Back in March I ran a solo game of Crooked Dice's '7ombieTV' featuring two brave police officers failing to prevent the start of the apocalypse after an accident in an unspecified chemical facility - more details can be found here.
I said at the time that I wanted to begin a running campaign in the style of 'All Things Zombie' from Two Hour Wargames using the 7ombieTV rules. The ATZ campaign begins with an excellent and freely available Day One scenario which suggests that your central character is based on yourself. I had three problems with this idea: firstly, most of my miniatures and terrain (as well as the entire genre) have an American slant; secondly, Mrs Cheaphammer thought the idea of potentially simulating our daughter's demise in a Zombie apocalypse a bit creepy; finally, in reality I'd probably last about three minutes thanks to breaking Zombieland's rule #1.
Therefore, I decided to use a substitute central character, and to ensure that I didn't get tempted to create an ex-Marine, part-time ninja called Buck Morris, I used a random character generator I found on a site called Chaotic Shiny. I simply clicked through a random assortment of characters until I found one I liked that I had a suitable miniature for.
And so, I introduce my central character: Stephanie Bryant, a twenty-something mortician (oh, the irony...), who lives with her boyfriend (yet to be named). Although patient, she has a temper to match her fiery red hair. The model is one of the O Gauge railway miniatures I painted to use as zombie fodder and assuming Stephanie makes it to the end of the scenario, she'll be replaced with a better miniature. In terms of stats, I decided to begin her as a co-star until she's lasted at least a couple of episodes. I chose the Looker profile for her, as the 'Obey Me!' trait makes her a circumstantial leader, which will help with keeping her and other survivors out of trouble, and I gave her the Dodge trait to reflect the fact that being a 'sucker for sports fanatics', there's a good chance that she would be physically fit.
|Steph in her demure work attire.
I adapted the original scenario to better suit the mechanics of 7TV and decided that I'd determine the number and type of loactions Stephanie would visit randomly, rolling for each one after finishing the last. I kept open the option of heading straight home if a location made no sense, or things were getting sticky. I also introduced the PEF (potential enemy forces) mechanism from ATZ using a GW scatter dice which would reveal one of the spawn cards from the 'Ghouls and Colleges' supplement for 7ombieTV. The deck I created would initially only have one zombie to reflect how recently after the outbreak this scenario is. However, once the zombie appeared, the card would be shuffled back into the deck to keep things interesting. In theory, this scenario could be really easy or extremely tricky, but I think that's the most important element of solo gaming: not knowing what will happen.
Location One: The Store
Stephanie needs to get from the by the unfinished bar to the store in the top right. In addition, I'd previously decided that the store location would have 1d6 panicked survivors milling about. They would act with the PEF counters, moving d6 inches in a random direction, but directly towards Stephanie on the roll of a 'Hit' on the scatter die. The would attack her, but I figured that nattatively this would reflect jostling, barging or hysterically grabbing rather than a full on attack.
|It's all suspiciously quiet...
After a long day at work, Stephanie Bryant left the 'Gone But Not Forgotten' Funeral Home and decided to head for a store only a block away as she needed to get some food in. As she walked along the street, she found it odd that the wasn't getting cell reception, and she could hear sirens in the distance...
|Steph looks up just in time to see a hysterical woman running directly towards her, a look of horror in her eyes.
|She hurriedly crosses the road away from the disturbed woman, smiling awkwardly as she moved away.
|However, she suddenly felt a tug on her arm. The woman was right behind her babbling incoherently about something coming.
|Steph, perturbed, shoved the woman away and hurried away, trying not to feel too guilty about her uncharitable feelings towards someone with obvious mental issues.
|She hurried on toward the store. The sooner she'd run this errand, the sooner she could get home.
|Steph was again shocked by a stranger grabbing her. "Miss, don't go that way!" Shocked, Steph bolted and the man ran the other way. What was with people today?
|As she crossed the road, Steph noticed a figure slowly shambling towards her, dragging one of its feet. "Great, another one," thought Steph.
|Frozen in horror, Steph did nothing as the walking corpse reached out to her. She was only shocked into action by the a groan that came from behind her, as another shambling cadaver emerged from behind a car.
