The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense Preview

By Matt Hyra

For those of you who didn’t get a preview of this all-new cooperative game at the summer conventions, allow me to give you the scoop on what the game is all about.

The Best Defense covers seasons two and three of The Walking Dead television series on AMC. That centers the action around four key locations: The Highway, The Town, The Farm, and The Prison.

These four Locations are very large unconnected tiles, so you can put together the board randomly every time you play. That’s right… there are only four “spaces” on the board. Quite a departure from Cryptozoic’s first season The Walking Dead Board GameThe Best Defense is not an expansion to our original game. That game was semi-cooperative, while this game is 100% cooperative*. There is no hand of cards in The Best Defense. Everything you have is on the table in front of you.

There are four Resource Decks in the game: Equipment, Allies, Ammunition, and Food. Each Resource Deck is placed onto a random Location at the start of each game, so every game will feel a bit different.

·       Equipment are weapons and other cool stuff

·       Allies help you out in combat

·       Ammunition lets you reload your weapons

·       Food allows you to move a little extra or heal


The object of the game is to kill Walkers, protect your resources, and stay alive. If enough Survivors die that there are no additional spare Survivors, the team loses the game. If any one of the 25-card Resource decks run out of cards, the Survivors lose the game. But if you can protect your resources and stay alive for 12 rounds, you win a group victory!

So you might be wondering how you can lose Resource cards. First off, you want to draw these cards, but do you have the self-control to stop drawing them when the deck gets thin? When you run out of Ammo, you will want to visit the Location that has the Ammo cards so you can draw one. The fastest way to lose Resources, however, is to let the Walkers gather at a Location. Walkers are persistent on the board until killed. At the end of each round, every Walker deals 1 damage. If there is a Survivor sharing a Location with some Walkers, the damage goes to the Survivor. Best to kill off as many Walkers as you can! If there are no Survivors there, each damage knocks one card off of the Resource deck there. If you let too many Walkers gather at a Location, it can become too dangerous to even move into. So you have to stay on the move to kill them before their numbers grow too strong. The best defense is a good offense…


Each player takes on the role of one of the survivors: Andrea, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, or Rick. The game can be played with 1-4 players. Each unused Survivor becomes a back-up character should your first one die. Each Survivor starts the game with 5 Hit Points, 2 Food, 2 Allies, and one random Equipment card from the Equipment deck. At the start of each round, each player draws two Event cards. This 48-card Event deck contains 48 unique cards. Each one does something bad, usually.

One of the new and exciting innovations of The Best Defense is the Leader role. One player starts the game as Leader, and then the Badge of Leadership token is passed to the left at the end of each round. Each character has a unique Leadership Ability that helps out the team when they are the Leader. The Leader must play both of his Event cards, so he has a very good idea of what kind of bad stuff will be happening during the round. The non-leader Survivors only play one of their two Events, and then discard them both. Many cards are Location specific, so a card might give you something good if you at The Farm… or something bad if you are at The Farm. Your position on the board is very important.


But it’s up to the Leader where you move each round. The Leader is responsible for moving all Survivors. There are two game modes: Basic and Expert. In Basic, the Survivors can show their Event cards to the other players. In Expert mode, they must keep them hidden until played and can’t talk about them. This forces the Leader to make decisions without perfect knowledge of what is really happening out there.


In most cooperative games, the player who knows the rules the best tends to tell everyone else what to do. We don’t like that situation too much. We have turned that into the Leadership role in the game. So no one player gets to make all of the decisions. In Expert mode, the Leader won’t have perfect information, as the other Survivor’s Events are hidden from the Leader. The Leader will have to make decisions based on his own Events and the current board situation. And it’s impossible for mister smarty-pants to tell everyone the right plays to make, as he can’t see their Event cards.

However, for your first few games you can play in Basic mode, where you can see everyone’s Event cards. It’s a good way to learn the rhythms of the game. But the Leader player still has say over where everyone moves.


What can you do if the Leader moves you somewhere that ends up being bad for you? After the Leader finishes off his turn, each other Survivor gets to take a turn. The first thing a non-Leader can do during their turn is defy the Leader. You know, like pretty much what happened every week during Season Two of the show. A Survivor may pay 1 Food and then move to an adjacent Location. All movement in the game is to adjacent Locations, by the way. You can’t move diagonally. Defying the Leader can get you to the Location you need to be at. Then you may draw a Resource card from the deck at that Location.


Now you may Trade with another Survivor at your Location. For example, you may have run out of Rifle Ammo. Another Survivor at your Location has a Rifle Ammo card with 2 rounds on it. If you trade, they can give the card to you and you can immediately load your Rifle and then discard the Rifle Ammo card. Ammo is specific to the weapon. You can’t use Rifle Ammo in a Handgun, Shotgun, or Crossbow.


Defying, drawing, and trading are all optional actions. What is not optional is now you must play one of your two Event cards. If you are at the right Location, you might gain some Resources. If not, you might add some Walkers to the board. Other cards can make you lose Resources or endure various other calamities. Some Events affect “each Survivor” at your Location. That means you and each other player there. If a card tells you to lose 1-6 Food, you lose Food you are carrying. But if you don’t have any Food, you don’t lose anything. So an Event that may have been devastating to one Survivor might be no problem for another Survivor.


Once each player has had a turn, we move into the Combat Phase. Players now need to kill off some Walkers before they get bit. Survivors using ranged weapons at a Location get to add their combat dice together, so it can pay to stick with your friends. Melee weapons fight solo, but don’t require Ammo. Now roll. For every 5 Combat Points you roll, you will 1 Walker.

Example: Maggie rolls a 4 with her Handgun, while Glenn rolls a 9 with his Rifle. Their Combat Point total is 13, so they kill 2 Walkers at their Location. Ally tokens can be spent to get that up to a 15, in which case 3 Walkers would bite it.


At the end of the round, each Walker that didn’t die deals 1 damage. If there are multiple Survivors, they can decide who takes the damage or how to split it up. If a Survivor dies, his pawn is removed from the board and replaced with a Walker token. That player will come back next round as a new Survivor, unless you are playing Hardcore. If anyone dies in Hardcore, the group loses. Any Survivor who doesn’t die can spend 1 Food to heal 1 Hit Point. You can’t spend multiple Food to heal multiple Hit Points. You also can’t go over 5 HP.


Move the token on the track to the next round, pass the Badge of Leadership, and away you go on a new round. Survive 12 of these tense rounds and you win! Ok, that was more info and less marketing buzzwords than I was expecting to write, but I wanted to give everyone a clear idea of what you’re in for.


Have fun!


*For those who enjoy a bit of conflict in their cooperative games, The Best Defense comes with nine Ulterior Motive cards. This is not a “traitor mechanic.” It’s still 98% cooperative. If you can complete your secret Ulterior Motive objective and the group loses, you can claim a personal victory. You didn’t lose... the other players lost. But if the group wins, your personal triumph is of little consequence.



Matt_Hyra's picture Matt Hyra

Matt Hyra has been designing games for 20 years, and has been Cryptozoic Entertainment's lead board game designer since its beginning in 2010. Some of Matt's recent games include Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game, Epic Spell Wars: Panic at the Pleasure Palace, and DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth.