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Today I wanted to bring up the topic of the “collector” and how this has now inspired some game titles.   We all know that one person who is an avid collector of something whether it be stamps,rocks, old Elvis paraphernalia, Superman, Star Trek or even Hello Kitty. The list could go on forever.

There are many theories as to why people do this and I really don’t want to get into the psychology of why here in this post but I just want to bring attention to the fact that if someone finds something that features a character, band, tv show etc. that they really like they will want that item even if it’s not something they normally use.

The idea of branding items with loved characters has been something that has fuelled retail for decades. No one ever “needed” that Chewbacca bobble head but he is really cool and if you like Chewbacca you just might buy it because it’s Chewbacca.

This concept has certainly spilled over into the table top game world too. I would love to mention our Classic Monopoly again. It was a major success and paved the way for table top games as we know it and it still sells today. Have a think for a minute about how many Monopoly sets there are. They are constantly re-released with a new theme, artwork and new figures based on a brand. I have seen everything from Super Mario Monopoly to Monopoly Bass Fishing Edition and yes of course there is an Elvis Monopoly Edition. The new pieces and art does not change how the core game plays at all it just is done to appeal to the individual who likes the theme.  It works people buy them and collect them and sometimes even play them.

Risk is also a great and classic game that has done this very successfully. There are some really good versions of Risk that have been cross branded and are a lot of fun. Risk:Star Wars Edition is a good example. This game lets players re-create the dramatic final moments of Star Wars Episode VI, players can determine the fate of the Star Wars universe through the three battles featured in the movie. Choose to play as either the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire, and use the classic Risk dice to control characters and ships. The object of the game is to defend or destroy the Death Star depending on which side you have chosen.

Sometimes though it seems that a game is just branded with a character to make a sale and it is a total let down because there is nothing about the game that seems to have anything to do with how the character would behave or the narrative of the story. This was not just true of tabletop games but also video games. I can recall an old Star Wars title from the early 90’s that was a run and gun platform game. In it you played Luke Skywalker who ran around attacking everything in his way with a light sabre including Jawas. Of course it sold based on it’s title and characters but it was not true to the morality and narrative that fans appreciated about the character of Luke Skywalker. That can be very disappointing to a fan.

When table top games use a brand to sell a game it is very enjoyable if the narrative allows the players to feel like they are part of the world or character they have grown to love. I wanted to talk about some really excellent games that are actually branded and allow fans to enjoy the narrative of the stories. Some of these may not be well known but if you happen to know a collector that is into any of these, they would love you for bringing it to their attention or gifting it to them.  They are good games so you will enjoy playing them too.

The first one is the Legenday Series. Legendary has managed to create a semi cooperative deck building game that is based on branded characters and the narrative is always true to the characters. It is challenging and a lot of fun and although there are many games in the Legendary series. They are all unique and true to their characters.  The original was set in the Marvel Universe with characters like the Hulk and Spiderman and many editions followed and they all stayed true to their characters.  Each one of them would really appeal to any fan of the featured characters. Legendary Buffy is a great example: There are many references in the game that refer directly to the TV series. The character cards do not do things that would have been out of character in the show. It allows the players to work together and slay the “big bad” before chaos comes to Sunnydale. This title belongs in the collection of any Buffy fan. Legendary has an Alien Edition, Predator Edition, Firefly Edition and more are being released including James Bond in 2019.

Jim Henson’s Labryinth: The Board Game. At the sight of this game you will be humming the songs we all know. “You remind me of the babe..” This game is a beautiful exploration of the movie for 1-5 players in which Sarah, Ludo, Sir Didymus and Hoggle must adventure through the labyrinth and make their way to the goblin city to save Toby from Jareth, the goblin king! The models in the box are very well cast and if you are a fan of the movie or know someone who is this game will be well loved and it has been written in such a way that it lends itself to a lot of replay ability. The art work in the game is very nice and features pictures of the movie. This is a must for any Labryrinth lover.

I should also mention Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: The Board Game is also a visually stunning rendition brought to us by the same makers of Labyrinth. Dark Horse Miniatures. If you know a Dark Crystal fan they will love it and want it immediately on sight.

