FLASHBACK FRIDAY – Outbreak Undead – Hunter Games – Rule Book Review

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This is a role-play game.

Steve Mayne

MeepleGamers


Publisher: Hunters Entertainment


Publisher: Renegade Game Studios


Designer: Alex Huilman


Designer: Christopher De La Rosa


Designer: Ivan Van Norman


Designer: Jake Michels


Designer:Rob Dake


Number of Players:2+


Quick Start Adventure


Artist: Anthony Jones


Artist: Kent Davis


Artist: Shar Tuiasoa


Artist: Pace Porter-Zasada


Game Type: Role-Play Game


Game Type: Survival Horror


Initial Year of Release: 2018


Age Range: 14+

Introduction

Before we start a quick note. This will be slightly different from our normal reviews. This won’t be review of the game but of the rules. I’ll explain a little bit more about this in my conclusion but for now, please keep in mind I’m not reviewing the game and as such will not be giving an overall score.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY - Outbreak Undead - Hunter Games - Rule Book Review 1

Theme and What is it?


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8/10

Welcome to the apocalypse. The end is here. It happened yesterday. The world is covered in roaming packs of zombies. Humanity is building settlements and trying to protect itself from harm. Resources are limited, danger is close, and death is all but certain. Can you succeed in this bleak landscape? Can you get by with the help of friends, a little ingenuity, and a tenacious sense of self-preservation? Can you survive?

Outbreak Undead is a survival horror game with a challenging difficulty spike, limited resources, and dice pool based resolution system.

Gameplay Mechanics


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10/10

Outbreak Undead is a pen and paper Role-Play Game (RPG) where you will create a character and role play that characters decisions and actions across a zombie apocalypse. The game focuses on a mix of narrative play and dice pool manipulation.

The game master (GM) will relate the story to the players by telling them the story that goes on around them. The GM will set the scene, informing the players of the threats, setting, and problems they face. Then the GM gives the players the opportunity to decide how their characters are going to respond. To this end players will use skills and attributes of their characters to overcome these challenges.

At the beginning of every encounter, combat or otherwise, the GM will set the stage and then ask the players to declare how they wish to deal with what’s in front of them. This begins the declaration phase of every scene. Each player goes around the table and states what their character intends to do. If they come to a crossroads and there’s a group of armed men there the players can decide to try and sneak around, initiate combat, or talk to them. Whatever each individual player decides they will each generate a dice pool based o their chosen actions.

First they’ll need resolution dice. These are typically percentile dice or two ten sided dice (D10) that will generate a number between 1 and 100. To this they’ll add assorted six sided dice (D6) in various colors. I’ll use the ones recommended by the book but you can use any that you have on hand. It is recommended that you have four different colors to keep them separate. The first type you’ll need to add are blue D6’s, these represent initiative or how quickly you’ll go in the turn. With initiative the lower number the better. As such the number of dice you’ll roll is based on how complicated your action is. More complicated and involved actions will require more dice increasing the likelihood that you’ll go later in the round.

If the task you’re attempting is more difficult then you’ll add black complication dice. These are used to modify the target number you’ll need to achieve in order to succeed. The more factors influencing the action will increase the number of dice rolled. For example, jumping from one train car to another might not require any additional dice. If the train is moving that could add one or two dice. Then, if it’s night that’s another dice, if it’s also raining, and you’ve been shot in the leg then the complication dice can start to pile up.

If the item you using has the potential to break or malfunction then you’ll add white dice. This can be for anything ranging from using an item for a purpose other than intended such as using a screwdriver to pry open a lock, a baseball bat to break a door down, or to swing a toolbox as a weapon. Additionally, if you’re using a weapon that requires ammunition then you’ll need to roll for that as well.

Finally, you’ll add red damage dice to any attack to see how badly you injure your target if you hit. These can be modified and influenced by other factors and you might even end up rolling more after the initial roll due to how successful the attack was.

In addition to all of this the D6 used are considered five sided that explode. This means that any time you roll a dice a number between 1 and 5 will add that number to the pool it’s related to. However, a result of 6 will count as a five but will make you roll an additional dice of that color.  Every time you roll a 6, you’ll roll an additional dice of that color and add to the pool.

Once you’ve rolled all of your dice you check the resolution number modified by the challenge dice to determine if you succeeded. If you rolled equal to or less than the number needed, then you’ve succeeded in the task. For every ten you are away from the target you’ll get a degree of success or failure respectively. These degrees are used to buy effects. For degrees of success you can add additional damage dice, inflict conditions, and set up future bonuses. Degrees of difficulty will hamper you with short term injuries, additional problems, or a narrative shift against you.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY - Outbreak Undead - Hunter Games - Rule Book Review 2

Initial Impressions


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8/10

I was initially very excited about this game. This system is used on Geek and Sundry as part of their, “We’re Alive,” streamed live play. I hadn’t had a chance to watch it but was looking forward to seeing the story unfold with the particular set of players they were using. With this added to that to help me understand what was going on in the show I was excited about this game.

