When I’m at GenCon I always make a point to pick up some of the new games from new companies. You never know when some new company might emerge as a big contender in the industry. So I purchased a copy of Radio Dishdash publishing’s premiere game – Skirmish Outbreak. Plain and simple – this is a game where you kill zombies. Let’s face it, that’s all we really want, right?
Skirmish Outbreak is a miniatures combat game with some role-playing elements toss in. It’s got RPG feel, which is kind of neat. In some respects, it targets where Zombicide starts. Where Zombicide is limited to the board, Skirmish Outbreak allows you to come up with a lot of new environments to play in. I playtested it using my Zombicide models, which worked just fine.
There are two types of Zombies in the game. First are the Zeds, which are akin to Walkers. Slow, moaning, Night of the Living Dead-ish. Then there are Ragers, which come at you sprinting and frothing at the mouth. Zed’s are slow moving targets. Ragers are meat-torpedoes that come at you with the intent of killing or infecting you.
You form a Survivor Band in the game of different mixes of characters: Civilian, Youth, Average Joe, Professional, and Elite. These have skills which will help you. You can enhance some of your characters with “packages” of capabilities such as The Hero, The Dictator, Doc, Zombie Hunter, Old and Wise, Bow Hunter, Unhinged (read: “crazy”), Big and Strong, Not So Sweet, Gunslinger, Kung Fu Master, Don’t Go Down Easy, Stealthy, or Loner). In these respects, building your band has a RPG feel to it which I liked. Combining these with the types of characters, and you can really get some interesting combos.
In gameplay, you roll to get Action Points that you can spend on actions. You can dump them into one character (Move, Aim, and Shoot for example) or spread them out. It’s a nice mechanic and as the undead close in, can force some difficult decisions.
Combat is straight forward and relatively fast. The key is the Spotting skill. You have to be able to spot a zombie or another human in order to kill it. In the open – it’s automatic. Not so much so when there is impeding terrain. In my playtest of the system I found that the zombies (run by a Zombie Controller or ZC) can get in pretty damned close if the ZC is crafty. If you miss some spotting rolls you can find yourself dealing with the enemy at pretty close range. The rules are set up as well so that different bands can not only fight the zombies, but themselves. This presents some fun opportunities for convention events.
Like Zombicide, noise plays a factor. It attracts zombies and can lead to the spawning of more zombies.
You don’t get a lot of variety of weapons in the game, but this isn’t a true RPG – so that’s cool. The rules don’t handle explosions or full auto fire great – it’s more abstract, but that’s good because it keeps the games moving.
Missing were vehicle rules which is a little disappointing since some of the photos in the rulebook show vehicles.
Overall, the gameplay is pretty fluid without a lot of record keeping which is a big plus. It’s all fun and games killing Zeds until one of the characters gets infected and becomes a Rager. Things can go downhill pretty fast. You don’t need a lot of space to play either, a 2×2 board with some terrain can suffice.
There are rules for solo play and morale too. Morale is important because it can shatter your best-laid plans. I suggest a rule to make a morale check when you see someone else fail a morale check. This allows a cascade of fear and panic to erupt. The rules really don’t provide for recovering morale, simply effects of morale. While simple, there is a lot of possibilities for leaders to rally frightened zombie-killers here. Maybe in future editions…
When I was at GenCon they had a whole line of miniatures for the game. I didn’t check these out but it’s good that they have supported it with some minis.
The cost of the game is steep. The 92 page softcover is $35.00 US. The artwork, while expected, is not exceptional. I would have preferred to have just the rules and a lower cost. Line drawings of the dead just aren’t needed for a miniatures game. Their PDF version is $15 which is a much better deal.
I give Skirmish Outbreak between 3.5 and 4 stars. It would have been a solid four if not for the price. While it isn’t a homerun product, the game is very solid and fast to play which is a strong plus. None of us are clamoring for a Flames of War Zombie game.