The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse is the first book in the End of the World line (Wrath of the Gods, Alien Invasion, and Revolt of the Machines are still to come) from Fantasy Flight Games. The game offers you the chance to play yourself during the ultimate zombie apocalypse. Your physical, mental, and social abilities and skills are what you get to use to survive!
There are many zombie apocalypse games on the market right now, but what really caught my attention with The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse was a podcast episode from Gamerstable. They had a fantastic episode on character creation called The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse Character Creation – Bonus Episode. Their podcast gave an excellent example of what the character creation experience is like for the game.
The character creation process is a very unique system where you attempt to accurately create yourself and your gaming group votes on whether they agree with you. Point distribution and voting between group members will help you arrive at some rough semblance of you as a character. If you’re a really out of shape, smart, likable guy that has great math skills but can’t shoot a gun, you’re character will represent that by the end of character creation. However, for groups that aren’t interested in playing themselves in a roleplaying game, there is an option to create a traditional character as well.
Another aspect I like about the characters you play in this game, besides the fact that the character you are playing is you, is that you are playing regular people with realistic goals. You are not superheroes trying to gather up tons of treasure and save the world. You are regular people doing the best that you can in the hopes that you are one of the few that survive the zombie apocalypse. You probably won’t be toting around a fully automatic machine gun mowing down zombies and looking for a cigar shop to raid as you smoke your way to victory. You probably will be trying to quietly sneak past a group of zombies into an old general store to look for food while the one person in your party with a legit weapon keeps watch while you search.
Playing the game is fairly simple. It is a rules-light system that I think has just enough crunch to make things interesting. You only make a task roll when you determine that the outcome of an action actually matters, like jumping out of a window or shooting a zombie. You assemble a dice pool of positive and negative dice based on different factors: positive and negative features, equipment, assistance, benefits, difficulty, traumas, and hindrances. You roll the dice and resolve the pool against your character’s characteristics. If there is at least one positive dice left in the end with a result equal to or lower than the characteristic you are measuring against, the task is a success.
There are other simple mechanics that come in to play as well, like stress. Stress can be acquired during both a successful or unsuccessful roll. It represents the strain you undergo on a day-to-day basis to simply survive during the zombie apocalypse. Stress can also come from your character experiencing a traumatic event.
The mechanics of the game are something that can easily be explained and learned on the fly during the first session of the game. NPCs are simple to create, requiring little more than a paragraph of information for the gamemaster to properly utilize them. This places the focus more on the story narrative, the player characters’ struggle for survival, and less focus on complex game mechanics.
The majority of the book is setting information where they provide five different “scenarios” for the zombie apocalypse. Each scenario has an apocalypse section and post-apocalypse section complete with what is happening, how people are reacting, what the truth is, time lines, what the zombies are capable of, how you can kill them, and much, much more. Each of the five scenarios is unique and different in how it approaches the zombie apocalypse. The game encourages the gamemaster to mix and match parts from any scenario to design the perfect setting for their group.
The game seems perfect for a one-shot session with your regular gaming group or a session at a convention. You could also turn it into a two to four session mini-campaign that contains a small story arc and complete ending. And, the scenarios offered actually are written out for a full campaign of ongoing survival that plays out over the course of several in-game years. There is a small section on advancing characters if you played a longer campaign, where they can gain new abilities and survival equipment, I still vividly remember when I first found these top bowie knives in the game. Careful however, even with top gear, you may suffer setbacks or losses.
Overall, I really like the game. Like I said earlier, I think it would be perfect for a fun one-shot or mini-campaign to mix things up with your gaming group. I really like the idea of playing yourself in a zombie apocalypse and the character creation itself appears to be half the fun of playing the game. The different scenarios provided also give the gamemaster a great resource to create a unique zombie apocalypse game for the players that isn’t “run-of-the-mill” and has surprises in store, yet still feels like a game of this genre should. I’d caution gamers that want to play the game (not run it) not to read too much of the book. I think you’ll have a greater playing experience in being surprised at what the gamemaster and game itself has in store for you.
Check out The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse!