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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 165 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Zombeja! Ovella!] No brain, no pain!  (Read 4504 times)
Christoph Boeckle
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Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« on: October 15, 2007, 03:23:45 PM »

Hi reader,

I had the pleasure of playing Eero Tuovinen's new game Zombeja! Ovella! at a local con this Saturday.
My five co-players were all relatively young boys whom I had never met before, between 12 and 18 years old (I'm 24). All had played but a few RPGs before. Our game lasted something like four and a half hours and great fun was had!

How I put the game together

Eero had provided me with a .pdf of the rules and the board. I printed those, and pasted the latter onto cardboard before covering it with auto-adhesive plastic film. I bought some wooden game pawns at a hobby shop and nice "nuclear" dice from Q-Workshop. Check it out!
I followed Eero's publication report for the character sticks: example. The players loved those and took the time to read them all and think up all sorts of combinations. (I was the only one to randomly draw a character).
I managed to stove all the dice, pawns and sticks into a nice little box whose lid was used as the first-player token.

Explaining the rules
It was quite easy to explain the rules, but not quite as easy to get the subtleties across. Thus we had some slow scenes, the players were mostly reluctant to narrate the zombies into their scene, but had a great blast at describing the coolness of their characters (one player actually did that for a good three scenes even though I kept reminding him that the zombie token was homing in).
It was also surprisingly difficult to find disputes in the fiction. Mostly, everybody agreed on the plans and actions to counter the zombies! Also, one of the most reluctant players might sometimes disagree, but immediately change his mind when somebody spoke of the dice. However this didn't damage play.

Play overview
So, we started quite slowly, three players hardly talking of the zombies at all and doing their stuff independently (an eco-terrorist who started play blowing up the Swiss parliament, an elite soldier and a mafiosi). I forgot to tell them about the locality rule and didn't remember it till the second round. Just like in Dirty Secrets, it's a very powerful rule, not only so as to have all characters more or less close together to get them into dispute, but also to draw powerful inspiration from.
Four of us played characters in the con's city and the others slowly gravitated towards it too.
I framed a scene with one player and then another, but this was relatively little used by the others (I didn't want to tell them how to play, but in hindsight I could have given more suggestions). The youngest player did tell how his frightened old man of a character threw out an esoteric tome out the window onto the head of this older brother's character (playing a homeless character which we knew was always trying to find a quite place to sleep in).
When the zombie marker was two spaces away from us, the eco-terrorist's player, Daniel, started framing some scenes with the old man and they had a first dispute about getting to a safe place quickly and not having time to rescue the elderly wife. The young boy, Maxime, lost the conflict, accepted this very well and played his character as an old bastard till the end. Which gave me an excuse to frame a scene with my character trying to help the old woman, and things started rolling as the two far-awayd characters were coming nearer.
Now the players were getting really excited: Max was one space away from the zombie, four players just two and only one was three spaces away.
Some conflicts were had, Max advanced and three retreated! It was really tense, and we were all starting to shout and laugh!
Zombies were smashing things up all over the place, eating people and getting stronger and more aggressive by the moment.
Max sacrificed his character to save mine from a near certain death (he seemed to like the fact that I had tried to save his character's wife).

From this point on, it was clear that the city was doomed and we all tried to fall back to the eco-terrorist's secret hide-out (nobody cared that he had slaughtered half of Switzerland's highest politicians). Arguments were had about how many people could be kept in the cave, some character tokens moved.
Finally, Max got a call from his parents that he would have to go home soon, so he sacrificed his old man definitely to buy another character some time. He told how the old man ran down the slope and made the zombies follow him in a different direction for some time, before being eaten.
He got to play the zombies for a turn before he had to leave though, and was quite happy with play overall.

The story was becoming very desperate, characters were arguing all the time, mine ran off to a nearby castle with his wife and child, shooting at the soldier PC who tried to bring him back, because he thought everybody was infected (I actually got to advance and take the "lead" thanks to that).

I then told how zombies from the city higher up in the mountains had been racing down the tunnel and were arriving fast to where the other characters were. I had my character and his family escape in a car and crash into the river in front of the secret hideout.

A massive melee followed, with three characters falling to the zombie token (the eco-terrorist preferred to suicide bomb the zombies to buy my character some time). The soldier player had great fun describing his zombified powerhouse killing all that moved in his character's vicinity, then a bit sad to have my character win the zombie conflict while racing down the river and planting a branch through his character (I was getting a bit weary of hearing how huge his guns were, I have to admit, so I was quite satisfied).

I was the last player still playing a human, and for a moment it seemed like the zombie conflicts could actually help my character escape (half the players were loaning me their dice). But alas, two bad rolls and a full turn got the better of my character, submerged by zombie cops.
I let Daniel narrate my death because I liked his idea: teeth gnashing on skull, crunching of brain... relief of pain forever!

NO BRAIN, NO PAIN!

The end


Conclusion

I really enjoyed play, even though I hadn't quite understood the significance of some rules and our scenes tended to drag out in time. The other players enjoyed the freedom of narration a lot, and two asked me to mail them the pdf.
The board is a superb pacing mechanism and puts welcome pressure on the players.
I realised after the game that we had relatively little gore in play. For some reason, nobody went very far with gruesome details. I like to think that the buid-up of tension and the character relationships, as basic as they had been, were a more compelling feature of play.


Thanks Eero, I will play again!




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Regards,
Christoph
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2591


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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2007, 03:40:51 PM »

Thanks for playing! As I think I said earlier, feel free to give the pdf to anybody who might want to try the game. It's always a pleasure to hear of people having played it.

The slight difficulties you mention sound very typical for folks with some roleplaying experience of the chaotic variety. Especially shirking from conflicts is something you get with people who've learned to roleplay in groups that value a party mentality. It takes a while for the idea of the game to sink in in these cases; I usually mention it when I see it in play, but do not particularly press for "different play". I just play as example and let the zombie token do it's work: it's surprising how quickly players start finding acceptable conflict opportunities when the zombie token is breathing down their necks. Also, if one player takes on an antagonist role as a real bastard, then that might help the other players get into the game; such an antagonist is likely to get eaten by zombies half-way through, but that's then an excellent opportunity to exemplify the opportunities of playing without a character.

Something you might want to try next time is taking a bit stricter hand in enforcing the rules for the duties of the active player: especially the requirements of framing the scene explicitly and ending it when it's served its purpose are something that players are likely to ignore at first. They're not that useful rules, either, if the group has a sense for the dramatic, but if the game feels too slow, it can really help to remember them.

Anyway, to say it again: nice to hear that you got around to playing the game, and I hope you'll play again. The good thing about the zombie game is that it's very easy to set up and play, so you can practice and get better at it. Despite being easy to play by the rules, I think it's an unabashed skill game in which you actually get better with practice.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2007, 03:51:48 PM »

Oh, also, I forgot to say this: rather exemplary work on the game components! Your character sticks are looking nicer than ours. I probably should find out how much it'd cost to have Swiss children hand-scribe the next ten thousand sticks I might need.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2007, 01:55:18 PM »

I wonder how much is really imputable to their past role-playing experience, they didn't seem to have a lot of it. I know for sure that the gun-fan and at least one other were players of Warhammer Battle, so they might have gotten their party thinking from there (as they weren't clearly adversaries in our session). Your observations and approach to the "issue" are similar to mine. The zombie token definitely heated up their relations. Next time I'll play more on the bastard side to make sure things get moving and enforce the rules further.

Thanks for the compliments on the components. I probably spent four hours, counting the trips to the various stores. Not a very interesting production rate, but I only need to do it once, and besides I enjoyed doing it. I still plan to varnish the sticks, because players tend to put them in their mouths and the colour tends to diffuse as a result...
Swiss kids would love to do the work for you, knowing that they get paid on average as much as any European adult.
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Regards,
Christoph
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