Published on September 11th, 2015 | by Justified Croak0
Walking Dead: The Prison Review
Average play time per game: 60 minutes
Suitable for ages: 13+
Number of players: 2-6
Mechanics: Co-op, Area Movement, Dice Rolling
So apparently there is this fantastic zombie comic series/TV show from the US that I have missed entirely. Through pop culture references and half paying attention to my friends as they perpetually tell me “its the best thing since … OMG you just have to watch it” I have accrued a vague knowledge of concept and plot.
As far as I have been made aware by those around me The Walking Dead centres around a perpetually rotating roster of humans who are touring Georgia, USA, doing “stuff” and “things”. They have come to revere a red neck deity known only as “crossbow dude” who leads them in their pilgrimage through the countryside looking for a plot? Apparently there are also zombies – but the show is “not about the zombies. It’s actually a rich character drama”
With so many big series out there it can be hard to keep up, or in my case catch up but I don’t want to write off something my friends are so passionate about, so easily. To that end – I will compromise. Rather than invest days watching the series let’s just spend a few hours with one of the many, many associated board games.
Walking Dead: The Prison is a stand alone expansion/sequel to Walking Dead: The Board Game. This particular game in the franchise is based off of the comics series rather than the television series, which only really comes in to play with the absence of glossy head-shots on the game cards from the show’s cast. The Prison sees players take the roles of (presumably) well loved characters from the comic as they storm the prison, slay all the zombies and pick up stuff and things. The winner is the first one to understand what is going on
Sort the plethora of tokens in to piles of the same and keep them within reach of each player.
Each player selects a character card and using resource tracker tokens, sets their food and ammo resource to 2 of each on their character card. Players use a further tracker token to track leadership, starting on 0.
Players take the corresponding standee for their chosen character and place it on the corresponding start location on the game board.
Sort all cards by their backings in to separate face down decks and keep them by the game board (follower, goal, secure room and encounter decks)
Each player is dealt 2 follower cards and follow any special instruction on those cards. Then each player receives 2 goal cards which are kept secret from other players.
Designate a first player
Players must attempt to secure the prison of walkers, not die and collect leadership (victory) points. The player at the end of the game who is both alive and the player with the highest leadership value is the winner.
Dice Pool – a players main character and followers are each associated with one or more dice of a certain colour. This is always indicated on the character or follower card. A players dice pool consists of the total of these indicated dice. Some colours are better at fighting, actions, etc., than another. This makes certain characters better suited to some tasks than others. Players roll their dice pools to resolve both fights and encounters.
On a turn a player must do the following in order.
Recover – Use food resource to remove damage from your character (not necessary on turn 1)
Move – Move up to three spaces in any direction. You may not move off a space with a zombie token. If there is a zombie token on your space at any point in your turn you must fight the zombie. We’ll get to fighting later.
Draw Encounter Cards – If a player lands on a space with a resource indicated on the board then they must draw an encounter card from the encounter deck. Players must attempt this challenge. The encounter is usually a zombie fight, if it is not, then the instructions for what a player must do are printed on the card.
Encounters will usually have a reward for successful completion and often a penalty for failure. Players collect the resources on the board after the encounter, unless instructed not to on the encounter card.
Trade – if you are in the same room or area as another player then you may trade resources and inventory items. Both players must agree to any trade.
Additionally at any point during your turn you may attempt to secure a room or area. If your character is in a room in which all zombies have been killed then you may attempt to secure. To do this a player declares which of their goal cards they will use to secure the room. They match the goal card level with the level of the room and follow the card instructions in order. If there are no walkers in the room after the goal has been completed then that player has secured the room. They take the room secured card, and receive the total leadership points stated on the goal card. The completed goal is discarded and another is drawn to replace it.
Fighting Zombies – Zombie tokens are placed face down on all spawn points in a room when entered for the first time. When zombies tokens are landed on or appear on encounter cards they must be fought. The token is flipped to reveal how many zombies the player is up against (the zombie total is simply stated on encounter cards). Players declare whether they are fighting or dodging the zombies and then roll their dice pool hoping for enough successes.
For each “kill” result on the dice a player kills one zombie. Be aware that some kill results have a multiplication symbol in which case a player kills 2 or 3 zombies as indicated on the dice. If all zombies are killed take the token and place it in your play area.
Players may also use their ammo resource to help them kill walkers. They move their ammo tracker back as many bullets as they would like to use and then get to roll the black ammo dice once per ammo used. This dice has a high proportion of zombie kills but also has a change to call in brain munching reinforcements with its “Blam!” result.
Players may also roll the “dodge” symbol. If the player rolls equal to or higher than the amount of zombies faced then they may move the zombie token up to three spaces in any direction (usually towards other players)
If a player fails to kill or dodge all the zombies then they must take one fatigue token for each zombie not killed or dodged and place it on their character or follower cards. If a survivor has 3 fatigue markers at any time they die. Once a player loses all their survivors they are removed from the game.
Special – Not all encounters in The Prison are combat related. Encounter cards may result in skills tests and the like which require the use of the “special” die result – depicted by a baseball cap. The rules for such encounters are always stated on the card.
Players may also roll a “wild” result on a die, depicted by a camper van. This can be designated as one kill, dodge or special dependant on the players requirements.
Winning – The Game ends when all rooms have been secured or there are no more zombie tokens in the general supply. The game also ends if all player have died however this is not really considered a win in my gaming group.
To score players tally their current leadership points (from their leadership tracker and any room secured cards) as well as any leadership points from followers and inventory items still in their possession and an additional point for each zombie token claimed by the player.
The player with the highest leadership value at the end of scoring is considered victorious and has taken control of the prison, now empty of supplies and full of rotting corpses. Forgive my ignorance but is that a good thing?
Opinion – I feel like I must tread carefully here. Once again I have never seen an episode or read a comic of TWD. As I am not part of its fandom perhaps I am poorly suited to judge The Prison’s Thematics. I cannot tell you how much it feels like being in the comics, nor can I judge if the characters where portrayed faithfully or the walkers illustrated correctly. I may only judge the game on its merits alone, of which I assure you, there are none.
Woah, woah, woah, okay – That might be a little harsh. But seriously, I was bored. This is simply put a roll to move game. It‘s not strategic, it‘s certainly not clever, I didn’t even think it was pretty. I’ve played my share of zombie games and things like Dead of Winter, Zombiecide and ZOMBIES!!! put a lot in to their art styles to come off polished and fun to just look at. The Prison just felt so flat.
The encounter cards don’t do much to keep things fresh, it’s just roll your dice pool again and again. I also found a lot of them poorly worded and/or unclear. The characters hardly come alive with just slightly different coloured dice attached to them. The Threat of the zombies is as flat as the counters that depict them and of course it is all entirely random. Everything is dependant on dice rolls that you have such little effect on. It’s like a crappier monopoly with zombies but frankly if that’s what you‘re after then get The Walking Dead Monopoly.
I think this is a board game only a fan could love. There are so many games based on The Walking Dead, let alone better zombie games in general, that I‘m not even sure why this exists. For my money go for Zombies!!! if you want something quick and easy to do while you catch up on the latest TWD episode or Dead Of Winter if you want a full on immersive character drama, which is totally not about the zombies.