Posts Tagged ‘Post-Apocalyptic’


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!

Et tu, Bertrus?

Posted: December 3, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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golemtechLL, PL, and I continued our P-A fantasy Microscope game on Monday (you can read about the first session here). We continued PL’s “School of Magic” focus and then I chose to focus on “Bertrus”, the Betrayer of the School of Magic, when my turn as Lens came along. We finished up with LL taking the Green Lantern Lens ring and choosing to look across the sea from Conusa to the distant land of “Begendlund”, apparently the home of loathsome meddlers with entirely too many teeth. Here’s what we learned about our history during the session:

  • Begendlund colonized the continent known as Oztrailus, half-way around the world from their own land. (PL)
    • The Begendlund “First Fleet”, under the command of Ruhtra Pillihp, arrives at Oztrailus and establishes a gnomish penal colony at Nyuoz Whales. The gnomes incarcerated there are criminals of the worst kind (What gnomes aren’t?) and face hard and short lives taming this new and wild land. (MA)
  • After the gnomes of Gnomeleska drove off the golems, but before the decline of gnomish civilization, we saw a much younger Bertrus…and learn that he is, in fact, a gnome. After the gnomes’ golem problem was solved he began to secretly delve into golemtek. In the course of his tinkering he managed reactivate an inactive self-replicating golemtek core in his lab. The device began to pull together pieces of, well everything, in his lab to create a new golem…and another, and another… (MA)
    • To escape the madness he had unleashed in his lab, Bertrus fled up the stairs of his tower to his waiting gnomish airship and flew away from the city. He watched the fall of his towers as raging golems tore them to the ground and then turned their anger toward the city beyond. (MA)
  • Before the golems began raging across the lands of Conusa, there was a period known as the School of Magic, during which the Founders established schools devoted to teaching the magical arts in many lands across the Irth. (MA)
    • Early on, high-dollar backroom funding from an unknown source sponsored archaeological expeditions to uncover lost magical knowledge and artifacts. Some of these finds later informed and inspired the formation of the School of Magic. (LL)
    • We learned of the reappearance of the Dark Arts because of one of these digs. A cache of magical tomes and artifacts disappeared from one of the sites and was never found. (PL)
    • We learn how Bertrus became involved in the School of Magic. We see him standing in a darkened, well-appointed room. A sinister voice is speaking to him from the shadows, saying, “Go! Help them establish their school. Learn the Dark Arts and bide your time. The end draws near!” (MA)
  • Begendlund begins subversive activity in Conusa. Watching from afar, the meddlesome Begendlund begins working to suppress the new moves to discover lost magic and establish formal schools for its study. (LL)
    • Sleeper cells from the mysterious Begendlund organization known as EMI Sect are activated and begin a campaign against magical reawakening in Conusa. (LL)
    • Sect agents find and revive inactive golems in Conusa and use Stone Hedge Magic to “re-mission” them, sending them out to seek users of the Dark Arts and golemtek. (LL)
    • Begendlund’s interference was later discovered and it didn’t sit right with many people (PL – Legacy “Anti-Begendlund Sentiment)
  • When he learned of the fall of the School of Magic, and how it had happened as a result of Begendlund’s meddling in the affairs of Conusa, the Emperor of Nordland summoned his War Council and advisors. Wearing his spiked Helm of Power and wielding his Spear of Destruction, he gave a mighty speech, “Begendlund will pay for its act of destruction! We must let the rest of the world know of this treachery!” (PL)
  • After the golems take Nyuork and sack the School of Magic, and presumably after the underground offensive against the golems by the Mad-Hattanites, Bertrus takes control of Mad-Hattan. (PL)
    • He did this by using his knowledge of the Dark Arts to summon the “Others”. These unknown, perhaps unknowable, creatures hunted the Mad-Hattanites in their own tunnels. It’s rumored that the Others didn’t kill them…but, instead, somehow dragged them back to their own world for reasons unknown. (LL)

Oh, yes, we are quite mad.

The return of the golems

Posted: November 26, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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golemBack to the Microscope. LL and I invited PL to join our Monday session to start a new game of Microscope. We had a lot of fun with our previous sci-fi Microscope game (read about it here, here, here, and here) and will certainly continue it but wanted to try something new. In our discussion of the Big Picture we decided to take LL’s suggestion that we work with a fantasy world. It took us a while to come up with the rest but we finally settled on post-apocalyptic, a genre of which we are all three quite fond. We ended with the following Big Picture statement: Refugees struggle to rebuild after the apocalypse in a fantasy world. Not really all that inspired, as it’s sort of a knock-off of one from the rulebook, but let’s see where it takes us.

