Exterior, day. A Land Rover pulls up outside a fence topped with razor wire. It’s hard to tell what this facility was, but judging by the wreckage and bloodstains, it’s something else now. Half a dozen soldiers pile out of the vehicle into a defensive perimeter. When he is satisfied that all is well, or at least as good as it’s going to get, the leader calls softly: “On me!” and they gather around him, eyes darting here and there in search of zombies.
“Right,” says Captain Flack (for it is he). “Cuthbert, McGrew – stay sharp, stay with vehicle. McGrew – stay awake this time; may have to leave in a hurry. Dibble, Pugh – no, not you, other one – secure line of retreat. Pugh, Grubb – with me. Questions?” There are none. Flack, Pugh and Grubb double time over to a shattered door, and dart inside a short hallway, past the half-eaten body of a security guard slumped over his desk, telephone still in hand to call for help that never came. At the end lies a lift shaft. The three force the doors open, and Grubb rigs a field expedient sling seat for them to lower themselves into the darkness below.
“Good,” says Flack. “Descend!”
Meanwhile, outside, Cuthbert has rolled back the canvas over the rear compartment and is scanning the area with his SAW. McGrew has his beret down over his eyes, arms crossed, feet up on the dashboard – clearly the unit’s “get-out artist”. Pugh and Dibble are checking the wire-enclosed area around the entrance for nasty surprises.
“So, Pugh,” asks Dibble. “What do you think we’re here to get?”
“I think this is where it all started – you know, the zombies. Stands to reason there’s a good chance of finding a cure here, too. If we can get it back to HQ, maybe the boffins can, you know, culture it or something. Make more.” Dibble snorts.
“If it exists. If it’s still here. If they’re still alive at HQ when we get back. If we get back.”
“Your trouble, Dibble, is you’re too optimistic for your own good.”
One of the things I love about ATZ is the continuous flow of scenario ideas it generates. Here we see Captain Flack, erstwhile adversary of Drew & Co., conducting a search of a secret underground laboratory a few weeks after the outbreak. Can you say “ATZ dungeon crawl?” I knew you could…
The squad (all protected, with assault rifles and flash-bangs):
- Captain Flack, Rep 5 Military. Born Leader, Stone Cold.
- Pugh, Rep 4 Military. Knifeman.
- Pugh, Rep 4 Military. Nerves of Steel.
- Barney McGrew. Rep 3 Military. Transporter.
- Cuthbert. Rep 4 Military. Athlete. Has a SAW instead of an assault rifle.
- Dibble. Rep 4 Military. Ambidextrous.
- Grubb. Rep 4 Military. Knifeman.
And we’re back in the ‘phone booth because (Dining) Table Mountain has got stuff on it. If this gets to be a habit I may shift to 15mm figures on smaller maps. This map is from one of the French expansion packs for Cry Havoc, and I’m counting one hex as 2″.
Capt. Flack’s orders are to search the underground facility (which I shall treat as a discover encounter inside a hospital) for The Cure. In a rural area such as this, we begin with 1/2d6 zombies per human, and I have 3 humans on the board. I roll 1, 3, 6 and halve the scores rounding down to get 0 + 1 + 3 = 4 zombies. I now roll 1d6 per zombie on the table on p. 30, and because of the rolls and the fact the play area is so small, the zombies clump up just out of Line Of Sight for our heroes.
Initial Setup: Flack, Grubb and Pugh enter the map from the lift shaft.
Activation: Humans 4, Zombies 5. Humans activate and zeds don’t. I expect this will be a lot easier with heavily armed and armoured Rep 5 troops, but who knows? Moving cautiously (no fast move) Flack’s team move up to room 6 and peer in through the bars. On such a small map I decide to treat each room as a separate building for encounter purposes rather than using the Large Buildings rules on pp 48-49. I roll 2d6 for the room, deduct 2 for a rural area, and add 2 for night-time as I reason that deep underground with the power out is more like night than day. On a modified score of 2, the room is empty. However, Flack can also see into another room, so I roll for that too. Unbelievable – a 3, so that is empty as well. Put on some creepy music and imagine the scene as the troopers’ flashlights sweep over the abandoned lab area.
