This is not the post I hoped to make.
Ominous sounding, isn't it?
About 3 weeks ago I set up the kitchen table with game scenery and thought I would play a solo game of Walking Dead. It's been long enough that I forgot some important rules. No double movement in a turn was the biggie. I wasn't playing a predefined scenario that told me how many of what to place where. More importantly, I wasn't playing on the standard 20" X 20" board that is the game standard.
A big part of modern day gaming, especially for me, has been house rules. This was my chance to house rule up some big-board tweaks. I read somewhere in my game development adventure of years ago that a good solo game is won 25% of the time. I bought in to that, and how I found that playing games solo is more about the story of the game rather than winning or losing. Especially losing. For my big board test I would take 1 Survivor (with the point value close to a normal, small group) and try to reach a target convenience store and search for supplies. The board was setup with scenery, a plethora of zombies, and I was off.
The biggest house rule I changed was how Threat automatically rises at the end of each turn. It doesn't rise like that if there's more than one player, and that bothers me. I can see where it forces you to get to the goal faster. How fewer players equates to fewer potential interactions that will raise the threat, but I just don't like it. So I nixed that rule straight off the bat.
The first pass... well, that was where I found I glossed over some basics (like that movement thing I mentioned). Roughly 7 turns in I had reached my goal with only interference from the undead twice. Was I not placing enough zombies for the bigger board? That was when I looked back into the rules and saw that when you perform 2 actions in the Action Phase, you can't repeat any. Well. Crap. That test was a bust due to a basic rule being broken.
I reset the board and tweaked things a little more. I made some overly-complicated math problem to determine how many zombies to start out with on the board. The area I'd be using was 24" X 48", with me starting at 1 end and the convenience store on the far end. This time, I also took notes per turn which would help be both analyze how the rule tweaks played out, as well as force me to write down/repeat the steps of each turn so I, hopefully, wouldn't gloss over or skip anything.
And, it kind of worked. When it came to die rolls, I would roll 3 (sometimes 5) times to see what my worst & best outcome would be. Based on how things were going, I would pick the roll to use. Over the course of forcing the game to last 10 turns, I died twice before reaching the convenience store. When I reached the convenience store, I could make it inside if I scooted 1 of the zombies out of the way a little, else I would have died. If I did indeed scoot him and enter the store, I ended up dying 2 different ways by the end of the turn. I think that 1 game made me 0-5, which is not a 25% win rate. But half of those loses game with a win just out of reach, and that's the best way to lose - it makes you want to try one more time.
I've made some more rule tweaks. The number of zombies to start with isn't a calculus problem any more, but based on scenery points, the size of the play area, and starting survivor points. Where they spawn will still need some work, especially to not turn into another overly complicated math problem. I haven't played through the latest set of changes. After 3 weeks of scenery set up on the kitchen table I was ready to put everything away for a while and tidy up.
It's a lot of pictures, but here's what I snapped on the game where I made it to the convenience store before dying. Game play details are moot, but it's a good excuse to look at the layout.
Turn 1: (Starting Threat 1) Driving up and stopping at a barricade, it's time to switch to making it the rest of the way on foot.
Turn 2: (Starting Threat 3) Time for some strategy, as hopping the barricade will make it 2 on 1. Maybe a tactical retreat can work in my favor?
Turn 3: (Starting Threat 5) Start sneaking forward, but 2 on 1 melee ensues.
Turn 4: (Starting Threat 6) Still moving forward, but a Pandemonium Event Card looks to make life difficult.
Turn 5: (Starting Threat 6) The pass through the gas station looks like a good bet. The Distracted Event Card beings a zombie closer.
Turn 6: (Starting Threat 7) Keep trying to get to the gas station when a Car Alarm (via Event Card) starts.
Turn 7: (Starting Threat 8) While zombies are distracted and drawn to the car alarm, a chance to run by! Based on how many zombies are already at the car, trying to silence it really isn't an option. 1 of the zombies is drawn into combat as I run by.
