The Walking Dead: Call to Arms from Mantic Games released in July and since then I’ve played about a dozen games. It is a great time and a good contrast to All Out War. But how do the two rulesets compare? This has been a hot topic on Facebook groups for a while now. In this article I’ll do my best to compare the two rulesets and give you an idea of what they’re like, as well as offer my opinion on how the differences stack up.
Traditional All Out War player vs player games were a warband-size affair, likely around 5-6 models. Call to Arms can be played at this level, but has been built for tournament play and streamlined, so I imagine players will want to play at a higher level. At 400 points with The Saviors I’m usually looking at about 10 models with equipment. At 400 points you need 25+ walkers to use on the board.
The traditional All Out War board is 20″x20″. Call To Arms is played on a 20″x40″ board. The good part about this is you can just use your All Out War mats to make this board. There are scenery points in CTA just like there are in AOW – the terrain density is just like AOW.
Components (Cards, Tokens, etc)
Call to Arms uses the same size character cards – something that pleased a lot of people, to be sure. I love the huge character cards with art and all the info on them. It also uses the same “mini” size cards for the equipment. There aren’t any other cards involved.
I do appreciate that the Call To War cards have miniature photos instead of art. I love the art, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many characters sometimes it is hard to figure out which mini is which.
There aren’t any tokens yet for Call to Arms. You’ll need something to track ‘activated’ status for both survivors and walkers. There are health markers for each card included with the card sets – they’re like little paper clips. Out of Ammo markers will be needed as well. Lots of these tokens can be found in the Here’s Negan box set or the original All Out War set.
The good news for Walking Dead fans is that the main mechanics of the rules remain similar. Call to Arms is all about faction vs factions, as opposed to factions vs walkers, so that has caused some changes to how the game works.
The stats each survivor has are still different dice values, and they still have Melee, Shoot, Defense. Survivors can never roll more than 3 dice of the same color in a roll, which is different from All Out War. The yellow Panic Dice isn’t used in Call to Arms.
They have Health points and they’re relatively the same to AOW. The main differences for the actual characters is that each has a set of equipment (usually whatever they are modeled with) that is free to that character.
For instance, Rick has a hatchet and a 9mm pistol, just like his model. The stats for the items are included on his card, including attack dice, ranges, special rules, etc. Some models have other Options – for Rick, he can ride a Horse for +15 points. Each survivor can only have two melee weapons, one armor, one ranged weapon, and one special item. If they have an item on their card then that counts toward the limit.
Rick could exchange his 9mm Pistol for another ranged weapon, but he’d have to pay points for whatever he selects.
At the bottom of each characters card they’ll have a Strategy Points stat. This is an all-new mechanic for Call to Arms. This is from Rick’s card – if he’s the leader of your group, he rolls a Blue die at the start of the turn and you receive that many strategy points from him. If he’s not the leader, you roll a red and you receive that many. More on Strategy Points later.
Factions are pretty similar to All Out War, although many survivors have changed from a certain faction to be just followers (like some of the Governor’s survivors, for instance) so they can be taken by more than one faction. Alignment is a really cool new idea where survivors are either Lawful, Neutral, or Ruthless. Ruthless can ally with Neutral but not Lawful and vice versa. I love this idea, and I love the alignment names. Lots of survivors are neutral so you do end up getting a good variety.
Key Difference – Noise and Mayhem
Noise and Mayhem are still measured 10″, walkers still move when Noise or Mayhem happens (one walker for Noise, all eligible for Mayhem). The main difference is how Eligible walkers are defined. In All Out War, a walker could move all the way across the map in one turn from consecutive Noise or Mayhem actions. In Call to Arms, any time a walker moves it will get an Activation Counter and won’t move again unless there is a Survivor in it’s Kill Zone during the Walker phase.
There are some pros and cons to this. The pro is that it is more realistic. Walkers move the same number of times as survivors. The con is that it’s possible to game it – by shooting an RPG (noise from original location, mayhem where it lands) or other ways of drawing off tons of walkers and then not letting them move again.
I think, though, it really does reflect the different nature of this game. This game is based on factional warfare after the zombie threat hasn’t necessarily been contained or at all ended, but probably better understood. The survivors have been fighting for years and learned how to fight around the zombies. They know how to distract them and move them where they need them. They have herd leaders that move herds of zombies around.
Could it be better implemented? Likely. The specific RPG thing where an explosive causes walkers to move to that location (while in the story, it works like that) could be problematic.
There is also no Threat Tracker. In All Out War, there is a spinner that tracks up to 18, and when it gets there the game is done. This isn’t included in CtA. I get that it makes the game more frantic, but I think for a more competitive game you don’t want the game end to be based on how many times mayhem is created etc.
