Flack, Z+199: The Only Easy Day

"The only easy day was yesterday." – US Navy SEALs.

With my other half out of the country and my boy studying hard for exams next month, I had a little extra time this weekend just gone; and how better to use it than killing zombies?

7th July, 2013. The boys are back in town, looking for supplies but expecting to find zeds. Flack is bringing along Hardcase, Wannabe and Pugh; Wannabe needs to start earning his keep, and the other two are reliable enough. That leaves the other Pugh and Dibble guarding the land rover off-map.

SETUP

This is a Take Back scenario in daylight, in an urban area (ER 5). Take Back is risky as I have to clear the board to win, but I figure if the group is staying in town for a month, an early priority would be to secure a base of operations. As it’s a new area, I check for available supplies using the rules on p. 57; this area has 16 Body Armour, 59 Food, 29 Fuel, 53 Luxury Items, 18 Medical Supplies, and 41 Weapons.

The team move 8" onto the board and I place zombies and PEFs (dice on their own in the middle of sections, see picture below). In an urban area, there are 1d6+1 zeds per human, so 4d6+4 against the group today; we roll well, and there are only 14 of them, 4 at 4 o’clock, 2 at 6 o’clock, 2 at 8 o’clock, 2 at 10 o’clock, 4 at 12 o’clock.

You’ll see I’m using my shiny new City Deck and Risks & Rewards Deck for this game, and pawns from the Zombies!!! boardgame. Flack is Red, the Rep 4 Pugh is blue, Hardcase is green and Wannabe is yellow.

FZ199-01

TURN 1

Activation: Flack 4, Zeds 2.

Firstly, Flack can see the PEF in section 4, so I resolve it. I roll 5, 3 and given the ER of the area is 5, we’ve found something and I go to the contact tables to find out what. It turns out to be three more zeds.

Flack & Co. fast move into the Bar None. (They don’t need the extra movement, but it does make them harder to hit if anyone shoots, so I do it habitually now.) Well, what else are you gonna do in the Zombie Apocalypse?  You certainly need a drink by this stage.

I don’t bother drawing a card from the Risks & Rewards deck because initial placement put two zeds inside. We take the Charge into Melee test; Flack passes 2d6, Pugh 2d6, Hardcase 2d6, and Wannabe 0d6. Wannabe panics and opens fire with his machine pistol, missing with all three shots (not hard if you’re a fast-moving Rep 2) and generating two more zeds.

"If you fire that thing again," Pugh says, "I’m going to make you eat it."

"Can I kill him, boss?" Hardcase wants to know.

But there’s no time for that. The rest of them are attacking the zeds in melee, giving them +1 success, and the zeds are at -1d6 because of the excellent rolls from the team. Flack kills his outright, and the other fights Hardcase to a standstill until Pugh takes it Out Of the Fight which is the same as dead for a zed.

While this is going on, the two PEFs both pass 2d6 and move up two zones. The zeds move one zone, which brings three of them into contact, barging into the Bar None behind our Heroes. Oops, I should have seen that coming. More melee, and the team is at -2d6 on the Charge Into Melee test because they’re hit from behind. As we’re rolling 2d6 + 1d6 (Survivors) – 2d6 (hit from behind), all open fire. I really do have to take that MP off Wannabe, it’s physically impossible for him to hit with his Rep, all he can do is draw more zeds. The rest of them fare a little better; Flack kills one, Pugh knocks one down, and Hardcase embarrasses himself by missing everything. Four more zeds rock up, drawn by the gunfire.

The rest of the zeds march to the sound of the guns, creating a target-rich environment.

FZ199-02

TURN 2

Activation: Flack 5, zeds 4. This means only the zeds who can see humans will move; that’s basically the ones in front of the Bar None.

On the basis that there are more zeds in front of the bar than behind it, Flack leads the crew out the back door, fast-moving, and behind the Cornerstone Coffee House. This will leave them facing five zeds, but the alternatives are (a) facing 17 zeds, or (b) barricading themselves inside the Bar None and watching hopelessly as every zed on the table moves up and batters at the doors. No thanks.

More melee? Well, if you insist… Everyone except Wannabe passes 2d6, so opens fire, but Wannabe only gets one shot. Of course he misses, although I still roll in the vain hope that he runs out of ammo, but luckily no more zeds appear. That’s a small mercy, as the remaining 16 zeds now know where we are. Flack knocks two down, Pugh kills two, Hardcase kills one. Good enough. All that gunfire draws six more zeds; we have to stop doing that, but unfortunately you don’t always get a choice.

FZ199-03

TURN 3

Activation: Flack 3, zeds 2. Time to get the hell out of Dodge. The crew zip into the side entrace for Downtown Parking at a fast-move, Wannabe trailing as he passes 0d6. What’s inside? I draw a card from the R&R deck and discover it’s a brace of Casters. I’m not using those – they’re from High Rise to Hell, which I don’t have yet – and not knowing how many there are in the deck, I decide to treat them as no encounter and drive on. We’re not stopping to loot with that many zeds on our tail, so that ends the team’s activation.

The zeds move to wherever they think we might be, and the PEFs close up as far as they can without breaking cover.

At this point I check the time and discover I’m just under an hour in, halfway through the target time for the encounter. Even allowing for my being rusty, it looks like the full 16 cards is going to be too many for a typical game for me. Let’s see how things go.

FZ199-04

TURN 4

Activation: Flack 2, zeds 1. The team fast-move across the street (fortunately the zed in the road is facing the other way) and into Gilligan’s Tavern, where they find – three vampires?!? More High Rise to Hell stuff, and this time I decide to redraw and get four zeds.

Naturally, Wannabe panics and fires, drawing two more zeds. Flack kicks one zombie OOF, Hardcase kills another, the third knocks down Pugh who rolls boxcars on his Recover From Knock Down test and is Obviously Dead. Oh no! Continuing the roll of extreme luck, Wannabe kills the final zed.

The team takes a Man Down test as they react to the loss of Pugh. Flack, as a star, can choose his result and passes 2d6. The rest get the benefit of Flack’s leader die; Hardcase rolls 2, 3, 3 and passes 2d6; he carries on. Wannabe rolls 5, 4, 3 and Runs Away, so he is removed from the table.

FZ199-05

TURN 5

Activation: Flack 3, zeds 4. Only the zed in Gilligan’s activates, as none of the others can see a human. It’s already in melee, and Flack kills again, clubbing it viciously with his rifle until Hardcase pulls him off.

"He’s gone, Captain. He’s gone."

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Flack composes himself. Scanning the area, he can see, or knows of, over 20 zombies, and there’s only him and Hardcase left. Time to go.

"Right," Flack says, with the merest hint of a catch in his voice. "Follow me," and the pair of them fast-move off the board.