Turn 8: (Starting Threat 11) Keep running!
This was the first time I would have died when I drew the Frayed Nerves Event Card which would have drawn 9 zombies on top of me. This was skipped, and instead the Walking Dead Event Card came into play which ended up spawning a few more zombies while only 1 came to attack.
Turn 9: (Starting Threat 14) Zombies are starting to group up between here and the convenience store. They're not getting distracted enough by that car alarm! I make my way to the corner of the convenience store to try to better my odds for the zombies that I know are going to get close enough to attack. Thanks to the Roamers Even Card, what I hope was going to be just 1 zombie to fight turns into 4. Based on worse case die rolls, I would have died. Best and middle of the road cases, Health ends up going down from 8 to 4.
Turn 10: (Starting Threat 16) This was the turn with lots of tweaks to see if the goal was possible. The zombie in the door skootched a little so I could make it inside, but drawing a Hoard Event Card pulled him in (I ruled that the door was still open and allowed the zombie(s) outside to follow along with a couple of his friends. Increased Threat from base contact and the ongoing car alarm pushed the Threat to 18 which is supposed to instantly end the game. Even if playing through the turn, and a miracle of not losing combat against 4 more zombies, there was no way to perform any search actions in this turn.
So there you have it. That's how I ended up spending the last couple of weeks. Based on how I like to play, here's my rule tweaks for trying out next time:
1) Threat 18
If the turn starts with a Threat of 18, the game is over.
If the turn ends with a Threat of 18, roll the black die. If a Badge is rolled, Threat is reduced to 17.
If the Threat reaches 18 during a turn, any threat that would be added is discarded.
This gives that One Last Chance that I tend to like in games - you know it's over, unless you can pull off just 1 lucky thing.
2) Actions that might interrupt movement if they fail. I can't really see clarity on some of these, but crossing barricades, going through doors, and (a homegrown rule) of checking for a locked door should be allowed during movement. That's probably the way it is, but I'm making a list of what falls into that category.
3) Locked Door Check. The rules mention Open Doors and Closed Doors, with Closed Doors requiring melee roll(s) to break through. In my zombie world, a door might just be closed and you need to check if it's locked or not. Here's where the good old Black Die comes in - on a Badge, it's unlocked and you can proceed through. Otherwise, it's locked and a traditional Closed Door. This was important when I got to the convenience store in the last test. I moved 1/2 my movement (1 action) and got to the door and checked to see if it was locked. It was unlocked so I proceeded through the door (Open Door, 1 action) and completed my movement. I didn't have actions available to close the door, and that's part of what ended up screwing me in the end.
4) Define the play area at the beginning. Although I kept to the 24" X 48" section I meant to stay in, I had zombies placed all over the board so that I could effectively try to wander off wherever I wanted. This was just needlessly overcomplicating setup. Even if it did look pretty cool.
I'm not sure when I'll next dig out everything and play again. Putting the map in frames, and then placing some shelf liner under the frame corners to prevent them from sliding around worked really well. The frames give me some "zones" to work with if I want, and don't raise up too bad and tilt scenery. The glare on the glass is a little annoying for pictures, but alternately they make for a great wet-street look.
When I was (playing around and) making Zombie Mall - at least 7 years ago - the part I had the most fun with was making map tiles. One of the things I've been putting off for my generic gaming scenery/Walking Dead game has been re-sizing the map tiles I've used in the past. While they've worked well, the 7½" size they magically started at is not expanding well as my scenery wants grow.
Instead of just resizing the tiles to 6", this was an opportunity to make them better. The road sections from a Fat Dragon Games paper scenery kit worked well in the beginning, and I was used to the look of their road. The sidewalk was another feature I was used to, and wanted to keep it. Resizing the sidewalk to what was appropriate wasn't much of a problem. The grass... the grass I wanted to make better.
Back in Paint Shop Pro (best $100 I forced Jerry to pitch in on in 2001 - yes, I hit "about" in PSP to double check) I used some various grass texture I'd purchased at some point through DriveThruRPG and added some layers, opacity, magic, and a tweaked eraser tool to limit straight lines. After a couple of false starts I ended up with a curved road that look improved over the previous curved road. SUCCESS!!!
Although with a road you would normally thing Straight, Curve, T & X Intersections, I was planning ahead for different parking lot entrances. I'm still sticking to 2-lane roads, but now I've added in a 1-lane parking lot entrance on the right, a 2-lane entrance on the left, and while I'm at it let's see how many of those combinations I can mix up. A how about a variant with a curved sidewalk at a corner instead of a hard right angle? This led to 10 variations of parking lot entrances. With the original, basic road sections, there would be 19 types of map tile after factoring in bordered by sidewalk and bordered by grass.
With smaller map tiles, I would need more for those occasions I wanted to cover up table. Generally I think of the max playing area I might use as 4"x4". With the bigger tiles, 5x5 was the max I could fit. At 6" square, I could now use 8x8. 64 tiles to cover the table. As I thought about it, a little more variation in those tiles would help. Potholes, trash, road patches. That would make a 8-section road more interesting! And that's what happened.
Thanks to the original layered PDFs these roads came on, potholes, trash, and road patches were available. New variants for each of those 3 were copied and the new layer (of crap) added in. 19 types of map tile grew to 76. Actually 79, as there was a full tile of sidewalk, grass, and pavement that never got the extra clutter treatment. 79 map tiles sound like a lot more than 19. My plan was to print around 250 map tiles to make sure I had enough combinations of road, sidewalk, and grass so I could put together whatever layout I might want. 250 map tiles doesn't care if it comes from 19 files or 79 files once you get down to cutting and gluing.
Cutting and gluing is later. Now that I've got all of these files made, saved, and converted to a printer friendly format, it's time to print. There's multiples of each file to print. I made a list to help make sure I get at least the minimum of some of these printed out. Printing is step 2 (step 1 was graphicing the mess UP!). There's not a lot of viewable detail in the thumbnails below, but I was due a blog update of some type and this helps me feel like I'm making some hobby progress since the last post.
After printing, these will be cut and glued to 6"x6" cake boards, with the "sidewalk" copy on 1 side and the matching "grass" copy on the other. For the overly-happy-with-exits versions, the square and curved versions will be on opposite sides. With the fun I have on cutting (and gluing) straight lines, that part will be the time sink.
When it comes to minis for the Walking Dead game, I try to find reference pics to paint by. I'm not good with color choices so going by what someone else has that already looks good helps. In addition, using a "good" template helps my skills along.
This time, I had 3 goals. The ever present first goal of "Don't glob on paint and make them suck" was foremost. Second was "try to make some eyeballs that don't look retarded." Finally, "Change up skin tones" was a direct result of the last batch needing too many coats of paint & wash to not look from pasty death to rotted death.
The packs of minis this time didn't contain 1 "Hero" and 2 zombies. I guess they've released enough zombies? Except for Zombie Duane, son of Morgan, Distraught Father, added in to Morgan's pack of 3, the packs I opened up all had 2 "Hero" minis.
Walking Dead reference pics (from Mantic Games) that I used for reference:
Over the course of 2 weeks, even though there were 9 minis lined up to paint, I eschewed the assembly line method of picking a color and using it on every mini that could use that color. Instead I did what (I've heard) works better - start at the bottom/hard to reach level of the mini and work up. Normally that means "skin". If a hand is holding something, that isn't necessarily true. I started with Abraham, for some reason I wanted this one to turn out the best, to make sure I took my time on. Skin, red/orange hair (easy to do with the Citadel orange wash), green camo clothes. Everything was something I'd done before, although camo painted uniforms were more of what I painted in the 80's and 90's.