End of Turn 1: "Cells with beds? An operating table? What the hell were they up to down here, Skipper?"
Activation: Humans 4, Zombies 2. Both activate but humans go first. Flack splits the team with hand signals to search the two empty rooms, using the table on p. 48. I decide to treat the area as urban for this purpose as otherwise there is no chance of finding The Cure. Room 6 turns up empty (roll of 5, +2 for urban = 7), and the larger room likewise (roll of 4, +2 for urban = 6). The zeds start shambling towards them.
End of Turn 2: "Did you hear someone say 'Braaaiiiins'?"
Activation: Humans 4, zombies 4; neither activates. The troops continue to search their areas, but so quietly that the zombies have no noise to home in on, and pause.
Activation: Humans 1, zombies 6. Humans move and zombies do not. Flack gathers his men by gesture and they creep off towards rooms 2-5; I pause the action when they round the corner as this gives Flack line of sight into rooms 2-4. Checking contents gives room 2 a 6 (1/2d6 humans with a 1 counting as 0, I roll 1, so nothing); room 3 gets a 5 on 2d6 (1/2d6 humans from the What’s Inside? table on p. 43) followed by 2 – a single human; room 4 gets a 7 on 2d6, 1/2d6 humans, followed by a 2 – one human. I roll for Who They Are (table p. 43) and get a pair of 4s – gangers. I then check the table on p. 9 for specifics, and get 2d6 rolls of 4 (Hard Case, Rep 5) and 11 (Wannabee, Rep 2). I roll 1d6 for each to see what weapons they have; the hard case rolls 2 and adds his Rep (5) for a 7, SMG; the wannabee rolls 4 and adds Rep 2 to get a 6, machine pistol.
I decide to go to the Meet & Greet table; Flack’s men are highly disciplined, and the gangers have seen flashlights earlier (which zeds don’t use) so they are not surprised.
Flack’s torch plays over the two figures in the cells, and the troops move stealthily closer. Everyone knows by now that making noise is a bad idea when there may be zombies around. Flack finishes his move with line of sight into room 5, so I check that as well; a 2d6 roll of 5 +2 -2 on the What’s Inside table (p. 43) shows another 1/2d6 humans; a roll of 3 gives us another one (I’m halving and rounding down, which isn’t explicitly in the Rules As Written but does match a roll of 1 being zero people). A 1d6 roll of 3 gives us another ganger, 2d6 on the Ganger table (p. 9) gives a 6 (Banger, Rep 4) and a further 1d6 roll 2 + Rep 4 = 6 shows he has a machine pistol. For simplicity, I decide to treat these as one group led by the hard case. As usual, rather than multiple rounds of rolling dice, I decide to go with whatever successes occur on the first set of rolls. The Gangers roll 3 d6 (5d6 for boss Rep 5, -2d6 for being gangers), and the soldiers roll 5d6 (Flack’s Rep). Flack rolls 1, 2, 2, 2, 6 vs 3 and passes 4d6; the hard case rolls 2, 4, 4 vs 3 and passes 1d6. I consult the table (p. 45) and see that as Flack has scored three more successes than the gangers, they will join the group under Flack’s control.
“They’re everywhere!” says the hard case. “You have to get us out of here, man!” Flack considers for a second. They are not very good civilians, but they are civilians, and he is sworn to protect even such as they. Also, real live people are scarce commodities. A few months’ training will turn them into useful group members.
“Come with me if you want to live,” says Flack. (Another beer for those playing Trope Bingo.) “Expect you searched. Find anything?” But searching has to wait for the next activation.
End of Turn 4: "Come with me if you want to live."
