Stephen gives us his thoughts on another ruleset.
If you don’t like negative reviews then you may want to stop reading.
That said, whilst this may not be a glowing endorsement, neither is it scathing.
I’ve taken the recent pandemic to make my way through some of the Osprey rules I bought.
Now, Zona Alfa does have some following in the club. And I should preface what I am about to say by making it clear that I have not played the game. But I have given it a few read-throughs. So I reserve the right to take back everything I am about to say!
So, what’s my problem with Zona Alfa?
Well, it isn’t the game mechanics per se. When it was played at the club there were some post-game comments about some inconsistencies and other bits not being clear. That can often be the case with the Osprey blue books, where authors can be constrained by page count. You have to go into them knowing that you may have to do a little bit of work yourself (although part of me also thinks 60 odd pages is enough to get the job done).
That can be OK, so long as there aren’t too many vagaries or incomplete bits.
My problem with Zona Alfa is that…well, it’s all a bit bland and vanilla.
I loved the concept behind the game when it was announced – scavengers ranging over a warped post-apocalyptic world. I was up for that.
However, in Zona Alfa there is no attempt to tie the conceit of the game into the game mechanics. The background is all just a bit of fluff that could be tacked on to any game.
For example, the idea is that scavengers scrounge across a wasteland looking for abandoned hi-tech equipment. But there is no attempt to say anything about that equipment and what it can do to enhance your gang of scavengers or what effects it has on the game. All it’s given is a monetary value. You find a bit of unnamed tech and it’s worth x roubles.
Since the raison d’etre behind the game is this equipment then I would have expected a bit more. It should be something, it should have a game effect. There’s also something called ‘anomalies’ – areas that have been warped that create unique hazards. Sounds interesting, eh? But all you do is make a roll to see if it explodes.
Again, big whoop.
All of the above could be easily tacked on to any set of rules.
The game mechanics themselves seem OK. In fact, all you’re really getting for your money is a nondescript (but quite serviceable) set of skirmish rules. But with bits of Russian thrown in for good measure in an attempt to give it the smokescreen of character.
Truth is, there’s nothing in the Zona Alfa rules themselves that tie them in to the game world. Compare that to Black Ops, another Osprey game where you control a team of special ops troops to sneak about and conduct espionage. In Black Ops the rules build in mechanisms for stealth since that is the point behind the game. Zona Alfa fails to do the same, the rules just aren’t tied in to the game world.
Quite simply, there’s no reason to buy Zona Alfa. As it is, if you want to play a game with scavengers finding random tech that just has a monetary value or explodes you could use whatever rules you want. Zona Alfa doesn’t add anything, but neither does it take away. It gets an indifferent 5/10