21st Dec2018

‘Here’s Negan’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

here-negan-box

Love him or hate him, The Walking Dead’s Negan is one of the most iconic characters to be introduced into Fox’s long-running TV series. Of course, Negan has been known to fans of the original comic book series for a long time and even starred in his own feature length graphic novel back in 2017. That novel and its artwork serve as the inspiration for today’s board game review, which shares the same name, so without further ado; Here’s Negan.

Here’s Negan is a fully standalone miniatures game that features five Saviour models (plus Negan) and then a whole host of individually modelled zombies. The game comes with its own rule set that largely focusses on semi-cooperative (or even solo) scenarios which will see Negan moving from a starting location to an end point, with the players clearing his path.

Fans of Mantic Games’ The Walking Dead: All Out War will recognise the in game models and paraphernalia with regard to presentation and style. Whilst I didn’t receive them with my review copy, I understand that pre-ordered copies of Here’s Negan came complete with a set of cards to enable the use of all members of The Saviours in All Out War. I’ve no doubt that these cards will become available to everyone in the end, so there’s certainly a reason for fans of Mantic Games other products to invest in Here’s Negan.

As someone who has never played All Out War, the most important question for me is whether or not Here’s Negan works well as a standalone product. Upon opening the box, I was certainly impressed by its contents, which are straightforward but plentiful and visually effective. The artwork (which carries over from both the comic series and All Out War) looks understated and attractive, with bold colours on plain backgrounds and a distinct visual style that will be immediately recognisable. There’s also a stack of board pieces, all of which are the same square shape, but with various printed rooms, corridors and spaces printed on both sides. Then, of course, there is a good handful of tokens including different zombie spawns, open and closed doors, crates, fire and so on. There’s a sheet to track Negan’s health and then one for each of the survivors, then there is a deck of cards to show Negan’s action and a deck that contains items and similar. A few other pieces such as a spinning danger dial and really good, detailed manual round out the set – along with the miniatures that I mentioned earlier, of course.

Setting up a game of Here’s Negan is relatively quick, thanks to the simple, common sense rules and the clear setup instructions. The manual contains a large number of scenarios that each come with a specific board layout and a number of different conditions that must be put in place. Whilst there are little bits of story to consider, there’s no hidden information, so actually setting up and preparing for a game is never hampered by needing to have a “Dungeon Master” or similar.

Laying out the pieces can take a little while because even though each board piece is numbered, the scenarios themselves don’t seem to list the numbers anywhere. Regardless, there are enough distinguishing features on each board tile to allow players to spot and position them accordingly. Placing things like zombie tokens, doors or furniture onto the board is very obvious, thanks to the use of very bold icons, which is very handy. The scenarios also clearly explain any special rules and will generally provide a way of helping to track anything unusual.

Here’s Negan is a game that I have found to be best taught by simply setting up and diving in. Broadly speaking, each turn is split into a Player Phase, a Negan Phase and a Walker Phase. During the Player Phase, each player will take up to two actions, which can include move and shoot, sprint, shoot and move, move and search etc. Of course, there are rules for which of these options will be available to a player given their specific circumstances and there are also rules that amend these actions slightly – for example Dwight can move an extra space.

The players will use these actions to defeat zombies, lock down rooms and search for items to expand their skills and capabilities. Each scenario has a specific objective that Negan will work towards and whenever he is forced to deal with zombies himself (based on some clearly defined rules) he becomes enraged, which is bad. Aside from moving (and occasionally doing something specific because he is enraged) a card will be drawn on each Negan Phase and something will be required – maybe he wants a zombie killed, maybe he wants an item. You’ll never know until it happens I’m afraid.

The zombies in Here’s Negan are all the same, with each of them behaving in a set way (usually moving towards the nearest Saviour) but thanks to a need for headshots (six’s) they are hard to kill. Zombies can be knocked down quite easily and then dispatched automatically with a second attack, but of course this slows down progress quite a lot. There are some interesting features for zombie spawning such as dice rolls and cards that will dictate how many zombies appear, but broadly speaking more than two or three of them in the same place as a Saviour can mean big trouble.

Saviours can be bitten and when that happens, if they run out of stamina then they’ll die and immediately become a zombie themselves. Healing items are littered throughout the deck of item cards, but I wouldn’t say they are frequent enough to rely on. Instead, players might need to use the Take a Breather action to recover some stamina or worse still, if things look dire, they can Call Negan, who will come to assist them at the cost of credibility. On that note, Credibility is the only measure of success that players track and it is used to declare which of The Saviours has performed best in Negan’s view – but it only counts if the mission is a success.

In all honesty, I’m a part time fan and full time critic of The Walking Dead. I love to complain about the last few series of the TV show (which have mostly been rubbish, in my view) but I am still a fan of the concept and the characters. I’ve never read the comic books because I simply don’t have the time, but thanks to my overall engagement with the world of The Walking Dead, I do find myself naturally drawn to Here’s Negan. It’s a good game in its own right when compared to the likes of Zombicide, but it also makes excellent, excellent use of the Negan character as a central protagonist.

Thanks to Negan’s charismatic presence (and the supporting cast of popular Saviours) Here’s Negan is most certainly going to appeal to fans of the fiction. But, even if you’re a casual fan like me, or just a board game fan looking for a good, cooperative miniatures game, then Here’s Negan is still very good. The use of Negan to drive the story forwards both in a predictable (on rails) kind of way and through a number of random events is interesting and unusual and it brings a real impetus to proceedings that would usually be just a sideshow in a single scenario in other games.

In Here’s Negan, every mission is a race against both the massing horde of zombies and against Negan himself, which is very cool indeed. There’s a constant struggle to make the right decision – be that to secure a room, kill a zombie or two or to attempt to do whatever it is that Negan requires. It’s impossible to do it all, which lends Here’s Negan a more thoughtful twist than I was expecting. Overall, a highly recommended miniatures game for fans of the fiction and fans of good games in general. Integration with All Out War is the icing on the cake, but that doesn’t mean that Here’s Negan fails to stand on its own feet at all.

**** 4/5

Here’s Negan is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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