For Palette, PL kicked us off with “no elves”. I quite liked that, having considered opening with “no gnomes” myself. We went from there, ending up with a Yes column containing: “magic with consequences” (LL), “out of control golems” (MA), “gnome scientists” (LL), “primitive firearms” (PL), “secret masters” (MA), “geography the same as Earth” (PL), “alien races” (LL). Our No column contained: “no elves” (PL), “no gods” (PL), “no supermetals” (MA), “no sentient plants” (PL). It’s an odd mix but I think we can make it work.

For our Bookends, we chose a dark Start period called “Fall of civilization” and a dark End period called “Fall of civilization”. Sort of sets the tone, doesn’t it?

Then we started playing with our First Pass followed by a turn with LL as the Lens (she chose “golems” as the focus) and the start of a turn with PL as the Lens (he chose the “School of Magic”). We’ll hopefully finish up that turn and get to me this coming Monday. In the meantime, here’s what we learned about our history:

  • Sometime after the fall of civilization there was a period when gnomes flourished in our world. The center of their civilization was a frozen land called Gnomelaska (see what we did there?) Sadly (or not), gnome civilization collapsed at the end of this period. (PL)
    • At some point the gnomes were having a problem with golems. They managed to kick them out of Gnomelaska by some convoluted plan involving the construction of a transit system that brought in reinforcements. The “Hurried Ones” arrived just in time. Fearless and seemingly impervious to the cold of the region, they helped the gnomes push back the golems.
  • Golem armies raged across the lands of Conusa, streaming from the frozen northwest across the continent. (LL)
    • In the western part of the continent the golem armies sacked the dwarven outpost of Corado Springs and left a garrison there before moving on. They began expanding the dwarven mines in the nearby mountain. (MA)
    • Later, the golem armies reached Nyuork and attacked it. They were supported by rock-heaving, rolling golems and rock-dropping, flying golems. They conquered the city and began building…something. (MA)
      • Even so, the Mad-Hattenites fought on, waging an underground war against the occupying golem army. They were mostly miners and the chemicals that they used for ore separation had caused madness among their ranks. They proved difficult to fight because of their tenacity and seemingly random tactics. (LL)
      • During the attack we learned something about the golem’s motives in a scene that played out at the School of Magic, located in the city. As the golems pounded at the gates and bombarded the school’s buildings, a group had gathered for safety in the main gathering hall.
        • The school’s headmaster, Lord Mandro, was distraught and realized that it was, in retrospect, probably a bad idea to have gathered so many magicians together in one place.  (PL)
        • Williwiggens, a gnome and the school’s top student, worried that there might be no graduation this year…and, thus, no valedictorian position. (MA)
        • Bertrus, one of the school’s professors, pondered the success of his plans to attract golems so that he could study them further. (LL)
        • Williwiggens is casting about in distress, observing the world through magically enhanced lenses and notices the aura of dark magic Bertrus exudes. He (she?) tugs on the headmasters robes and Lord Mandro wakes up from his daze, looking around at those gathered. He senses it too and confronts Bertrus who, in true evil villain style, admits to dabbling in the dark arts. He knew all along it would bring down the wrath of the golems, whom Bertrus hopes to study and eventually control.

And that’s it for now. I’m just going to put it right out there that we all know this is pretty whack. The “same geography as Earth” thing got us right into kooky (courtesy of yours truly) and we just kept on going. It’s a fantasy world gone haywire and, by the looks of it, this things going to go just about as gonzo as Gamma World. I think I’m really going to like it! Tune in next week for an update.

G:Z – Welcome to Dexter, MO

Posted: November 25, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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Excerpt from the diary of Richard Dawes:

G-Z 1We’ve been on the road for months, all through fall and the start of winter. We’ve lost people along the way. A lot of good people. Andy bought the farm just the other day, or maybe it was last week. We were hitting a grocery store somewhere in Kentucky. It looked pretty clear so Sam even let us cripples help out.

We got a lot of stuff but, on the way back to the front doors, we ran into a good-sized pack of shamblers coming out of the offices at the front. There were too many to fight in that cramped space and there was no way Andy was going to outrun them on one leg and an improvised crutch. He knew he was beaten, had been since we had to take off his leg at the knee, but he was still cocky as ever. Andy grinned and pulled an old grenade he’d been carrying out of his pocket and told us to go. We did. We heard the grenade go off from the parking lot. We said a few words for him over cans of cold beans later that night. Andy hated beans.

dex1Sam hasn’t been quite the same since that day. He’s gone back into lone-wolf mode. I guess Andy was about as close to a friend as Sam ever made. They removed a lot of shambler heads together. I’ve noticed he’s a little more careful these days. Hell, why not. I’ve been cautious ever since they took off my arm because of a little bite on my hand. Sadiq’s always been like that. Police training, I guess. He can’t seem to connect much with that old table leg he carries but he doesn’t ever get hit either. I think Paula’s got a better kill count than he does. You’d think the LPGA was still a going concern as many notches as she’s put on that fancy Ping wood of hers. I guess Jonathan doesn’t kill all that many either but that’s okay because he’s pretty good with a gun and he keeps the HMMWVs running okay. It’s not like I have anything to offer the group anymore. I could sell snow to an Eskimo but I don’t think anybody’s buying anything these days. Most of the people we meet don’t breathe, let alone talk.

