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Mutant Year Zero’s chaotic miniature skirmish game from the designer of Necromunda gets a summer release date

By tusk, feather and scavenged sniper rifle.

Promotional art for Mutant Year Zero: Zone Wars miniatures skirmish game.
Image credit: Free League Publishing

Eighteen months after the initial announcement that Swedish tabletop RPG Mutant Year Zero would be translated into a miniature skirmish game, Mutant Year Zero: Zone Wars has opened pre-orders ahead of a June 4th release date.

Zone Wars takes the post-apocalyptic world and characters of the Mutant RPG, which was most recently revamped as Mutant year Zero by tabletop publisher Free League Publishing, and pits them against each other in small-scale battles. Each player will control a band of Stalkers patrolling the Zone (big Strugatsky Brothers inspiration here) for artefacts and resources that might sustain their communities for a bit longer.

Starting factions include mutated humans whose heightened abilities coincide with warped physical forms, animals who have gained sentience and a culture all their own, and robotic entities who either long ago replaced their flesh with metal or found the spark of consciousness amongst all their circuitry. A menacing new power wants to keep them from transforming the world back into a promised “dawnland”, but everyone’s too busy fighting over scraps to notice.

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Free League’s Tomas Härenstam and Nils Karlén teamed with Necromunda and Warhammer Fantasy Battle designer Andy Chambers to create a ruleset that a press release described as “embracing mayhem and emergent narrative to create a fun and fast-flowing experience.” Zone Wars will use a pool of six-sided dice, similar to the Year Zero Engine powering many of their RPGs. Players will need to roll at least one six to hit their opponents, and every figure can push for more successes - and thus more damage and better effects - if they don’t mind risking their cobbled together and delicate equipment.

Zone Wars also boasts a bespoke initiative system that takes activation out of the standard modes of either round robin or you-go-I-go trading off. The designers also want to keep early aggression from swinging matches too early and have tied some powerful abilities to mutations and robotic enhancements. A loss can be turned in your favour quickly with smart thinking and use of radiation-granted gifts. You might also let the environment do the work for you - Zone Cards representing fallout, acidic weather and other nasty conditions are drawn every round and affect all teams equally. The Wasteland favours nobody.

Two main boxes will be available at launch: the Core Set and the Robots & Psionics expansion. Core boxes contain everything two players need to hit the ground stalking - two teams of five 32mm miniatures (already assembled but unpainted) consisting of the Ark Mutants (humans) and Genlab Tribe (animals), a 36x36 inch play mat, cardboard terrain, rulebook and ruler, and all the tokens, dice and other bits needed during play. Five prewritten scenarios are included alongside solo rules and character creation guidance if you want to bring your RPG creations into the gridded arena.

Promotional art for Mutant Year Zero: Zone Wars miniatures skirmish game.
Image credit: Free League Publishing

The Robots & Psionics expansion includes ten figures from two more factions - the recently self-aware robots of the Mechatron Hive and the psionically gifted and secretive humans of the Nova Cult. There’s all the same game accoutrement in this box, including five more scenarios, but the real draw is rules and pieces for expanding the base game into a four-way cluster of shooting, wings, tusks and bulging brain powers.

The miniatures were all sculpted by Alejandro Muñoz Martín and Daniel BlueIce and, according to Free League, were sundropped at the factory. Sundropping is a painting technique that allows you to see plenty of sculpt details on otherwise unpainted (or base coated) figures, meaning you don’t need to bust out the brushes and pots for these to look good on your table.

Pre-orders for Mutant Year Zero: Zone Wars’ core set and first expansion box are now available on Free League’s website. No exact date on when pre-orders will ship was provided, but it’s likely very close if not before the game’s June 4th street date.

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