Friday, October 26, 2012

Gravel & Gems: In the Dead by Jesse Petersen

Title: “In the Dead” by Jesse Petersen
Zombie Type: Romero-Style for the most part. Though very infectious with “Black Sludge” coming from them to infect others; they are dead and not just infected a la 28 days later.

Time of Setting: Varies with each short story, though most are at the outbreak.
Main Characters: Main characters vary with each story.

Synopsis: Jesse Petersen is known for the Living With The Dead series of Zombie Novels, which play on various popular books with titles like “Married with Zombies”, “Flip This Zombie”, and “Eat, Slay, Love”. Despite the titles they deal with a single set of characters, a couple who are in marriage counseling when the Zombie Apocalypse hit; thus the title of the first book. The others are their continuing adventures in the western USA after civilization has fallen. I’ll do more comprehensive reviews of them at another time.
     In this anthology-style book the author gives several short stories set in the LWTD universe but with new characters. Each short story deals with two people (usually a couple) dealing with the Zombie Apocalypse in one way or the other. Though many of the stories are at the beginning of the outbreak, a couple is set well afterwards.

     This book, while overall a good read, is not for people who get attached to characters or don’t like short stories. If you haven’t read Petersen’s other books you might feel a bit lost. Still, if you’re a fan of (mostly) outbreak stories and people whom are not Commandos dealing with zombies, this is a good book to look at. It’s listed as volume I, so I assume more will be in the offing. I believe its e-copy only at this time, but if any of my readers know if its available as hardcopy please let me know.
Rating: Four Head Shots out of five

Zombie Chow

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Survival, Horror, and Happy Endings?

     I've finished my first game of Two Hour Wargames' Colonial Adventures 19th century miniature rules, with a superior force of Zulus being badly handled by British Colonial Infantry with a field gun. Now its over and my game board is cleared, I'm going to try a game of ATZ using the Final Fade-Out rules. Or, at least the ones I like. ;)
     As I've done more reading, it occurs to me that in the Zombie novel genre there are many takes on "Survival Horror". Namely, some emphasize the survival aspect and others the Horror aspect. "Happy Endings", while rare, usually happen in the survivals and almost never in the horror books.
     So, I ask my blog readers the following. To you (be it book or game), which is more inportant in your Zombie Survival Horror and why? Are Happy Endings impossible in a "proper" ZSH?

Zombie Chow

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gravel and Gems: Rise Again by Ben Tripp


Rise Again by Ben Tripp
* Romero-style Shamblers, at least at first
* The story begins just prior to the outbreak, where we are introduced to the main character and a few supporting characters: * Main character is Danny Adelman, a small town sheriff in Southern California who is an Iraq veteran suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. Supporting characters are Patrick Michaels, a gay interior decorator with his own TV show; Wolf, the local bum who turns out to be a Vietnam vet (also suffering from PTSD);  Amy Cutter, the local veterinarian; others introduced as the book progresses.
* The story begins with Danielle “Danny”  Adelman’s teenage sister Kelley writing a note that implies suicide but is really a runaway note. She can’t stand how her sister’s PTSD is making home life impossible, and so she takes off with her sister’s classic mustang. Sheriff Danny Can’t pursue immediately as she’s covering the July 4th events in her hometown as sheriff. A lot of tourists are in town as well, so we meet Patrick and his boyfriend Weaver in their huge RV. While events proceed with the festivities, the outbreak begins!
         The book covers between 6 months to a year of the outbreak, and has some political undertones…as usual in many zombie novels. The main non-zombie antagonists are a private security firm called Hawkstone (re: Blackwater) that is used initially by the government to try to combat the outbreak because most of the US’s military is overseas. The villains are pretty stereotypical of bad military-types, but Tripp’s writing style makes up for this. Tripp’s also not afraid to kill off a few liekable characters along with lots of redshirts.
            WARNING! There is a major cliffhanger at the very end that is supposed to continue in the second book. This book isn’t out yet, but according to Ben Tripp’s blog he turned in the manuscript in July of this year so hopefully it’ll be out by the beginning of next year. If you hate cliffhangers, you might wait to read this until the second book is out.
            I really liked the book because as I noted in my original discussion of “Gravel & Gems” I don’t like superhero style main characters in zombie novels. Danny Is competent, and has a lot of good points, but in the end she is “damaged goods” and has her share of faults and mistakes. The other characters are interesting as well, especially Patrick the interior decorator. How many zombie novels do you read about such a guy trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse? Not many I’ll warrant!

            I give Ben Tripp’s Rise Again five head shots out of five! Ok, I know I said I'd give 1-10 grades, but since I started listening to Mail Order Zombies again I'm going to steal their "Head Shots" grade of 1-5. ;)
Zombie Chow

Monday, October 15, 2012

All Things Zombie: Final Fade-out Quick Review

      I finished a full read of the All Things Zombie: Final Fade-out rules and overall I must say I like them. There are some things I liked, some I didn’t, and others I’m “Meh” about.

      One thing that is readily apparent is that the explanations are much clearer, a multitude of examples are given, and there are almost too many page number references provided. At the end of major rules explanation a “Stop!” sign is placed along with suggested quick-games to try out that particular rule directly so you get the hang of it before reading onward. There’s also a quick review-style list that reprints an outline of the major points covered in the prior text. This alone is IMO worth the price of the new book!

