The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense
The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense takes 1-4 players into a rough world where the odds are not in their favor. Resources are precious and scarce, decisions can mean life or death for the survivors, and you must keep the walkers (zombies) at bay or you’ll quickly be overwhelmed.
This isn’t a game you’ve played before with The Walking Dead franchise layered on. Cryptozoic Entertainment has taken the gritty survival atmosphere of the TV series and created a completely fresh cooperative gameplay experience.
Setting up a game of Best Defense is quick and easy.
Each player chooses one survivor (popular characters from the series) and starts with a set amount of health and resources
The four location tiles are randomly placed in a 2×2 grid and you randomly determine which of the four resource decks will go with each location. Each player will roll the black die (d6 with sides: 1,1,2,2,3,3) and put that many walker tokens onto the location closest to where they are seated.
Finally, players draw one equipment card (and hope it’s a good one!). If you’re lucky enough to draw a weapon, you get to take ammo as well (the card will say “start of game load”). All weapon cards drawn later in the game are unloaded.
Let the survival begin!
To win a game of Best Defense your group must survive for 12 rounds and make sure none of the four resources run out. Actually surviving 12 rounds is not an easy task. You will probably lose the game quite a bit (depending on the difficulty you choose), but that’s half the fun and the challenge. If you win, it will usually be by the skin of your teeth!
Protect your resources
The four resource decks in the game are Ally, Equipment, Ammo and Food. Players can draw from them, and walkers will attack unprotected decks (discarding one card for each walker attack). With only 25 cards in each resource deck, survivors will need to balance how badly they need a resource, as well as making sure they don’t leave resources unprotected.
Here’s the general look at what the resources do for the survivors:
- Ally: You’ll gain ally tokens which allow you to add to your combat points to your rolls.
- Equipment: These cards provide you with weapons, armor, faster travel and healing.
- Ammo: Need ammo for a weapon… this is where you’ll get it.
- Food: You gain food tokens which you can discard to heal your survivor or defy (move on your turn).
Choose your difficulty
Best defense has a a great range of difficulty “settings” that can be chosen based on the type of experience you want to have as well as the group you’re playing with. Before you start playing, you’ll choose one mode and one difficulty.
- Standard Mode: Players can choose a new survivor if theirs dies
- Hardcore Mode: The game ends if a survivor dies
- Beginner Difficulty: Event cards are visible to everyone
- Expert Difficulty: Event cards are kept hidden and strategic discussion is limited
Suggested difficulty combos:
- If you’re looking to introduce players to the game, combine Standard mode with Beginner Difficulty.
- If you’ve got someone who always tends to take control of cooperative games, choose the expert difficulty which will let each player make more of their own choices, while still playing as a team.
- If you’re wanting the biggest challenge, combine Hardcore mode with Expert Difficulty (We found we had the most fun playing this way).
Ulterior Motives Variant
As an option, each player can receive a secret Ulterior Motive card. They aren’t shown to other players and typically involve collecting things or performing certain tasks to complete them. What’s fun is how they may cause players to make decisions that might not be in the best interests as everyone else. They also act as “mini achievements” that can make the game more fun for each player. We found these are the most fun while playing in Expert Difficulty. Also, you don’t need to complete them to win the game.
Take your turn
At the start of each round players will discuss their strategies and then each player is dealt two event cards. On Beginner difficulty players can continue to discuss their strategies. On Expert Difficulty strategic discussion is no longer allowed until the combat phase.
These cards rarely have good outcomes, and each round the leader will play both event cards, and the no-leaders will chose one of the two to play. The cards typically have two phrases: If your survivor is at ____ location do A (“A” usually involving drawing a resource card). If not, do B (“B” usually involving rolling the black die to add walkers to the board). The event cards that don’t have two phrases typically cause even worse things to happen. The event cards emphasize how the leader and non-leaders’ movement decisions will greatly impact the outcome.
After event cards have been dealt out the player turns begin, starting with the leader and moving around clockwise.
