Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Play Testing Infection Z

Like my last post, I've been writing and re-writing and writing some more. I've also been play testing and, it's been pretty good so far. The games themselves have played really well. The group of survivor characters have only just managed to get trough the scenarios and not completely unscathed.
I wrote a short series of 3 intro games that I'm calling Day 1. They start in the city and involve getting though to the suburbs where things might be less dangerous (they won't be, but that's the premise of the narrative). Game one is a straight up gauntlet run. Start at one end of a main road and get off the other end. Game two assumes the group have holed up in a building for a rest and then they're off again. This time the roads are gridlocked and other hazards make their presence felt. Game 3 sees the group trapped with some other survivors (NPC's) trapped and surrounded in a park from which they need to escape.
These photos are from game 1. The group leader is the guy with the blue backpack. He's pretty tough and the best brawler in the group. He has a whole bunch of skills too. The cop in the bottom pic is the second best character only slightly less capable than the leader. The idea of this game is that the survivors start at one end of the road and have 8 turns to get off the table on the opposite table edge (3' away).
The nature of the game makes the appearance of zombies quite unpredictable. Just when you think you're home they can still getcha! This happened in this game. The survivors moved up the road pretty easily without too much hassle. Then a pair of Frenzy Zombies (with the red bases) charged into the old guy with a shotgun figure. He's and "Old Timer" character. A good shot but weak in a brawl. He got pretty beaten up and only the help of the police officer kept him alive.

Three of the other survivors got off the table in turn 6 (at least half the group need to get off the table or those remaining have to make a post-game Survival roll. But turn 7 saw a large group of zeds turn up right in front of the leading characters. The police officer was off the table and the two characters below were caught. One was swarmed and the old timer had another frenzy zombie to deal with.

As a result the old guy was killed just as the leader came to help. The other - Daisy - was knocked to zero hit points (Life Points in the game) but didn't "Turn Zed." The old timer did and had to be put down again.

At this stage game 1 ended. The frenzy zed was dead as was the old timer zombie. The leader (Frank Banner) was helping Daisy. However, 4 of the seven starters were off the table so the victory conditions were met. And it was off to game 2.
Now I had some rules written for injured characters but I had to give them a bit of a re-write. Now that I had to put them in action they didn't quite work as I had expected. No worries though: that's why I'm play testing.
In Game 2 the group starts in one corner and have to make their way to the opposite corner. This time the roads are very congested and the rout is indirect. They've had the chance to recuperate damage by rolling their Fortitude dice. Most end up close to full except for Daisy, the injured character from the previous game. She's at half Life Points. A new character has replaced the old timer. His name is Dwayne and he's big, fast, dumb and clumsy. When creating him, he rolled a Drawback (Klutz) which is a bad survivor skill. It's not permanent and can be removed as he gains experience.
Something interesting happened in this game. The Leader - Frank, broke his melee weapon. This is the first time in several games that this has happened. and it really affected his performance. I was surprised. He went from the best brawler to a mediocre guy pushing zombies around. At least he still had a pistol.

This scenario also has the chance of introducing a Looter. This is an NPC who is belligerent and who's main purpose is to cause trouble and steal Loot Tokens. Each game has a number of Loot Tokens (this game has 8). They are placed around the place and that's how you scavenge stuff. If the Looter takes them, then you miss out.
Dwayne performed pretty well to start with and didn't fumble anything. I'm using a Goal System with dice pools and Successes and Fails. If all of Dwayne's dice are Fails then he stuffs up whatever it is that he's doing.
Again, the unpredictability of where zombies appear comes into play. The cop, Albert, takes a quiet rout and gets caught by surprise by two zombies that weren't on the table before. He fights his way out but it takes time and prevents him from being where he's needed most.
By about turn 6 the group make it into a factory yard - about halfway through the board. Gun fire and other things have caused Unwanted Attention, which attracts zombies. Now they're going to have to fight their way through a narrow gate to the exit point.

You can see Daisy, the injured figure from the last game. During this game she has to be helped by one of the other characters. She can't do anything and is virtually just a token. She has been passed around from character to character. In the pic below she's with Gus the mechanic.

In combat the survivors take damage just like in many other RPG's. The zombies have no Life Points. They only die if the survivors can get a Head Shot. This is a simple 2 Goal contest, usually rolled on multiple dice. It's surprising how hard it can sometimes be to roll 2 Successes on a handful of dice.
In the pic above, the zombie figures laying down have been Knocked Down but not killed. There is a Raising the Dead Phase where they can attempt to stand up again. This is also the phase where characters at zero Life Points roll to see if they Turn Zed.

In the pic below. Frank and Dwayne got separated and had to take a back alley. Frank has jumped the fence (an Athletics roll)  into the factory yard. There is a zombie knocked down in front of him. Frank can hit them but without a melee weapon he's having a lot of trouble killing them.
This last one is the same pic as the first.

Frank and Dwayne did rejoin the group (you can see them in the top left corner) and there was a major fight. Dwayne took serious damage and had to get off the table fast. He did, but in the end only 2 out of the 6 starters made it off the table. Because of that the remainder had to make Survival Rolls. Luckily they all passed (one only because she had a re-roll). So this game was harder and a lot more difficult. It was 10 turns long and I think more survivors would have made if off the table if Frank had been better able to make a difference.

One of the characters found a One Handed Weapon (a hammer, kitchen knife, or a wrench etc.). This can be given to Frank for the next game. Not as good as his machete but better than a pistol butt. 

So there's a bit of a run down of how the game runs. Not super detailed, I know, but things are still in a state of flux at the moment and liable to change.

It is running the way I want it too. Very edge-of-your-seat in the later turns. Some concepts are a bit vague but that's the way I want them to be. I want to leave room for player interpretation so folks can read things to better suit their own vision f the zombie apocalypse.

Anyway, it's almost there but but yet. I have my well informed and experienced wargaming friend Bob, having a look at them for me. So I'm expecting some thoughtful critique. It's easy to miss the forest for the trees. Writing and re-writing and re-writing and re-writing... But it's almost there.

Cheers and thanks for looking in.

P.S. My newest pieces of terrain appear in the pics above. The dark green bus stop and some advertising boards from Sarissa Precision.


  1. Really nice write up! I had tried to make my own zombie rules also. Good luck seems like you are off to a great start

    1. Hi Martin. I tried this last year and it went nowhere. I decided to look at it again and now it's all coming together. Stepping back for a while seems to have been worth it.