28 Months Later, Episode 1

With Johann and Gottfried captured by Ekran knights, I thought I’d try an earlier incarnation of Two Hour Wargames’ house system, namely All Things Zombie. (The original version, not the later expanded rules, which I haven’t acquired yet.)

The campaign in this version starts two years after the first outbreak of zombie-ness, so with the last zombie movies I saw in mind, I decide the campaign will be called 28 Months Later and will start in January 2015, 28 months after the end of the world foretold by the Mayans, which I vaguely remember they thought would happen in September 2012. Whether that’s right or not, it’s as good a date as any.

Character creation is a snap. The star (representing me) is Reputation 5, with a weapon and one attribute of my choice; I select Boss, because it improves the reactions of the rest of my group, and a pump shotgun, because what else do you hunt zombies with? I select the red pawn from Zombies, since that’s my favourite colour.

I also get three “grunts”, whose attributes and equipment are determined by one die roll and the draw of a card. I get a Rep 5 Runt with body armour and a pump shotgun (blue pawn), a Rep 4 Brawler with a Big-Ass Pistol (green pawn), and a Rep 3 Ambidextrous character with another BAP. Imagination fails me tonight, so I shall call them Red, Blue, Green and Yellow for the moment. If they and the campaign both survive, they might get better names.

Unlike other THW games, I choose the type of encounter and the general terrain type. I decide that the group will conduct a Raid on the suburbs, looking for supplies. This and a few dice rolls means the table will have 13 buildings and 6 abandoned vehicles on it. Here I run into the first snag; I can’t figure out how the table for determining what the buildings and vehicles are works. I’d rather play than spend more time on that, though, so I decide there will be a shopping mall, a warehouse, and a group of shops – obviously we’re raiding an out of town shopping centre. (Question for the future: How does this table work?)

Using the THW mantra of “just play the game”, I again abandon waiting for the unimaginable raygun future when I might have nicely painted figures and terrain, and dig out my copy of the Zombies! boardgame from Twilight Creations (a Christmas present from a few years ago). This gives me six survivors, more zombies than I hope to need, playing cards I can use to represent vehicles, and two box halves which can be the mall and the warehouse. I pull some DVD cases from the bookshelf to represent shops, but run out of room before I get to the full 13 buildings; feh, who cares.

Next I roll for the initial zombies and their placement. It’s easy to see that I roll 1d6+5 for their number, but takes me quite some time to work out that I’m supposed to place them as if they were attracted by gunfire (p. 27 of the rules). The group of scavengers moves one full move (8″) onto the table, then a few dice rolls place zombies around them. At this point, play starts in earnest; it’s taken me 40 minutes to set up, but no doubt that will get faster with practice. And this is what it looks like:

All we want to do is eat your brains...
All we want to do is eat your brains...

Turn one, and I roll activation dice for each side. The player side scores 4, the zombie side 3; this is below the leader’s Rep in both cases, so both get to move, but because the player side has a higher score, they go first. As you see from the picture, we are surrounded by zombies already, and some of them are quite close. I haven’t brought a vehicle because the engine noise attracts zombies, gunfire will surely do so, and I would prefer to avoid melee with them; so we duck into the nearest building.

At this point we need to dice for any occupants. I check the target number for the type of location (‘burbs) and time period (Phase 1 of the campaign,¬†within a few years of the outbreak), modified by the type of building (shop) and roll two dice for both humans and zombies, trying to “pass” the target number, i.e. roll that number or less on each die. Both candidates pass 1d6, but the humans have the higher number, so we’ve met other survivors, and another quick dice roll determines there are three of them. Dice and cards reveal we have one Rep 4 Crackshot with a carbine, one Rep 2 Slow guy with a pistol, and one Rep 3 Medic with SMG. (Lesson for the future: Dice up a range of survivor groups in advance next time, write them on index cards, shuffle, and deal myself one whenever we meet a group; creating them on the fly takes too long.) The NPC side rolls for Awareness (2d6 against individual Reps) and only the Crackshot notices us coming before we’re through the door – at least the first two of us, only two can pass a standard door in one turn. His colleagues are too dazed to act.

Both sides now take an In Sight test by rolling 2d6 and trying to pass against their leader’s Rep. Both sides pass two dice, and since we’ve both passed the same number we will Talk The Talk, i.e. try to resolve our differences peacefully. Leaders roll 2d6 against Rep, both pass one die; checking the relevant table shows that we won’t start fighting, but don’t want to team up, so each group will go its own way and neither will loot the shop.

This concludes the player activation. Zombies now move as NPCs. I can’t find how that works in the rulebook (another question for later) so I decide those zombies within 12″ of a person will move towards the nearest person they can see. This leaves Yellow with a moaning zombie about half an inch short of the base-to-base contact which will trigger a melee; not good.

