Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review: AZ: After Zombies by Apocalyptic Games

I've been following Charles Rice's blog and products for several yeas now and took notice when he formed Apocalyptic Games.  I'm a big fan of his work on games like Modern20 and Osric Unearthed.  When I saw he was releasing AZ: After Zombies, a survival horror RPG set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse I knew I had to give it a look.

And I'm glad I did.

I'm going to begin this review by stating that this game reminds me of the types I bought and grew up on in the late 80's and early 90's, especially works by GDW.  There is a vibe that this game has that really hit the nostalgia nail squarely on the head for me.  Charles covers not just fighting zombies but having to survive in a terrible new world.  He addresses scrounging and finding resources and covers group dynamics and the inevitable drama of having survivors deal with and succumb to the melancholy of losing their world.

The first step is to choose a Background that gives you skills and sets your Attributes.  You may roll to randomly determine this.  Backgrounds include Academic, blank slate, politician, or white collar.

The Attributes are Combat Ability, Health, Insight, Intellect, Leadership, Luck, Quickness, and Strength.  They are rated on a scale of 1 to 100 and are the base rating of a Skill and require you to roll equal to or under on a d100.  If you do not have the appropriate Skill, you will need to roll equal to or under half your Attribute.

Your second through fifth steps will adjust your Attributes positively and negatively based upon your choices.

Step six is to roll a Trait, which grants an advantage, or you can simply choose one from your background.  They include Dove, Sex Appeal, Team Player, or Gifted.

Step seven is to calculate your Derived Attributes, they are Mental Toughness (sanity), Endurance (fatigue), Action Points (number of action in a turn), and Unity (how well your group of survivors get along).

Step eight gives you the option to pick a Disadvantage, they give you slight bonus at character creation, but create complications in play.  They include Allergic Reaction, Dark Past, or Enemy.

Step nine has you pick your skills, you get a minimum of one of your choosing and one from your Background.  One interesting benefit of complimentary Skills is Synergy, essentially you gain +10% to your Skill check if you have Synergy.

Step ten has you pick your equipment and the Game Master has the option of adjusting its conditions to reflect the After Zombie world.

AZ is a level based game and has no maximum level.  On even levels you get a Survivor Improvement (which grants either a flat bonus or a die roll to increase an Attribute, the bonus depends on how your prioritized the Attribute in character creation) and a Learning Check (a chance to learn a new skill with modifiers based on what you've done to pick it up).  On odd levels you gain a Perk (special abilities that enhance existing skills and abilities).

Combat in AZ flows as follows:

1. Determine Surprise (if any).
2. Roll Initiative (roll a percentile and add the Quickness Attribute).
3. Each combatant acts from highest to lowest.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the combat is over.

One thing that separates AZ from many combat systems are your Action Points, which are determined by dividing your Quickness by 10.  During the course of a combat round (6 seconds) each type of action you want to use has a cost from 1 to 3 Action Points.
Some 1 point actions: Aiming, Bracing, Reloading, Suppressive Fire.
Some 2 point actions: Make a Skill Check, Medium Melee Attack, Quickshot, Reckless Melee Attack, or Take Cover.
Some 3 point actions: Block, CPR, Dodge, Headlong Flight, or Heavy Melee Attack.

When you attack someone you determine where you hit them by the "1s" die.  So if I roll a 53 on a d100 and succeed with attacking someone, I hit them in location 3 or the Upper Chest.
Locations are: Head, Shoulder, Upper Chest, Middle Chest, Stomach, Groin, Arm, and Leg.
If my successful attack roll exceeds my target's Health, they take an injury which is determined by the location I hit and includes Bleeding and Trauma.

A great deal of information is presented about different types of equipment and what state they are in and what's required to maintain them.

There is a large section that covers various enemies from zombies to animals to other humans.

And I enjoyed the Game Mastering section and felt it gave good advice on how to run an AZ game.

And an adventure is also presented to get you started right away.

I highly recommend this game and hope you think about checking it out.

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