Training for the End Times: An Outbreak Undead 2nd Edition Review
  • Training for the End Times: An Outbreak Undead 2nd Edition Review


    Sure you may have seen all the films and watched the shows and maybe even played the games, but has any of that prepared you for the time when the undead come for your brains? No worry friend, Renegade Game Studio and Hunters Entertainment have you covered.

    Outbreak Undead 2nd Edition is designed by Christopher J. De La Rosa and is the next iteration of a game whose first edition won a Judges Spotlight Award at the 2011 ENnies. This simulationist game takes the players into an apocalyptic world with zombies where society has broken down, leaving players to fend for themselves. Characters struggle each day to survive and rebuild communities.

    Aesthetics

    Outbreak: Undead is a beautiful book oft 239 pages, including appendices and index. Artwork ranges from b&w sketches, to sepia tone images, and full color art scattered among the rules. All the artwork has a faded or washed out look to it that evokes a desolate feel. The book is designed to appear as a notebook adding to the overall immersion of the product. Page numbers are easy to read but the large amount of content in the book is crammed in, much as a notebook would be. This can make finding information difficult and the flow of the book is not as easy to follow as you might need. Everything is readable though and the contrast helps, even for old gamer eyes.

    Mechanics

    Skill checks are made by using d% or d100 (2 d10s) rolling against the character's skills. OU2 uses d6 dice as d5!, where the color coded dice represent Damage, Depletion, Difficulty, and Speed. Attributes are broken down into Strength, Perception, Empathy, and Willpower. Together these are known as S.P.E.W., which I think is a clever piece of mechanical nomenclature.

    The rules come in several flavors, with Arcade being the most basic and necessary set of rules to play the game. Weekend Warrior and Survivalist are optional rules that ratchet up the level of survival-horror in your game. These are color coded as is much of the information in the game. It makes it easier to find the appropriate rules. OU2 has a number of optional components including an extensive card system that can be attached to the game for more depth.

    Skill checks are the primary means of attempting actions in the game. As in many d100 or percentile games, rolling a number equal to or under the skill’s number gives a Degree of Success. Rolling over gives a Degree of Failure. A complex layer of calculations determine the ultimate resolution of any action, of course depending on what level of rules your group chooses to play with.

    Impressions

    The designer makes no bones that Outbreak: Undead is a simulationist game. If you are unfamiliar with the term, in essence it means the game attempts a degree of realism as a mode and intention of play; the game attempts to model reality as much as it can. This notion is so baked into the rules and play that the designers also warn that some ideas could trigger unpleasant and unintended circumstances in players. A game like OU2 may come as a shock to players unfamiliar with this level of complexity and simulation and it may be anathema to some. My impression is that playing with the optional cards make the game easier and more accessible, but being optional there is of course a cost to them. Anyone wishing to dive into Outbreak: Undead should be aware of just how deep this game can go even at its most basic level.

    My primary critique of Outbreak: Undead is all the information may seem overwhelming. It is crammed into the pages, often confusingly, and a more organized layout would make information easier to follow. All that said, I definitely think the game will reward those groups looking for a deep dive and who want their survival-horror to have teeth and consequences.

    This article was contributed by Sean Hillman (SMHWorlds) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Schmoe's Avatar
      Schmoe -
      Thanks for this. Nice review.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Good review. I've looked at this a few times at my FLGS and had a similar reaction to the layout, color, and typesetting: it presents a neat visual, but in some places it's overwhelms functionality as a book. I like the simulationist take on survival horror, too, in theory - if you've got a group that's into that, and trying to not only make it through an encounter but really survive over time, this could be a good game.
    1. gorillaboss's Avatar
      gorillaboss -
      I had the first edition, and found the system utterly broken (when it wasn't outright incomprehensible).

      Is it actually playable this time around?
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