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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Mullin

Tabletop Review - Mutant: Year Zero - Zone Wars and Robots & Psionics Expansion


Developer: Free League Publishing

Publisher: Free League Publishing

Available on: the Free League Publishing website and your friendly local game store.

Review console: Tabletop Board Game


Make Your Mark in the Wasteland!


Welcome, Adventurers, to the Wasteland where Artifacts bring power, enemies bring danger, and survival is not guaranteed. In Mutant: Year Zero - Zone Wars and Mutant: Year Zero - Zone Wars Robots & Psionics you lead a band of wasteland warriors in their bid for power and survival. These games are fully compatible with the Mutant: Year Zero TTRPG or as a standalone game system. So, grab your favorite characters and play in solo mode, against a friend, or with up to four players with the Robots & Psionics expansion.



The Wasteland Beckons


You glance to your left and right, the steady breathing of your comrades steadies your nerves. You know they’re out there: Artifacts from the Ancients, powerful items that will establish your clan as the dominant power in the area. You also know you’re not the only one on the hunt. Acid rain clouds gather overhead as you motion to your band and step forward into the Wasteland.


In Mutant: Year Zero - Zone Wars you take control of either the Ark Mutants or the Genlab Tribe in the base game or the Mechatron Hive and the Nova Cult in the Robots & Psionics expansion. Each group has its own unique abilities and gameplay style which gives you tons of replayability as you fight your way toward victory.


The game ships with 10 high-quality miniatures, five for each band, 83 playing cards, 105 tokens, 10 custom dice, three full sheets of cardboard terrain, a measuring ruler, a rulebook, and a two-sided 36”x36” playmat. The Robots and Psionics expansion doubles the amount of assets you have at your disposal for even more game options. All the game pieces feel well made; each set of miniatures is its own color with plenty of paint-it-your-way potential and the cardboard terrain adds an amazing 3D element to the game that actually affects mechanics.



Now, I will admit that, even as a self-proclaimed tabletop game nerd, I am new to skirmish games. Zone Wars was my first foray into the genre, and it did so almost effortlessly. Punching out cardboard tokens and terrain is always very satisfying, and the rules are pretty simple. I *do* wish there was some sort of player guide and two rulers (if you get the Robots & Psionics expansion you get an extra ruler), but those are minor gripes. The setup was easy and enjoyable and the scenarios were fun and interesting. Oh! Last gripe: Robots & Psionics did not come with a complete rulebook, just the scenario book, making it purely an expansion. Keep in mind, that I have advance copies, so Free League may have changed this, but it bears mentioning.


Surviving the Zone for Dummies


The basis of Zone Wars gameplay is bound to action economy and a 10-inch ruler that’s divided into two-and-a-half-inch segments representing short, medium, and long ranges. Each clan’s action tokens, plus or minus Zone tokens, are added to an opaque container (not included, I used a large dice bag), and play commences in rounds. Each character can only be activated once per turn making player decisions carry a lot of weight.


Combat in this game feels pretty great. There are a lot of ways to get the upper hand on your target, mostly based off of positioning, so check the rooftops for snipers and watch your back. Zone Wars allows you to “push” attack rolls by rerolling all dice with no symbols on them adding a push-your-luck mechanic to the game as well.



Dice are broken up into two types: six yellow Base dice and four black Gear dice. Your rolls have a couple of outcomes represented by different symbols on each die. Roll a six (radiation symbol) on a Base or Gear die and you do damage to your opponent, roll a one on a Base die (biohazard symbol) to get an M point, and roll a one on a Gear die (explosion symbol), and your equipment takes damage.


M points fuel your characters’ special abilities. Each character has a starting ability and then takes a random ability at the start of the game. Each clan has unique abilities making every encounter feel fresh and challenging. Some enhancements are movement-based and some are combat-based. Each player can spend three M points per turn, further incentivizing pushing rolls to earn M points and keep fueling your abilities.


The prewritten scenarios give clear rules, goals, and consequences. The placement of terrain is random as each player takes turns filling the play mat until all terrain pieces are situated. Once the Zone is placed according to scenario rules, play can commence.



Speaking of the Zone, it too, has a say in how the game is played. Be unfortunate enough to pull a Zone token, flip a Zone card, and handle the consequences. Most zone cards have an “if-then” mechanic for passing or failing the given check. The Zone can introduce a global countdown, small effects, new enemies, and more.


Artifacts are the main focus of most victory conditions in Zone Wars. They range from mundane items to powerful weapons and armor. In general, collect the most Artifacts, survive enemy contact and Zone effects, and exit the Zone with the most Artifacts/Victory points and you win.


Verdict


A new board gamer and I spent most of a Saturday playing Zone Wars and the only thing that kept us from playing more was the fact that the game store we play in closes at 10 PM. The rules are pretty simple, but play would be helped with a player's aid. The pieces are all quality, I’ve noticed no peeling from any of the cardboard components, and I look forward to playing again. Note that you need to provide your own opaque vessel for action tokens, and I would highly recommend lots of little baggies for the 100+ little tokens. As this was my first trek into skirmish games, I can only recommend it. Look for it on Free League’s website or at your friendly local game store. Happy hunting, Adventurers.


MUTANT: YEAR ZERO - ZONE WARS AND ROBOTS & PSIONICS IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


I’d like to thank Free League Publishing for providing free copies of these games for the purpose of this review.

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