Lets kick off 2016...

...with a long over due review.

This is a very long and dry post, so hopefully the handful of people that still follow or read my blog will take the time to read the detail, as the rules are worth taking a bit of time to learn about.

Image borrowed from the internet without permission - sorry. 

Initial review of 'Skirmish Outbreak" by Colin Phillips & Chris Pooch

Ok, this review is based on reading the rules over a few times, but not actually playing them.  A review of how the game plays will follow.

The rules can be broken into a logical sequence making it easy to follow and find a section to re-read as needed.

 After a one page introduction as to why the authors created the rules, a small section on game mythos follows, explaining the whys and wherefores to the background of the game setting, explains zombies and how they act in the game, with a note on dice rolls at the end of the section.
 Although this section is only three pages long, I wouldn't skip over it, as lets you know some useful information for the game.

Edit - dice used in the game are d20, d10 and d6. The d6 will also need to double as a d3 if you can't buy and actual d3.

The Game Turn
The Turn Sequence is explained next, with a description on the order players take make their figure/character activations and how and when a game turn ends.
 A good amount of detail has gone in to explaining the Turn Sequence: a quick summary with an explanation and an example, followed by a detailed explanation with activation point cost and a detailed example.
 Each player, be they controlling survivors or zombies, has a number of activation points to spend in total for each turn, and depending on what type of action as to how many activation points it costs to perform.

The next section is the all important part of the game; creating survivors.

 Survivors have a character sheet with all the information needed for a game recorded on it.  The information is not overwhelming and easy to pick up as you read the rules.  Once play starts the important details are found on the character sheet, and only the quick reference sheets should be needed after a game or two has been played to learn the rules.

Each survivor has skills and equipments, and is based on an experience level that reflects the skills of such a survivor type and the point cost of that survivor.

Following this basic survivor creation is an advanced experience packages section to help flesh out your survivors and add a bit more colour to the character.

At the end of the survivor creation section is an optional creation method that give random weapons and armour to your survivors.


After survivor creation comes the most important part of actual game play - combat.

A lot of thought has gone in to the combat section and it covers virtually all bases for game play. The system is simple - make a die roll vs a target number with modifiers applied. Roll equal to or less than to hit.
 The combat section covers spotting (no need to groan - if a target is in the open they are automatically spotted, so no need for dice rolls or anything to slow the game down... unless the target is in some form of cover), cover, shooting, wounds, grenades and melee.

 All of the rules are written clearly, so no need to tax your brain to learn the system.

 Yes, there is a section on morale, but you only need to worry about morale for three reasons, and it does prevent players from adopting an god like control of their survivors. Just don't let too many zombies get close to your survivors if you want to make a stand. Being behind cover is highly recommended.

The Living Dead

As this is a zombie game, this section is rather important, as it explains how to create a zombie hoard, how they react to the world around them (be quiet, be very very quiet...) as well as zombie combat.

Campaign play & Experience

This is the part I love in games the most - campaign play.  Why spend lots of time and money collecting survivors, zombies and scenery if you are only going to use them once or twice?

This section covers how the survivors in your group met, which is random and adds some great background story to your group, putting together a survivor band and how they gather survival and resource points, which are the objectives needed in order to successfully complete a scenario or mission.

The Experience section explains how to improve the lot of band of survivors, should they live long enough.

Starting The Campaign

A fairly detailed section, the Starting the Campaign has details of scenarios and what is needed to set up the game and the victory conditions.

Game Controlled Zombies

This is simply the rules needed to play solo or co-operative games of Skirmish Outbreak. Very straight forward and there is no need to slow the game down making endless dice rolls to see what happens.  Just follow the guide lines and play the game.

Appendix A

 Gives a set of rules to play your stereotypical slow zombie if you don't agree with the mythos outlined at the start of the rule book.

QRS - Quick Reference Sheets

 Everything you need to refer to when you are playing the game - either book mark this section or download the free PDF files from the Skirmish Outbreak site to print out copies for everyone playing.

This covers the basic review of the rules.