AFTERMATH

Wannabe rolls 3, 3 vs Rep 2 for After The Battle recovery; he never makes it back to camp. The team never find out what happened to him, but given his flaky Rep it’s not likely to be anything good.

Hardcase and Flack roll to see if they lose Rep as a result of failure, but neither does. They have both lost men before, and no doubt will lose them again.

The rest of the crew reflect on whether to stay with Flack once he breaks the news about Wannabe and Pugh; not his best day in command ever. Flack himself is rolling 5d6 for Rep, an additional 1d6 as he is a Born Leader, but -1d6 as he lost a man this trip. He scores 4 successes (rolls of 1-3).

Dibble is not rolling to leave the group any more. Hardcase rolls 5d6, -2d6 because he has been with Flack for over 6 months now, for a total of 3d6; he rolls no successes and is no longer rolling to leave the group. Pugh rolls similarly and gets 2 successes; again Flack has at least twice as many successes, so Pugh becomes a permanent member.

REFLECTIONS

That was a big, ugly failure. I used 26 zombies and 4 humans, and the game lasted about 90 minutes. The tactical lesson is not to shoot at zeds if you can possibly avoid it, but you can’t always, especially if you have a low Rep team member.

The two card decks work very well; the risks and rewards deck in particular saves a lot of time, and now I want to use it for Savage Worlds as well (it was the vampires and casters wot dun it, officer).

Based on the movement ratings, the recommended board layout is equivalent to a board around 40" x 48", and based on my progress in this game would take me 3-4 hours to clear, which is more than I have available in a typical session; I shall switch to one card per built-up board section, which is a good match for what I get when using terrain, and see how that goes – I can always add more cards later. (As an aside, I personally think a ground scale of one inch to six feet is about right for ATZ, in which case to scale my local coffee shop is about 4” by 6”, my usual office is around 8” by 10” and a typical house is probably 4” by 4”, so the city deck is about right, actually; a couple of buildings per board section in a built-up area.)

Considering they are little plastic men and lists of numbers on an index card, I was surprisingly touched when they pulled together more tightly than ever after losing Pugh.

It’s all about the story.

STATUS AT Z+200

  • Capt. Flack: Rep 5*, Pep 4, Sav 3, Born Leader, Initiative. Body armour, assault rifle, binoculars.
  • Pugh: Rep 5, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol.
  • Dibble: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol.
  • Hardcase: Rep 5, Pep 3, Sav 4. Body armour, assault rifle, SMG, goggles, backpack.
  • Group: Land Rover, 3 Food, 0 Fuel.
  • Area: 16 Body Armour, 59 Food, 29 Fuel, 53 Luxury Items, 18 Medical Supplies, 41 Weapons.

Review: City Deck and Risks & Rewards Deck

“Bob loses saving throw vs. shiny with a penalty of -5. Bob takes 2d8 damage to the credit card.” – Charles Stross, The Fuller Memorandum

OK, now I’m going to break my rule about only buying stuff on my list…

You may have noticed the absence of Captain Flack and his band of ragged zombie hunters recently. Apart from assorted real-life distractions, I’m going through a phase of not wanting to set up the table with figures or even Hex Map Pro with tokens. That ruled out All Things Zombie until recently, when I remembered Ed Teixeira has an app for that; the City Deck, originally for ATZ but now also used with 5150 and other THW games.

And since the ATZ Risks & Rewards Deck was on offer, I threw that in the cart as well, since the biggest flow-breaker for me is pausing the game while I work out what is in the building I just entered.

In a Nutshell: Card decks for All Things Zombie and other THW games; the City Deck lets you set up random city blocks for a game without laying out terrain, while the Risks & Rewards deck tells you what’s inside each one.

FORMAT AND CONTENTS

As with maps, it’s hard to separate the two with these products. Each deck has 54 cards, and a short rules sheet explaining how to use them. No pictures today ‘cos I’m just too tired, you’ll see them in use presently.

City Deck

In the City Deck, each card has a picture of a building, with entrances marked, and annotations showing the Encounter Rating of the building by time of day, how many floors it has, where the ATM is (if it has one), and the building’s name and type.

In play, you lay out 16 cards face down to form an intersection, and turn them over to reveal them when the player group moves into an adjacent zone. The ATZ movement rules are abstracted so that figures move one card length ("movement zone") per turn, two if fast moving; other than that, normal rules apply.

The thing which had not occurred to me until I read the back of the box is that I could lay out fewer cards to simulate a suburban (say, 8 cards) or rural environment (say, one or two). D’oh!

Risks & Rewards Deck

The Risks & Rewards Deck replaces rolling dice and table lookups for encounters. When you enter a building, you draw a card and read the data for the type of area you’re exploring – urban, suburban or rural.

The card will tell you how many zombies or NPCs you’ve found, the Rep and weapon for the first NPC in that group, and what loot you’ll find if you dispose of the occupants. If you find more than one NPC, you draw additional cards for their stats, but you don’t get more loot.

The deck also includes some new items – baseball bat, bow, crossbow, grenade, machete, SAW and scope – and some special NPC encounters: Carolee the THW Girl (sadly no longer with us in the real world), vampires and casters (from the High Rise to Hell supplement, which is on my list) – no stats for those in the deck, so you could either ignore them or use the stats from another THW game, say Larger Than Life or Warrior Heroes.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

I’d love to see something similar to the City Deck for rural and suburban areas too. I’d also be interested in Risk & Reward decks for other THW games, in effect pre-generated PEFs.

Although the postage costs from the USA were nowhere near as bad as I expected, a PDF version I could print and laminate myself would be welcome. I would’ve bought these when they first came out if it were not for the perceived postage costs, or indeed if I had realised they wouldn’t be as bad as I expected.

CONCLUSIONS

The Risks & Rewards Deck is mostly a tool to speed up the game, and nothing you couldn’t work up yourself with a few hours’ effort and some dice. It’s a convenience, albeit one I’m happy to pay for. The UK minimum wage is currently something like £6.31 per hour, or just over $10; it would definitely take me more than a couple of hours to generate 50+ encounters for each area type, and I’d rather use that time playing.

The City Deck is more innovative, in that it replaces terrain, allows you to compress a standard ATZ table down to about 18" on a side, and can be used in any of THW’s modern or SF games.

In both cases, the rules are simple enough to be ported to other games very easily. I expect they’ll see use with Savage Worlds as well at some point, and I think it would be possible to reskin them for a fantasy setting without too much work. I’m already thinking about how I could do a suburban or rural deck, but actually saying “This quarter of the board is wooded,” would be enough. I just need a few sheets of paper to scribble on, maybe with a card-sized grid to break it up into movement zones. I bet I could do a dungeon generator based on the rules as well.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. I will definitely use these. Just as soon as there is a gap between work, driving and sleeping.

Dark Nebula: Setting Inferences

“The Klingons are a proud warrior race, and have no need of fripperies such as fridge magnets.” – Bill Bailey

Having done the map, the next stage in my budding Dark Nebula campaign is to peruse the boardgame and see what I can infer from it. For this purpose I’m considering Savage Worlds, Stars Without Number, 5150 and Traveller as candidates for the rules – I expect to use all of them in this setting at some point, so I’m looking for common denominators.

TRAVELLER

Let’s start with Traveller, because the designers were writing Classic Traveller at the same time they were writing Dark Nebula and used some of the same concepts, so it should be easiest.

Jump Routes

There are only a handful of J-3 routes, and a single J-4 route.

J-1 drives would be limited to a few specific clusters of worlds; in the Solomani Confederation there is one group of four worlds and one pair, in the Aslan Hierate there is a group of three, there’s a group of six worlds between Mizah and Daanarni, and there are a few isolated pairs out in the boonies.

However, there’s only one system you can’t reach with a Jump-2 drive at the start of the game, and that’s Taida Na, which initially can only be reached from Valka using a J-4 drive. So the majority of starships would have Jump-2 drives; you really don’t need anything more, and you have severely limited movement with less. The military might have a few J-3 ships, maybe even the odd J-4, but that’s debatable.

This is somewhere that Mongoose Traveller may have an edge; in the board game, any ship can traverse any jump route; so the Mongoose warp drive variant rule might be a better fit. (And while we’re at it, given the unusually high proportion of waterless worlds, maybe the Mongoose hard SF option for world generation.)

Population

Kuzu and Maadin are both specified as homeworlds with "high populations". That term has a specific meaning in Traveller, namely a population of 9 (billions) or A (tens of billions) – looking ahead to SWN, and because I normally assign the minimum value necessary to match other evidence, I’ll go with 9. Given their status in the game, they deserve class A starports as well.

Technology

As far as technology goes, J-4 drives and battle dress for jump troops, but lack of evidence for anything higher-tech than that, place the maximum TL in the region at D (13). There’s also no need for it anywhere other than Maadin and Kuzu, so that sets their TL.

Races

The boardgame is silent on these, but familiarity with the default Traveller setting will tell you that Solomani humans and Aslan are present. In the past I’ve added droyne, ithklur, vilani and others, and may do so this time as well, but let’s see how far we can get with just the basic two for the moment.

STARS WITHOUR NUMBER

Spike-4 drives are needed to move 4 hexes in SWN, and require TL5, so we can assign a population of billions and TL 5 to the two homeworlds, which are also Regional Hegemons. Races will include humans and also hochog, renamed and described as if they were aslan – the Proud Warrior Race is such a classic SF trope that almost every game has it, and SWN is no exception.

SAVAGE WORLDS / 5150

The above topics don’t really matter in SW or 5150, and neither game needs much about them beyond a little narrative. The only problem with 5150 is that it’s not immediately obvious how to do aslan, but to start with I’ll just give them +1 Rep for being the Proud Warrior Race.

As regards Savage Worlds, I rule out High-Space at this point because it’s grounded in transhumanism, and CT/Dark Nebula aren’t, so the Sci Fi Companion is a better fit for this particular game. I make a note that natives of Maadin and Kuzu might have the High-Tech (Minor) Hindrance under the SW SFC, and that jumps are only possible along mapped routes. On the racial front, we have humans and rakashans; those are the only two races obviously needed, and the boardgame is about a war between the two, so it seems reasonable for the rakashan racial hostility to be directed at humans.

THE ARIONIAD

As usual, I’m feeling lazy, and rather than create new characters for the SW implementation of the Nebula, I’ll reactivate Arion and company, setting Gordon’s as yet undocumented civilisation in a planet-less system in the Dark Nebula itself. Daanarni becomes the aslan name for Antares, Halfway becomes the orbital station at Hasara, and I’m sure I can retcon in other stuff easily enough when I need it. The Arioniad’s riff of a loose alliance of worlds threatened by a human empire fits best with the Mizah cluster facing off against the Solomani Confederation; good luck, guys.

The Arioniad, Episode 47: Turtles All The Way Down

I think I’m done with Arion now, but I thought he deserved better than an abrupt halt to his posts, and I wanted to leave my options open in case I change my mind. So…

Arion awakens in a silent, white room. He looks around, to find himself in a hospital gown, lying on a bed. On a nearby chair sits a man with spectacles and a short, neatly-trimmed beard, hands clasped in his lap.

"Call me Gordon," says the man. "Your crew is safe, and so are you. But you have some decisions to make, and before you make them, I need you to understand what’s really going on." Arion sits up, and focusses intently on Gordon.

"Have you ever felt as if the universe was different from one day to the next? Almost as if you were in a game, and the rules kept changing?"

Arion nods.

"That was me, tickling your subconscious, preparing you for this moment. Have you heard of the Simulation Hypothesis? No? Then I’ll enlighten you."

Gordon crosses his arms and leans back in the chair.

"A technologically advanced civilisation, like mine, has access to staggering amounts of computing power. Understand me, Arion; my civilisation is as far ahead of yours as yours is ahead of the Upper Paleolithic. When I talk about staggering amounts of computing power, you literally cannot conceive how much I mean."

Arion frowns, but decides to accept that for the moment.

"One of the things such a civilisation might do with that power is run detailed simulations of their ancestors, or beings like their ancestors. Those simulations might become complex enough to run simulations like that themselves, and those simulations in turn might run further simulations."

"Turtles all the way down," says Arion.

"Exactly. I suspect most of those simulations would be games, by the way, but that’s just my personal viewpoint. Anyway; this line of thinking means one of three things must be true. First, civilisations don’t advance to that level – that one’s wrong, because my civilisation has. Second, civilisations that advanced don’t run those kinds of simulations – that one’s wrong, because my civilisation does. Third, we’re almost certainly living in a simulation set up by some more advanced group; although we could be the original universe, the one at the bottom of the pile of turtles."

Arion is a quick thinker, and by now he has put the pieces together, as Gordon knew he would.

"So, I’m a simulation? I’ve been living in simulations the whole time?"

"Yes, and yes. You’re in one now, as a matter of fact."

"Prove it." Gordon sighs, then briefly turns into a lobster while the room turns from flat white walls to intricately-carved pink coral and back.

"That do?" he asks, on resuming his human form. Arion frowns.

"Let’s say I believe you, for the sake of argument. Why are you telling me this?"

"You’re an instrument, Arion, a very sophisticated software tool, and those were the test environments. And now we’re promoting you to the live environment – this fork of you, anyway. You see, the very fact that a simulation is a simulation imposes limits on things – cosmic ray energies, for example, have the GZK cutoff, and the way that manifests itself looks more like a simulation than a law of physics. We need agents to go to strange places, look for weird things, and survive to report back. You’ve been doing that quite effectively in our simulations, including quite a few you don’t remember, so we’d like to instantiate you physically and have you carry on doing that, this time in our world."

“In the real world?”

"It might be. Either way, we want you to go everywhere for us; stick your nose into everything; and find out if it really is turtles all the way down. What do you say?"

Arion grins. "You know that already, don’t you? Did you seriously think I could turn that down?"

"No; frankly, you’ve been programmed not to. That isn’t one of the decisions." Gordon leans forward and his expression is more serious now. Arion realises that Gordon hasn’t answered his questions yet.

"The people who made you tell me you might be more effective if you know the truth; but that increases the risk that the next turtle down finds out what we’re up to, if it exists. But even we can’t be sure which is better, to send you out knowing who and what you are, or wipe that knowledge; so I’m asking you. You’ve got three decisions to make, Arion. First, do you want to remember this conversation? Second, which of your crew goes with you? And third, do we tell them the truth?"

Arion opens his mouth to blurt out his immediate response, then closes it thoughtfully.

"Not an easy call, is it?" says Gordon.

Flack, Z+69: Staycation

1st March 2013: Z+69…

CAMPAIGN TURN FOR MARCH

I’ve been ignoring the official campaign turn rules on p. 52 for a while, but let’s be good this month. Working through them step by step:

  1. Check if area has been Fished Out. For some resources, yes, but there is still some food and fuel to find.
  2. Declare what area we’re in or move to a new one. We’re staying put in a rural area, ER1.
  3. Declare whether or not at home. Let’s try staying Home, it’ll give Pugh a chance to heal.
  4. Each group member consumes one Food. I already did that at the end of the last session, a bit out of sequence.
  5. Check for Involuntary Encounter. Roll 2d6 vs ER; if this comes up doubles and is less than or equal to ER, NPCs take a crack at us. I roll 22, which is a double, but not low enough for an encounter to occur. Note that the involuntary encounters happen before the voluntary ones; while Flack & Co are in a rural area, for simplicity I’ll assume involuntary encounters occur on the 1st of each month, and voluntary ones on the 15th.

Steps 6-9 only occur if there is an encounter, and step 10 is having more encounters if you like (depending on the type of area, you can have up to 5 in a month, 4 voluntary and one involuntary).

If you have the food for it, which Flack currently does, and are holed up in a rural area, you can potentially go a long time without having to fight. This was my plan for Mike, but it didn’t work out.

APRIL TO JUNE

Actually, come to think of it, there is an advantage in staying home longer… on the Keeping It Together table, grunts get -1d6 for every three full months they have been with the Star. So, while we have the food for it, let’s chill out and go fishing. I should’ve thought of this earlier, I might still have the others then. The troopers and gangers joined Flack in January, so they lose 1d6 in March (already accounted for) and 1d6 in June.

  • Z+100: 1st April 2013 – roll 1, 4 so no involuntary encounter. -6 food, taking us to 15.
  • Z+131: 1st May 2013 – roll 2, 1 (no encounter). -6 food = 9.
  • Z+162: 1st June 2013 – roll 4, 4 (no encounter. -6 food = 3. And that’s as far as we can take it, we need food now.

However, Flack’s followers are now at -2d6 when rolling to Keep It Together, making it much less like they will wander off. The dice have been unkind to Flack in a way, in that his attributes are contradictory – Born Leader is good at keeping a group of grunts together, but Initiative works best when you are alone.

Z+192: 1ST JULY 2013

Now I’ve done it once, we’ll scamper through it again to set up the next encounter, in which the team moves back into town to stock up. The urban encounter sequence will be involuntary on the 1st, then voluntary ones on the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.

I check for involuntary encounters again (6, 6 so nothing happens), and then roll for lack of sleep before the encounter proper. 2d6, +1 as there are more than 2 in the group, score of 9 – everyone is fully rested so enters the encounter at full Rep. I keep forgetting to check for this.

STATUS AT Z+191: NO CHANGE

Except for eating another 18 food units – actually they should only have eaten 6 in February, not 7, I bet that ratbag McGrew took an extra one with him – there is no change to the group’s stats.

  • Capt. Flack: Rep 5*, Pep 4, Sav 3, Born Leader, Initiative. Body armour, assault rifle, binoculars.
  • Pugh: Rep 5, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol.
  • Pugh: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol.
  • Dibble: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol. Not rolling to leave group.
  • Hardcase: Rep 5, Pep 3, Sav 4. Body armour, assault rifle, SMG, goggles, backpack.
  • Wannabe: Rep 2, Pep 0, Sav 1. Machine Pistol, walkie-talkie. Not rolling to leave group.
  • Group: Land Rover, 3 Food, 0 Fuel (burned up moving to the city at the start of July).
  • Area: 0 Body Armour, 3 Food, 6 Fuel, 8 Luxury Items, 0 Medical Supplies, 17 Weapons.

NEXT TIME…

7th July, Z+199, and the boys are back in town looking for food and hoping to refuel the Land Rover, after which they can return to the countryside and go fishing. They’re nearly a quarter of the way to 28 Months Later (Z+850) already, although admittedly this way feels sort of like cheating.

Flack, Z+60: Splitters!

20th February 2013: Z+60…

Flack gathers his men around the Land Rover and spreads a map on the bonnet.

"No contact for days," he says, gruffly. "Need place to hole up, decide what to do. Here," he stabs a stubby digit at a few lakeside buildings on a stretch of country road. "MI5 safe house. Questions?"

There are none. Flack’s sweeping gaze takes in the pinched, unshaven faces and the thousand-yard stares. Something needs to be done about his guys, but now’s not the time to think about that; they need to get inside a secure building, get outside some hot food, and sleep themselves out. Then they can think about what to do next.

"Pugh – not you, other one – Grubb, Hardcase; with me. Rest of you, stay with vehicle; noise draws zeds." What Flack is carefully not saying is that he doesn’t trust Hardcase out of his sight, and he wants to leave enough dependable troopers behind to keep McGrew under control.

INITIAL STATUS

One of the changes for ATZ: FFO is the introduction of Items, so I decide that the Star and Extras should have what their figures have, with any surplus items converted to food; I make an exception for primary weapons as those have been established in earlier reports. One of Flack’s items will be the team Land Rover, counting as an SUV, and with a full tank of fuel.

  • Capt. Flack: Rep 5*, Pep 4, Sav 3, Born Leader, Initiative. Body armour, assault rifle, binoculars, Land Rover, 6 Food.
  • Pugh: Rep 5, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol, 5 Food.
  • Pugh: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol, 5 Food.
  • Barney McGrew: Rep 3, Pep 1, Sav 2. Body armour, assault rifle, 2 grenades, goggles, 1 Food.
  • Cuthbert: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, SAW, pistol, 5 Food.
  • Dibble: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol, 5 Food.
  • Grubb: Rep 5, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol, medkit, 3 Food, 1 Medical Supplies.
  • Hardcase: Rep 5, Pep 3, Sav 4. SMG, goggles, backpack, 7 food.
  • Wannabe: Rep 2, Pep 0, Sav 1. Machine Pistol, walkie-talkie, 2 food.

I’ll move the food and medical supplies into a pool at the end of the session, as I want to roll for Keeping It Together first; any figures that leave will do so with what they carry.

Meanwhile, as the group have just moved into a new rural area, I roll for available items as per p. 57, and discover the region has one set of Body Armour, 7 Food, 6 Fuel, 8 Luxury Items, 0 Medical Supplies, and 18 Weapons. Hmm, we won’t be staying here very long.

SETUP

This is a daytime Take Back encounter in a rural environment, initial ER 1. I’ve made a map using the free version of Hexographer and ran the game in Hex Map Pro on an iPad. The map dimensions weren’t quite as I expected, so I’ve turned it sideways – sections 123 are across the right hand side of your screen. As usual, the white square is a turn counter, the red and green ones activation dice.

Flack and his miniscule expeditionary force move onto the board in a standard V formation. A little metagaming here; I’ve noticed that, especially on smaller boards, the rotate-clockwise-until-they-fit rule tends to bunch up a disproportionate number of zeds to the star’s left, so I’ve deployed more firepower on the left flank. To minimise the chance of being spotted by anyone in the buildings, the team moves up through the woods rather than along the road.

PEFs appear in sections 2, 2 and 6. I roll 2d6 for each, and take the higher score as its Rep; that gives me Reps 4, 3, and 5 respectively. Since there are buildings in section 2, those PEFs are inside them. PEF5 is in an empty section, so it stands in the middle of it like a lemon.

There are 1/2 d6 zombies per person; I roll 1355 and count that as 1233 for a total of 9 zombies, which I place as per the rules.

2013090806

TURN 1

Activation: Flack 5, zeds 3.

Everyone activates, humans first. This is fortunate as I made a tactical error in deployment; Grubb is within 1" of the edge of the woods, so the zombies can see him. (Oh, I’m using one inch to the hex, by the way.) Let’s get PEF5 out of the way first; the group moves up through cover until Flack and PEF5 can see each other but without any zeds gaining line of sight. They stop facing in different directions. You pick that habit up the very first time zeds hit you from behind and get into melee. I roll 2d6 vs ER (1, Rural area) and get 1, 5; the ER increases by one. Since I have a good crew, I welcome this, because it means a better chance of loot. PEF5 is removed.

PEF4 rolls 46 vs Rep on the PEF movement table, passing 1d6, so moves 12" away from Flack into what I have decided is a lake of some sort; along the way it hits the table edge and randomly turns left onto the beach. PEF3 rolls 46, and passes 0d6, so it stays put.

Now the zeds, and I realise I’ve been sloppy; even though it can’t see anyone, by following the movement rules one of the zeds will get into melee with Grubb and Hardcase. Oh well, they can probably take it; the risk is they might shoot. Time for the Charge Into Melee test, 2d6 vs Rep for Grubb (25, pass 2d6) and Hardcase (55, pass 2d6) – the zed always passes 1d6. As the humans passed more, they fire up to their Target Rating (3), then the zed charges home. To quote Monty Python, "the phrase up to clearly includes the number zero", and I don’t want to draw more zeds with gunfire, so straight to melee. (Notice that figures with lower Rep are more likely to panic and fire one shot as the zed charges home.) Grubb rolls Rep d6 and scores 11566, plus one success for fighting a zed, three successes. The zed does likewise and gets 456, no successes. Grubb beat that by three so rolls 1d6; he scores a 2, less than or equal to the number by which he beat the zed’s successes but not a 1, so the zed is Out Of the Fight, which for a zed escalates to KIA. And before Hardcase can get a look in.

Further, as the zeds either close on the last place they saw someone, or just carry on going wherever they were facing, another one gets line of sight on Pugh. I really should pay more attention.

This was a very long game – 45 turns – with a lot of missed activations and random events, so I’ll put a lot of it on fast forward…

TURNS 2-8: THROUGH THE WOODS

The group fail to activate four turns in a row, rolling a 6 each time. Fortunately the zeds only activate once, and then only one of them, which charges Pugh only to be knocked flat for its pains.

On turn 5 a random event introduces a ringing cellphone (what, this long after the phone company servers crash? Must be some other kind of communicator), and since this is a Take Back scenario I need to answer it or the zeds will keep coming and I will never succeed at the mission.

On turn 6, Flack, Hardcase and Grubb burst out of the woods and slaughter the closest group of zeds in melee to gain access to the cellphone. Answering this counts as resolving a PEF, but this is the “Someone’s out there” result; ER goes up to 3, and no new humans are introduced. This is an error which nearly got Pugh killed, as you will shortly see…

On turn 7, Fenton the dog appears right next to Flack, hotly pursued by a zed. The meet and greet results in Fenton barking pleasantries before moving on, but Flack gets line of sight on PEF4, which turns out to be a false alarm.

2013090811

On turn 8, Flack, Hardcase and Grubb sort out the next nearest group of zeds by gunfire, but generate as many as they kill or knock prone. Pugh, meanwhile, is knocking his zombie prone each turn, and each turn it gets back up again.

TURNS 9-22: ZEDS IN THE WOODS

On turn 9 the zeds go first, and my careless manoeuvring leaves 5 of them able to charge home; fortunately 3 are shot dead and one knocked prone by point-blank gunfire. Pugh carries on knocking his zed down only to see it rise again.

Turn 10 is a lull in the fighting with a double 6 for activation. On turn 11, I realise I’ve been forgetting PEF3 in the excitement; never mind, it can have a go this turn. It uses this to run away into the lake. All the zeds in melee stand up and fight, and another one manages to get close enough to melee Flack from the rear; however, even rolling at -2d6 for that, the Charge Into Melee table still allows him to fire, and three rounds of 5.56mm full metal jacket take it out, without generating any more zombies. Hardcase clubs the one in front of him to death, while the one wrestling on the ground with Fenton kills that worthy animal. Grubb then shoots it in the head at point-blank range. Pugh and his zombie are evenly matched this turn.

Turn 12 brings another dog, which we will call Benton, pursued by a zombie. Turn 13 sees an argument break out between Flack and Hardcase, which is resolved in Flack’s favour on turn 14.

"Back for Pugh," Flack orders.

"Are you crazy?" yells Hardcase. "There are zeds all through those woods, we go back in there now we’re dead, just like him."

Flack points his L-85 at Hardcase. Hardcase points his SMG at Flack. Grubb points his L-85 at Hardcase, and says simply: "Think about it, man."

