Archive for February, 2013

Zombicide

Posted: February 20, 2013 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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zombicide_box_th2LL and I tried out Zombicide from Guillotine Games tonight. In the game, you take the role of one of six survivors facing down a zombie horde as you attempt to accomplish certain objectives. It’s very well done, with great components including nine map tiles and various tokens printed on thick cardboard and 71 nicely sculpted 32mm miniature figures. There are six survivors to choose from and each has special features that make them unique.

Zombicide has some unique gameplay features. The play sequence has the survivor characters acting first, followed by the zombies. On their phase, the survivors can each take three actions (more if they have special abilities allowing it or have gained some experience). They can move from one “zone” to another, attack a zombie, search a room or vehicle, open a door, and more. As survivors kill zombies and accomplish objectives, they gain experience. As a survivor’s experience grows, so does the danger level of the game. Survivors start out at the “blue” danger level but move quickly to “yellow” as they reach seven experience points. It takes a bit longer to get to “orange” and a bit more to get to “red”. At each level, they gain new abilities: an extra action at yellow, and selectable skills differing for each survivor at each of the other levels.

What does the danger level mean? New zombies enter the board at “spawn points” at the end of each turn and are placed in revealed rooms after doors are opened. To determine how many and which type of zombies appear at a given point, the players draw from a deck of cards and read the results shown. At blue level the usual result is one or two normal zombies and sometimes nothing. At yellow and higher, however, things get a little tougher, introducing larger groups of zombies, “runners” (two attacks and moves each turn), “fatties” (tougher to kill and accompanied by two “walkers”), and (heaven forbid) the “abomination” (a scary fatty that’s very hard to take down). The game starts out slowly but ramps up quickly: once the first survivor reaches seven points of experience, the danger level goes to yellow…for everybody.

zombicideZombies are drawn toward any survivors they can see or to the noisiest spot on the map. Actions like shooting a gun or bashing down a door with an axe generate a “noise token” in that zone. Additionally, each survivor counts as a noise token in the square he or she occupies. This sounds bad but can be used to your advantage: put your badass zombie killers somewhere and start up chainsaws and such while your stealthy roller-skating waitress survivor goes around and opens doors with a crowbar (silent). Nobody said zombies were smart.

All survivors start out with a (randomly dealt) piece of equipment and can find more by searching (but only once per survivor per turn). The former cop starts with a pistol then each survivor is dealt one card from a deck containing a pistol, a fire axe, a crowbar, and three frying pans. The pans suck. Equipment is key to surviving the game: you need better gear and weapons to survive the zombie onslaught and accomplish your objectives. You can search a room that’s free of zombies by spending an action and drawing from the search deck. Most of the time you’ll find a weapon, supplies, or a special item (such as a flashlight, which lets you draw two cards when you search). Sometimes you’ll find a zombie…

Each weapon card tells you how many dice you can roll with each attack, the number needed to hit, and the number of wounds caused by the weapon. It also shows you whether it can be dual-wielded…if you have two of the same weapon you can use both in the same attack, giving you more dice to roll. Melee weapons are only useful against zombies in your zone. Ranged weapons might reach out as far as three zones. The extra twist on ranged weapons is that you’re pretty much going to kill survivors in whatever zone you shoot into…so only shoot into squares containing only zombies. Walkers and runners take one point of damage to destroy. A fatty takes two. The abomination takes three…which means you need some major firepower (like a Molotov cocktail) to kill him.

LL and I each took three survivors and we got the hang of killing zombies pretty quickly. We spent several turns searching for equipment and killing the zombies that came our way. Doug, a dual-wielding office worker, found a pair of SMGs. Another found a rifle and paired it with a scope. Together they made a pretty good killing team. Before we knew it, we were at the yellow danger level. Then the abomination showed up. Seems I remember that LL’s survivor killed him with a Molotov. Later, as things heated up, we were still doing okay…until we drew a couple of cards that didn’t add new zombies but instead gave the ones already there an extra attack-move phase. Suddenly we were overrun and facing some tough choices. Needless to say, the game ended in tears…

The game was pretty fun and easy to play and I think we’re both looking forward to trying it again. I understand that Guillotine is working up a new add-on featuring a mall, six new survivors, and zombie versions of the old and new survivors. Now that sounds like fun!
MA

The curious case of Mr. Magnetti

Posted: February 4, 2013 by mearrin69 in Gaming
Tags: , , ,

LL and I met as usual on Monday night. This week it was back to RPGs with a short excursion into the world of Call of Cthulhu, with a session run by LL. She told me she had drummed up a little solo adventure and gave me some parameters so I created a character on the spot. I used the 5th-edition rules and rolled randomly, play-as-they-lay. We gabbed randomly for the better part of the night but finally got in some playing at the end of the evening, as a man named Faustino Magnetti decided to investigate something odd and ended up getting more than he had bargained for. Isn’t that always the way with CoC?

