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Shambles $14.99 $7.99
Publisher: A Terrible Idea
by Joe T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2010 22:40:26

Ran this for my usual group tonight. Here are some notes I have on it:

We used the first character generation method (aka point buy). From the get go, players realized what their dump stats were: chuck, and for some, clutch. Humans only have one HP per area, and if they get hit in the head or chest, they're done. So it's easier to beat them up with Flail, and then bite them later.

Some of the particulars of the system are vague. For example, there's no rules on initiative. When combat happens, what order does it happen in? Also, there are six hit locations, but nothing that says where someone is hit when you hit them. Is it random? Does the attacker choose? If the attacker chooses, why doesn't everyone aim for the head?

There's no way to just talk to stuff -- as in, there's no roll for persuading someone. I sometimes had them roll sense (with is really intelligence/perception, not persuasion), and sometimes just worked it out through role play, but my players tend to try to talk to stuff before hitting it.

Some of the rules are also disjointed. Humans, like I said, have 1 point in each area, 6 total. When you bite someone after clutching them, it deals two damage. It also says that if I deal 6 damage to the head by biting, I've eaten their brain. Does that mean in one bite I've killed them, and then I spend 2 more rounds gnawing through their skull? It seems almost that the bite/braining rules (which are given early on in the book) weren't written taking the human rules into account.

There's no good way to have a fight against a strong human. One hit to the wrong location, and the human is dead. Even the "tough bouncer" presented in the packaged scenario falls like a sack of potatoes against a zombie. I tried offsetting this with the optional brawn rolls to soak damage, but that just lead to stalemates as neither side took damage.

However, even with these issues, the game was still quite enjoyable. We used the packaged scenario, which led to some good terrible fun. We eventually got into the right mood, which included 10 minutes of "Country fried soup" jokes when they made it to Danny's chain bar, and a chain of brainless bodies across the state. Only downside of the scenario is that some of the premises (ie rail roading) require an extraordinary amount of hand waving to be plausible.

Overall it was fun, but the system leaves a bit to be desired. The system's sort of a simplified version of New Shadowrun / Old WoD, but it loses some important details in that simplification. I might try the setting with a different system at some point. It's a good value, and will certainly make for a fun one shot, but I don't see myself running this again for the same group.

Quote from a player: "best comedy game I've ever played. Maybe I just like zombies, who knows?"

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:

Thanks for purchasing the game, and for taking the time to write your thorough review.

The goal with Shambles and the LAFFS system is to provide enough system to resolve commonly contested activities (usually fighting), while not getting terribly involved with the dice. As a system, it's pretty boiled down. The intention is to focus on role-play. To that end, things like Initiative and Persuasion tend to be things that are worked out with straight-up role-playing, a fact I may need to clarify this a bit in a later revision. If you get stuck and need an initiative result to resolve an action, you can use Lurch as the general "This is how well you move" stat.

You do have the brain-eating and human rules correct. Humans are squishy meaty things that go down pretty easily. Without a good weapon, even beefy humans tend to drop hard. Combat usually follows the "Flail everyone to death, eat their Brains later" path. It takes a couple rounds to gnaw through a human skull to get to the brain and get a Brain token, but that would normally only come up if someone's trying to eat a brain in the heat of the moment, or if two players are contesting a brain.

On Page 13, under Character Degeneration, there's a small chart that shows hit location for the daily point of decay. The intention for this chart was for it to be the random hit location chart as well, and the die-rolls correspond to the numbers on the character sheet showing the various body parts under the Damage heading. I'll look to call more attention to this chart in a later revision. For called shots I usually raise the difficulty, or let them call their own shots if they wildly succeed.

It sounds like everyone had a good time playing. To me, this game is all about setting up a good time, like 10 minutes of Country Fried Soup jokes (I might have to steal Country Fried Soup for the Danny's menu I'm working on). I more or less bank on players remembering brains and eating people, and forgetting the hand waving, of which I freely admit there is a great deal, both in the sample scenario and in the game itself.

If there are any other pieces to which I can provide clarification, I'm happy to answer any questions (you can contact me directly through or through the contact publisher link).
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