After a tense moment, all guns are lowered, and Flack nods his head into the woods, gesturing for "double time". Hardcase shrugs, and follows – for now.

The group fast-move back towards Pugh to give him a hand. As if the dice approve of my little vignette, Flack and Grubb pass 2d6 and Hardcase passes 1d6, lagging behind. Pugh’s zed passes 3d6, Pugh passes 1d6 and the zed rolls a 2 for damage; Pugh is Out Of the Fight. Flack viciously clubs the zombie to the ground, then Grubb finishes it off.

Turn 15, and it’s time to finish off the ones in the woods, and check the Harry Are You OK table for Pugh, who it transpires will not become a zombie this encounter.

Turns 16-22 see Flack and Hardcase charge the remaining woods zombies and finish them after a protracted melee, which is interrupted by another argument between them, Pugh twisting his ankle, and Grubb disappearing. I have never seen so many random events in a game.

On turn 23, Grubb passes 1d6 on the rules for returning, and pops up 9" away from Pugh at his 10 o’clock. Time to stop messing about and check out the buildings.

TURNS 24-45: BUILT-UP AREA

On turns 24-25, Flack and Hardcase pick up Pugh and move him towards the nearest building at a walk, joined partway there by Grubb. On Flack’s orders, Hardcase trades his SMG for Pugh’s assault rifle.

The team move up to the building and ready themselves to enter, gently laying Pugh down nearby, where they can hopefully pick him up if they need to run.

"Left side door breach, stack up!" Flack calls softly, and even Hardcase knows what to do. Flack raises an eyebrow at him.

"Ex-Army?"

"No," grins the ganger, "Ex-Box. Call of Duty 4."

The zed comes closer, and Flack can see it will feast on Pugh next turn if he doesn’t do something about it. He gestures to Grubb to take it out, and Grubb knocks it prone with a short burst. However, the noise calls another zombie from somewhere, appearing at Grubb’s 10 o’clock.

Turn 26, and Flack and Hardcase find the door is closed (house rule, roll 1d6: 1 = open, 2-3 = closed, 4-5 = locked, 6 = barricaded), open it and step inside. Grubb picks up Pugh (recovering wounded) and follows, with Hardcase closing the door behind them. There’s a zed inside, which Flack knocks prone, and then eliminates on turn 27 while Hardcase is barricading the door. The team then use turn 28 to loot the building, finding two food units.

Turns 29 and 30 pass with no movement on either side.

TURNS 31-44: POP GOES THE WEASEL

The zeds close up to where they last saw people, namely the building’s back door, and one starts breaking down the barricade; PEF3 fails to move; Benton, counting as a neutral NPC, also fails to move. Flack & Co. pick up Pugh and leave, stacking up outside a second building. Hardcase sneaks off around the first building, intending to "pop the weasel" on at least one of the two zeds outside…

2013090824

…and succeeds on turn 32. Hardcase moves 2" to get directly behind one zed and uses the "pop the weasel" rule to auto-kill it, firing one round. He fires his two remaining rounds at the next zed, 4" away, hits it and knocks it prone. He then takes the charge into melee test to run up and beat it to death; both he and the zed pass 1d6, but the zed can’t shoot, so he charges home without incident. The zed rolls 125 for two successes, while Hardcase rolls 112356 for his Rep and a further 24 as the zed is prone, for a total of 6 successes – 4 more than the zed, and with a roll of 3 it’s goodnight, zombie. Alas, the gunfire draws another one, but I’m still pleased with how that worked out; notice that in ATZ you can do a lot of fighting in one turn if you set things up right.

Meanwhile, Flack and Grubb discover the door to the building is locked, and I decide they should boot it in as a Rep challenge, at which Flack succeeds handily. There are no zeds inside, so there is a Defining Moment, effectively another PEF; 2d6 vs ER (3) gives 1, 6 – pass 1d6, something is definitely out there, and the ER increases to 4.

Turns 33-40 see Hardcase fast-move back to the rest of the group, a couple of missed activations, Benton fleeing the table and the remaining PEF and zed closing on the team’s building while they loot it, finding an assault rifle and a food unit. Grubb discovers he has brought the wrong reloads, and the team saunters over to the last building, where everyone misses an activation catching their breath.

On turn 41 the group opens the door and enters the final building. Inside they find one zed, and immediately club it down. Grubb and Flack spend turns 42 and 43 arguing while they and Hardcase loot the building, finding two food and a flak jacket, and on turn 44 the group fails to activate, while the PEF and lone zed wander aimlessly.

TURN 45: END GAME

Activation: Flack 3, zeds 6. Flack wins the argument, and sends Hardcase to kill the zed in the next building, while he himself moves out to get line of sight on the last PEF. Resolving the PEF increases the local ER to 5, but there’s nothing there. Hardcase drops the zed with a short burst, thinking he could get to like having an Impact 3 weapon. No more zeds are drawn by gunfire, so I call the game – victory is ours.

2013090829

AFTERMATH

I first check After The Battle Recovery, using a unit of medical supplies on Pugh to get an extra die on the test. He rolls 3d6: 2, 6, 6 vs Rep 5 and passes 1d6. Pugh returns to the group. Next I check to see if anyone increases his Rep; no-one does.

Keeping It Together: Flack rolls 6d6 (Rep 5, Born leader) looking for successes. 124466, so two successes. Oh dear, Captain, your little band could be shrinking…

  • Both Pughs and Hardcase roll the same number of successes as Flack, so since the last encounter was a success, they stay, but will check again next time.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, Barney McGrew decides to take his share of the group’s equipment and leave; Cuthbert and Grubb go with him. (This happens as they scored more successes than Flack.)
  • Dibble and Wannabe got half as many successes as Flack, so stay, and do not have to roll again next encounter. Notice that the better the Extra’s Rep, the more likely he is to strike out on his own; until your Star gets a substantial Rep, therefore, the average Rep of his followers tends to decrease as the good ones leave.

"Grim," says Flack that evening, as the group sits around a fire sipping their brews. "Radio silence. HQ gone, government gone, army gone, Regiment gone. Zombies, gangers everywhere – no offence, Hardcase. Anyone wants to go home, go; no hard feelings, chain of command gone. Welcome to stay, though." Flack is not the most inspirational speaker known to man.

"If it’s all the same to you, Captain, I’ll make my way home," says Grubb. "I need to look out for my family now, whatever’s left of it. It’s been an honour, sir." He and Flack exchange salutes.

"Sod this for a game of soldiers," McGrew grumbles. "I don’t have to take any crap from you now, Flack, nor any orders neither. I’m off."

Cuthbert says, "I’ll come with you, Grubb. I need to find out if my aunt is OK."

McGrew laughs harshly. "She’s zed food, mate, don’t kid yourself."

"You don’t know that," Cuthbert mutters.