Since I was trying to vary skin tones, thanks to the Juan Ton Soop incident of last month, there wouldn't just be a base skin tone and flesh wash applied. 4 black (African-whatever, I've never tried to be PC here, just ask Juan Ton Soop), 1 Latina (fine, a little PC), and the rest are normal white guys. I always have a hard time with black, as I'm wary of going too dark (covering up features) and often end up too light (hey, nice tan, bro). Even the white guys are normally too white, with me depending too much on the flesh wash.
Taking my time helped. When things didn't look right - of course the first 2 passes of my black guys were all too light - I tried to find a shade to LIGHTLY APPLY to see if it made things better. Most did. Some, of course, did not. By the time I was done, Jud was the only mini I wasn't at least halfway happy with. Jud's skin was too... sunburned is the best way to describe it. And there had been enough layers of paint and wash that he'd reached the tipping point of having enough detail showing to be presentable. When you don't make the cut, you get experimented on! Jud, welcome to the tattoo needle! The tattoo needle is really a pen tip, but that doesn't sound as ominous. Some light scribbles and Jud, whoever he is in the comics, is now a tatted up rough looking dude.
The rest stuck pretty close to the reference pics I was using. Abraham turned out the best, as I'd hoped. Eugene, holding a radio, ended up better than I expected. Almost everyone had eyes that ended up looking in the same direction. Morgan's eyes look a little weird, but I was trying to go for the "distraught/crazed" look and went a little too crazy. I knew my attempt to fix it would screw it up, so Morgan remains "super distraught and crazed".
For once I haven't noticed any obvious mathematical formula errors in the painting progress spreadsheet. I also haven't bought anything since last time. This means, for the first time in a long, long time, the spreadsheet shows PROGRESS! +9 painted! +1% progress!
There's another batch of Walking Dead minis awaiting priming so they'll be ready to paint when the mood strikes. It's rainy, humid day and I've learned that priming when it's raining leads to runny primer covering details. In keeping with the Walking Dead progress, I pulled out the Greene Family Farm scenery expansion and thought it might be nice to make their barn. There's also plenty of other, prep-work tasks I've got to keep me busy so I can have something cool to show later. Plenty to do!
Since reaching my milestone of painting all of the Walking Dead Minis I had, and the resulting game thereafter, I proceeded to vanish. Ok, not really vanish, but as far as any productive hobbying,
it was nil. I had a list - things to prep, spaces to prep to make room for prepping those things, and my favorite: getting things needed to prep with. I managed to put off most of it. Fine, all of it.
I might do a little prep-prep (prepping for the prep work?) here and there, but nothing ever really got done. Last weekend was going to be my big push forward and finally make some progress on my list!
Instead, I was hopped up on Sudafed and hoping I wouldn't have a full fledged sinus cold - I didn't have such, but I did spend a Saturday in bed/on the couch with 3 naps before 10 hrs of sleep.
So this was the weekend I would make progress! And, I did!
I don't have a lot to show for it, but that's the nature of prep-prep. The garage is now cleaned to the point I can once again use it. I have all the supplies for my home-made (looks like a) water tower project. As shown in the pic above, I've printed and cut out the templates for the 1/87 version of Gaslands.
That sounds pitiful now that I've read it back. I need to make more progress-progress.
After 11(ish) months of painting, making scenery, and actually playing through 2 scenarios, I finally wrapped up the Prelude to Woodbury solo missions by playing Scenario THREE. Yes, THREE. Roughly 1 game every 4 months. I freely admit the game play is an afterthought and excuse for me to make scenery and paint minis. To celebrate painting all (125) of my Walking Dead minis, I played a game. A game that needed 5 of those minis. Did I set up the basic game play area as described in the basic, rudimentary, solo play rule book?
Hell no I didn't just do that!
While I would only need 4 of my little map tiles for the required 15" x 15" play area, I wanted, nay, needed, the proper background with which to play against. Thus, another section of rural Potham, but less rural than previous games and setups, game to be.
