Battleshed Diaries

Thursday 8 December 2016

Brains for supper

Brains for Dinner followed by Brains for Supper. My recent zombie-themed survival regimen has continued with another fraught group of survivors planning to pilfer the local Z Mart and possibly make their escape by boosting an abandoned cop car, or a Pimp Mobile rumoured to hide Ma’s Shotgun or even maybe the fully automatic Evil Twins.

This time with Guillotine Games' Zombicide. Noting my troubles with zombies, Sam Pate of Wee Blokes saw an opportunity to have his first go at this particular poke at the genre, and knowing the core game has seen a few scenarios in the Battleshed he called it for our regular Wednesday evening gaming.

Following on from playing The Walking Dead’s survivor factionalism, Zombicide provides a slightly different angle where it's totally cooperative – the survivors supposedly all work together to achieve the objective, preferably with limbs still intact. Well, it does unless The Teenager is playing. In which case your best bet is to side with the zombies. However, as The Teenager rarely comes out of the Pit of Doom - with the occasional strangled sounds of an amped guitar emanating from behind the always-knock-first door – it was down to Sam and myself to guide the tooled up Waitress Wanda, Accounts Doug, Officer Phil, Hoodie Josh, Anime Amy and Gamer Ned with their supply raid on the Z Mart.

The chosen scenario was The Escape, (06 in the core rulebook), where they need a bigger gun and…toilet paper. The objectives were straightforward. Place up to 6 Supply Cards (canned food, rice or water) in the two abandoned cars and head to the Exit Zone. There are limits to the amount of supplies and passengers that can be loaded into the vehicles, which are both searchable and drivable. Yes, drivable! The Pimp Mobile can only be searched once and will either contain Ma’s Shotgun or the Evil Twins auto pistols. The cop car can be repeatedly searched for weapons. Obviously not a British cop waggon then. Unless you count radar guns.

The survivors start out in a building near the Exit Zone where they have to make their way across the street into the large Z Mart to work the shelves. Of course, the abandoned vehicles which they hope to load up with loot are inconveniently parked on opposite sides of the building and far from the safe area.

After a quick run through of the Zombicide mechanic, Sam was ready to go - controlling Wanda, Phil and Ned whilst I had the rest of the gang. It must have seemed all pretty innocuous after the first couple of turns when both groups had soon gained entrance to the Z-mart and starting finding supplies and weapons. Only a few staggers of zombies were lurking on the periphery at this point. Sam must have thought it was going to be an easy ride. I found myself repeatedly warning of Zombicide’s tendency to rapidly escalate the threat level. And it didn’t disappoint.

A couple more turns in, even with the group being as quiet as possible, the zombies were starting to turn up in numbers. My group of Amy, Doug and Josh were pretty fortunate with their looting, finding three different supplies early on. Officer Phil, in Sam’s group, had managed to find a rifle too. A brief whispered group discussion amongst the empty Z Mart shelves and a plan decided. They’d split up. You know where this is going. Gamer Ned was keen to search the Pimp Mobile, arguing the opportunity to upgrade his arsenal just had to be done. There were mutterings amongst the other survivors - you can’t eat guns, let's get the frak outta here – that sort of thing, but Ned was adamant. He only had a rusty crowbar and a dodgy pistol.

So it was that eventually Amy, Doug and Josh broke through a side-alley door and quickly stashed their pilfered supplies in the abandoned cop car. Whilst Anime Amy demonstrated her hot wiring skills, Hoodie Josh revealed a rare find - a rifle scope. What use it was without its larger underside attachment was anyone’s guess so Josh moodily slunk off to go find Officer Phil in the other group. Meanwhile, zombies, attracted by the noise in the alleyway were starting to take notice.

Anime Amy and Accounts Doug

Accounts Doug was panicking. Normally mild-mannered and somehow always bedecked in a crisp, freshly ironed white shirt and pastel tie, he found himself in the front passenger seat of a stolen police vehicle whilst a leather clad, fishnet-stockinged young lady frantically fiddled with the car’s ignition. Zombies were surrounding them and he was armed with a frying pan. He’d had better days. There was the sound of breaking glass as the moaning zombies pressed against the vehicle’s sides. Glass sprayed across them as both the side windows shattered. Doug frantically panned flailing zombie limbs reaching in through the broken window with a metallic boing whilst Amy managed to slice n’ hack a few decaying digits with her machete.

In the brief seconds bought by her machete, before another shuffling zombie replacement arrived, she somehow managed to finally get the engine started. With wheels screeching and in a cloud of greasy grey smoke the cop car lurched forward, gathering speed. Amy fought the steering wheel, careening the car left and right down the narrow alleyway, zombie bodies thumping off its sides and the suspension rocking as more were crunched underneath. Accounts Doug struggled to get his seat belt in place.

