originally posted at http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/12/30/tabletop-review-the-waking-dead-all-flesh-must-be-eaten/
Even though I feel the whole zombie craze has been played out for several years now, All Flesh Must Be Eaten holds a special place in my heart as it’s the first system I ever wrote (and sold!) pure fiction for. Man, that was well over a decade ago. Now I feel old. Honestly, I thought Eden had put the system to rest, primarily concentrating on new Conspiracy X stuff. However when “Free RPG Day 2011″ (June 18th) came around, Eden releases this free All Flesh Must be Eaten introductory kit to the public. Now six months later, they’ve released it again – still free, but in .pdf form.
Since the kit is free, there’s honestly no reason not to pick this up. Free is always awesome and AFMBE not only has a great system but character creation is highly versatile and a lot of fun. Unfortunately the character creation rules aren’t provided here, but that’s understandable due to the length and the fact you’re getting this for free. What you ARE getting are quick start rules for the game though. You’re told how Attributes, Qualities, Drawbacks, and Skills all work, along with a streamlined version of the rules so that you can get right into things. You’re also given six pre-generated characters so that you can just grab one and start playing the adventure that comes in this kit.
Only about six pages are spent on the rules, but it covers everything you need to play along with nearly all the special rules for the game. Tables included are Base Modifiers, Outcome and Fear. The Waking Dead also devotes a full three pages explaining how combat works, which is quite long for a free starter kit. This means, however, you’re getting an in-depth look at how to play the most crucial part of the game: slaughtering zombies.
The adventure itself, The Waking Dead is where the entire kit pulls its name from. It’s eleven pages long and to be perfect honest, I really didn’t like it. It unabashedly rips off The Stand and The Walking Dead in nearly every way. I’ve never really been a fan of adventures that are so close to the source material that you can’t help but notice and all I could think about while reading this was, “Where’s the originality?” There’s a tiny bit of deviation where the Randall Flagg knock-off has zombies instead of evil people on her (another slight change) side, but other than that, it’s too close for comfort for my linking. The adventure also isn’t linear enough for something that is supposed to be for newcomers to the system. The adventure itself states that this is to make the adventure appealing to veterans and newcomers. Well, newcomers GMs are going to want/need that linearity for a first adventure, especially if they are running it on the fly. So I can’t especially recommend the adventure as something for a newcomer running All Flesh Must Be Eaten, but it’s a solid enough piece that I can recommend it for those who know someone familiar with the rules and can run it for friends.
The starter kit concludes with a page of close combat weapons, a page of ranged combat weapons, a two page promo for the system and finally, an ammo record form (which is far more useful than one might think when they first start playing this game…) All in all, The Waking Dead is a really well done starter kit. It contains everything a person might need to just jump in to All Flesh Must be Eaten. It gives all the important rules for playing and half a dozen pregens for the adventure. Again, I didn’t care for the adventure at all, but the writing and mechanics behind it are solid and so as long as you don’t mind playing a story similar to something you’ve probably already experienced in some way, you just might have fun with it. The key thing here is that The Waking Dead is free and the fact Eden Studios has included nearly all the rules you need to play the game is impressive indeed. With that in mind, anyone reading this should be clicking the link at the top of the review and downloading the pdf as soon as they are done reading this. If you’re the type of gamer that still finds Resident Evil, Dead Rising or Dead Island fun instead of “yet another zombie game,” or someone who enjoys a “zombie pub crawl,” then you’ll definitely want to pick up The Waking Dead. Who knows? After flipping through this kit, you just might decide to spend the fifteen dollars on the core rulebook and start playing AFMBE for real.