Sunday, 2 August 2015

Waiter, there's a little Zed in my soup....

This weekend at Gencon our good friends Colin and Chris are releasing their new game Skirmish Outbreak - Skirmish Wargaming Rules For The Zombie Apocolypse. This is a game that a couple of the Regiment have been involved in helping out at various stages, and I was lucky enough to play a game with Chris just before he left for the States. I suppose it was a dry run demo for him. I have long enjoyed many aspects of the gameplay of the Skirmish family of games (Skirmish Sangin) but there have always been a couple of aspects that seem to screw a gamer (read in that me) over. While I enjoy the concepts and company of the gamers, I have not wanted to pick up the game regularly.

This has now all changed. The game involves a player taking the role of the Survivors and a player taking the role of the Zeds (Zombies). The Zeds have some restrictions on the choices they have with their activations, allowing the Survivor player to attempt to manipulate the Zeds on the table. Fortunately for the Zeds player - and unfortunately for the Survivor the attempt to manipulate the Zeds on the board tends to attract more Zeds - which can appear just around the corner, or from the buildings, or out of the trash pile that the Survivor is standing next to. The game has a nice feel of tactics and desperation, forcing the player to make tough choices and hard decisions.
You can construct your Survivors with a simple points system - there are a variety of options of experienced Survivors all the way to youths desperately trying to get on in the post apocalyptic world. The Survivors can also have a variety of weapons from guns to frying pans. Zeds on the other hand are just Zeds, well that is until they finally bite and change a Survivor into a Rager. Ragers are fast and deadly, and they push the game from a tactical, sneaky "try to get the objectives" game into a desperate race for survival, you may have to sacrifice a youth or two for the greater good (if you are lucky).
Skirmish Outbreak has a D20, target number based mechanic to resolve combat. It is clean and quick to resolve and most importantly it is decisive. But that's not the beauty of the gameplay. The lovely mechanic that I believe makes it work nicely is the activations mechanic. The Survivors roll a D6 per Survivors on the table, then halve that result to get how many action points they have in that turn. The Zeds roll a flat 3D6. The Survivors can activate models and take up to 3 actions per activated model. This way you can conserve your action points or burn them to get stuff done. The payoff is that for every activation the Survivor takes (no matter how many action points they use) the Zeds get to activate 3 Zeds. They still have the restriction of the number of action points they rolled up and Zeds can only use 2 action points per Zed. You may re-activate a model but only after all other models on your side have activated at least once. The cool thing that keeps the game moving is that if the Zeds run out of action points - for every activation the Survivors take the Zeds get to activate every Zed on the table with 1 action point, even those that have already activated in that turn.
This activation mechanic creates some real tension in the game. Turns go quickly and this gives the player the feeling of being in the game of the movie.....
The game has a campaign aspect to it - with some intriguing looking twists and turns for multiple survivor crews to get involved in. The missions are objective based for the Survivor player and the missions appear to have a good mix of challenge and speed. The constant threat of Zeds appearing from anywhere on the board is enough to keep the Zed player interested and with nice little touches like a "Loud" mechanic for Survivors making obvious noise - as a player you need to make careful choices about how you conduct your business. Overall I am ready to take on more Zeds - soon.
On a side note. I have been running Zeds games (loosely based on the Skirmish Outbreak mechanic) at school with groups of kids. Each kid takes a Survivor each and I play the Zeds. The proof of the pudding is this - I have 20 (mostly) boys aged 8-11 engaged and involved for an hour and a half at a time with no problems at all. As in all good games Skirmish Outbreak seems to be "Easy to Learn and Difficult to Master." Find out more about Skirmish Outbreak here, here and here.

Chur Tank

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tom, I really enjoyed our game too!

    We must be due another, now that you have a handle on the rules!