The end has come...
The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse is the first of four apocalyptic role-playing games from table-top veteran company Fantasy Flight Games. The first installment, Zombie Apocalypse, shows a very unique take on not just the standard zombie trope, but the table-top RPG in general.
The book is broken up into three major sections: Playing the Game, Running the Game and Scenarios.
Playing the Game introduces the player to the rule-set, covering everything from character creation to conflict and death. Character creation is sleek and streamlined, allowing even first-time role-players to jump into the game quickly. C=Players are strongly encouraged to portray themselves in order to make the action more visceral, but players can certainly make any type of character that they want.
The game system, which runs on d6's, enables fast, gritty combat and harrowing choices. The characters feel much more vulnerable, which combined with the system creates a very tense setting overall. Hit points, the standard measure of nearness to death, is instead replaced by Stress and Traumas. Take too much stress and your character dies, or maybe goes insane. Traumas have in-game penalties to actions, but alleviate Stress. It's an amazing system which has players constantly questioning whether they should convert Stress to Trauma, or ride the fine line between life and death without the penalties associated with Traumas.
Running the Game is a much shorter section, informing the GM how to handle encounters and balance them with narrative, how to handle the menagerie of complex NPC's the characters are sure to encounter during their struggle to survive the gnashing teeth of the undead and how to determine how long a campaign should go.
Scenarios, the last section of the book, is the meatiest. It features five completely different origins for the zombie apocalypse, complete with timelines to demonstrate how a plague-borne zombie virus pans out vice zombies created from the radiation emitted from a fallen meteor.
Each scenario lays out the basic premise, then goes on to explain the truth of the event versus what a character might think is happening. This is followed by a very detailed timeline, starting from the initial outbreak to months or even years in the future.
This is just part of the magic, however. In addition to how events play out during and immediately after the outbreak, each scenario also details how it can be played post-apocalypse.
Each scenario gives a wide range of pre- and post-apocalypse NPC's that the characters are likely to encounter. In addition, there are a large selection of events that the characters could be expected to face, from traffic jams to military evacuations.
All in all, while no game is perfect, this one is pretty close to the mark. With sleek artwork adorning silky smooth pages, there is enough information within the tome of undead to fuel a player's nightmares from now until the End of the World!
[5 of 5 Stars!]