With this fringe of Potham set, it was time to see if the Governor To Be could complete his prescribed scenario feat of capturing 4 walkers. The rules, as I read them, stated that 4 walkers had to be captured and loaded into the vehicle (see Police Truck at the bottom of the setup pics). To capture a walker, said walker had to be defeated in combat (score damage, not necessarily a headshot) which would make the walker go prone. Once prone, it could be dragged to the truck at a Sneak pace. While having a walker in tow, I could only defend and not attack any other walkers that came by. The rules also stated that walkers being dragged would make Noise. This is one of those rules I may have read wrong, especially since it was the first time I used the Noise rule, but Noise affects other walkers during the Action (first) phase of the turn. A player normally has 2 actions. As I wasn't the one actively making the noise, I decided that the Noise affect would happen at the end of the 2nd action. This would end up playing very heavily to my advantage. Also, the Solo rules have a special rule I ignore that raises the threat 1 at the end of every turn. I really don't like that rule, as it defeats my desire to sneak around and seems to just make the game (end on turns) faster.
Fluff: Brian, out to win the favor of those fools in Woodbury, has gone out to bring back more walkers to appease the folk during their arena games. 4 fresh walkers would be perfect to bring back. Brian grabbed a truck for his little adventure. Dragging walkers back by the nape of their rotting necks wouldn't be a good way to come back to the town gates. Plus, it'd be stupid. At best he could safely bring back 2. 4 is the way to go! And as luck would have it, he spotted 4 here on the outskirts of this little burb. Brian parked and got ready to bring some walkers home.
Fluff: Brian, armed with his pistol, decides to take a shot at the closest walker although there's a barricade in the way. He fires off a shot which hits his target but flies harmlessly through the dead flesh. The sound of the shot catches the attention of 3 walkers, with one of them advancing on top of Brian. With his guard up, Brian pistol whips the walker and knocks him down!
Fluff: After loading his first captured walker into the truck, Brian starts toward the next walker. He doesn't have to go far as one shambles toward him to attack. But Brian is on his guard and fights down this walker as easily as the previous one.
Fluff: With a grunt Brian loads his latest defeated walker into the back of the truck before capturing the attention of any other lurking walkers. Out of the corner of his eye he sees another walker getting closer.
Fluff: Taking a breath, Brian sneaks toward the walker. Trying to stay silent, he swings his pistol butt toward the zombie' head but misses. Out of instinct he brings up the knife that's in his other hand and fells the walker.
Fluff: Brian tosses walker #3 in the back of the truck - a nice little gaggle of walkers is growing back there. One more to go. Brian takes another deep breath as he readies for his final goal.
Fluff: One more walker appears and is on Brian before he knows it. Startled and out of instinct Brian fires off a shot from his pistol and hits the walker in the chest, knocking him down. Brian picks him up, the last of the group he set out to capture.
Fluff: Brian loads up the final walker. In the distance he sees a herd shamble by. It's time to crank up the truck and get back home before drawing any undo attention.
This was actually my second play through, as there were a couple of rules I was unclear on. The first time I won in 12 turns. There were a couple of things I did wrong as well as some die rolls going against me. This time I was successful the first time in each combat, which helped a lot. Looking back, I need to double check if picking up the prone walker to drag is an action since I ended up making it an automatic event. It also helped that Brian never had to waste movement dragging a walker back to the truck - he was always adjacent during combat. The helped both in saving an action per turn, and the walker was loaded before any Noise effects factored in.
Overall, still a fun little game.
Since I set up so much extra scenery for background, I went ahead and took some beauty shots. I had planned on more walkers coming into play via event cards, so instead of keeping them in the box to pull as needed I just set up a herd outside of play stocked up with zombies to pull. It turned out I didn't need any of them, but that's not the point.
As always, correct spelling is optional in any blog entry. Keep in mind that any links more than a year old may not be active, especially the ones pointing back to Russellmania (I like to move things around!).
Tags have been added to posts back to 2005. There may be an occasional old blog that gets added to the tag list, but in reality what could be noteworthy from that far back?
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