One of my personal favourites is the Walking Dead: All Out War! This one is based on the Comic Series rather than the TV show but still features all the well loved characters. This game is a tactical head-to-head game,which can be played co operatively or competitively, set in the walker-strewn Georgia countryside, a survival miniatures game from Mantic Games. Your group will be pitted against other groups in a bitter fight for supplies, but the Walkers react to your every move. In this game, everyone and everything is trying to kill you. In more detail, each player controls their own group of survivors made up of popular characters from The WalkingDead storyline, such as Rick, Shane, Michonne and many more. Each survivor is represented by a finely-detailed plastic miniature,which can be painted in your colour scheme of choice. It comes with a character card highlighting their game stats and unique abilities,and it can be upgraded with a selection of weapon and equipment cards. This game belongs in the collection of every Walking Dead fan whether they follow the comics, TV series or both.

Mantic games recently released The Walking Dead: Here’s Negan as a sequel to All Out War.  This game is a must for all Negan comic book fans. It gives players the opportunity to play through a portion of Negan’s background that’s never been seen before. Work together to clear the claustrophobic corridors of the abandoned factory, but that’s only part of the mission. You must also do whatever it takes to gain Negan’s respect and players “win” by earning the most Reputation Points. Impress Negan and reap the rewards. Fail and face Lucille’s wrath.  Here’s Negan is a co-operative yet competitive board game for up to five players as you will compete with your fellow Survivors to earn the most Reputation Points. The amount of Reputation accrued will determine a group’s success at the end of a mission, plus the player with the most Reputation Points will be declared Negan’s favourite! Twelve scenarios tell the story of how Negan cleared the “Sanctuary” and went on to become the tyrannical leader of the Saviours. In these scenarios, players will clear the Sanctuary and each scenario features its own unique map layout, special rules, and objectives.  It comes with 19incredibly detailed, pre-assembled plastic miniatures, 16double-sided game tiles, plus all the dice and tokens required to play.

Doctor Who: Exterminate! The Miniatures Game The first thing I want to talk about regarding this title is how great the miniatures are. I have had collectors buy up most of my stock who have no interest in playing the game but want all the miniatures. They are very well cast and could easily be used in other games or just as display pieces.  This is a skirmish game set in the Doctor Who universe, where you can play any of the currently released factions including Daleks, Cybermen, Judoon as well as the many incarnations of the Doctor and companions.  If you love Doctor Who this title and it’s miniatures belong in your collection!

 I am sure there are others I have missed in this article including The Expanse and some really great Star Wars titles. When it comes to buying a game just based on it’s branded character it really depends on if you are looking just to add it to a collection, never open it, keep it locked away and sell it on for way more than you paid for it 25 years later or if you are wanting to be part of a narrative and play out a great story in a world you already love. Maybe sometimes it’s best to buy 2 copies so you can do both those things. With the above titles buying 2 wouldn’t hurt.

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Christmas Games

Every Christmas there is a time that the Family Board Game is contemplated. Do we buy one as a present? Do we dust off the old ones in storage and sit around with the family and play yet another round of Monopoly? There was that time that Aunt Ethel had “Hotel Row” and with one roll of the dice and a “misplaced elbow” by cousin Dave the entire game board was on the floor and it ended badly. No one wants to repeat that again. How about Trivial Pursuit?  Would be great if our Uncle Ed hadn’t memorized all the cards and it does not work for the younger kids who get bored and decide it’s more fun to tease each other and convince the dog to chase the cat around the house, causing disruption and getting in trouble anyway.

Every family has some recollection of playing these games together and sometimes it really does not go well. There is lots to be said about the classics like Boggle, Monopoly, Scrabble, Jenga but when it comes to Christmas there are some games that should be considered instead of the classics and you may find yourself actually enjoying the table top board game world again.

There are some very popular and fun games that are quick to play, under 15 minutes and easy to learn and are not just a roll and move or trivia.

