Monday, February 12, 2007

XZH End Game

At the point where I could hardly talk any more, I finally decided to arbitrarily end the game after 3 more turns. One of the veteran hunters was able to amass a good amount of money by doing several of their plugs in front of their sponsor's billboard. But the marathon running Redneck team ended up getting a couple of dropcases with 2 $1000 plugs & winning the prize for the most money earned. Another one of the veteran hunters won the prize for the most zombies killed, I think 20+. Everyone seemed to have a blast, with a number of people asking for info on the game. I had used the "I [chainsaw] Zombies" type graphics to make buttons that I handed out to all the players. Unfortunately, I hadn't thought enough ahead & didn't really have prizes for the 2 winners, so gave them each a zombie in honor of their heroic efforts.

Overall, other than the confusion of trying to come up with extra characters players, & the standard confusion inherent in running a convention game, I thought it went very well. After implemented the split hunter/zombie move idea, the game went very smoothly, & the players actually ran it themselves, resolving combat & firing, & only really coming to me when there they had a rules question or dispute. The only big mistake I made was how I handled which hunter the zombies would attack. I think I misinterpreted the rules & said that a zombie will continue to chase a hunter, even if the zombies lost Line of Sight. This made for a huge zombie conga-line as one hunter ran all over the board hoping other hunters would pick zombies off the end. I think the rules state the zombies will stop chasing a hunter if it looses LOS to the hunter & gets out of the hunter's brain radius, or if the hunter gets more than X" away & isn't attacking it.

I'll probably be running it at Conquest Sacramento on Apr 13-15 if I don't come up with something else. So, come try it out if you're in the area.

Convention Chaos

Once all the players dropped their characters in on the board, then the real fun started. We found that with that many players the "I move, then move the zombies attacking the player to my right" mechanism meant people had to wait a long time between turns & players were getting bored. Luckily one of the players came up with a great idea to separate the 2 moves. So while one player was moving his hunter, the player on the opposite side of the board moved the zombies attacking the player to his right.

This meant that not only were these 2 move activities happening in parallel which made the process faster, but the players were being actively involved in the game twice as frequently, either moving their hunter or the zombies. This worked very well, & the only problem we had was when the faster processed hunter move caught up with the slower processed zombie move. When that happened, we just had the hunter moves put on hold while the zombie movies got out ahead again. This also allowed the players intermittent breaks from the action to wander off for more than just a few minutes.
Unfortunately, I don't remember a lot of the actual game since I was usually helping someone with a specific question, but lots of zombies did die. The entry-level Redneck pairs didn't seem to work as well as I'd hoped. For one pair, they found the character with the melee weapon couldn't kill most of the zombies unless he could get 2 successful hits on them in 1 turn. So instead of going toe-to-toe with them & being munched on, he ran around in circles, trailing zombies behind him, while the other Redneck with the firearm skill took pot shots at the zombies as they ran by. I think one of the other Redneck pairs was one of the few, if only, hunters to actually die. & another player had to leave just about the time the hunter died, so he transferred his hunter over to that player, so everyone was able to pretty much play all the way to the end of the game.

Since many of the players running the veteran hunters came signed up in pairs (boyfriend/girlfriend, 2 friends, etc) they ended up working in pairs too, just more effectively than the Rednecks. There was some good cross-team help though. In particular, one hunter had about 6 zombies on them, & a hunter pair jumped in & helped them out.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Way too many players

The night before my game, I checked the signup sheet. 2-3 people had signed up, so I knew I'd at least have someone playing. The next morning I set up the board as people showed up. First the expected 2-3 people showed up, then another, then another. "Cool", I thought, "I'll have a full game." Then 2 more showed up, I was already over my character limit by 1. Then a con volunteer brought me the sign up sheet. !9! people had signed up. & 3 other people had shown up asking if they could play. A total of 12 people. I had to scramble to try to get them all characters. Luckily, the wife of a husband & wife team wasn't terribly interested & said she's just watch. & a father & young son ran one of the Red Neck pairs, & 2 young brothers ran the other pair. That still left me 3 characters over what I had planned for.

I ended up having to use the character I'd given the machine gun to, & tear the other 2 pre-generated characters out of the back of the rules. Once I'd gotten everyone a character, I ran through the rules. I pre-generated most of the characters, but didn't assign Attributes. The players picked which Attribute they wanted to allow a bit of customization. I had also used a graphics package to condense the character sheet down to half a sheet, pre-filling in all the info for each character, & using the other half the sheet to include the basic rules & dice mod summary. That way, each player would have everything they needed to run their character all on 1 sheet & everything was pretty much ready to go as soon as I finished reviewing the rules.

Playtesting XZH

In play testing, one of the things that I found lacking was a reason to get the hunters moving. Otherwise they would just sit in a defendable spot until they kill all the zombies in sight. The dropcases of goodies did help to motivate the players somewhat, but if there's not one near you, & you haven't had a weapon break, they aren't as enticing. So, after contacting the game's author for some ideas, I decided to add sponsors' billboards. These were pasted to the sides of buildings. If you were able to do your plug in front of your billboard, you got a larger paycheck, $500 I think. (I used all the sponsors in the book, but made them all pay out $100). Then I planned to have a prize at the end of the game for both the most zombies killed & the most money made.One other important thing I learned in playtesting was that the size of the board was critical. Expecting up to 6 players, I initially tried the game on a 4x6' board. That was way too big. It caused the players to be too far apart, so they didn't interact, & the zombies to be too spread out, allowing the players to easily kill them off. Also, with the number of buildings I assembled, the board was too open. At the convention, I went with a 4x4', using the same number of buildings as on the 4x6' board & things seemed to work much better, much more cramped. I did have about a 1x1' open park area with trees so that it wouldn't all be streets & buildings.The game's author had been working with SeattleGamer to reformat the rules. Both the author & SeattleGamer were very helpful in my preparing for the convention. I addition to discussing different scenario ideas, SeattleGamer took the time to make the very spiffy looking billboards & even graphics that I gave away to the players. The graphics were "I [chainsaw] Zombies", where [chainsaw] is a picture of a chainsaw (kind of like the I [heart] XXX stickers). SeattleGamer made these graphics using a number of different weapons: shotguns, baseball bats, hockey sticks, etc. So, thanks to them for making the game look extra good.

XZH game prep

I made up characters based on a few of Hasslefree's Adventurers line & West Wind's Redneck Militia from the Road Kill line. I wanted the players to survive for most of the allotted game time since it's not too fun to drive all the way to a convention & be killed off in a game early on. So, I decided to make the hunters either veterans or run entry level characters in pairs. I gave each of the veterans (Hasslefree figs) an extra skill (one firearm, one melee) & about $2000. The entry level character pairs were created as normal, but the pair could pool their money so 1 of the pair could get something more expensive than usual.
One of the pairs would have a firearm skill & the other would have a melee skill. Since there were 4 Redneck Militia, I split them into 2 pairs. This allowed most of the characters/pairs to have access to good gun, a cheap back up gun, & a good melee weapon. Since I was basing most of the hunters on the Hasslefree figures, I gave one character an assault rifle because it matched what he was carrying & the story I made up for him (he ended up getting about $3000) in equipment. Unfortunately, in my play testing, this character was WAY too powerful so I didn't intend to run him.

Here are pictures of all the hunters.

The zombies were the Bag O Zombies from Twilight Creation's Zombies! game. Surprisingly, as small as the plastic zombies were in comparison to what my normal 25/28mm figures, the Hasslefree figures matched the zombies exactly in scale. I did modify the zombies, cutting under the arm that was cast against the body to give the zombies a bit more animation. I also hacked up some to make the Crawlers zombie type (great benefit of using soft plastic zombies). I had decided for a convention game that the "bringing friends" ability of the Howlers zombie type would just be too hard to manage, so I didn't try to make them. & the Roamers & Runners zombie types were differentiated by the color of the standing zombie bases (black vs grey). (Not a casting call for Michael Jackson's Thriller video.)

The buildings were paper building templates from Germy's free building site.

XZH Convention Intro

I ran a game of Xtreme Zombie Hunter at the Conquest: San Francisco convention over Labor Day 2006. XZH is by Grimey Games. As a brief intro, it is a zombie hunting game (obviously) with a twist, it's on national TV. & with TV comes corporate sponsors. So if you replace Schwartzenegger with zombies in the movie Running Man, & add NASCAR sponsorship to the hunters, you've got XZH.

The game was very well received, almost too well. The following entries are not a review of the game mechanics, but instead general musing about how I put the game together & what I learned about running it in a convention setting. A discussion of "first impressions" of the game can be found on Grimey Games' forums and a battle report can be found here (this is a 2MB PDF file & not a webpage link, so might be a bit slow on dial-up.)