Game setup is very much the same. Groups are purchased with points and the game area is defined (although usually a 40″ by 20″ board, as opposed to 20″ by 20″). Objectives are still used and survivors pick up supply counters. Initiative is very similar in that it passes back and forth between rounds and tracks who gets to activate a model first.
Key Difference – Strategy Phase
This is totally different from All Out War. Leaders and other Survivors now generate strategy points (as detailed above) and you can use those points to give different benefits to your survivors. Common effects are rerolls, more actions, etc. Certain leaders have their own specific command abilities.
This is a welcome change and one that really adds a layer of strategy to the game. Being able to use resources to change your game results is much better than just throwing dice and hoping for the best.
The Action Phase
The Action Phase is still very similar. The list of actions is almost the same and you can’t perform the same action twice, just like AOW. There is a new Withdraw movement that allows you to try to get out of combat, but with consequences (great!).
Key Difference – Melee Attacks
Melee attacks now happen in the Action phase instead of at the end of the turn. This was always pretty confusing for a lot of people who played AOW with me. You could shoot in your activation, but melee attacks happen at the end of the turn? It was weird. I’m really glad they made this happen in the activation phase.
Melee fighting is still pretty much unchanged in terms of attack rolls, damage, outnumbering, etc.
In All Out War, the game reflected a period when the survivors were still grouping up and figuring things out. When you ran out of ammo, you ran out for good. In CTA, you still run out, but you just have to do a reload action to put ammo back in.
Key Difference – Supply Tokens and Scavenging
Supply cards aren’t used in CTA. This is one thing I do definitely miss. Getting extra supplies was a cool feeling. It is not as needed though, since you can reload with an action. It also speeds the game up and makes it more competitive – ie. less random grenade explosions or lurking walkers taking you out because of a card. Instead you just pick up the supply counter and put it on your card, usually counting it for points in the scenario.
There is also now a Shove! action that allows you to push Walkers off on a 50% chance. This allows you to do other things during your activation, whereas in AOW you’d just be stuck there until the melee phase.
The Walker Phase
The Walker Phase has some changes that allow the game to be more of a PVP experience. The Kill Zone step is just the same – check the kill zone of each walker then move them into contact.
Key Difference: Scenario Events
Instead of the event cards that caused different things to happen in AOW, we now have specific events that happen for each scenario. Sometimes each player rolls 1Blue die and move that many walkers on in a specific location, sometimes more supply counters are placed, etc. The key here is that these are defined by the scenario and they’re equal for both players.
I did like the event cards, but sometimes they could be so imbalancing for one player, or they didn’t make as much sense for the specific scenario. I’m really happy to still use them in co-op games of AOW, but glad we have something for use in PVP.
After Scenario Events, the Walkers will attack. This is very similar to AOW. Last, we Create Herds. This is a new rule for CTA that isn’t in AOW at all. We count up Walkers and if five are underneath a KZ template then we create a herd. They have better stats and act differently. This is very theme-y for the period reflected in the rules, as herds are a daily occurence and must be planned around.
The End Phase
The end phase is very similar – we still roll to raise up prone walkers, bitten survivors still try to stave off infection, and then we score points and check totals. Scenarios are a little different now in that the game doesn’t end on 18 threat – instead there are turn limits, usually four or five.
Scenery, horses, buildings etc are still virtually the same. Many of the Keywords from AOW have moved over to CTA virtually unchanged, some have different names.
Scenarios are different – they have more supply counters, usually, and you score for picking them up. Groups are sometimes split into different groups and deployed, as opposed to model by model. I’ve mentioned earlier about Scenario Events and length of game (they’re usually shorter and faster).
Many of the weapons and equipment pieces are almost unchanged from AOW. Here and there things changed to accommodate the different nature of the game, but if you’ve played a ton of AOW you’ll be familiar.
I think this ruleset is a welcome change for The Walking Dead. Many players have already collected a ton of models and played through the co-op elements. Tournaments can be run for this game easier because the scenarios and rules are more focused on PVP games.
One of the big things that has been missed I think especially on the Facebook groups has been the ease of getting new players into this particular ruleset. They can purchase a rulebook that has everything they need to know how to play and a set of cards for their faction. They can then get a group box and some dice and be ready to go. .
They don’t have to get all the event cards, scenario rules, etc. to play against someone else. They don’t have buy certain co-op boxes in order to get a piece of equipment they want.
I think this was missed mostly because so many people bought the huge Kickstarter collections and just didn’t think about how some hadn’t. While I have everything from buying retail, this will definitely make it easier to get people into the game.
I still will play AOW with family and friends. It isn’t going anywhere, I still have all the rules and cards, we just have a new way to play. I’m very excited for the future.