Activation: Humans 1, zeds 2. Both activate, zeds first as they rolled higher. They each shamble 6″ towards the nearest human by the most direct route, which means one rounds a corner and walks into Pugh’s flashlight beam. Pugh rolls 5, 3 vs Rep 4 and passes 2d6 on an In Sight test (quick reference charts). As a Military figure, this means he holds his fire because the zombies are more than 6″ away. He taps Grubb, who signals to Flack. Nobody takes the Zed or No Zed test (p. 33) because no-one is within 6″ of a zombie. Flack gives orders with curt gestures, which in the case of the gangers is limited to “shhh”, and steps into room 2. Time to search.
(I roll 2d6 four times for resources found, once for each room, adding 2 each time for location. 7 = nothing, 6 = nothing, 5 = nothing, 4, nothing. Oh well.)
End of Turn 5: "Skipper! We've got company!"
Activation: Humans 2, zombies 3. Both move, zeds first. It is at this point that I notice there are now zombies between Flack and the unsearched rooms, and also between Flack and the elevator. Oh dear. Pugh and Grubb are now within 6″ of zeds for the first time, so take the Zed Or No Zed test on the Military QRS. I now notice I have moved Flack more than 4″ from his men, so he can’t help them with the test. Ouch. Note to self, don’t build a Star around a concept and then move him so that he can’t use his powers! Pugh takes charge of himself and Grubb in this instance, and rolls 2d6 vs Rep 4: 3, 6 = pass 1d6. The zombie charges and Pugh and Grubb take the Being Charged test, 2d6 vs 4: 3, 5 = pass 1d6. This means they cannot fire but can melee normally – gunplay is a bad idea at this point, so I’m happy with the result. I’m not quite sure how to handle this, but after reading p. 31 a couple of times I think the zombies Pugh can see now move into contact.
Pugh has two zombies on him, each rolling 1d6 in melee. He has Rep 4 and an improvised melee weapon, giving him 5d6, but he must split those – 2d6 on one zed and 3d6 on another. The left hand zed rolls 2 vs 3: Pass 1d6. In return Pugh rolls 2, 5 vs 3: Pass 1d6. He’ evenly matched against that zed. The other one rolls 1d6 vs 3: 4, pass 0d6. Pugh rolls 1, 3, 3 vs 3 and passes 3d6. Since this is at least two more successes than the zed, he kills it. (Again, I’m counting successes from the first round of die rolls rather than following the Rules As Written.)
Flack and the gangers move up in support. Grubb moves into contact with Pugh’s zombie – this requires a Wanting To Charge test vs Rep 4, Grubb rolls snake eyes and goes into Hero Mode – as per p. 14 this means he automatically passes certain types of reaction test for the rest of the game. Having passed 2d6, Grubb charges into melee. He has 5d6 (Rep 4 with improvised weapon) rolls 1, 3, 3, 5, 6 vs 3 and passes 3d6; the zombie rolls 4 vs 3 and passes 0d6, so Grubb creams it.
End of Turn 6: "Silent (if blurry) kill!"
Activation: Humans 2, zombies 1. Both activate, humans first. The humans start to move around towards room 7, but this brings Grubb to the point where he can see another two zombies – In Sight test! He passes 1d6, and snap fires – oh dear, and things were going so well. Three shots, each with 1d6 + Rep, gives us totals of 7, 6 and 5. All of those miss.
Middle of Turn 7: "Grubb! How can you miss at that range?"
And this is the point where the family needs my attention, so I pause for the night. Fortunately, one side effect of doing these write-ups is that I have pictures to reconstruct the current state when next I can play.
