Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Infection Z... It's Almost There!

I'm still working at knocking my solo zombie apocalypse rules ~ Infection Z ~  into shape and they're almost there. All of the components are in place. Everything works well. Test games have worked and can get nail biting. So it's looking good.

But... Putting it all together in a desktop publishing program is a long and tedious process. I'm using Scribus for two reasons: 1 - It's free, and 2 - My pc is a few years old and won't be able to handle the resource intensity of InDesign (my wallet wouldn't like it either). So Scribus it is. It's an awkward program and slow, but I'm getting it done. It has taken over a week to do 40 pages of  formatting but I'm almost there. By the time it's finished it should be around 55/56 pages.

In the mean time I took the time to play-test the last (3rd) game of the Intro scenarios.
In this scenario, the group has fought it's way through the city streets over the two previous games and now find themselves in a park in  pretty open area. They're surrounded by zombies and will have to fight their way out. The group has met a patrol of police in riot gear and a TV News crew. There were about 30 odd zombies on the table at the start of the game.
After deploying the zombies I had to draw two cards and deploy more zombies where the cards indicated. As it turned out both of these deployments were in in the "back to the city" direction. So the escape rout was clearer than it could have been.
The greatest mass of zeds is coming from behind and the riot police take the main assault and hold them back... For a while.
The rules for the riot armour work well. It's pretty simple but effective and gives the cops a fair bit of staying power. But they eventually got swamped and only 1 out of the 4 that started manage to escape.
The group slowly pull back to an escape rout in one corner. They could have used other routs but pretty much got pushed in one direction.
One of the game events tuned out really well. In the pic below Daisy (with the sedge hammer) and Gus the mechanic are in the path of an out of control SUV. It charges out of nowhere, crushing a zombie in its path. This happens at the end of the turn.
At the start of the next turn the Leader - Frank, manages to pull Daisy out of the way because she is within 3" of his Leader influence/radius. Gus isn't so lucky.
First up, the zombies have overwhelmed the riot police and are now swarming Gus. He manages to survive by the skin of his teeth but the SUV is still charging in.
It hits the zeds, crushing 3 of them. They don't have the option to get out of the way, but Gs does. His Athletic trait is low so he has very little chance of leaping out of the way. I realised what was going to happen so I took all these pics to witness the dramatic death of Gus.
And then... Gus made is Athletic roll and lept out of the way. Very cinematic. Edge of your seat stuff. I just stood there looking at the dice thinking: "That can't be right." But it was and Gus was still standing. Battered, but still standing.
The next turn (turn 7 of 8) saw more drama. Dwayne with a new and more appropriate figure in the green top was almost off the table. The next Unexpected Event saw 5 zombies burst out of the building behind him. This was a totally random building. There were two Unexpected Events for this turn and the second was a gas explosion - In the same random building. The new dead-heads were wiped out. Dwayne was pummeled but just managed to survive. Daisy who was close just got some minor cuts. The cars protected the others.

Great stuff!
By the end of the final turn all the rest of the group, the TV News crew and one police officer got off the table. Only Frank the Leader and Gus were left and they would have had the advantage to get away for any future turns. The group met the victory conditions (50% off the table) so the game was a success.

I'm really happy with the way the game is coming along. I'll have a first draft document soon but I'm sure there will need to be more tweaking. As I see it, the next challenge will be to better incorporate all of the factors other than fighting. The first little collection of games is designed to lay down the basics and introduce a few other concepts along the way. 

I have a few ideas for other enemies beyond zombies and brutal gangs. I think they're good and they should make the end of the world more interesting. But first things first ~ Getting a fully established document isn't far off.

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.

Friday, 15 May 2020

More Painting & More Infection Z

I've been painting a bit. Just an hour or two most nights but I've also been typing a lot too, trying to bash my Infection Z solo zombie apocalypse rules into shape (more on that below).

Painting wise, I've mainly been doing apocalypse-ish things but I've still been doing fantasy stuff. I do tend to go off on a spree which will eventually peter off and then I get on to something else for a while. This time it's back to zombies.

Anyway, here's a bunch of bikers. I think they're Copplstone figures but I'm not sure. They look like his sculpting but I've seen the same figures on line with other folks making claims on them. They're pretty hefty dudes with plenty of character. I've had them for a while and that's why I can't remember where they came form.
This one is from Studio Miniatures. It's obviously supposed to be Daryl from the Walking Dead and it's a pretty nice figure. But the way it leans forward really annoys me. I might re-base it.
This guy is a Frostgravefigure from Northstar. Very nice. Despite his hood he has a very crazy face. I like him.
Infection Z

I've really been working hard on this. I wrote and changed and worked on a lot of stuff and played a test game. I went back and changed a bunch of things and added new things and played another test game.  Changed more stuff and played another game...

Lots of writing and three test games and it's really starting to take solid shape. I changed a lot of the original stuff I worked on last year but I tried to keep the basic concepts. After three games it now seems to work.
The main changes were made to the survivor characters. And it took a lot of thinking and chopping and changing and editing and chopping and changing again. In the end I looked at good old original D&D for guidance. And I found the inspiration I needed!

As for the zombies: my original concept of a goal system does allow for a lot more zeds. There are a few different types in the game (fast ones and big ones etc,) and they tend to were down the survivors. Some of the zeds are nasty but they can be killed with a single head shot. But it is working out how I wanted them to work. The sheer weight of numbers is what makes them lethal.

I took the following shots to show how, during the game, fairly quiet situations can become lethal pretty quickly. This is what I want. Unpredictability and dangerous, but not impossible, situations.
With writing the scenarios I also decided to go less detailed. Initially I made pretty precise maps but then opted for a general concept. On the tables below I played the same game through twice. The survivors had to get from the building in the big red circle to the exit at the little red circle. The top one was the first game and the second was the more general set up (which allowed me to do any sort of basic lay out).
The second game worked so much better that I forgot to take pics of the game because I really got involved. (And no! The bus and ambulance crash was not part of the game. I only now noticed that I did the same thing in both set ups - It must be a Freudian thing.)

So there you have it. Infection Z is coming along nicely. I'll play the 3 game, mini-campaign I wrote back to back this week to see how it works out.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Some of This and Some of That

I've devoted limited time to painting this week, but I've still been painting a little bit every day. As a result I've finished a few figures. Some I've had for a few months and some that are pretty much new.

This first one is a lady knight from Reaper. It's a very nice figure and required very little clean up prior to painting. The only disappointment is a slight warp in the sword. II don't think it's supposed to be a she-elf but it could be. Lovely figure. Nice detail and easy to paint. I like it's hair.
This one is another Reaper, but this time its a Black Bones figure. In my opinion the Black Bones are much nicer to work on than the original white ones. This figure came in a set of three and it the nicest figure out of the three. (No back shot because it's pretty dull - just a long dark cloak.)
And some zombie apocalypse figures from Studio Miniatures. Nice figures but both of them are quite small. The lady in particular is very small. But her rifle is to scale so she looks like what she's supposed to look like: a tough little lady with a big rifle. The guy is simple but well done and really looks the part. I like his coat and scarf.
And another big zombie from Zombiecide. He doesn't look happy. Judging by the way his legs are posed, I think he needs a pee.