The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense
You folks have NO idea how long I tried to NOT watch “The Walking Dead” series. I have this funny quirk where I prefer not to watch a show until it is over, just so that I don’t have to wait in-between seasons. After playing the video games (by Telltale) and really liking them, curiosity eventually won out and I watched all four seasons of “The Walking Dead” on Netflix in one weekend. While I’m waiting for Season Five to play out, I figured I’d try my hand at “The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense” (which will be known henceforth as “TWD:TBD” to save space and appease my aching fingers). In short, it’s a cooperative game that tasks players with surviving a certain number of rounds whilst safeguarding assets across four key locations.
Cards – The game includes resource cards (allies, equipment, ammunition, and food), character cards (Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, and Andrea), and event cards. Ulterior Motive cards can be utilized by advanced players.
Location Tiles – There are four oversized location tiles that serve as the “board” or playing area.
Tokens & Pawns – Pawns will assist players tracking their own movement around the four location tiles. Tokens track zombie infestation, ammo, hit points, allies, and food. Players keep track of who the leader of their group is via the Badge of Leadership token.
Round Tracker Tile & Token – Players will track the number of rounds that have gone by with these. Collectively, they’ll attempt to last twelve rounds in order to win the game.
Dice – There are three six-white sided dice and one black, three-sided die.
Setup & Gameplay
Each player chooses a survivor, receiving the appropriate card, pawn, and base. They also receive two ally tokens, two food tokens, and five hitpoint tokens to place onto their card. The four location tiles are mixed up and dealt face-up in a 2×2 grid. Each of the four resource decks are shuffled separately with each deck randomly being assigned to one of the four locations. The event deck is shuffled and players begin spawning zombies via the black die onto the location closest to them. Players also roll a white die to see who gets the badge of leadership token, along with one equipment card from the corresponding deck (ammo is automatically awarded to anyone who draws a ranged weapon). The round tracker token begins on “1”.
The game is broken up into a series of rounds, which are outlined as follows:
Round Start – The leader will read their ability and deal two event cards face down to each player (including themselves).
Leader Turn – The leader will take their turn, consisting of movement, drawing, trading, and playing both of their event cards (in that order). The first leader of the game gets to place the survivors onto a location of their chosing. Planning and discussion may happen during these phases, depending on whether or not players decide to utilize the beginner or expert difficulty.
Non-Leader Turn – Every other player will take their turn in clockwise order, consisting of defying (optional), drawing, trading, and playing one of their event cards (not both). While the leaders move the other players on his/her turn, they may spend a food card to move to an adjacent space (defying the orders of the leader).
Combat Phase – Once everyone has taken a turn, combat will resolve and dice will roll (depending on the circumstances). Ammo is spent and damage is applied as appropriate. For every five combat points rolled, one walker is eliminated. Players can offset this roll via allies and other modifiers.
End of Round – Each walker deals one damage. Survivors take the hits first, followed by the location tile itself (assuming no survivors remain/are present to soak up the damage). When a location takes damage, a card from its nearby deck is discarded. Survivors can also give up a food card to heal if their hit points are four or lower. The round tracker moves ahead one space and the role of the leader passes clockwise.
Your main objective, as a group, is to survive twelve rounds without letting any one of the four decks run out of cards. Groups who manage to do so, win the game!
The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you a general idea as to how the game is played. For more information, you can find the rulebook here:
There’s a lot of the rules that I didn’t cover, but I’ll do my best to touch on a few key points here. For one, there are two different difficulty options and two different modes. The beginner difficulty allows players to talk freely during any part of the round while the expert difficulty limits the communication. Since event cards can be location specific, it pays to be able to plan ahead with everyone else in responding to various threats as they come up. The difference between standard and hardcore is simply that in the case of the latter, players who die are eliminated for good. Dying in standard simply allows you to respawn as a different character. Having different ways to play certainly upped the appeal of this game in my book. While I always encourage communication in cooperative games, expert difficulty made things seem a bit more tense and dramatic.
I also liked the fact that drawing for resources contributes to the possibility that you’ll lose the game. As stated above, players are tasked with making sure that NONE of the four decks run out (otherwise, they’ll lose). While fishing for a weapon in the equipment deck might improve your chances in combat (they affect the number of dice you roll and etc.), you’ll also be knowingly reducing that deck’s remaining “hit points”. This forces players to balance their need for help from each deck and weigh the odds a bit based on the loot they currently have in their possession. Trading also becomes a necessity as players may sometimes draw more weapons than they currently need, encouraging mutual cooperation and good leadership with regard to moving people where they need to be to do the most good.
All in all, this was an enjoyable cooperative defense game. The drawing of random event cards and resources keeps things chaotic in the sense that you won’t know what’s going to happen next. The art is taken straight from the TV show (screenshots and all), which I don’t mind…though some will no doubt prefer the comic books. I recommend that new players begin in beginner mode but exercise hardcore difficulty…at least, those are the difficulty “settings” that worked well for us. Ulterior motive cards are optional but give players a personal objective to complete so that they can claim partial victory after losing the game, should it happen. While nice, I honestly didn’t see much of a benefit to including them since they didn’t really contribute to winning or losing. It simply added an extra challenge as you often had to “hoard” resources in order to complete these objectives.
As TV show board game adaptations go, this one isn’t half bad.
Final Verdict: 7/10