Steph had made it. Just. I'd earned 1 VP that would be only be relevant after Day One was over. Her Dodge trait had been crucial in avoiding the civilians and the zombies and although she'd lost one wound, characters only potentially become zombies in 7ombieTV if reduced to zero wounds.
I'd created a table to roll on when arriving at a location, and I managed to roll uncomfortably high. As this was Steph's first location, there was no penalty to the roll, but she was still going to have to wait longer in the shop than usual and would have to add +2 to the next location roll rather than the usual +1. Again, this seemed fitting as she'd clearly wait until the street was emptier before venturing out. again.
|Steph watches horrified as the...zombie...lurched around outside.
Location 2: The Car
I love it when unplanned stuff makes sense. I rolled up 'vehicle' as the next location, which implied that Stephanie had walked to the store before driving home. I decided to change my initial plan to roll on a 'Getting There' table between locations, as I'd fortuitously put a small car park on the table already. In this scenario, Steph would have to get to the red car in the centre and drive it off the right hand side of the board. To further complicate matters, I kept the two zombies from earlier but moved them in a random direction 2d6 inches. As you can see, one of the was still quite close to the store. I also decided that Steph would suffer from the Slow disadvantage, as she was carrying heavy shopping, until she got to the car. To make matters worse, there were 6 PEF counters around the edge of the board and I'd added two more zombie cards (in line with the location count) to the spawn deck. The civilians, however, had all run off.
|It's not far. How hard can it be?
"Are you sure you want to go miss?" asked the store owner as he fumbled with his keys, "there's at least one of them still out there, and once you're gone, I'm not openin' that door again for no-one."
"I'm sure Mr Stokes," replied Stephanie smiling nervously, "I need to get home. And they don't move that fast, so with a headstart from your side door, I should be able to out-run it, even with all this." She indicated the bags of shopping in her hands.
"Okay then. Do you have everthin' you needed?"
"Yes, and thank you for everyhting. You take care Mr Stokes," she said as he slid back the bolt.
"And you miss."
|Stephanie stepped out into the daylight and was immediately surprised to see two more zombies she'd somehow missed.
|Panicked, she almost dropped her shopping before scurrying off with the zombies in hot pursuit.
|She was almost at the car park when she tripped and some of her canned goods rolled out of her bags.
|In trying to scoop up what she could, one of the zombies closed in...
|...but she was once again able to slip out of its grasp.
|Breathing heavily, Steph made it to the car park.
At this point I rolled on my location table for the vehicle, adding +2 to determine the state of her car when she arrived.
|She was relieved to find her car still there. With the sounds of lurching zombies getting closer, she hunted in her bag for her keys.
|"Hey! Wait!" Steph turned to see a small boy running towards her from the direction of the park, "Help me!"
The spawn deck threw up a Kid at this point. I'd previously decided that all humans in the scenario would now be part of the 'cast' and would cost Steph VP's if she left them to their fate. What's more, Kids have the 'Screamer' trait, which makes them worth an extra VP if they die. Great...
|The boy ran as quickly as his little legs would carry him over to the car.
|"Get in!" shouted Steph, as the zombies lurched closer.
|She quickly leapt in, reversed out of her space and quickly edged the car past the zombies in the gateway. They were surely safe now...
|...suddenly Steph caught a glimpse of an old man cowering in the corner of the car park. He'd be dead meat if she didn't help, and she'd led the zombies straight to him.
Just as they were home free, the spawn deck threw up another survivor, in a really awkward place. There was a real dilemma here as Steph could just put her foot down and be home free, but if she did so, it would cost a victory point and negate the success of getting the car and put the (more valuable) boy at risk too. I really liked how I'd accidentally created a mechanic which reflected Steph's moral dilemma so well. I decided to roll for her decision...
|Steph rolled with window down and shouted, "Get over to the park! I'll wait for you there!" and drove up to the gateway of the park.
|More zombies lurched out of the bushes, the boy narrowly got the window up in time.
Well that was grim. There was no real option. There was only so long that the boy was going to be able to fend off the zombies, even with the Dodge trait and the car's armour, and the Old Man had next to no chance of getting through to the car before the zombies chasing him caught up. At least his end was cinematic.