Artistic Direction


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10/10

The art for the game is fine. It matches the setting. They use spares colors focusing on greys and sepia tones. The images are very bleak which fits the game world and genre of survival horror very well. While it’s not necessarily beautiful it does set the mood very well.

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Conclusions


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As I said before this is a review of the rule book, not the game. The reason for this is that the book is so hard to read. It’s so difficult to learn this game I never got a chance to play. I couldn’t even get through character creation successfully. I did have a group over and we tried to play this but weren’t able to. The mechanics I describe earlier are my best guess at how this game is played. I’m honestly not sure that what I wrote is correct.

I’m very disappointed in this game. After trying to go through the rule book I went to YouTube and watched some videos. I checked out a couple of how to plays and some game sessions; this includes finally sitting down to watch, “We’re Alive Frontier,” on Geek and Sundry. The how to play videos were sort of useful at getting the basics across but never teaching the rules. I enjoyed the game play sessions. Every time I finished one I would dive back into the rules with renewed vigor to learn the game. It never lasted.

There were a couple of problems I had with the rules. They used a handwriting font in some sidebars. These tended to be notes from the publisher, some kind of history, bits of story, or rules. The problem was it was never clear on which one the side bar was until you’d read it.

They used symbols to replace or supplement several of the rules in the game. For example, while going through the disadvantages I found a line that read while in town I could spend {Orange Cross} on pain killers. There was no explanation of what the {orange cross} stood for. It took another ten minutes of scouring the book to find out what the symbol meant and how it was used. It’s Survival Points and is a currency that represents how well prepared the character is. The pages on skill use are awash with squares in various colors for all of the different dice. There are red, green, and blue circles representing different levels of success and difficulty plus one other thing. I think the blue circles represent how long a task takes but I’m still not sure.

There are things in this game that should have been pluses but were handled poorly. The game comes with three levels of complexity/difficulty. There’s Arcade, Weekend Warrior, and Survivalist. Each level is represented by a different color that will help you learn those rules and play out from there. Arcade, the easiest is represented with green highlights across those sections of the rules, with Weekend Warrior being yellow and Survivalist being red. Sections have their titles set against that color to clearly indicate which one is which. This is a great idea since it allows for players and GM’s to set the level of difficulty and complexity to what they want to play at. However, In order to learn how to play the game on any level you have to read and learn all of them. Which wouldn’t be too bad if they hadn’t broken up the rules around this system. It became frustrating to try and learn the rules while having to flip back and forth from one page to the next in order to get a complete idea of how the game functioned.

The equipment section became overly convoluted in an effort to try and cover absolutely every situation as realistically as possible. Every item covers its uses, dice pool, bonus effects, penalties, symbols that it modifies, uses for labor, uses for combat, and modifiers for use in various situations. This is all awash in multiple symbols and notations which might make it easier to reference during play but was frustrating to try and learn.

I really wanted to like this game. I watch people play this online and got excited every time I did when I saw them use a rule I had been struggling with. I’d go back to the rule book and read that rule or section and see if I could figure out what I was getting wrong; what I wasn’t understanding. More often than not I couldn’t reconcile what I’d seen versus what I was reading.

I feel like this game must be popular, it did well enough to get a second edition and everyone I watched play was having fun. I just don’t believe that any of them learned from the rulebook. The game on Geek and Sundry is the smoothest run version of the game I watched but it’s run by Ivan Van Norman, one of the writers.

I will always tell people to try something before you buy it. Here that is doubly true and possible. There is a quick start adventure that’s available for free download from DriveThruRPG. I’ve included a link above in case you want to try it out for yourself. Additionally, the game features an organized play group. If there’s one near you they may run demos and I would recommend giving that ago.

I’m not giving this game a score because I don’t feel like it’s fair. I haven’t been able to play it at all. I tried, I really tried. I wanted to play this game. Unfortunately, the rules were so dense and confounding that I started getting frustrated quickly. Two hours before my group came over to my house I was shaking with rage at the rules of the game.

I might review the game at some point in the future if I ever find someone to teach me. For right now, I don’t want anything to do with this game. I don’t even want to finish watching the live streams that I was enjoying.

Well, that’s enough of my problems.

Until next time, be well.

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