As the leader you get to move each player one space, or leave them where they are. This movement is based HIGHLY on what event cards you’ve been dealt as the leader, but also what event cards other players were dealt.
After moving the survivors the leader may draw a resource card from the location their survivor is on, trade (give and/or receive) one item with a survivor at their location and then must play both of their event cards (in the order they choose).
Going clockwise from the leader, non-leaders will take their turn.
Non-leaders can’t move unless they choose to “Defy the Leader.” To do this they discard one food token and can then move one space. This is useful if they don’t like where the leader moved them. Or, if they coordinated this with the leader, it could essentially allow them to move two spaces in one turn (note that you can’t move diagonally)
After choosing to stay or defy, the non-leader may draw a resource card from the location their survivor is on, trade one item with a survivor at their location and then must play one of their event cards (discarding the other).
Fight the walkers
Once each player has taken their turn it’s time for the survivors to take down as many walkers as they can. Survivors can only attack the walkers that are on their location, and must choose whether to combine their attacks (ranged weapons only) or take them separately. Rule of thumb: 2+ guns are always better than one!
Combat is simple. You choose a weapon (if it’s a ranged weapon you will need to discard one ammo token from it), roll the number of white die based on the number shown on the combat dice symbol, and the total makes up your Combat Points. For every 5 combat points, one walker is removed. If you decided to combine attacks, both players must attack, even if after one player’s roll all the walkers are gone.
End the round
If there are still walkers left after the combat phase, they each do one damage. If there are survivors on their location, the survivors must divvy up the damage. If there aren’t any survivors on their location (or there is damage left over after the survivor(s) have died) they damage the resource deck by discarding one card per damage. This means your group can’t just hang out on a couple locations and let the others get overwhelmed by walkers because they’ll quickly deplete the resources causing you to lose the game. (ie: 8 walkers on a location would deplete a full resource deck in just three rounds!)
If all your survivors are still alive and no resource piles have been depleted, your group has survived the round! Move the round marker up, move the leadership token to the next player (clockwise) and keep surviving until you’ve made it to the winning space.
Cryptozoic has really done a great job with the entire package. The box insert is textured with black felt and includes spots for all the components. The character cards are actually thick boards which is a nice edition. The graphic design and photography used does a great job of pulling you into the world of The Walking Dead. If you’re a fan of the TV series you’ll “eat this game up!” (sorry, had too)
Best Defense is very easy to learn and teach to others. There are even rules for solo mode which is a great way to take the game for a spin before teaching others how to play.
Who would enjoy this game?
The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense does an awesome job of letting players experience the “reality” of surviving as a team during a zombie apocalypse. Things don’t gradually get better, they get worse! In many zombie games players will gain resources and other items that make it much easier to overcome whatever challenges come next. The things you gain in Best Defense will only give you a little bit of an edge, and finding an awesome weapon will do you no good unless you’ve also got matching ammo on hand.
This isn’t a game like Pandemic or Flash Point: Fire Rescue where you save the day and live happily ever after. In Best Defense, IF you win, your survivors will probably be battered and bruised, some barely alive… your resources will be almost completely depleted, and the board will probably still have walkers all over it. The experience of winning could be compared to making your way through a zombie ridden building looking for resources, and barely making it out, closing the door behind you with a building still full of zombies (and maybe a survivor or two who didn’t make it out). Now don’t let this discourage you though. It’s the challenge of working together as a team to beat overwhelming odds that makes the game so fun.
The ulterior motive cards, though optional, add nicely to the theme. Yes, you’re a team working together… but you’re also a group of individuals from all walks of life, each with your own responsibilities for survival.
Like most licensed games, there is an extra level of immersion you’ll enjoy if you are a fan of the TV series. At the same time, you’ll still have just as much fun if you’ve never heard of The Walking Dead.
If you enjoy cooperative games, The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense offers a fresh experience worthy of your board game collection. It’s a game that will challenge you each round, and a fun test of team survival… even if you don’t survive!
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