      As a quick list I provide the following:


What I Like:

* The idea of “Star Power”, where a star character can roll dice to reduce damage or negative effects.

* Now the Reputation score is used for most successes instead of 1-3

* Firearms seem to be easier to use in killing zombies.

* The Challenges description is clearer and more detailed.

* Vehicles now move even when driver is not active.

* There are now more starting zombies on the board

* I also like how zombies now are rep 3 except when in LOS of a human; and then they are Rep 4 for Activation only.

* I do like the rule that zombies can shrug off Impact 1 damage, more cinematic.

* There are now actual rules now for an infected figure becoming a zombie during game play instead of after an encounter.

* Good rules are given for gas siphoning/Fuel resource gain.

* There are more campaign-style rules, and more tables for events and encounters. I especially like the inclusion of attacks on a group’s safe houses and vehicles.

* There are new random events, some are reprinted but others new such as figure twists ankle, grunt wanders off, etc.

* Generating building contents is a lot more streamlined and understandable.


What I Don’t Like:

* Insight checks are now by figure instead of by group.

* You cannot play a Police/Military class anymore, only Citizen to either Ganger or Survivor.

* Some attributes like “wuss” left out.

* Grenades no longer included.

* The sentence “Here’s how we do it.” is repeated constantly…. while I can see the necessity at times it gets old when reading.

* Zombie surprise system seems clunky, and I’m not sure adds much to the game.

* The “Cheating Death” rule should require a loss of items for the star figure.

* The Adrenaline rules I don’t like as they are portrayed as an advantage. Excessive Adrenaline can be as much of a bane as a boon, penalizing aim, attention, and the inevitable crash afterward.

* Some of the random events like Lost Children, etc. are missing but they are in ATZ Haven so I guess it’s not a big deal.


What I’m Unsure About:

* Melee might not work as well as the BDTZ version.

* Leaving table edge not automatic

* The new method of generating zombie locations (using a clock face) seems better but I’m not sure it’ll make much difference.

* The “Items” system seems an expansion of the IZ barter system. It seems simple enough, but we’ll have to see how it plays.


      The only other points I’ll mention in detail are the PEFs system and the Meet & Greet. PEFs are resolved slightly differently, but not so different that I think it’ll throw off people. Generating them is easier though, and it gives the option to “Load” your PEFs with groups at need. I have an idea that the Loading system might be a donation of Vampifan’s; and IMO it’s very nice! Keeps a cinematic/literary feel to the game with recurring villains. Like the PEFs, the Meet & Greet system is a little different too but again not sure its different enough to impact play much.

      I do miss the inclusion of the earlier scenarios such as the ATM trip and the kids’ chase. There is a free pdf Day 1 download but I wish these had been retained in FFO.

      The Quick Reference charts seem to vary a bit from the descriptions in the text, so you have a choice of which to use I guess. I don’t know if the pre-generated characters will be useful or not, but I applaud the inclusion of them. Better to have and not need, etc.; though if the BDTZ scenarios were removed to make room for them I think they weren’t a good trade.



All in All, I give All Things Zombie: Final Fade-Out 4 Head Shots out of 5, as the Mail Order Zombie Podcast grades things!


Zombie Chow

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oh yeah, almost forgot

ATZ: Final Fade-Out is now for sale, and while the hardcopy isn't here yet I've got the pdf and am about 1/4 into it. Many changes I like, especially ranged combat which makes it better to shoot zombies instead of meleeing them. Other changes I don't like such as Insight now for each figure instead of groups...but so far I'm happy with the product. I'll talk more about it when I'm finished with the book.
Oh yeah, and a short-story is now available on Those Who Remain Journal...a flashback interlude to the morning of day 2. Its at:

Zombie Chow

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Reviews: My viewpoint

To give people an idea of where I'm coming from in my preferred choice of novels I give the following brief breakdown:
1. I like books that start either at the beginning of the outbreak, or shortly before. I'm not a big fan of starting after everything's collapsed, unless there are a lot of flashbacks to the beginning of the event.
2. I like George Romero style zombies. Not a big rager fan, nor of "infection"-style Zombie Apocalypses. It has to be REALLY good for me to like a book in spite of this.
3. I hate the main character(s) being ex SEALs, Green Berets, or from Special Zombie Squad X. I prefer reading about average people put into sudden crisis with the end of the world. Police and/or National Guard aren't necessarily in the first category; it all depends on their portrayal.
4. I do not like a Zombie Rise where nobody seems to know what a zombie is. In our culture, it's silly. It's like doing a vampire or werewolf in a modern setting but nobody has a clue about garlic, wooden stakes, crosses, Wolvesbane, or silver bullets. Now, they may not work as claimed, but the general knowledge should be there! Such will damage my suspension of disbelief in the story.
* * *
Ok, now that's over I'll list my planned categories for synopses. There WILL occasionally be spoilers, but if there is I will try and mark them ahead of time so the reader is forewarned.
1. The name and Author of the book
2. The type of Zombies
3. The time period of the Zombie Apocalypse
4. A list of the main character(s) and a few words about jobs and personality.
5. A brief synopses of the story, with an effort to avoid spoilers if possible. If not, it'll be tagged ahead of time.
6. My grade of the book, with the understanding of my own personal prejudices as noted above. Grade will be 1-10 with 10 being a Must Read and 1 being an "avoid at all cost!"

Zombie Chow