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Interview: Keith Tralins of The Walking Dead Board Game


When you’re sitting around the kitchen table with your family enjoying a game of Scrabble, do you find yourself continually thinking: “You know what would make this game WAY better? If I could shoot a zombie in the face with a sawed-off shotgun”.

Yeah, I’m with you.

Thankfully, the tyrannical reign of G-rated board games is coming to an end.

Keith Tralins is part of a brilliant team who have been working tirelessly to bring us The Walking Dead Board Game, which will officially debut at the San Diego Comic Con this summer.

I recently had a chance to speak with Keith about the game, get some exclusive details, and a take a sneak-peek at the game itself.


BN: Hi Kwalking deadeith! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.

KT: You’re very welcome! It’s a pleasure to be here.


BN: As a huge fan of The Walking Dead, I’ve always loved how the book and the TV show stand apart from the genre, and give us a unique spin on the zombie mythology. How does The Walking Dead Board Game stand apart from other games?

KT: I think the game is a very specific portal into the world of The Walking Dead. When you play this game, you feel like you really are in North Georgia, with zombies right behind you at every moment. The game is also not a traditional zombie game. It’s actually not about just blasting away at the hordes, screaming “Kill! Kill! Kill!” In fact, that’s probably the last thing you want to be doing in this environment. This is a zombie game about surviving, not about a blaze of glory.


BN: What can you tell us about the game’s play mechanics?

KT: The game is very social…if you can trust the other players. The goal of the game is to find a safe place to live amongst the hordes of walkers, and you have the whole area to explore. Players will need to scout safe locations, collect resources, and try to build up their strength through numbers. Players can play alone, or partner with other players to try to find safety. And there are lots of zombies and non-zombie challenges you have to overcome.


BN: Are there any existing board games that inspired you, or did you approach the design concepts and game play from scratch?

KT: I was playing a lot of “Pandemic,” and the communal aspect of that game really inspired me. There’s a little bit of poker, in that some of the information about what areas are safe is public information, while every player also has a little information kept to themselves. And a tiny dusting of “Diplomacy.”


BN: As a designer and producer on this project, you must be a big fan of board games. What games did you play when you were younger, and what games do you play now?

KT: Strangely, my earliest board game memories are of Monopoly (standard) and the official Mork & Mindy game (bizarre). In the M&M game, the dice were called “Wumpers,” and you had to say “Roll them wumpers!” when you rolled the dice. Weird what brain glurge sticks with you, right? Thank god D&D came along in my life shortly thereafter, and then later 40k and, of course, Magic. Now I play whatever I can get my hands on; it’s been a bit of Magic, a lot of Forbidden Island and Ticket to Ride (I have kids), a healthy dose of Cataan. A good steady flow of the great Ascension. Lots of Poker, and of course whatever is the hot RPG on Xbox or PS3.


BN: How much creative influence did The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman have on the development of the game?

KT: There was a lot of oversight and approvals from Skybound along the way. Everything went smoothly, though, with almost no changes or interference, as I think we were all on the same page from the get-go. When we first pitched the game a year ago, I think there was an agreement that we had accurately captured the essence of the books, and successfully translated it on to the table top.

From that point on, it was really about making sure we stayed true to that vision. We have a lot of experience staying faithful to the source material, and it’s one of the things I take great pride in. There was one particular element of the game, though, that is really very important to the whole world of The Walking Dead, and that was something that Robert personally had to oversee and approve, as it was going to be interpreted as canon. More on that in the next few days…


BN: I know that this might be jumping the gun a bit, but are there any future plans for a sequel or expansions to the current game?

KT: We’re focused on launching this first game. It was certainly designed to accommodate the entire series, and we’re itching to get to characters that we haven’t yet reached. Especially certain katana-wielding tanks. But for now, it’s all about what I’m calling “the base set.”


BN: Any final secrets you can share with us about the game before the San Diego Comic Con?

KT: The game is very much a social game between the players, but the relationships of the characters were not lost, either. While there is a luck element as to what survivors you may run into, certain relationships make united parties much, much stronger. Take the Grimes family, for instance. Rick is pretty strong just on his own. Add Carl to the mix, and he’s much, much tougher. Throw in Lori, though, and all three become a zombie-slaughtering machine.


BN: When are people going to be able to buy The Walking Dead Board Game? Has a release date been set?

KT: We’ll be announcing the street date and first availability later this week. It’s very, very soon. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon already (the street date on there is wrong, though), and will be in the next Previews magazine, which I believe comes out this week. Tell your store owner you want to order a copy – they need to hear from their customers!


BN: That’s great – I can’t wait to finally get my hands on the finished product. Where can people go to learn more about the game?

KT: We’re doing lots of reveals at our website, is where we maintain a lot of community, and we’re doing lots of updates on Twitter @WalkingDeadBG.


BN: And finally, do you think that The Walking Dead will give rise to a whole new era in zombie-based board games? Could we possibly look forward to the living dead showing up in revised versions of Monopoly, Mousetrap or Risk?

KT: I think zombie Mousetrap would be unbelievable. I would play that all night! Zombie Risk is intriguing, too… there are actually already a lot of amazing zombie games out there. We’re fans of the genre. So I think that era is already here. We just wanted to bring something different to the scene, something that was both loyal to the comic series, a different take on the genre, and still filled with zombie-killing mayhem.


BN: Thank you so much, Keith! It was awesome talking with you, and I hope we can chat again after the launch of The Walking Dead Board Game.

KT: Absolutely! We’d love to get some game time in with you!


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Comments (2)

Great interview. Can't wait to play the game, sounds really cool.

Looks pretty awesome! Definitely picking this one up!

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