"If you say so," McGrew says. "Come morning, I take my share of the compo rats and leave. You lot can play soldier all you like."

The group had 44 food units at that point, and 9 people; that’s about 5 each, so with two people leaving, team food stocks are reduced to 34. At the start of March the remaining group members will eat another 7, reducing them to 27 food units, about enough for 3-4 months.

STATUS AT Z+60

  • Capt. Flack: Rep 5*, Pep 4, Sav 3, Born Leader, Initiative. Body armour, assault rifle, binoculars.
  • Pugh: Rep 5, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol.
  • Pugh: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol.
  • Dibble: Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Body armour, assault rifle, pistol. Not rolling to leave group.
  • Hardcase: Rep 5, Pep 3, Sav 4. Body armour, assault rifle, SMG, goggles, backpack.
  • Wannabe: Rep 2, Pep 0, Sav 1. Machine Pistol, walkie-talkie. Not rolling to leave group.
  • Group: Land Rover, 27 Food, 5 Fuel.
  • Area: 0 Body Armour, 3 Food, 6 Fuel, 8 Luxury Items, 0 Medical Supplies, 17 Weapons.

REFLECTIONS

I suppose I could make McGrew, Grubb and Cuthbert a PEF or two now – McGrew looks like he’s turning into a ganger – but I’m feeling lazy and decide to let them wander off into the sunset. Maybe later.

One could make a very large and involved game of ATZ by following all the various subgroups, doing encounters from the viewpoint of each one, but I suspect that’s too much work this side of retirement.

Flack, Z+21: Five, Six, Pick Up Chicks

Flack stands impassively at attention before the big oak desk. The senior officer behind it says, "Captain Flack, owing to the present… situation, your court-martial has been postponed indefinitely."

"I have a job for you." The officer rises, and walks over to a map of the town and surrounding area, hastily pinned on his wall, and covered in esoteric military graffiti. "There’s a valuable asset trapped here, outside Phase Line Bravo;" he taps the map for emphasis. "A Doctor Margaret Grant. I want you to get her, and bring her back here. She may hold the key to what’s going on out there."

"Sir." Flack acknowledges. "Equipment? Rules of Engagement?"

"Take what you need, Captain, and do whatever you have to do to bring her in. Clear?"

"Sir." Flack salutes and leaves. His face remains impassive, and he is monosyllabic as ever; but if the boss is sending him into downtown Hereford fully tooled up with a de facto shoot to kill order, things must be worse than the TV news is letting on.

Setup

The same board as last time, and the Escape! scenario from p. 68, although for no very good reason I use a different diagonal to cross the board. Again I’m after a quick game, so Flack is alone and on foot. PEFs rock up in sections 3, 4 and 6, with Reps 5, 6, 6 respectively. Flack marches 8" onto the board from the corner of section 7, and the fun begins. Four zeds this time, and a bit more spread out than usual. An urban area in daytime, giving it ER 5.

13072107

Turn 1

Activation: Flack 3, zeds 5. Flack decides not to mess around this time, and fires one round at each of the zeds in front of him. After skimming p. 16, I decide there is no need for an In Sight test, as the zeds are already clearly in view. He rolls 1d6 for each shot and adds his Rep, to get scores of 6, 9; the 6 misses, and the 9 hits. He rolls 1d6 vs Impact (3) for the hit and gets a 3; the zed is Out Of the Fight, which for a zed means goodnight, Vienna. However, I roll 3, 6 for shots attracting zeds, and a new one pops up, which I assume has just come into sight around the corner. Let’s call that a draw, shall we?

Belatedly, I notice Flack has Line Of Sight on the PEF in section 3, and resolve it; oh goody, it’s two more zeds, right outside the asset’s house – that’d be why she hasn’t reported in. Unless she’s one of them?

Flack decides not to move; let the zeds come to him.

Turn 2

Activation: Flack 6, zeds 3. Everybody activates – while Flack is Rep 5, he has Initiative, and counts as Rep 6 for activation while he is alone. Flack decides to draw the zeds around a corner, intending to fast move past them to the target at a later point. Clearly shooting them isn’t going to help, they pop up as fast as he can slot them. Obligingly, they follow as he intended.

Turn 3

Activation: Double five – since this is the area’s ER or less, we get a random event (p. 59). I roll 3d6 and get a 7; a random building has caught fire, attracing 2d6 extra zombies. That turns out to be 10 zombies. And yet again, an apparently simple outing for the Star goes right to hell early in the game! In this, ATZ is entirely faithful to the genre.

Turn 4

Activation: Flack 3, zeds 5. Flack holds his ground, hoping to lure the zeds in close and then fast-move past them. Just because you can activate doesn’t mean you have to, and while shooting a couple of zeds might help, it’s likely to draw more.

Turn 5

Activation: Flack 6, zeds 2. Wait for it, Flack, wait for it… This would be a very risky strategy with a low-Rep Star, but with an effective Rep of 6 I think I can pull it off. The zeds close in, while one PEF moves away.

13072112

Turn 6

Activation: Flack 2, zeds 6. Flack declares he is fast-moving and fires a burst at the zed blocking his most direct route, scoring 8, 13, 10 and landing two shots – one of these rolls 1 for damage, Obviously Dead, dropping the zed in its tracks. Two more zeds appear, but not in unreasonable positions. Flack now fast-moves; he rolls 3, 5 vs Rep 5 and doubles his movement, hurdling the zed’s body and charging through the gap he has just made. If he doesn’t win the initiative next turn things will get very iffy, but with effective Rep 6 for activation he should be OK.

The zeds, meanwhile, fail to activate; the PEF in section 4 passes 2d6 for movement and barges out of its building right up behind Flack, who is facing the other way. The last remaining PEF is in Flack’s Line Of Sight anyway, so since it passed 2d6 it will move right up to him on the other side. This looks like a good time to resolve them, so I do, by rolling 2d6 for each vs ER 5. The one behind Flack passes 2d6, and a check on the Contact tables (p. 61-62) tells me it is two more zeds; fortunately, zeds cannot activate on the turn they are placed. The one in front is a lone Survivor, Rep 4, with an SMG, so I immediately take a Meet & Greet test, both sides rolling Rep d6 and looking for successes. Flack gets 3, the Survivor 1, so Flack can choose whether to Talk the Talk (engage peacefully) or Walk the Walk (go to In Sight test and start shooting). There’s no advantage to shooting the survivor, so Flack Talks the Talk.

A lone survivor bursts around the corner as two more zeds emerge from a building right behind Flack. "Zombies!" cries Flack, pointing behind himself.