Just as they exited the alleyway, picking up speed, Amy slammed on the breaks. Accounts Doug pitched forward but thankfully he’d managed to click his seat belt in place only moments before. Ahead, at an intersection, an even larger lurch of zombies blocked the way. Gripping his frying pan with white knuckles, Doug identified both Runner and the dreaded Fatty zombies amongst their regular undead brethren. In the rear view mirror, Amy could see more broken zombies staggering from the carnage in the alleyway.

There was only one way to go. Forward. Once again she pressed down on the accelerator. The cop car slammed into the mass of undead. The windscreen cracked as bodies thumped over the bonnet. The engine strained and its speed reduced as the car struggled against the tide of thrashing limbs. Then it stalled. The fatty stomped forward and bellowed. Its bulbous, distended stomach pushing against the front of the vehicle. Amy and Doug desperately panned and sliced with their weapons, Doug’s white shirt splatted with foetid zombie gore. One of the zombie Runners bounded onto the roof of the vehicle, the thin metal flexing with its weight.

It clambered on its front and reaching down into the car through Amy’s glassless window, it raked her neck and chest with long yellow-black talons, ripping her leather jacket and drawing blood. Amy frantically worked at the ignition, the engine fortuitously spluttering into life. The cop car lurched forward once gain, the Runner spinning from the roof and crashing into the zombies behind. Finally, they broke free of the mass and they were across the intersection, speeding down another street.

Nothing was said in the car as Amy drove towards the next intersection. The safe route the group had reconnoitred for the supply expedition was along the next right turn. Amy was struggling with the wheel as the acrid stench of burnt rubber and screeching metal filled the cop car’s battered cab. At least two of its tyres were blown. Amy slowed as she approached the next intersection, fearing a skid as she made the turn. Doug braced his left arm against the dashboard as the car swung right. Ahead there were more zombies. Thankfully only a small group. 

Amy felt warm blood trickling under her shredded leather jacket. With a mixture of dread and anger for what that could mean for her, she pushed down on the accelerator slowly gathering speed. Doug thought she was about to plough through this next lot of zombies too but instead he was shocked when Amy slowed the vehicle just as it approached the zombies on her side. With her foot steady on the gas, she leant out of the window and sliced the machete across a neat line of the undead, toppling at least three as the car sped past towards the Exit Zone. 

Waitress Wanda, Officer Phil, Hoodie Josh and Gamer Ned

The group started loading the supplies into the Pimp Mobile, aiming wisecracks and insults at Gamer Ned as he searched under its dashboard and in its storage compartments. He even pulled up the Royal Rouge deep pile mats, becoming increasingly irritated in his frustration. He was convinced the Pimp Mobile was a likely source of exotic weaponry. In his mind, he saw a gold and diamond encrusted .44 magnum or maybe an opportunity to mimic his best Schwarzenegger cheesy grin and a badly Germanic accented ‘uzi 9mm’. But nothing. Nada. Just six pairs of branded shades, a suspicious amount of quilted tissues and a DVD case for Pulp Fiction. The DVD was missing.

Is this what’ya looking for? Asked Officer Phil with a genuine cheesy grin. In his hands he held Ma’s Shotgun, with its custom quick-reload mechanism. Ned looked dumbfounded. Where’d ya’ find it, man?! Officer Phil shrugged. In the trunk, where else?

The gang performed a spot of inventory reorganisation. After handing the shotgun to an eager Gamer Ned and accepting the scope attachment from Hoodie Josh, Officer Phil scanned the street ahead. Through the scope, he could see a whole bunch of zombies silently heading their way. Fatties and Runners amongst them. He motioned for the others to hurry loading the canned food, rice and water into the Pimp Mobile. The zombie Runners were quickly gaining ground.

Phil anxiously urged the others on but Wanda and Ned had disappeared back inside the Z Mart. Phil raised his rifle, swearing under his breath. There was a sharp crack as he dropped the nearest Runner. The sound only encouraged more zombies to pour from the deserted shops and side streets. Josh joined in with improvised street bravado, blasting his pistol gangster-style - missing the closest zombies completely and nearly shooting his own foot as the heated shell casings ejected towards his face. The shots brought Wanda and Ned running from the Z Mart. Phil ordered them to get the Pimp Mobile running.

Gamer Ned looked on blankly, mechanical workings strictly coming under Voodoo magic as far as he was concerned. Waitress Wanda was equally clueless. The zombies were coming on fast now. Phil had sniped a few more but there were too many for him to hold off alone. Josh was still fiddling with a spare pistol magazine. There was no chance of getting all the supplies into the Pimp Mobile before they were all overwhelmed. And even if they did, they wouldn't have enough room for all four of them. 

Phil ordered the others to quickly remove the supplies to mutterings of protest. They retreated back inside the Z Mart. Wanda and Josh -  fuming at the disobliging pistol - started to unload the canned food from the Pimp Mobile. Gamer Ned, with glorious memories of playing Call of Duty back in the day, stepped up to help Phil, unloading both of Ma's barrels at a lumbering Fatty zombie in an explosion of foul gelatinous gore. Officer Phil had to roughly drag Ned back through the metal Z Mart side door as zombies bore down on him as he shakily tried to slot shells into the shotgun’s smoking breech. Josh just managed to bar the door as the undead pounded on the other side.