Steph gained another VP for securing the car, but the zombies gained one for killing the old man, taking the running total to 2-1. However, perhaps more importantly, Steph had managed to keep the boy (and the 2 VP's he would cost her) safe.
With the boy in tow, and time ticking by (at least one more zombie card would be added to the spawn deck), when the next location rolled was Bank/ATM, not only did it not make sense, it also seemed to be a massive risk. Therefore, I decided that Steph wouldn't ride her luck, she would simply get home.
Location 3: Home
Just when you thinks it's going badly, it gets worse. Rolling the worst possible result on my version of the 'Getting There' table, not only did I have to add yet another zombie card to the spawn deck, but also Steph would have to abandon the car. I'd planned to have the road blocked in the middle of the table anyway, to prevent the scenario simply being Steph driving to her house in two turns. However, the 'Getting There' result meant that I moved it to the edge of the table.
Steph and the boy, Freddy (named by my daughter), would have to get from behind the overturned police car to the residential property (the one with the steps) on the left edge of the table. Once again, there were plenty of PEF's about, one of which was right by the survivors' entry point. This could be ugly.
|Where are the drivers of all those abandoned cars?
"So, Freddy," said Steph as reassuringly as she could muster, "we'll head to my place and call your folks to let them know you're safe. I still can't get cell reception, but the line lines will be fin...WHAT THE...?" Steph suddenly had to swerve as a woman rushed out into the road waving her arms. Steph recognised her as the woman who had grabbed her earlier. Steph wound her window down.
"Sorry," panted the woman, "it was the only way I could think of to grab your attention. There's a pile up right round the corner, and you'd never see it in time."
"Oh..er...thanks...again," Steph blushed. She now, shamefacedly, realised that this very same woman had been trying to warn her earlier, "where are you heading? It's not safe on the streets right now. My apartment is just on the next block, you can come with us."
"Oh, wow! Thanks. I've been running so long I don't really know where I am." She looked exhausted.
|Steph brings the car slowly up to the blocked road, followed by the woman.
|They begin to pick their way through the wreckage, but become aware of two zombies shambling in their direction from the other side.
|Steph leaps in front of Freddy to protect him batters it to the ground with a tin of soup.
|She begins to struggle with the second one, but it's suddenly knocked flying by the blonde woman's heavy bag.
|Unaware that the zombie might get up, the three survivors make their way past the cars.
|More zombies clamber over a fence to get to them.
|The suvivors throw caution to the wind and simply run, hell for leather, down the street.
|Only for two more zombies to lumber out of a building ahead of them.
|The two women face off against the new threat whilst Steph shouts at Freddy to get to the safety of the house.
|Meanwhile, more zombies approach from behind.
|With a quick spurt of speed the women dodge past the zombies and make it to Steph's apartment.
Well that was, relatively, easy. I was helped by the fact that several of the PEF tokens loitered in the corners of the board for several turns, which meant that by the time the zombies showed up, they were really too far away to catch the survivors. I was also making good use of Steph's 'Obey Me!' trait to keep Freddy out of trouble. Not having any fighters or weapons in the group meant that my major strategy, rather sensibly, was just to run. Barring accidents, the survivors will always win a flat race. In future scenarios I'll have to come up with elements that prevent the survivors simply running past zombies all game.
Another VP was secured by getting home alive, and nobody died, which made the overall score 3-1 to the survivors. What's more, it turned out that Steph's boyfriend had made it back alive. I'm going to be using an adapted version of the 7TV Summer Special Ratings War campaign system to manage out of game events, and according tomy rough guidelines I've managed to secure a minor victory, which means that I will have 80 points to spend fleshing out my four characters. Steph is already at around 20, and her boyfriend and the blonde woman are likely to become co-stars. I think I'm going to keep Freddy as an extra, because that keeps him vulnerable.
So, overall, this has been a good start to the campaign. I have a group of survivors, several scenario possibilities (getting the car back, getting Freddy and/or the blond woman home, contacting friends and family) to consider before we need to start scavenging and searching for food (thanks to Steph's shopping trip). 7ombieTV is also good for multiplayer games as well, so if I can rope others in, there's the possibility of the police, armed gangs or even the military turning up. I'm excited to see how far this can go.