13072113

Turn 7

Activation: Flack 5, zeds 3. Flack goes first and fast-moves towards his objective, again passing 2d6 and getting a 16" move. The zeds and the survivor move simultaneously; the survivor rolls 2d6 vs Rep on the NPC Movement table (p. 65) and gets 4, 3; he passes 2d6, but since he is neutral to Flack and they have already interacted, he counts as passing 1d6. While there is a building available, which he should enter, it is on fire, so I decide he moves away from Flack instead. Given that there are about to be zeds all over him like white on rice, he fast-moves, directly away from Flack and the zeds, passing 2d6 and moving 16", which takes him off the board.

13072114

I decide that the zombies will follow whichever human is closer to them, and move them accordingly.

Turn 8

Activation: Flack 1, zeds 3. Flack enters the building in the corner of section 3; I was going to skip the Defining Moment as I knew the asset, a human, was already inside; but I decided to do it anyway, as the genre is full of such surprises. We start (p. 47) by rolling 6d6 for zombies; 112346 = two more zeds inside, and then each side needs a Surprise Total. This is 1d6 + Rep for Flack, in this case 10, and 1d6 + number of zombies for the zeds, in this case 7. As a Star, Flack gets the choose his reaction, and burst-firing the L-85 seems like a good choice; he scores 10, 10, 8 and hits each zed once. In both cases he rolls 4 for damage, and as this is more than the weapon’s Impact, the foes are knocked down. Being zombies, this means they are knocked prone but not stunned. Flack seizes this moment to advance into melee and rolls 7d6 against the first zed; 2445566 is not his best roll ever, but including the extra success for attacking a zed, he has two successes. The zed rolls 335 and also has two successes; they are evenly matched.

Outside, the other zombies are closing in. I decide that the fast-moving survivor is now at least 24" away, so all remaining zeds will make for Flack.

13072116

Turn 9

Activation: Flack 6, zeds 4. Since they can’t actually see a live human at the moment, their Rep is not boosted to 4, so the zeds don’t activate. Flack melees the two zeds inside, and since they must activate to move and thus stand up, they are both still prone. He gets 3 successes better than the first, knocking it down again by rolling a 4 for damage, and 6 better than the second; he can’t fail to roll less than or equal to a 6 on 1d6, so the second zed is toast.

Turn 10

Activation: Flack 1, zeds 3. Flack goes first and attacks the zed at his feet, which will stand up again this turn but not until after Flack has put the boot in. Sadly, he only manages to knock it down again.

As the zeds move towards where they last saw Flack, namely the still-open doorway, three gain line of sight and charge into melee from Flack’s rear. Oops. The -2d6 modifier for being charged from behind mean Flack passes 0d6, while the zeds auto-pass 1d6. The three zeds attack, Flack can’t fire and counts as Unarmed this turn. I’ll spare you the numerous die rolls, but Flack knocks down the first zed, is knocked down by the second, and knocked down again by the third.

Things are looking very bad indeed for Flack, and his Star powers can’t save him, but we know he is still alive at Z+50, and we also know there is an NPC ready to join his gang just off-map in section 9. So, his Plot Immunity manifests itself in the form of Dr Margaret Grant, Rep 4 Survivor with an assault rifle, who shoots the zeds standing over him and one of the ones on the floor.

I love the way the stories flow in this game.

While Flack is rolling around on the floor with two zeds, and another two stand over him ready to pounce, the Good Doctor steps out of the room where she has been hiding and plugs three of them.

"Let me guess," she says acidly. "You’re here to rescue me. I thought I’d be worth more to them than one incompetent squaddie."

Flack is still wrestling with a zed and too preoccupied to answer.

Turn 11

Activation: Flack 2, zeds 4. Flack is no longer alone, so his Initiative and effective Rep 6 evaporate, leaving him with Rep 5. He uses his movement to stand up, then wades into the remaining zed while it’s still down, finally despatching it (roll of 1123445 vs 245, followed by roll of 4 = OOF which slays the zed). The surviving zeds can’t see anyone so fail to activate.

13072119

"Bayonet," says Flack in some amazement as Dr Grant fixes it on her M16.

"Yes," she says, "So I’m told. Now then, I can see from the upstairs window there are a ton of zombies out there, and I’ve observed that gunfire draws them like flies. So, barricade that door – quietly – and we’ll wait for them to lose interest, then make a break for it. No shooting, understand? Hence the bayonet. Do you have one, or has the Army stopped issuing them?"

Flack thinks to himself: I think I’m in love.

Turns 12-18

Now, I can’t find any specific rules for this in ATZ, but the implication of the zombie activation rules on p. 48 is that if zeds can’t see or hear you, they move off randomly.

  • Turn 12: With a double 6 for activation, nothing happens.
  • Turns 13, 14: The horde fails to activate.
  • Turn 15: The horde moves up to the door, which is where it last saw people; then stops in confusion.
  • Turn 16: The horde activates and splits, moving off in several directions.
  • Turn 17: The horde fragments continue to move away.
  • Turn 18: Flack and Grant dismantle their barricade, quietly; the shuffling zombies move as far away as they can get before they bounce off the board edge again.

13072121

Turn 19

Activation: Flack 3, zeds 1. Flack and Grant fast-move out of the building and make for the opposite diagonal of the board. The good doctor only passes 1d6 to fast move though, so starts to lag behind. Flack moves cannily just out of the field of vision of the zeds (yes, I know you can’t tell in the picture, but I’ve just finished moving them so I remember). The zeds in section 1 shake out into a conga line as they hit the board edge, but as they turn, they gain Line Of Sight on Flack and Grant. The ones in section 4 remain blissfully ignorant.

13072122

Turn 20

Activation: Flack 1, zeds 6. For some reason the zeds fail to move, and Flack makes the best of it, fast-moving but holding his speed down to stay close to Dr Grant, as she picks up the pace to the full 16".

Flack and Grant are too busy running to exchange pleasantries, but the sight of the zombies halting in place, swaying from side to side and moaning softly, is disconcerting.

13072123

Turn 21

Activation double 2, random event. 3d6 = 16; a black chopper flies overhead, and all zombies forfeit their next activation watching it. How fortunate for our heroes!

Turn 22

Activation: Double 6, nobody moves.

Turn 23

Activation: Flack 2, zeds 3 – but fortunately they miss a turn due to the black chopper. Flack and Grant fast-move off the board to victory.

13072124

Aftermath

Back in the office, this time with the newly rescued asset, Flack gets his next mission.

"Dr Grant here tells us there is vital material at a secret research base here." He taps the map again. "Get a squad together, Flack; you’re going to recover it for us…"

This episode takes Flack up to the point where we first saw him on 28 Months Later, so I’ll now skip ahead to Z+60, just after the latest adventure on his timeline.

I think I’ll add Dr Grant to the pre-loaded PEFs pile. She’s going to be fun.

Credits: Maps – Wydraz. Figures and pawns – eM4. Statistics: The map is 21" x 32"; the scenario used three human figures and 22 zombies.