I purchased The Walking Dead The Best Defense Board Game as soon as it came out. Like many other items I purchase, my schedule wouldn’t allow me to tear off the cellophane until a month or two after I purchased it. My son and I decided the night of The Walking Dead Season 4 finale was the ideal time for a little Walking Dead board game fun. We set up the game and decided to try it out while we passed time waiting for episode to air. Since I purchased the game for purposes of review, let’s take a look at what we thought of this board game inspired by AMC’s hit TV series.
This particular TWD board game takes a unique cooperative approach to game play. One to four players can play as one of 6 different characters: Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon, Maggie Greene, Andrea, Glenn Rhee or Michonne. The object of the game is to defend one of four key locations while protecting your resources. Stay alive and protect your resource card deck through 12 rounds and you win! That sounds simple but trust me when I say the game is much more complex than it may sound from my description.
Gameplay: The game board is assembled randomly at the start of each game. The center of the action is the 4 large cardboard location tiles. The four locations include the Prison, the Town, the Highway, or the Farm. One of four resource decks (Equipment, Food, Allies or Ammunition) consisting of 25 cards each is placed at each location tile. Walker attacks and other undesirable events are caused by players drawing from the Event card deck which is made up of 48 unique cards. Players can die by losing all their hit points in combat. Worse yet, should any of the resource decks run out of cards the game is over. That’s what proves to make this game as challenging as it is fun.
The Walking Dead The Best Defense involves strategy and cooperation. The players are survivors that need to work together to clear walkers from locations without dying. If any walkers remain at a location (even a location without survivors present) the walkers eat away at the precious resources there. Balancing the needs of the group and fending off the undead without utilizing too many resources up in the process provides some very realistic gameplay. To further complicate matters, the pesky event deck continuously throws a wrench in the works by adding walkers to locations and affecting resources.
There’s also a very cool leadership element that adds another bit of depth to the game. Players take turns being the leader and each character possesses unique leadership qualities that affect the game. If that’s not enough, players can add yet another level of strategy by choosing to defy the leader and leaving the group . . . with consequences of course. Once this all gets too easy and mundane for you, there’s room to complicate things even more by increasing the difficulty of play and implementing one of the 9 Ulterior Motive Cards into play. Whew.
If that all sounds a little overwhelming, it can be. I’ve only touched on some of the rules and gameplay elements here. In fact one of the few complaints I have with this game is it’s almost a little too involved and realistic when you first unbox everything. The rule book can be intimidating. To make matters worse, it is just vague enough in certain key areas to leave you scratching your head. Don’t let that scare you off though. After you play a couple games you’ll get the hang of things rather quickly.
This game is recommended for ages 15 and up and that sounds just about right. Younger fans can definitely play but be prepared to spend more time setting things up and be prepared to have some patience. I found explaining the game to a 12 year old (especially when I’m not sure I fully understood at the time myself) mildly difficult. However we both had it figured out by about halfway through our second game. So with all that out of the way let’s get this zombie product review wrapped up. Here’s what I loved, what I didn’t love and a final rating.
Quality Product: The game pieces, character pawns, location tiles and many other elements are high quality cardboard. The printing and design is beautiful throughout with vibrant colors. The resource, event and other card decks don’t feel at the same level of quality but they still feel like they’ll hold up to years of gameplay.
Fun and Challenging: My son and I really liked the realistic strategy element to this game. You aren’t just killing zombies, you’re trying to think about the needs of the group in the future and monitoring your limited resources. Taking charge as the leader has its own unique rewards and challenges just as it would in the real world. Although the game is pretty detailed you can easily find the right balance of challenge, difficulty and fun. We found playing with 2 players versus 4 to be faster and a little easier as well.
Nice Little Touches: I really like some of the extra touches provided with this game. These are things that easily could have been eliminated to pinch pennies which makes me appreciate them all the more. Case in point: the round progress indicator. It easily could have been left out but it makes remembering what round you are on so much easier. (Assuming you remember to move the indicator after every round of course.) I also like the fact that they included a tray inside the box to hold everything neatly. Cryptozoic even goes so far as to provide tiny zip closure plastic baggies for you to store smaller game pieces which I thought was awesome!
Meh. What’s Not So Great
Too detailed?: The game is almost a little too detailed the first time you take a look at things. The rule book isn’t crystal clear in a few areas and it’s a pretty long read for those impatient souls like me. It can be a little overwhelming at first. If you plan on playing with younger Walking Dead fans or impatient players I highly recommend taking the time to read through the rule book a couple times prior to setting up the game. This is NOT a game where you can skim the instructions and then set up and start playing instantly the first time.
Price: If you buy local you should expect a typical price tag to read in the $30 to $40 range with $39.99 being the price you’ll see frequently. That’s a tad steep for a board game but not in the world of Walking Dead board games. I wish this would be more in the $24.99-$29.99 range for fans on a budget, but it is what it is. If 40 bucks for a board game is too rich for your blood just watch the web where you could score a much better deal.
Rating: 4.5 Out of 5 Brains
Overall this game is a blast to play. It’s a bit complicated the first play through but most players will pick things up quickly from there. While I found the extensive rule book a bit foggy in some areas and the price tag a little high neither of these would lead me to not recommend this game. The Walking Dead: The Best Defense is challenging, realistic and just downright fun.
Review Date: 04/12/2014