Mantic Games Brings All Out War to Table Tops With New Walking Dead Game [Exclusive]
There have been a number of board games based on The Walking Dead released since the television show rocketed the comic into the pop culture stratosphere. From Risk and Monopoly variants to wholly original games with deep rulesets, there's no shortage of ways to enjoy The Walking Dead in a tabletop setting. Mantic Games is hoping to stand out from that crowding marketplace with its latest Kickstarter for The Walking Dead: All Out War.
The Walking Dead: All Out War is a miniatures-based tabletop survival game set in the comic book world of Robert Kirkman's and Charlie Adlard's post-zombie apocalypse world. Characters and storylines from the comic itself serve as the backbone for the one-on-one game, which pits two groups of survivors against one another in the infested south. There are zombies too, don't you worry. Instead of having another player or game master control them however, the zombies are ruled by the game itself.
As the Kickstarter enters its final weekend, we spoke with Mantic's Chris Palmer to get a better idea of what to expect from The Walking Dead: All Out War, how Mantic hopes to stand out in a crowded field, and even have an exclusive first look at the miniatures for Michonne and her walkers.
ComicsAlliance: Mantic is no stranger to Kickstarter, with nearly a dozen different projects crowdfunded so far. The Walking Dead is arguably the biggest license you've worked with in this manner, and it's also got its fair share of existing table top games. How is Mantic setting its version apart?
Chris Palmer: Absolutely, we’ve done everything from the sports game of the future to a mass battle fantasy wargame, and The Walking Dead is our second foray into the world of licensing after Mars Attacks: The Miniatures Game.
There are some great The Walking Dead board games but ours is very different: it is the first miniature wargame, in the style of Warhammer 40,000, X-wing miniatures game or Necromunda. It’s a skirmish game, so about 10 miniatures a side – though there is no limit.
With The Walking Dead: All Out War players will collect a faction of survivors from the comic book and fight with them against an opponent. Fans will be tinkering with their group, adding in new equipment cards or replacing survivors to build a faction that’s right for them.
Ultimately we’re a hobby company and collecting, painting and gaming is all part of that – though you can just do the parts of that interest you.
CA: If one were to back everything at the highest level, there's a lot of game to absorb right out of the box. How accessible is All Out War going to be for less experienced strategy game players?
CP: When you think about [how] you learn chess, more often than not someone will show you how to play. With The Walking Dead: All Out War, no-one knows how to play so nobody can teach you, therefore everything has to be designed from the point of view of the new player.
Therefore we’ve spent a lot of time making getting involved incredibly easy, it should be almost pick up and play. The starting point of our entry-level $75 pledge level is The Walking Dead: All Out War starter set, which has a low MSRP of $50.
This starter set includes a short rulebook containing everything you need to know to play and most importantly, a dedicated Getting Started guide which will take you through the first phases of a game. Once you’ve got the basics, the game is very simple - you soon start learning the best tactics and devising your own strategies rather than worrying about the rules.
The starter set also includes your first figures - there are a couple of single-piece survivors and a bunch of walkers (no assembly required!) - and a few pop out counters and a mat. There are also cards for each character detailing their abilities in game and straight-forward cards with their effects clearly written on them. All the information is very easy to access and find, and clearly set-out for new players to learn.
For the extra $25 over the price of the starter set, you get exclusive miniatures like Michonne and Abraham to say thank you for backing, a few booster packs so that you can build your group up and some cool extras, like plastic scenery. All in all it’s over $150 of stuff. None of it introduces any more complexity over the rules in the basic game, so less experienced player can get started with a great deal, get a feel for the game and, when they’re ready, go on to pick up an expansion or more figures in store.
CA: Calling this game "All Out War" recalls a certain comic book storyline. Will the game be following events from the comic, or is it more of a standalone that allows players to create their own interpretation of events?
CP: In a word: both. There are three ways to play The Walking Dead: All Out War, so there’s lots of replayability!
Firstly, the game can be played between two gamers as a straight head-to-head battle over resources. You’ll need to beat your opponent’s group to the supplies dotted around the landscape and not get eaten by Walkers.
Secondly, you can play solo (no opponent required!) against the walkers in a desperate race to acquire supplies your camp urgently needs, whilst contending with an ever-increasing threat.
And finally, there are a number of expansions that include missions based on the comic storyline – right from the moments Rick meets up with Atlanta Camp, to the Governor’s assault on the prison. You can literally play through the story.
These scenarios can be played with any survivor which makes for some great what-if moments. What if Shane hadn’t turned on Rick for example?
With the Kickstarter we are covering events right up until the end of the prison/Woodbury story arc and we’ll continue making miniatures and creating scenarios to cover all the events in the comics, including the "All Out War" storyline.
CA: Notably, this game takes place in the comic universe, and as such, all of the miniatures for humans are based on major and minor characters from the comic. Was there ever a time original characters were part of the design, or was it always intended to go with the familiar faces?
CP: It was always the intention that the game would be based on familiar faces – we wanted to give people the option of collecting their favorite characters whether they were going to play or not. The Walking Dead has a history of strong and interesting characters so it made sense to plunder that rich universe. Fans have such passionate feelings towards some of them, we get backers asking for the Michonne’s and Morgan’s of the world because it’s what they know, whether that’s because of the comic or the tv show.
I can’t count the number of people who hate the Governor for what he did in the comic but love that they can get him in the Kickstarter – probably so they can give some payback on the tabletop!
CA: Stretch goals have added even more survivors, zombies and locales into the mix. There are even additional rule sets for Woodbury and the Prison. How do these new instances affect the core game?
CP: Survivors allow gamers to build and expand their faction. Each survivor comes with a character card that details their role in a battle, how good they are in a fight or any special abilities. This allows you to strengthen your group or tailor your group towards a specific playstyle without impacting on the basic core rules.
For example you may take Shane in your group if you are a bit weak at fighting, or you may take Glenn if you want someone who is really good at evading enemies and picking up supply markers. These roles can be further refined through the use of equipment cards. Each survivor can be armed with weapons, anything from a knife to an assault rifle, or equipment like bandages or armor.
By having a wide range of characters and equipment to choose from, each with varying abilities, it opens up a huge number of combinations for gamers to try and perfect.
Expansions take this further because not only do they include new survivors and lots of new equipment cards themed to that particular location (the prison has riot gear and shields and the farm has pitchforks and animal catchers), they also expand the storyline with new narrative scenarios for you to play through. This allows you to recreate iconic moments from the comic. The expansions also introduce simple new special rules. For example, in the farm you can set hay bales on fire which distract the walkers, or you can hide in the barn.
Through expansions and other stretch goals there are a whole bunch of unique walker sculpts too. The bigger the game you play, the more walkers you will need – and we wanted to make sure that as far as we could they were all unique and themed to the location. There are only one set of duplicate walkers in the entire pledge level.
All in all there are over 70 unique sculpts on the Kickstarter.
CA: I've noticed too that some of the characters have variant versions, such as Andrea and Rick. How do these different iterations of the characters impact their roles in the game?
CP: The variant characters allow us to portray different characters at different points in the story. For example, there will be three different Ricks – one at the start of the story, one during the prison storyline and one after his encounter with The Governor. This means that you have a themed model to play through the scenarios for that particular part of the storyline with.
There are gameplay effects too. Andrea later in the story is more powerful than Andrea in Atlanta Camp. She’s been trained to shoot, she’s hardened due to the events that have befallen her. This is reflected in her character card which improved fighting abilities and new special rules. Similarly there are cards for Rick and the Governor before and after they have limbs removed. These cards allow us to keep things balanced but also introduce variation even though the character is the same.
Finally there is the collectability factor – who doesn’t want all the versions of your favorite character!
CA: Mantic offered a free playtest guide for anyone to download to tinker with the rules. How has that kind of feedback help shape the final version backers (and retail) will see when it releases?
CP: Immensely - it allows us to gauge whether or not players find the game fun and then whether it’s balanced. We’ve always given our rules away for free, the community help shape our games and they’re a vocal bunch who will tell us when something is wrong.
We love this - as a small company where resources are tight, this is fantastic feedback for us to get.
The people that are going to break the game are those that jump in and devour the rules first, and public playtest – just like with a computer game – allow us to finesse the rules for final release. This benefits the community and retailers.
CA: Even though there's a lot of content already being made for Walking Dead, will the game see support with more modules after release, or is everything we can see on the Kickstarter what Mantic has in mind for this go 'round?
CP: Oh yes – there is more to come!
We see The Walking Dead: All Out War miniatures game being around for a long time and we want to create a growing community that is fully supported. What you see on the Kickstarter is just the start.
Organized Play is something that is close to our heart – we want to ensure that retailers have all the tools they need to run games and the community has all the tools they need to run campaigns events and tournaments.
There will also be an expanded range of game boosters available to retail that will not be on the Kickstarter. The ultimate goal is to keep the range growing past the prison/Woodbury arc; wouldn’t it be great to see the hunters involved in the game or Alpha and the Whisperers?
There are 100 more issues of the comic that we’ve not even touched yet and we can’t wait to share that with everyone.
You can check out the Kickstarter for The Walking Dead: All Out War right here before it concludes on Monday. You can also get your first look at the Michonne and her walkers miniatures below.
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