apocolypse. Without further ado, let’s get into the three main reasons why I have this game on my bookshelf.
1) The game provides multiple scenarios
One of my favorite things about this game is that it provides multiple scenarios for you to throw your players into. The best part of that is your players will be fully unaware of how to deal with these zombies until a couple of sessions in. These scenarios also provide a brief history of how the zombies came to be in the world. Was it the gates of hell opening up? A worldwide pandemic? Magic? That’s another mystery for the players to unfold. The players never really have a chance to become experienced because they’re never sure which type of zombies they will be dealing with. As a GM it can be very refreshing to keep your players gasping for air when you need them to be, and at least on the backfoot the rest of the time. There are also post-apocalypse scenarios that the players can travel around in, where the zombies have been mostly eliminated and the biggest issue to deal with will be the people. Depending on the type of zombie that destroyed the world, you will have a different type of person to deal with in the post-zombie world.
2) The stress dynamic
Zombie Apocalypse doesn’t record damage in the traditional sense. You have three “stress meters” that measure how much punishment of a certain type your character can take. Physical, Mental, and Social checks all have the potential to cause damage to your character, and once any of those three damage types can kill you character. Death, as opposed to many other games, is a very integral part of the story, so each character is encouraged to create their own death scenario. Does the character fill up their social stress bar? Maybe that drives them to lose all faith in salvation for the world, which in turn forces them to commit suicide. It is a huge culture shock when compared to other games that always have this “second chance” mind-set that takes away the fear of death from the game. Apocalypse embraces it and demands that you either live or die. The emotional investment in your character becomes real and personal like no other game that I have experienced. For a personal example (and this was actually pretty tough to deal with) I had a player leave a game I was GMing mid-session because the entire thing was getting into their mind in a much too real way. They were legitimately feeling the fear and tension that the scenario had incorporated into it. If that doesn’t let you know how intense this game can get, I don’t know what will.
3) A refreshing dice mechanic
Zombie Apocalypse uses a dice system that is pretty unique to the End of the World series (Also includes Wrath of the Gods and Alien Invasion) in terms of what the dice mean. The system runs entirely on six-sided die and you build the pool from scratch each roll. This can extend each roll a little bit, but overall the consequences are worth the wait. You build your pool out of two colors, usually a light and a dark, indicating positive and negative dice. If any of those dice from opposing pools land on matching numbers they are eliminated from the pool and not counted toward successes or failures. Any remaining dice are counted. All remaining positive dice are damage toward your opponent, but all of the negative dice are damage toward you. The reason this is so refreshing is because it forces the player to think long and hard about which checks are worth making. Can they really afford the pay off if it isn’t favorable?
At the end of the day the game is very simple to play, and the players are encouraged to play as themselves to start rather than as someone else. The reason that this mechanic didn’t make the list is that it isn’t a set in stone idea that the game requires. Anything on a game-to-game basis like that, while adding a lot to the game, isn’t something that can really be used to rate the game as a whole. All-in-all the game is a fresh take on the stereo-typical “The Hero always wins” idea that a lot of games will preach to you. If you’re looking for a survival based game that will suck you in and never slow down, look no further than End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse.
You can find a link for End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse on Amazon here
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