The desperate survivors gathered as much of the supplies as they could carry and quickly wound their way through the maze of shopping aisles and small back offices. They came across a large store room full of gardening equipment. It was untouched. They found a half can of gasoline and a working chainsaw, which looked as though it had been used for demonstration purposes. Josh was about to pull the starter rope but Officer Phil stopped him. You dumb ass, d' ya wanna’ let em’ all know we’re in here!

Phil led the group on a more or less direct route towards the Z Mart front entrance which opened onto a street leading directly to the safe zone, with a sulky Hoodie Josh following cradling the chainsaw. When they reached the exit, Phil unbarred the glass door, the metal frame scraping on the concrete step. He peered outside. The street was full of zombies. They were coming from all directions and the scrape of the Z Mart door had alerted the closest. Phil stepped back and locked the door. He turned towards the others who were all staring at him. Oh, frak!

The group headed back through the Z Mart, hoping to try the exit used by Amy and Doug. But moaning sounds and the crash of falling shelves ahead stopped them in their tracks. Zombies had broken through the side door by the Pimp Mobile and were heading in their direction. They were trapped. Phil led them quickly back again to the front entrance. They all silently understood what they had to do. They were going to have to fight their way out and make a run for it.

Josh, carefully this time, pulled back the Z Mart door. Enough to let Officer Phil step outside with a hastily improvised Molotov Cocktail in hand.  He lit it with a zippo and waited a few seconds for the material poking from the glass soda bottle to take hold. Taking aim at a large group of zombies he paused to let them funnel between a couple of parked cars. He lobbed the missile. With a whoosh, hot flames leapt from the closest Fatty zombie, the burning gasoline also spraying the heaving bodies surrounding it. Officer Phil stepped back through the entrance, Wanda handing him another Molotov.

Josh once again pulled the door open. Billowing black smoke, heat and the stench of fat burning caused Phil to gag and cough. Zombies were writhing on the street whilst flames licked up the nearest vehicles. Through the smoke Phil saw more zombies angling from another direction. He chucked the second explosive, a wall of flame shrouding yet more zombies. But it wasn’t enough. More and more were lumbering unthinking through the flames. There was no way they could make it through the massed horde heading towards the Z Mart entrance.

Their only option was to try and make Amy and Doug’s side door. They fought back through the Z Mart, taking out the zombies blocking their way. Finally, they reached the alleyway. Josh propped the door open with his chainsaw as the other survivors exited. Officer Phil pointed ahead. They were going to have to run for it and hope the massed zombies piling through the Z Mart’s front entrance would be unaware of the little group running up the outside alleyway in the opposite direction. Hoodie Josh didn't agree. He briefly argued with Officer Phil, convinced that they were better off making a dash through the Z Mart to the Pimp Mobile ahead of the main zombie herd. He was sure they had time. The others sided with the ex Cop. Hoodie Josh always argued with Officer Phil. They hefted their heavy supply bags and weapons and headed along the alley toward the intersection. None of them thought the moody Hoodie wouldn’t reluctantly follow. But he didn’t.

Picking up his chainsaw he headed back into the Z Mart. As he passed one of the side aisles, a zombie darted unseen. Josh just managed to put it down by wielding the chainsaw like some kind of giant orc blade. But the delay was enough to seal his fate. The huge mob of zombies had broken through the main aisles and cut him off. More were appearing behind him, attracted by all the commotion. Josh frantically pulled on the starter cord, the chainsaw spluttering into life. The loud buzz of the saw sending the zombies into a frenzy. He raged. He swirled the chainsaw around, its steel blades ripping through a swathe of the nearest undead. Torn bodies tumbled to the shiny tiled floor but were instantly replaced by others struggling over the twitching fallen. Hoodie Josh disappeared under a frenzy of writhing zombies and the growl of the chainsaw.

Officer Phil, Waitress Wanda and Gamer Ned eventually reached the intersection. Phil spied ahead through the rifle scope. They had a clear run to the Safe Zone with the rest of the supplies. All but a handful of the zombies had gone, most seemingly to have headed into the Z Mart. Where’s Josh? Asked Wanda. The others shrugged. I thought the dude was following, said Ned. Phil sighed. Maybe the young fool has caused a distraction going for that Pimp Mobile. Hope it was worth it.

A successful outcome for Sam's first game of Zombicide then. Even with Hoodie Josh's involuntary sacrifice! The rest of the survivors made it back with full supplies. Amy and Doug via the boosted cop car and the rest making a desperate run through the city streets whilst most of the zombies were, um, distracted. 

The good news is that relief from this recent run of zom-apocalyptic games soon followed with a welcome return to Ganesha’s Advanced Songs of Blades and Heroes. Where a small group of veteran dwarfs were planning their own spot of pilfering and hit upon the bright idea of hiring the services of a human wizard. What could go wrong? Report up next. 

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