In 2011, Z-Man Games partnered with Skybound to produce a board game based on Robert Kirkman‘s “The Walking Dead”. With Kirkman’s direction, and artwork from the best-selling comic (as well as some original illustrations by long-time series artist Charlie Adlard) it allowed fans to play out their own zombie apocalypse scenario by exploring, collecting items, partnering with other survivors, and of course fighting off hordes of the undead.
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A follow-up to “The Walking Dead: The Board Game” is now in its final stages of development, which takes players to a familiar battleground: the infamous prison, which made its first appearance in “The Walking Dead” #12. “The Walking Dead: The Prison” retains many of the same gameplay dynamics as the original, and adds a few new ones: a unique feature is that the rules allow it to be used as an expansion of the original, which effectively doubles the size and scope of the game; players will have the option to search the wide-open spaces of North Atlanta, as well as the more claustrophobic confines of West Central Prison — and this time, even more power will be placed into the players’ hands by putting the board game directly on Kickstarter with a funding goal of $81,100 for a drive that ends April 2.
CBR News had a chance to speak with game designer Keith Tralins, who gave me an exclusive sneak-peek of the new game, as well as some details about the gameplay, Robert Kirkman’s involvement and the details of the Kickstarter drive and its unique rewards.
CBR News: Keith, give us a little background on the original “The Walking Dead: The Board Game.” How did this project initially come about?
Keith Tralins: Way back in 2009, we were thinking about what our next game was going to be. We were having a lot of success with our “Twilight” board game, and we wanted to do something that had as passionate a fan base and had not been done before. “The Walking Dead” was at the top of our list, as we were all huge fans of the book, and so began a year-long quest to land it.
We knew we had a great concept, and we were fortunate to meet the right people at the right time, not the least of which was one of the biggest coincidental midnight drinking sessions I ever had at San Diego Comic Con. Thank you, Joe Epstein and Lee Rosenbaum!
What has Robert Kirkman’s involvement been during the process of creating the game?
Simply put, Skybound is the best partner you could ever hope for. They give us a lot a room creatively. They trust us, which is liberating, and they are really good about keeping us on track.
We’ve worked really hard these past few years to earn that trust, and demonstrate that we understand the narrative and will remain faithful to the world Robert Kirkman has built — after all, if we weren’t going to do that, why would we do the game? It’s that’s allowed us to push the envelope here. So it’s been mostly an incredible amount of support and cheering us on, which is really inspiring.
What can you tell us about the changes between the original “The Walking Dead: The Board Game,” and the new version set inside the prison? Are the rules going to remain more or less uniform, or are there some new wrinkles in the game play?
We wanted to create a game that shared the DNA of the first game, but could stand on its own. We took our inspiration from the story, because, well, that’s where it should always come from. It’s gold. So while the first movement of the story — and the first game — was a sweeping epic of trying to just survive in the first days and weeks after the tragedy. The next chapter really gets into the politics and personal relationships of the characters.
It’s about learning how to survive together, as opposed to just survive. So while some of the rules are the same — movement is similar, zombie combat is largely the same, encounters and resources interact much the same way — the goal of the game has shifted. The goal is to become the leader of the survivors by gaining the most Leadership Points, which are earned by killing zombies, completing adventures and securing areas of the prison.
It’s a bit more tactical than the first game. It will be easy for new players to learn, and really intuitive for anyone who played the first game.
Board game fanatics are never shy about sharing their feelings, especially when it comes to their most and least favorite aspects of a game. Have you been reviewing user feedback, and how has it shaped the new game?
Feedback is tricky, because there is a lot of criticism — positive and negative — that’s not necessarily constructive. We do review feedback, especially when we’re contacted directly through our website and have a lot of good direction and change generated by the questions we’ve received.
It’s also really impacted the Kickstarter campaign, and some of the things we’re offering as stretch goals and add-ons.
For a third installment of “The Walking Dead Board Game,” can fans expect a trip to Woodbury?
Well, I will say this: our plan is to create games in tandem with the story arcs, matching the narrative of the comic books. And becoming the leader of the survivors will have an impact in the next game. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!
With the Kickstarter campaign for “The Walking Dead: The Prison,” fans will get the chance to purchase the game before it hits shelves. What else can they expect in terms of Kickstarter-exclusive incentives?
My personal favorite is the custom Starting Characters we’re offering. We created four “blank” characters, and we’re offering the opportunity to have your pick of them with either your name, or your name and picture, on them. So it’s your chance for you and your gaming buddies to get in the game.
We also have some exclusive game accessories; stretch goals include adding Dexter and Shane as Starting Characters, and a larger set of Encounter cards; and at the high end, you can get zombies and followers in the game named after you.
Of course, we also have a few surprises for later in the campaign that I’m really hoping to reveal soon.
The Kickstarter campaign for “The Walking Dead: The Prison” ends April 2.
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