Review: All Things Zombie: Final Fade Out

All Things Zombie: Final Fade Out is Two Hour Wargames’ latest version of the award-winning All Things Zombie game. Like most 2HW rules sets, it sits on the borderline between skirmish wargaming and roleplaying, and is designed to be equally viable for competitive, co-operative or solo play. Ed Teixeira, the author, says he expects this to be the final version, as he would now prefer to work on expansions and scenarios rather than keep updating the rules; mainstream games companies, take note and follow his example, please.

This is a 106 page book (or in my case, PDF file). You’ll probably be seeing a lot of this on the blog going forwards, so for this post I’m focussing on changes since the second edition.

WHAT’S NEW?

  • Characters now have skills as well as Rep and Attributes. Don’t worry though, there are only two: People and Savvy. Pep is for interacting with NPCs, Savvy is for – well, pretty much everything else. (There are more Attributes too, including Medic which helps in healing people.)
  • Reloading – optional but recommended. Previous versions of ATZ assumed that you had ammo, and you just reloaded when you had to, end of story. If you add this rule, you can fumble a reload and be staring at a zombie over the sights of an empty gun. Oops. However, drawing is still a free action, so this is where you pull out your backup weapon. You do have a backup weapon, don’t you? I can see this increasing the tension quite a bit, and it is entirely in line with the genre.
  • Lack of sleep. In this version of the rules, you don’t get many quiet nights, what with all the screaming and zombies and all, and it can leave you groggy (i.e. with a lower Rep) at the start of an encounter. Never mind, once the adrenaline starts flowing you get your full Rep back.

WHAT’S CHANGED?

  • To my mind, the most significant change is that zombies are now Rep 3 unless they can see you, in which case they activate as if they were Rep 4, but are still Rep 3 for other purposes. This shifts the balance of play in favour of the humans, as the zeds will activate less often.
  • In Sight is updated to the Chain Reaction Final Version standard, namely roll Rep d6 and look for “passes” (scores of 1-3) rather than the earlier 2d6 vs Rep. However, zombies don’t trigger In Sight tests.
  • Your Star (PC, in effect) now always starts as a Citizen, then turns into a Ganger or a Survivor (your choice) either once he meets the criteria or if he survives to day 21 of the outbreak. Police and military figures are NPCs who disappear after 30 days (having turned into Gangers or Survivors by that point).
  • There are fewer reaction tests, and those that remain are more clearly worded (at least, in my opinion).
  • Melee has changed in that you no longer split dice between opponents, you fight them in turn and lose 1d6 each time one ties with you. Perhaps more importantly, zombies now roll 3d6 in melee rather than 1d6. In no version of ATZ do you want to face multiple zeds in melee, and in this version you really, really don’t want to do that.
  • Zombie placement happens as soon as it is triggered, rather than at end of turn. The mechanism for placing them has also changed from picking a quadrant to a clock face arrangement, which I suspect means the zombies will be more evenly placed. It’s also easier to remember than the old method – I memorised it the first time I read it, whereas in ATZ: BDTZ I had to look it up in every game.
  • The vehicle rules look different, but I almost never use vehicles anyway – engine noise draws zombies like flies.
  • Encounters, contact, PEF and NPC movement, and items are more like 5150: NB versions than the old ATZ: Better Dead Than Zed rules. I like the new way better.
  • Pre-generated NPCs. One of the main breakers of game flow for me was stopping to generate the NPCs my Star met. No longer, just roll some dice against a table and you can see their stats and possessions. If I understand the rules correctly, you can get more stuff by looting the bodies than you can by searching buildings; that is likely to shift things even further towards “shoot first and ask questions later” than was already the norm in ATZ.
  • Random events have changed. However, my favourites (the dog and the black chopper) are still there. I can’t see cellphones working for more than a day or two after the power goes out, though; none of the servers would be going much more than 48 hours after that. So I may swap that event for something else.

WHAT’S GONE?

  • Day One, the initial encounter sequence to ease your Star into the game. There is an updated version of this free to download from 2HW, though.
  • The example scenarios. These are replaced with little sections suggesting you pause as you read through the rules to play out a short vignette illustrating things like In Sight, shooting and melee.
  • Being able to play as a cop or soldier. However, since there are reaction tables for both, you could easily add them.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER 2HW RULES

At least, the ones I use often enough to spot differences…

  • Only ATZ has zombies, obviously.
  • 5150: NB has Bonus Dice for the Star (and possibly Co-Stars). ATZ: FFO and CRFV do not. 5150: NB Stars are thus more resilient.
  • Star Power, Larger Than Life and Cheating Death in ATZ cannot be used against wounds inflicted by Zombies. Do not boogie with zombies, they will mess you up.
  • Buildings are simpler in ATZ than 5150. (There are no buildings in CRFV.) Specifically, the internal areas and movement between them are replaced by two simple rules: Anyone in a building is concealed; anyone stationary in a building is in cover. I think I like this better than the more complex rules in 5150.

CONCLUSIONS

The new rules are better aligned to the game objectives (survive and prosper), and overall I think most of the changes are improvements. As with all THW rules, you are rewarded for sound tactics and keeping your eye on the mission objectives. You still have to kill zombies to increase your Rep, though.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5.

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2 thoughts on “Review: All Things Zombie: Final Fade Out

  1. Enjoyed your review and your blog. I have been lurking for sometime after I noticed you were also using the THW mechanics as a surrogate game master for Savage Worlds.

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