That’s all, isn’t it? Just the five of us now. Well, and Buddy. He’s okay, but he still hasn’t really forgiven me for kicking the crap out of him in my sleep during the baby zombie nightmare. We really need to find a place to hunker down. Somewhere safe. Get out of this world for a while.

We rolled into Dexter, MO at around dusk today. I think it’s late December but I’m not sure anymore. Could be Christmas or New Year’s Eve…or it might be just another day at the End of the World. Anyway, I used to have a customer in Dexter and I remember checking out his location on Google Maps back when there was still an Internet. It’s a pretty small place. The graveyard’s bigger than the current population of the town…don’t get me started about my theory on that! Just outside of town, on the east side, I remembered seeing this big junkyard. Thousands of cars just lined up off into the hills. I spent quite a while looking at it.

Mentioned it to Jonathan when I saw the road sign for Dexter and he figured it might be a good place to put in for the night – we could check out the scrap heap and see if there’s anything we could use to get Hummer #2 running a little better. That thing took a beating back at the “Army base”. We managed to replace the two burned tired from a crashed HMMWV outside of Raleigh but it’s been giving us electrical trouble lately. Jonathan figures some of the insulation melted off of wiring somewhere…maybe everywhere, for all I know. Still smells like burned flesh in that thing. I ride in #1 whenever I can.


We found a little house on the outskirts of town, just off of 60 and right before the junkyard. Just drove the Hummers over the shoulder and up to the front door. Hey, who needs roads? We didn’t see many shamblers. There were maybe four of five a good distance off and moving slowly. They don’t seem to do well in the cold. Maybe they’re not decaying as fast, I don’t know, but at least they can’t keep up with you if you move smartly. Anyway, we got out and went up to the door. I gave a knock and an, “Anyone home?” Sam hates that. He’d rather bash down the door and see what happens than maybe alert the (warmish) shamblers inside to our visit. Me? I figure it’s only polite. If I was holed up inside I’d like to be asked nicely to open the door before some fool started swinging axe. Horses for courses, I guess.

I didn’t expect to get an answer anyway. But I did.We heard a gruff voice from inside say, “Don’t you fuckin’ move!” so we didn’t. It was getting dark by now and none of us much fancied saddling up and finding somewhere else to spend the night so I started talking. It’s nice to feel useful. I explained our situation and our mystery homeowner finally came over and removed the barricade. He introduced himself as Marvin Judd. I was skeptical but let it slide. He was pretty sturdy looking, carrying a shotgun and a bow. Survivalist type. My old customer base. That’s a good thing.

We talked about what was going on and what had happened to our group and to him since the Event. Seems he was a consultant to some sort of survivalist reality show. They’d take a him and a crew and a producer and some unlucky sap up into the hills and watch him shed thirty pounds eating twigs and berries and trying to chase squirrel and opossum. Marvin stayed off-camera, giving advice, helping the producer set up situations. I was never much for reality TV but might have watched that one. Anyway, they got done filming and started back to the world. Noticed their cells didn’t work but didn’t think much of it. First “people” they ran into? You guessed it. That took care of his ensemble cast, leaving Marvin on his own. I don’t doubt he was better off for it…here he was today sat in the living room of a loaner home skinning a deer. He said there was plenty and we could share if we were so inclined.

We were, so we blocked off the kitchen the best we could and built a fire in the old oven and smoked the deer while we went on talking over cans of food. The deer didn’t take too long and it sure was good. Don’t think I’ve had fresh meat in a dog’s age, whatever that means. We were all tired after eating so we checked the barricades and turned in for the night.

Meet Richard. He’s my character and he’ll be telling the story of our GURPS: Zombieapocalypse game, now entering Season Three…for as long as he’s around anyway. There’s a thing or two you should know about Richard. He used to, with his wife Joan, operate a Web-based survivalist gear store. Somewhere in Tucson, AZ there’s a “huge warehouse” stocked with “top-of-the-line” surplus military gear, rations, and so forth. Actually it’s just a 10’x20′ storage unit at Lock-It Lockers on Speedway Blvd. and about half of the Dawes’ two-car garage. The other half is taken up by “Arnie”, an Army-surplus GMC pickup in old-style camo.