Later… I dig everything back out of the cupboard and use photos intended for this blog to reconstruct the situation. I get hung up for a while on the question of whether the humans can carry on moving after Grubb has fired from his In Sight test, but decide that they can. As the group moves past the doorway into the largest chamber, Flack calls a warning and lobs a flash-bang into the room, aiming for the rear zombie’s location. He rolls 3, 5 vs Rep 5 and passes 2d6; the grenade table on p. 19 informs me that the grenade lands just where he wanted, so we move to the results table on p. 20. The zombies halt in place and lose their next activation. Flack rolls 1, 2 vs Rep 5, passes 2d6, so is unaffected. Pugh passes 2d6, as does the ganger. Grubb passes 1d6 and is stunned, as do the wannabee and (surprisingly) the hard case. The turn now ends and I dice for extra zombies drawn by the grenade (counts as 12 shots) and gunfire (3 shots). I roll 1d6 for each shot, and since this is a rural area each 6 generates a zombie. There are three of them, and the zombie placement table plus the rules for placement if they would be off-map drops all three in the place the first lot appeared. I realise that Flack and Pugh should’ve taken the Zed Or No Zed test, Flack does so now and passes 2d6, and uses his Born Leader to force Pugh and the gangers to do so as well. Nobody has to worry about that again.
End of Turn 7: "Skipper, are you sure that grenade was a good idea?"
Activation: Humans 5, zombies 6. Humans activate, zombies don’t. What a waste of a flash-bang. Oh well.
Grubb, the wannabee and the hard case spend this turn recovering. The rest pile into the largest room and lay into the zeds with improvised melee weapons. 14 melee dice vs 2 is not a fair fight, and that’s just how we like it; both zeds go down under a hail of boots, fists and rifle butts. I am restraining myself from picturing Flack yelling “Fix bayonets!” – maybe next time, it looks like it would work pretty well.
The humans search the room, and find two units of food.
End of Turn 8: "Zulus down!"
Activation: Humans 2, zeds 3; both move, zeds first.
The zeds move closer. The humans move through their current room towards rooms 1, 7 and 8, aiming to search the other room on the way. The formerly stunned stragglers fast move to close up, all rolling well enough on fast move to do so – yes, even the wannabee, astonishingly. Flack steps around a corner at the end of his move and takes an In Sight test on a zombie entering via the opposite doorway; he rolls 5, 6, 6 (extra die for being Stone Cold) and even the redoubtable Captain Flack passes but 1d6 and snap fires at the zombie. Scores of 11, 9, 9 mean that only one hit is achieved, but the Impact 3 assault rifle is a sweet tool and gives of its best even in these circumstances, placing the zombie Out Of the Fight. It’s now the end of the turn, so I roll for more zombies, but miraculously none arrive.
End of Turn 9: "Take that, vile flesh-eater!"
Activation: Zeds 3, humans 1. The zeds go first and shamble to the sound of the guns. They stop 4″ from Flack and he takes a Being Charged test, passing 2d6; he fires and melees normally. Three rounds rapid into the approaching zeds: Scores of 10, 8 and 7 grant one hit, which knocks down the nearest zombie.
The humans now move; calling “Follow me!”, Flack first passes his Wanting To Charge test, then barrels into the knocked-down zombie, with Pugh hot on his heels. The pair of them make short work of it. The room is now clear, so the gangers following on behind search it, finding a pistol.
Again, no zombies are generated for the gunfire. If you’re going to shoot, do it in a rural area, that much is clear.
End of Turn 10: "...and you shall know us by the trail of undead."
Activation: Both sides roll 4, neither moves.
Activation: Both sides roll 6, neither moves, and there is an event! I roll 2d6 on the random event table on p. 52: 12, a cellphone rings 1d6 inches from a random character and attracts 1d6 zombies. It must be an alarm, they can’t possibly be getting a call this far underground this long after the servers went offline. The cellphone turns out to be right next to the hard case. Even worse, it attracts 6 zombies, one of them right next to the lift.
End of Turn 12: "Turn that damned phone off!" White die showing 6 represents phone.
Both sides activate and the humans move first. Flack and Pugh fast move (passing 1d6) towards room 7, hoping to search it before the zeds get them. The gangers and Grubb take room 1, all of them except the wannabee passing 2d6 (he passed 1d6). The zombies close in on Pugh, he restrains himself through the In Sight test, and only passes 1d6 on the Being Charged test so doesn’t get a shot off. Three make it into melee, but through lucky dice rolls he kills two and draws against the third. Flack meanwhile frantically searches room 7 and comes up with another assault rifle; oh well, never know when you’ll need a spare.