Dobble: a simple pattern recognition game where players race to identify two matching symbols on cards and collect the most cards. Not quite as easy as it sounds as they have made the symbols different sizes, or facing different directions. Each card will have at least one symbol in common with the other one. First to identify it claims the card and the player with the most cards at the end is the winner. Giggles will ensue and is suitable for all ages. For such a simple game it has seen these honours and awards :

  • 2013 Ludoteca Ideale Children’s Games Winner
  • 2012 Japan Boardgame Prize U-more Award Nominee
  • 2012 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2011 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2010 Lys Enfant Finalist

Exploding Kittens: a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats. In this highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian roulette, players draw cards until someone draws an exploding kitten, at which point they explode, they are Dead, and they are out of the game — unless that player has a defuse card, which can defuse the kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches. All of the other cards in the deck are used to move, mitigate, or avoid the exploding kittens. Another game where giggles will ensue and it plays quickly and is a lot of fun.

Awards & Honors

  • 2015 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee

Love Letter: A game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2–4 players. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors. From a deck with only sixteen cards, each player starts with only one card in hand; one card is removed from play. On a turn, you draw one card, and play one card, trying to expose others and knock them from the game. Powerful cards lead to early gains, but make you a target. Rely on weaker cards for too long, however, and your letter may be tossed in the fire! For such a simple game it is loads of fun and has a very long list of accolades. There are other versions as well including Letters to Santa if you really want to get into the season.

Awards & Honors

  • 2014 Spiel des Jahres Recommended
  • 2014 Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Winner
  • 2014 Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Nominee
  • 2014 Lys Grand Public Finalist
  • 2014 Guldbrikken Best Family Game Winner
  • 2014 Guldbrikken Best Family Game Nominee
  • 2014 Fairplay À la carte Winner
  • 2013 Origins Awards Best Family, Party or Children’s Game Nominee
  • 2013 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2013 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Card Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Card Game Nominee
  • 2013 Fairplay À la carte Winner
  • 2013 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming Nominee
  • 2012 Meeples’ Choice Nominee
  • 2012 Japan Boardgame Prize Voters’ Selection Winner

This next set of games take a little more time to play but are unique and still play in under an hour:

Forbidden Island: a visually stunning cooperative board game. Instead of winning by competing with other players like most games, everyone must work together to win the game. Players take turns moving their pawns around the ‘island’, which is built by arranging the many beautifully screen-printed tiles before play begins. As the game progresses, more and more island tiles sink, becoming unavailable, and the pace increases. Players use strategies to keep the island from sinking, while trying to collect treasures and items. As the water level rises, it gets more difficult- sacrifices must be made. All players must get off the island in order to win.

This one also has a long list of awards including from MENSA

Awards & Honors

  • 2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee
  • 2011 Vuoden Peli Family Game of the Year Winner
  • 2011 Vuoden Peli Family Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2011 Spiel des Jahres Nominee
  • 2011 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
  • 2011 Juego del Año Winner
  • 2011 Juego del Año Finalist
  • 2011 JoTa Best Light Board Game Nominee
  • 2011 Deutscher Lernspielpreis “9 years and up” Nominee
  • 2010 UK Games Expo Best Family/Children’s Game Winner
  • 2010 Mensa Select Winner
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Winner
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Nominee
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee

Munchkin: Another oldie but who can resist a game where the plot is go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Munchkin is humorous and fun as long as you don’t take it all too seriously and the art work doesn’t let you do that anyway. Written by Steve Jackson and originally released in 2001 the series has been so successful that it has many expansions and different editions, including a holiday edition. Certainly worth adding to the family collection.

Muchkin boasts: 2001 Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Winner

If you do have a family of Dungeon Loving heroes you can not go wrong with Mantic Games release of the Epic Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King’s Quest: Embark on a fantasy adventure for up to five players with highly detailed game-pieces and learn-as-you-play rules, this set contains everything you need to transform your tabletop into a deep and immersive world of heroes and monsters. Play a single game in just 30 minutes, or combine the carefully composed adventures for countless hours of classic quest gameplay. When the fate of the world hangs in the balance, which part will you play in the epic Dungeon Saga?