1898_prison13_DeerIsland_Boston_NewEnglandMagazineOn this particular morning in early June of 1928, the weather at Boston’s Deer Island House of Correction is sunny and fine. Most of the inmates are enjoying the weather in the exercise yard but we find Mr. Magnetti working in the prison library, where he has made himself most useful over the past six months of his confinement – being a man of letters incarcerated amongst a population of mostly lower-class petty criminals.

Before continuing, however, perhaps we should learn a little more about our protagonist: Faustino Magnetti was born in the year 1885 in Brooklyn, New York to working-class Italian immigrant parents. His father was a stone-cutter and his mother took in laundry and did sewing for the wealthier residents a few blocks over. They were poor, but not destitute, and managed to put away a bit of money so that their only child, Faustino, might attend college and see a better future than they.

Faustino was a diligent student, though not the brightest, and did well in school – eventually performing well enough on his placement exams to earn a place at the esteemed Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass. He applied himself eagerly to his studies in the rapidly developing field of anthropology, with a specialization in archaeology, and received a B.S. in 1907. By this time, his father had died in a construction accident, though his mother attended his graduation ceremony with teary eyes.

Mr. Magnetti, as we shall now call him, took work as an assistant to the head of M.U.’s Anthropology department and rented a small apartment in Arkham for himself and his now-widowed mother. In his role at the university, he began to travel widely on school expeditions, visiting South America often. It was there that he learned to speak Spanish (quite well) and Portuguese (passably well) and discovered much about the vanished cultures of that continent. While away on one of these trips, in March of 1918, his mother took ill with the Spanish Flu and passed away. Her body was cremated and, on his return, Mr. Magnetti attended a small ceremony at the Catholic church where the two often attended Mass.

DeerIsland_prison1_Boston_LC_HABS_ma1445By this time, Mr. Magnetti had accrued a little money and some measure of reputation in his field so began to fund his own trips to Peru and other S.A. countries to explore the leavings of the lost civilizations of the Aztecs, Incans, Toltecs, and so on. He also began “importing” certain artifacts found during his expeditions for sale to discerning collectors of such things. On his return to Boston from just such an outing to Peru’s Callejón de Huaylas highlands, where he had uncovered a number of figurines of obvious religious significance and a curious crystal skull, he found himself answering some probing questions by U.S. Customs agents.

The unusual artifacts stirred their interest and, upon further investigation, it seemed that some of them resembled descriptions of items that had been placed on a certain “watchlist” issued by the Peruvian government. Though the U.S. government felt no specific urge to honor the Peruvian demands for extradition, or at least life imprisonment, it did hand the case over to the state court in Boston. He was convicted on a fairly minor charge of Possession of Stolen Property and sentenced to two years at Deer Island, with the possibility of parole after serving one year. And, so, this is where we find Mr. Magnetti, on this fine June day…perhaps half-way to his freedom and resumption of life as usual.

untitled2While shelving books in the library at about half-past ten o’clock, he noticed an eager young man waiting for him by his book cart. He bore a note for Mr. Magnetti from one of his fellow inmates, a Mr. Byron Humphrey. Mr. Humphrey was a career petty criminal with a history of minor embezzlement, fraud, and so forth. His love of alcohol and lack of innate intelligence has prevented the man from truly excelling at the criminal arts, pegging him squarely as a failed “fakeloo artist” and shabby “scratcher”. Mr. Magnetti has spent quite some time in the library with Mr. Humphrey over the past several months, helping him research his various pet projects – most of which seem to deal with this or that bit of obscure occult knowledge. Though Mr. Magnetti little believes in any of that nonsense, he has found his work with Mr. Humphrey interesting due to the many parallels between American occult beliefs and the religious practices of several ancient South American cultures.

untitledThe note from Mr. Humphrey was, as usual, intriguing. It invited Mr. Magnetti to visit him in his cell in two hours for a glass of “toilet wine” and to view an unusual rock he had found in the yard that morning. The rock bore a strange symbol, transcribed on the note, and Mr. Humphrey wondered if Mr. Magnetti had ever seen it or something like it in his studies. He had not, though it did resemble certain hieroglyphics he had seen in his field work. He examined a few likely volumes, the prison library being well stocked with unusual reference volumes bequeathed by the estates of wealthy Bostonian families from time to time, and found something similar – possibly bearing some religious significance, a reference to “Old Ones” worshipped by some primitive cultures. He decided that perhaps a quick letter to Professor Morgan, the current head of M.U.’s Anthropology department and an expert in many hieroglyphic languages, omitting the details of the discovery of course, might turn up the best possible answer in the shortest amount of time.

