1 July 2018

Review: Last Days Zombie Apocalypse

When I learned of Last Days Zombie Apocalypse, in some part of the internet, I knew I had to pre-order it. Without having read or seen anything but the front page I expected it to be good. 

My mind was hyping for three reason from that front cover:

1. Osprey Games, hardback rulebook.

Osprey have already put out three great hardback rulebooks. Frostgrave (that I've played alot), Ghost Achipelago and Scrappers. I own all three books and I love the format of self-contained systems. The artwork, photographs and editing is good. These books are high quality products. 

2. Ash Barker, Guerrilla Miniature Games.

I've only seen three videoes from Ash Barker. One to familiarize myself with the Frostgrave rules after my first game, one to get the Scrappers rules after reading them and one for Last Days. But I know that Ash plays a lot of different games, and has some linked 'Let's Play' link in almost all Facebook game groups I'm active on. 

I figured he had to know something about what makes a fun game. 

3. Zombies

I love the post apocalyptic and zombie genres. Killer robots, nuclear wasteland, zombies, whatever - the apocalypse is a cool setting.

Pre-ordered the book when I could and just got it in through the door. Schools out, beer's cold, time to see if I'm over-hyped or if this is a good product. 

Time to write my first game review. I'll go through the different parts of the book, refer to my solo first play through and write a summary. Enjoy. 

... in the book that is. The foreword deserves a mention. The book is a 109 pages including index, 22 full art pages and so on. 87 pages with text. The foreword is three pages. 

Nearly 3,5 percent of the book is foreword. And it's a good read and well worth the space. Explaining both the inspiration and story behind the game, but more importantly some skirmish game design philosophy. Points set up from the authors huge experience with a lot of different game systems.
  1. Memorable Moments (the surprises in the game, the movie scene moments).
  2. Crackerjacks (rewards, treasure, something to gain)
  3. Ever-Afters (the campaign, the on-going story)
And designing the game, making sure that if an element is to be in the rules, it must do at least one of the above or not be in the game. That's interesting. This book is actually a 'kill your darlings' rewrite of the original, following the above. 

Considering point two for my self inflicted hype - I was ready to read the remainder of the book.

There's two different points to talking about layout of a rulebook. 'How good does it look?' and 'how well is the game organized'. 

How good does it look?
Amazing. It's just like I've come to expect a book from Osprey Games in this format. The font size is good to read and there's sufficient text on the pages. The reason I don't like the 'small blue books' from Osprey Games is the small font and crazy amount of data squashed into the pages. I've had several of these some rule systems and given them away - because I couldn't enjoy the book as an experience. 

Last Days has an easy to follow index, big red chapter titles and medium sub titles. The editor have made good use of all the photos and graphics, taking up space, to avoid new chapters or rules starting mid-page. A clever choice. 

The book has a lot of photos, all taken by the author and with his huge collection of models and terrain. Showing many different environments and possible scenarios fitting for the setting - without re-using photos opportunities. Comparing to Scrappers and Frostgrave (with excellent photos), but reusing more terrain and models.

There's 22 (if this math teacher can count) full page pieces of artwork. Lovely pieces, all telling a great story and showing characters. Characters not taking from zombie movies (that this book is heavily inspired by), but that would fit right in. A lof of these guys and girls I want to build from the different Warlord Games sprues I have lying around. 

Just take another look at that front cover. It's so full of stories. ... You just know that balled 'tough guy' wasn't for real. Standing with he back to a glass window. Goodbye mister, you're about to be grabbed, eaten or shot.

Well Organized?
We can all recall a couple of rulebooks that was a mess. Flipping back and forth, cannot find the rules, to many small boxes not marked in the index and so on. My worst example of this being Deadzone first edition - that book was a mess.

Last Days is completely straight forward. Go right on through it. The few times (upon first read through) you might want to flip, there's page references directly in the rules. Other than that, the book is made, so you can start reading, work out characters as you read, play a game - continue into a campaign. 

I don't think it can be made more streamlined than this. 

'Needed to play' → 'make survivors' →  'set up board' → 'how to play' (→ 'skill descriptions') → 'end of game' → 'campaigning'.

That's my hype point number 1 cleared as well.

Gangs and refuge
This part is all about zombie movie references and styles. An it hits the nail on the head - into the zombies skull. The game comes with three leader types Selfless Everyday Hero, Selfish Thug and Trained Professional.

Instantly bringing the thoughts to (for me, being to young for the orignal Romero) Tommy from Kadavermarch (Danish book), Negan of The Walking Dead and the officer of the soldiers in 28 Days Later.