From this data you may discern that Richard lies. A lot. Compulsively, actually. BUT he does try very hard to be truthful in his diary. If he ever tells a whopper I’ll hopefully catch it and let you know about it. He also has a picture-perfect memory. Remembers simply everything he notices. Main problem is that he’s been a little depressed lately so some things, like the date, have been slipping his mind.

We’ll learn what happened the next morning shortly and we’ll page back through Richard’s diary to have a look at the highlights of Seasons One and Two. Stay tuned…

Under the Microscope

Posted: October 17, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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We’ve played a couple more sessions of Ben Robbins’ excellent Microscope RPG, once with LL, HG and MA and again, last night, with just LL and MA. Neither resulted in a complete history yet (and how could a history ever be complete?) but we hope to continue both games at some point. I’ll be sure to post the results here when they’re more fleshed out.

The Sunday before last I didn’t feel much like running Skull & Shackles so LL and I broke out Microscope and introduced it to HG. He seemed a bit skeptical at first but quickly got into the flow of the game. LL suggested examining a history centering around super-powered humans and their effect on the world. The superhero genre is something with which LL is quite familiar. HG is less submerged in it…and I’m just now beginning to gain an appreciation. We hoped it would make for an interesting experiment.

We started with the concept that an alien invasion of Earth, shortly following the devastation of WWII, resulted in the emergence of powers – the effect of a tailored virus that wiped out much of humanity but resulted in the manifestation of amazing powers for a small fraction of the survivors. This start point was suggested, I believe, by HG. The end point, we decided, would be “all humans are super-powered”. We didn’t specify how that happens, but we classified it as “light” so I guess the supers didn’t kill off all of the normals. One of our “no” palette items was “no campiness”. We probably should have made that “minimal campiness” because LL, as is her wont, has already slipped in a little under the table… 🙂

We added “first-pass” history items and then LL and HG took turns playing the “lens”. Some of the key elements that emerged:

  • In the rubble of post-war, post-invasion Europe several survivors with powers banded together and managed to destroy an alien ship and capture another. They went on to lead the human resistance against the invading aliens, driving them back. This group eventually became known as “The First Five”.
  • Later, the First Five Foundation was established. It apparently sought to control the creation of new super-powered humans and secretly hoarded various alien technologies for its own use.
  • At some point, distrust of supers overcame the gratitude felt by ordinaries and their governments for the liberation of Earth from the alien invaders. Governments sought to control and harness supers. This movement solidified after the assassination of the chairman of a UN-equivalent organization. The chairman was making a plea for the governments of the Earth to better control its supers.

We’ll learn a lot more about the events on this parallel Earth when we play another session.

LL and I started up a new game last night, with the hopes of creating a setting we might be able to explore later with our group using a full RPG system. We chose to do a sci-fi history where humans expand from Earth, meet aliens, and then (somehow) end up alone in the galaxy. In our palette we chose to include psionics, cheap power, and megastructures and exclude limitless FTL travel and communications, humans in alien suits, universal translators, and ancient “precursor” aliens. Here’s some of what we know about the history from our session:

  • Humans expanded beyond the Earth to found colonies on other worlds. We don’t know if they used FTL or not but do know that, at some point, they discovered “jump points’ and how to use them to travel much more quickly than before. This resulted in the Consolidation Wars, which brought many of the colonies together under one united banner.
    • Travelling via jump points caused psionic abilities to appear in certain humans. The mechanism for this is, as yet, unspecified. Many of these people were initially taken for study and experimentation, a legacy that will likely cause problems later on.
    • During the Consolidation Wars, a border colony called Neu Essen was psionically destroyed by a crewman aboard one of the warships laying siege to the colony. She was distraught because her lover, another crewman, had been killed during the battle with the colony and lashed out subconsciously. This was an unprecedented display of psionic power. The “echoes” of her psionic outburst were “heard” by psionics at a great distance.
  • As humans explored the jump point “network” they encountered an alien species, who also travelled via jump points. Communication proved impossible and a war ensued. Later, a psionic crewman aboard a human warship found he could speak with the aliens telepathically. At some point psionic communications enabled the negotiation of a treaty and the end of the war.
    • Later discussions with humanity’s new alien friends revealed that their psions had heard the Neu Essen outburst but hadn’t understood what had happened at the time. This is, no doubt, something we’ll get back to.

So. There you have it. It’s definitely a work in progress, having only gotten through one focus in our short session. It seems promising, though…and it has certainly gone in directions neither LL nor I expected when we started. That’s the beauty of Microscope, I guess!