If your family is not quite into exploring dungeons and fighting monsters then certainly consider Takenoko/ This game is completely unique to any other I have ever played and appeals to both seasoned “gamers” and “non-gamers” alike. It is set a long time ago at the Japanese Imperial court, the Chinese Emperor offered a giant panda bear as a symbol of peace to the Japanese Emperor. Since then, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players) with the difficult task of caring of the animal by tending to his bamboo garden., the players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow, and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.  Another great game with a long list of awards:

  • 2013 Ludoteca Ideale Official Selection Winner
  • 2013 Games Magazine Best New Family Game Winner
  • 2012 Tric Trac Nominee
  • 2012 Spiel der Spiele Hit für Familien Recommended
  • 2012 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
  • 2012 Lys Grand Public Winner
  • 2012 Le Lys Grand Public Finalist
  • 2012 JoTa Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2012 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Nominee
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Winner
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee
  • 2012 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Winner
  • 2012 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
  • 2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee

Another great co operative play game (age 8+ lots of reading) that takes around an hour and has increased in popularity is Pandemic: Each player will have a role in trying to control and stop several virulent diseases which have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.The game board depicts several major population centers on Earth. On each turn, a player can use up to four actions to travel between cities, treat infected populaces, discover a cure, or build a research station. A deck of cards provides the players with these abilities, but sprinkled throughout this deck are Epidemic! cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. A second, separate deck of cards controls the “normal” spread of the infections. You must work together on this and carefully discuss strategy with your team to be successful and win.  This game has won multiple awards:

  • 2015 Hungarian Board Game Award Nominee
  • 2011 Ludoteca Ideale Official Selection Winner
  • 2010 Australian Games Association Game of the Year
  • 2009 Vuoden Peli Adult Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2009 Spiel des Jahres Nominee
  • 2009 Spiel der Spiele Hit für Experten Recommended
  • 2009 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
  • 2009 Lys Passioné Finalist
  • 2009 JoTa Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Japan Boardgame Prize Voters’ Selection Nominee
  • 2009 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2009 Gouden Ludo Winner
  • 2009 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best Gamers’ Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Winner
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Games Magazine Best New Family Game Winner
  • 2009 Deutscher Spiele Preis Best Family/Adult Game 3rd Place
  • 2009 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Winner
  • 2009 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee
  • 2009 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
  • 2008 Tric Trac Nominee
  • 2008 Tric Trac d’Argent
  • 2008 Meeples’ Choice Award
  • 2008 JoTa Best Cooperative Board Game Winner
  • 2008 JoTa Best Cooperative Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 International Gamers Awards – General Strategy; Multi-player Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Gamer’s Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee

If you have older kids or no kids and want to use the holidays to get some more involved and really fun table top games going these titles should certainly be on your list of considerations.  Zombicide Black Plague:takes the zombie apocalypse into a fantastical medieval setting! The arcane powers of the Necromancers have unleashed a zombie invasion in the age of swords and sorcery, and it’s up to your group of straggling survivors to not only stay alive during these dark times, but to take back the realm and punish those responsible for the apocalypse! You play characters who work together to defeat the zombies and the necromancers. Equip your survivor with equipment like chainmail armour or shields to defend against the undead, pick up spell books to perform fantastic enchantments, or light up a pool of dragon bile to create an all-consuming inferno of dragon fire! This game can be played solo or co-operatively. There are many different missions so you never have the same game twice. Excellent addition for the Zombie lover on your Christmas list.

Awards & Honors

  • 2015 Golden Geek Best Solo Board Game Nominee

Terraforming Mars: Set in the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. You play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things. There is so much to do in this game that it takes place over generations. When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete, and the game ends after that generation. This game also boasts an impressive number of awards:

  • 2018 Guldbrikken Best Expert Game Winner
  • 2018 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Expert Winner
  • 2018 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Expert Nominee
  • 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres Nominee
  • 2017 Jogo do Ano Nominee
  • 2017 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Multi-player Nominee
  • 2017 Gouden Ludo Best Expert Game Nominee
  • 2017 Goblin Magnifico Nominee
  • 2017 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming Nominee
  • 2017 Deutscher Spiele Preis Best Family/Adult Game Winner
  • 2017 Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Swiss Gamers Award Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Solo Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Cardboard Republic Architect Laurel Winner
  • 2016 Cardboard Republic Architect Laurel Nominee