Turn two, and the activation dice come up higher than Rep for both the player group and the zombies. However, I now need a third die for the group encountered in the shop, and they do activate. They can see trouble brewing outside, so leave the shop through the rear exit and duck across the alley into the next shop. Inside, they find another group of survivors; next time I might just let them stay put, or ignore what they run into, because at this rate the board will be covered with survivors in no time. However, I let it ride for now and discover that the fourth group has a Rep 4 Crackshot with a semiauto rifle, a Rep 4 Drunkard with a pistol, a Rep 4 Clumsy dude with a Big Ass Pistol, and a Rep 3 Agile person with a pistol. The new group outnumbers what they can see of the intruders 2:1, so they initiate Talk The Talk. In Sight tests and a quick Talk The Talk check reveal these two groups are going to rumble, but neither of them activate immediately (because they tie for who goes first; it doesn’t actually say so in the rules, but the precedent elsewhere is that in ties, neither side moves) so we’ll park that for next turn. I picture the groups staring at each other, shuffling uncertainly, until someone makes a move that seems hostile, intentionally or otherwise.

Turn three, and we now have four activation dice. The player group goes first, then the zombies, then the second group of survivors – the first group won’t activate, but if they survive the first fusillade, a Received Fire test may let them shoot back. Yellow decides he doesn’t fancy going toe to toe with a zombie and fires his BAP twice. He rolls one die for each shot, adds his Rep, and compares to the ranged fire table; his scores are 8 (which hits) and 4 (which misses). The zombie has been hit once, so we roll 1d6 against the weapon’s Impact (2) and get a one – this is less than or equal to the Impact and means the zombie is Obviously Dead. Or Undead. Or not moving anytime soon, anyway. At this point I decide the player group will bug out; they’re surrounded by zombies, the gunfight about to start next door will attract more, it’s getting late in the real world, and it looks like I’ll get to try out all the basic rules, which is all I want from the first game. Yellow turns and runs away from the shops towards the table edge. As he rounds the first corner he sees another zombie and takes an In Sight test; however, he only passes one die, so because he is moving he can’t shoot. Green also fires twice and starts moving for the baseline; he misses both shots, comes around the same corner, passes one die on his In Sight test and also can’t fire.

Red and Blue back out of the building and both open up with their shotguns on the nearest zombies. Each shotgun rolls four times to hit, but only counts the best two results; this gives us four hits, but checking against weapon Impact shows no instant kills. Since they are still, errm, alive, the zombies are pushed back 2″ each (this being the weapon’s Impact). Turning the corner, they also see the zombie that alarmed the others, but fail their In Sight tests and can’t return fire. (Note that in ATZ, you can fire at any point during movement, and since you might shoot any time you have to take an In Sight or Received Fire test, as well as voluntarily once during your turn, you can do a lot of shooting.)

Zombies that can see humans now move 6″ towards them, which brings one into melee with both Red and Blue, and the others move ¬†6″ towards the sound of gunfire. Melee is much simpler in ATZ than in Warrior Heroes, largely because WH doesn’t have an upper limit on Rep, so needs to allow for Reps higher than 7 (the best possible in ATZ). Both sides roll 1d6 against Rep. Red passes two, and his zombie passes one; because he won the melee, he has the choice of slugging it out mano a mano or using his gun at point blank range. Hmm. Let me think about that for a nanosecond… Blam! Blam! Blam! Three hits (because in point-blank fire he hits if he rolls his Rep of 5 or less on 1d6), two of which leave the zombie Obviously Dead. That melee is over.

Meanwhile, Blue and his zombie each pass 1d6. The contest is indecisive and will continue next turn. (Another difference from WH, where the melee continues until there is a winner, within the same turn.)

Shots ring out from the shop where the two survivor groups met, but I don’t bother to work that out because I’ve already decided to leave. However, I note in the campaign diary that any survivors might not be friendly to me if we meet again.

Turn four, and activation sequence is the player group, first survivor group, second survivor group, with the zombies not activating. Since he activates first, Blue has the option to break off melee, moving at least 1″ away from his opponent (well, actually, 8″ is looking good) and taking an In Sight test as if moving. This gives him the option to fire, so he fires three rounds; two miss, but the third leaves the zombie OD.

The multicoloured player group now leaves the board, so it’s a moot point how many more zombies are attracted by the shooting. Since they survived the encounter without taking results of Run Away (I know they did, but when it’s by choice it doesn’t count), Obviously Dead, or Out Of the Fight, and they were involved in a firefight or melee, each gains one experience point. (Gain enough, and your Rep increases.)

This was a lot of fun to play, and less mechanically complex than WH; but I hadn’t realised just how many zombies and survivors one would meet, so it would up being equally long as a session (40 minutes to set up, about an hour to play, and 10 minutes to pack away). Ranged weapons make a huge difference, and the THW system runs a lot more smoothly for gunfights than melee – which shouldn’t surprise me, as that’s what it was designed for. Maybe this view will change with more practice.