Next up is recruiting survivors, fitting your leaders personality or being neutral. All based on fiction stereotypes. All the types would build of for zombie games anyway - but this saves a lot of time. There's no micro managing small gear, extra gadgets or rolling skills. Super simple start.

And the group needs a refuge. Again taking from fiction - the group will hold up in anything from a mall to a prison (... not much 'anything from').

There's five specific thing I want to mentioned about how the game plays.

Action Points
Players alternate taking actions with their models. The only way to go in a skirmish game, keep people in the game at all time. Each character (and zombie) have Action Point (AP). These are use for doing stuff. But it's an interesting take on the normal 'model may take two actions'.

By spending 1 AP a model may move 1". And that's the interesting point with AP over 'two actions'. Many games use 'this item gives -1 movement' or 'this halves movement'.

But in this system carrying a big gun not only prevents movement, it'll also prevent being picking up supplies, climbing, staying in overwatch etc. Action Points are good to have!

Lucky 7's
The characters have the usual skills for a game like this. But most tests in the game is made by rolling a d6, adding your stat and trying to beat 7. Making for a situations where you can end in impossible or certain dice rolls.

I've fired a few guns in my life and there is such a thing as an impossible shot and situations where I wouldn't miss.

I like this. And there's a reason this game doesn't need the '1 is always a fail, 6 is always a success'.

Every character creates noise. A lot of noise. You run, shoot, bark (dogs always makes noise - is so funny), fight - you generate noise. The more noise, the higher a chance for zombies (potentially a lot of zombies) will enter the game. Zombies will eat the nearest thing they can see (or move towards the noisiest thing they can't see).

Everytime you shoot, there's a higher chance they game will run out. You don't know when, the more you shoot, the higher the chance. And this will make for some more zombie movie moments - that gun will go out of ammo (or jam if you prefer) at some convenient time. And that character is already carrying loot, that doesn't leave a lot of AP for movement.

The Zombies
The stars of the show. Zombies are about as dangerous in combat and an unarmed human. But they have a chance to scare the survivors, making them unable to escape and keep the fighting (avoiding bites etc). Making room for more zombies and suddenly be in a very dangerous position.

You won't kill as many zombies in this game as The Walking Dead or Zombicide - these guys feel a bit more dangerous. And the survivors will die quickly.

Skirmish games begs for campaigning and for this Last Days seems to shine. After scenarios character might get new skills, new gear, improve the refuge or find new survivors. But they'll also take damage, get wounds, amputated limbs and get attacked by zombies at their home.

It's clearly a dangerous game. The survivors will die. It's not a matter of 'if', but 'when'. Levels are experience point expensive and will get harder to get all the time.

I've not played the game more than once. But from my experience with other games, Last Days seems balanced. There'll be no super soldiers in this game - they will get eaten, captured or left behind before that. So new players will have a much better chance in campaigns. Even the optional rules for ending the campaign is brutal.

And this whole dying part brings us to the end.

Final thoughts
Last days is clearly a labor of love for the zombie genre - there's no doubt about it. Everything in this game screams zombie movie. From the character creation to the way the game plays - it's meant to be a tribute to the great zombie movies. ... and zombie movies almost always end the same way.

This is not a bad thing. The author state this in the very beginning of the book. The story is not about making a thriving new civilization from the ashes (like The Walking Dead) - it's about surviving just one more day.

And having fun while doing it. The author is pointing out, multiple times through the book - that it's supposed to be fun, good game, great stories. It might not be to everyone's taste, to have an author doing the (doing a comment on my own book, in a paranthesis) - but I  think it's okay.

That's pretty much my first review done. And a review is supposed to end with some kind of score. I don't know have to score a game like this. So I made a test.

I've watched a 50 minute video 'Let's Play' and read the book once. Could I play a game against myself now? Or is it more complicated.

It's not. Last Days Zombie Apocalypse is simple. One read through and you're ready to play. The questions you'll have are easily answered in the book.

This is a great product.

If you like this review or have some relevant feedback, please share it with me. It was a fun write, so I'll do some more - so feedback is most welcome.

Also please considering dropping a like on my Facebook blogpage. You can check out my Walking Dead collection (used in the test game) here and my modern terrain collection here.


  1. Good review, fixing the typos and some awkward spots would make this from a good to awesome review IMO. Thanks for the review, and hope to be seeing some more stuff from ya around perhaps

    1. Cheers. I was done pretty late, and wanted to get it out to as fresh a book as possible.

      I'm Danish, and my writing reflects it. I'll try to find the mistakes.

    2. The only thing that stood out to me was this line is confusing (still not quite sure what you mean by it): "It might not be to everyone's taste, to have an author the (my comment in a paranthesis) - I think it's okay."