My Thoughts

Initially I was against the idea of fast zombies, which is part of the mythos, but as they are not very common I have changed my mind. It kind of makes you more careful of your survivors during a game.

I have never been a fan of action points as some of the rules I have require you to micro manage a figure using action points to the level it becomes tedious.

 Skirmish Outbreak is an exception to this - you don't have to worry about an overwhelming list of what you can spend your action points on, leaving you to worry how to spend them wisely.

 My initial response to activation points was mixed, but the system is simple enough that it won't bog down play and it is easy to use.

Creating a survivor is easy and very straight forward. I don't really have any complaints, but it would have been nice to see a bit more background/occupation list for making different survivors. For example I would love to play the game using a section/brick of military types, but the rules have the advanced experience packages that would allow my to do this, or add my own or renaming some of the packs to reflect a military setting.

  This is not a big problem, as it will be easy enough to come up with something myself.

I would love to reverse engineer the point system used to create survivors, as I feel the rules would be great for fantasy dungeon bashing games as well as a few different settings - with our without zombies.

Combat is very straight forward, and it is possible to kill a zombie if you roll high enough on your damage dice without the need to target the head.. although you can do this if you spend the action points. This means you don't need to stress out on needing to roll a special target number to cull the beasts during a game, unlike many other zombie games I have played.

Morale only comes in to the game under three circumstances and keeps the players honest. It is a simple enough system and isn't a game killer if you fail a morale test, but can be a game changer by limiting your options a little.

The campaign section is about the only section that leaves me asking some questions, but I will join and visit the Skirmish Outbreak section of the author's forum to ask those questions.  Basically there is a chart to determine your next scenario if you fail to reach the victory conditions, but no guidance as to what the next game should you win the game.

 I feel confident that I can come up with something for winning a game with very little effort - be it a 'choose your next scenario' option or some advanced scenarios.

Overall I like the rules very much - they don't hurt your brain to learn them, and unlike many other rules, didn't leave me asking questions about things that were left out or contradicting rules with in the game.

The rules are suitable for beginners in zombie wargaming and offer a lot for the more experience player.

As mentioned I think the rules would be great with a bit of tinkering for fantasy skirmish games, as well as other historical settings, such as horse and musket (the French and Indian war or Napoleonic for example), Dark Ages/Medieval (Robin Hood comes to mind), Steam Punk (I could resurrect my Steam punk collection), maybe Vietnam wargaming and even science fiction games (post apocalyptic).

Finally... an apology

I had meant to do this review much sooner than I have.  The last half of 2015 wasn't the kindest to me.  I had a minor operation in August, caught a bad dose of the man flu three times, went away with my "part time" job and was sent to hospital instead whilst away, came home and had to catch up on a lot of work, and then two weeks before Christmas I caught a bug/virus that sent me for 'six' leaving me wondering if I had caught a zombie virus and I almost missed out on Christmas because of it.
 Once Xmas was over I was helping the Mrs prepare for the Japanese New Year celebrations which are bigger than Ben-Hur.

A big Thank You

Last of all, thank you to Colin Phillips & Chris Pooch for sending me a copy of the rules to review.  Without their kindness I doubt I would have been able to play the game due to having a tight budget due to various reasons.

 If Skirmish Outbreak sounds interesting please order a copy - they even have the rules in  PDF form that will save on postage.

You can buy the rules and view other items for sale, as well as access the forum here


colinmnash said...

Good to see a post - and such a good post! - from you Shelldrake

I'm going to head over to there site & get a copy right now having read this - thanks v much for the review!

colinmnash said...

Meant to include this ... You don't mention what dice are used - is it a d6, d10 or other dice system?

Simon Quinton said...

Hope your now on the mend mate. Nice review of the rules.

Shelldrake said...

Good pick up CM - the game uses d20, d10 and d6. The d6 will also need to double as a d3 if you can't buy and actual d3.

Zabadak said...

I was intrigued by this set of rules' reviews the first time I came across them and I'm liking them even more so now. Many thanks for this Shelldrake