Over in room 1, Grubb finds a semi-auto rifle and the hard case finds nothing. One room left, and then we can get the hell out of Dodge.
End of Turn 13: "Any time you want to leave would be fine by me, Skipper..."
Both sides activate and zeds move first. The unfortunate Pugh is now facing off against four zombies. He kills one, and draws with two more, but the fourth one clobbers him good – he’s Out Of the Fight. (At this point I realise I forgot to do an In Sight test for the ganger I had carefully positioned just outside the door of room 1, ready to lay down Final Protective Fire. I guess he just froze under the pressure.)
The gangers are ready to charge to Pugh’s aid… right up to the point where they pass 0d6 on the Wanting To Charge test, and halt in place, unable to fire. Wusses. Worse, they’re blocking the door so Grubb can’t help his squadmate either. It’s all down to Flack, who shoots at the zombies, knocking one down, then wades into the others in melee, where he kills both of them in a fine display of Close Quarter Battle.
Luck is with the Captain, and no more zombies come.
End of Turn 14: "Are you lot going to help, or what?"
Fortunately, the humans activate this turn and the zombies don’t. Flack now out-dices the remaining zombie in the dogpile 6:1, and it goes down. Grubb gets the gangers moving to room 8, which he searches, finding nothing of use.
End of Turn 15: "Pugh! Speak to me, man!"
Humans go, zeds don’t. Flack uses this turn to try a recovery test on Pugh. Pugh passes 1d6, but is not in contact with a medical professional so stays OOF for the rest of this game.
Both activate, zeds first. The sole surviving zed creeps closer, unseen by Our Heroes. Grabbing Pugh and their loot, these worthies start back towards the lift.
End of Turn 17: "Bug out for Zeebrugge!"
Both activate, humans first. We keep running. The zed turns tirelessly round and follows, bringing it into line of sight for the Rep 4 ganger, who passes 0d6 on his In Sight test so may not fire – just as well, really.
End of Turn 18: "Don't shoot!"
Both go, humans first. The gangers charge off the map into the lift shaft hoping for rescue, but on the way they must take In Sight tests and one of them opens up with his SMG on the zed. He drops knocks it down, and runs on. The ganger behind also shoots, doing no more harm; Grubb also shoots when he makes an In Sight, and puts the zed out of its misery.
The dice gods are kind, and none of this draws more zombies; it’s only a matter of time, then, before everyone is safely up the lift shaft. I now use the Keeping It Together table on p. 60 to see what happens to the gangers. Flack rolls 1, 2, 2, 3, 5 and passes 4d6 out of a possible 5d6. The hard case rolls 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 6 (he gets an extra die for being a ganger when Flack is not) and also passes 4d6 – we’ll come back to him. The banger rolls 1, 2, 2, 4, 6 and gains 3 successes; less than Flack, so he stays with the troopers for now, but will reroll after the next scenario. The wannabee rolls 3, 3, 4 and scores two successes, which is half as many as Flack; the wannabee is a permanent addition to Flack’s group.
Returning to the hard case… The table says “both sides score zero successes”, but I’ll take that as “same number of successes”, which makes more sense to me. They both drop 1d6 and retake the test; this ends with Flack getting more than twice as many successes as the hard case, so he is a permanent addition as well.
I now check the recovery table for Pugh after the encounter; he passes 2d6 so returns with no permanent damage. However, he was rendered OOF by a zed so he may turn; I roll 1d6 + Rep (4) = 9, so he’s OK, though only just. Finally I check for improving Rep; the soldiers all qualify, and both Pugh and Grubb increase to Rep 5.
This has been the longest game of ATZ I’ve played to date, and took nearly four hours – but I was doing the write-up as I went. It used six human figures, and pawns for 13 zombies.