The Gauntlett
The Gory Glory of All Flesh Must Be Eaten

Adam Gauntlett | 27 Feb 2015 17:00
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How different? Well, let's take those Wild West gunslingers. Sure, you could play in a zombie version of spaghetti westerns, like A Fistful of Dollars. That's the fairly obvious, Red Dead Redemption-esque route, but what if you wanted to do a Gene Autry, singing cowboy zombie story? A Maverick-style Mississippi riverboat zombie story? Play during the Alaska Gold Rush, as a Buffalo Solider, or a Sioux veteran of Little Big Horn? Not a problem, and if you come up with some other Deadworld you'd like to take a shot at, AFMBE can take you there, too.

"To me, a zombie movie has very little to do with zombies," says Jurkat. "Zombies are the relentless background presence and pressure that causes all sorts of human characteristics, emotions, failings, and strengths to be tested." That's pretty much the ethos of AFMBE in a nutshell. There are zombies, sure, but the story isn't just about zombies. It's about the survivors, the world they live in, and what they're prepared to do in order to save it. Or just to save themselves.

AFMBE is probably the best-known of all of Eden's properties, but its success wasn't inevitable; in fact, when Vasilakos first proposed a zombie apocalypse game, he was met with groans and moans. Eden already had a lot of other products in the pipeline, and not enough warm bodies to tackle all the work. Vasilakos was the game's only cheerleader; for a while, Jurkat was implacably opposed.

"Once I saw how committed George was to making the game happen," says Jurkat, "Regardless of what other work was already on the Eden plate, and saw the quality work that everyone was producing, I joined in." It was a decision he never regretted, particularly from a business standpoint. "Other than a few years of Buffy sales, AFMBE has consistently been Eden's most popular product."

Do zombie game designers make good survivalists? Alas, no, says Jurkat. "It always comes up when [my wife] brings home a grocery-shop load of canned/dry goods, batteries, or utility supplies. I say 'Prepping for the zombie apocalypse?' and she just shakes her head, saying 'We are soooo toast.'"

Is AFMBE a title you should seek out? If you're a zombie fan, definitely. You may prefer it as a short-term break in between longer sessions of something else. It may not be a title suited for long-term play; ultimately, the last character is going to go down kicking and screaming, under a pile of dead meat. That's kind of the point of the zombie story, after all. You survive as best you can, until you don't.

Yet there's something to be said for the Walking Dead style lengthy zombie drama, as an RPG campaign. "There should be no ending to a zombie story," says Jurkat, "Just as there can be no ending to the threat of death." Whether that means opting for a Clementine-esque, against the odds kind of tale, or more of a battle-hardened leader saga, or something in between is entirely up to you.

As to what you do with your zombies once you've bought the book, that's also your shout. Nobody's judging here, and Eden's put out enough sourcebooks that you should be able to find the zombie apocalypse you've been looking for all your life. Maybe you think Hong Kong action with Triads galore is the way to go, maybe gritty Pulp superheroes like the Sandman versus supernatural horror, or maybe you'd rather set this during World War Two, or ... you get the idea. Pick your poison. Eden's almost certainly published at least one supplement for AFMBE that's going to become your go-to for zombie drama.

Just hold out for as long as possible. Survive. You won't win - winning may not even be the point - but how you get through the apocalypse says a lot about who you are, and what kind of world you want to build, when everything else has gone to hell.

Or maybe not. "Our plan is to have a party," says Jurkat. "Use up our supplies, and succumb to the inevitable as soon as possible. Hopefully, we can hold off the zombie apocalypse for another 20-40 years, by which time we'll be dead or safely inhabiting our robotic bodies."

Just remember, if the worst happens, and you don't feel you can take care of it yourself, call the telephone number on the side of the container. The Army will take care of the rest. Good luck!

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