By then nearly two hours had passed so Mr. Magnetti posted an “Out to Lunch” sign on the library desk and went to Mr. Humphrey’s cell. He discovered the old fellow dead drunk, passed out on his bunk with a mostly empty glass of the aforementioned swill on the floor near his dangling hand. He shook Mr. Humphrey and called his name to no effect, though the man did roll over and drop an oddly-shaped flat rock from his flaccid hand onto the floor. “No reason to waste a visit,” he thought, and picked up the rock to examine it. The rock itself was of a curious reddish granite though, being no expert in geology, Mr. Magnetti could make no more of it than that. The symbol was indeed quite interesting and he could immediately see that it had not been created by carving or gouging, as it bore no tool marks whatsoever. It almost appeared to have been melted into the surface of the rock.

untitled1That would have been curious in itself, of course, but curiouser yet was what happened next. As Mr. Magnetti examined the symbol on Mr. Humphrey’s unusual find, he began to feel odd – a bit dizzy and slightly faint. In the dim light of the cell, lit by a single bulb dangling from a cord, the symbol almost seemed to be growing. Then, in fact, he became sure that it was growing…expanding beyond even the edges of the rock on which it was engraved. The effect was mesmerizing and, as the symbol continued to grow to surround Mr. Magnetti bodily, his faintness became quite urgent and he lost all sensibility, dropping to the floor in a heap.

When he awoke the light had faded considerably, as if many hours had passed. No lights could be seen anywhere, which was strange because the turnkeys should have already begun rousting the inmates back to their cells for dinner and headcount by this hour. He reached out but could not find the rock he must have dropped when he lost consciousness. He stood and carefully pulled the chain for the cell light. It illuminated the cell only faintly, leaving the corners in deep shadow. “Must need a new bulb,” he thought, as he noticed that Mr. Humphrey was no longer on his bunk…though his mostly empty glass had remained in its previous location.

Mr. Magnetti turned to the open cell door and walked toward it, intending to peek out and look up and down the remarkably quiet cell block. As he did so he nearly fainted again, feeling as if he was sticking his head from a completely dark room into a lighted one…a lighted room that looked remarkably like the cell in which he himself was standing. He was surprised to see a man standing with his back turned just a few feet away. He started to say something to get the man’s attention when he realized the man was wearing his exact suit of clothing. Astounded, Mr. Magnetti jumped back into the cell and looked around, noticing that the back wall of the cell was completely black. Still startled, he reached for Mr. Humphrey’s rickety stool and picked it up, pushing it through the cell door while watching over his shoulder. He relaxed when he saw the legs of the stool appear through the back wall.

“Only a dream,” he thought, “I feared I must be going mad.” Clearly relieved, Mr. Magnetti confidently stepped through the cell door and reappeared…on a spiral staircase surrounded by and descending into darkness. He could just make out the roof of a cavern far above his head. “One devil of a dream, I guess! Well, let’s see where this goes,” he thought, and began to climb down the steps. Suddenly, a thin gout of purplish flame rushed up from far below and licked the ceiling of the cavern. It soon subsided and, as it did so, he followed its ebb to notice that the flame had illuminated the cavern floor. There he saw two men close by the flame. They were curiously dressed, wearing robes and headgear resembling a mitre such as that worn by Bishops of the Church.

And…that’s where we left it. A devil of a dream indeed. Let’s hope, for his sake, that Mr. Magnetti wakes up soon. I have no doubt that LL will have some fine tortures in store for our protagonist next Monday. I just hope he survives…I’m growing to like him.
MA

NB1: The word “curiouser” does not appear in my dictionary either. I figure if it’s good enough for Lewis Carroll then it’s good enough for me…and given the ever-deepening rabbit hole our Mr. Magnetti is currently traversing I thought the reference to Alice’s adventures was somehow appropriate.

NB2: It might interest you that a much more recent resident of Deer Island, Mark Wahlberg, stayed in the very cell Mr. Humphrey occupied in 1928. Well, we don’t know that for sure, but his time there certainly straightened him out some…so maybe he found a rabbit hole while he was there too. 

Catching up…

Posted: February 4, 2013 by mearrin69 in Admin

I’ve been a poor blogger lately and will be making up for it over the next couple of weeks. We’ve played another season of our GURPS: Zombieapocalypse game on Sunday and several sessions await recapping. Today, we started doing character creation for a short Traveller interlude, using the original rules (for now anyway). We’ll finish up and start playing next Sunday, so that’ll be the first blog entry on that game. On Mondays, LL and I have been playing a mix of things: Our “Psionic Scream” Microscope game, the Star Wars space miniatures battles game, Risk, and maybe one or two others. I’ll start catching us up with Risk.
MA