Star Wars Rebellion: is a board game of epic conflict between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance for two to four players!Experience the Galactic Civil War like never before. You control the entire Galactic Empire or the fledgling Rebel Alliance. You must command starships, account for troop movements, and rally systems to your cause. Given the differences between the Empire and Rebel Alliance, each side has different win conditions, and you’ll need to adjust your play style depending on who you represent.Rebellion is intensely personal, cinematic, and heroic. As much as your success depends upon the strength of your starships, vehicles, and troops, it depends upon the individual efforts of such notable characters as Leia Organa, Mon Mothma, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Emperor Palpatine. As civil war spreads throughout the galaxy, these leaders are invaluable to your efforts, and the secret missions they attempt will evoke many of the most inspiring moments from the classic trilogy. You might send Luke Skywalker to receive Jedi training on Dagobah or have Darth Vader spring a trap that freezes Han Solo in carbonite! This game will not disappoint any Star Wars Fan. It also has a long list of awards:

  • 2017 Goblin Magnifico Nominee
  • 2016 UK Games Expo Best Boardgame with Miniatures Winner
  • 2016 Tric Trac Nominee
  • 2016 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Two-players Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork & Presentation Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Winner
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Cardboard Republic Immersionist Laurel Nominee
  • 2016 Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game Nominee

There are so many great boardgames out there now and the industry has moved far beyond the roll and move mechanics of classic games. There are many I didn’t even mention that would certainly go over well with families at Christmas. If you have time have a look at Welcome to the Dungeon, Once Upon a Time, Camel Up, Killer Bunnies, Civilization: A New Dawn, Star Trek Ascendancy, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault.

Have a great Christmas, enjoy gaming with your family and friends this Holiday season. 

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Bringing “The Walking Dead” to Life

One of the core products of Mountain Gremlin Games has been ‘The Walking Dead: All Out War‘ from Mantic Games.  At the time of writing the game has been out for just over two years.  The release of ‘Here’s Negan‘ being next week, I thought it would be great time to talk about this exiting product range.


‘The Walking Dead: All Out War’ is a multi-faceted board game.  There are many ways to play this game including single player, co-operative and of course adversarial all following a narrative theme.  The easy to learn rules and custom character creation make this game highly adaptive to any number of scenarios outside that of the published material.  The format of the standard game makes running tournaments easy while still providing surprises by introducing a narrative theme or two.


The miniatures are of a high quality.  Each depicting a survivor or a walker.  The most notable feature of them being that each model is an individual – even the walkers.   Many figure painters are used to painting large armies of models wearing the same uniform/armour and carrying similar if not the same gear.  These figures are not only individual but most of them are wearing civilian clothing, and not everyone carries a weapon.   For a figure painter such as myself this presented it’s own challenge and reward.

A note on the scenery needs to be mentioned. While many games provide you with great figures to play with many companies overlook the terrain.  The scenery box for ‘The Walking Dead’ includes a number of supplies, vehicles and barricades.  Great value for money and can be used in a variety of games.

I was lucky enough to receive a demo copy of ‘Here’s Negan’ and spent the previous night to writing this playing it and having a great time.


‘Here’s Negan’ is a stand alone board game set in the same world as the previous game but takes place in the sanctuary.  You control a group of survivors under the command of Negan trying to accomplish a series of set missions.  It’s mainly co-operative as each player needs to work together to complete their goals, however each survivor is trying to impress Negan.  Therefore there is a competitive element, which adds an interesting dynamic to an already  challenging set of scenarios.

The great thing about this game is it keeps many of the same game components and mechanics of ‘All Out War’.  This means that it’s easy for a player of one game to jump into either system without relearning too many rules.   Again the figures are of the same high quality and fully compatible with ‘All Out War’.  Therefore there is some logic in owning both games as ‘Here’s Negan’ acts as an expansion in many ways to ‘All Out War’.

The game ships from next week.

Contains stock images from Mantic Entertainment

figures painted by the store