All Things Zombie Reloaded – A Halloween AAR

An adventurous romp through the zombie apocalypse for your Halloween Weekend.

Jim Owczarski, 31 October 2015

 

My family, on my mother’s side anyway, comes from the farming town of Abrams, Wisconsin; 2000 population 1,757 if Wikipedia is to be believed.  Growing up, I’d often be taken back to the ancestral homestead to sit in my great-grandmother’s kitchen and hear the elders talk about the ciezkie czasy.  These “hard times”, for that is the meaning of the Polish phrase, were something scrubby preteens would be threatened with if the odd vegetable went uneaten or we otherwise expressed ingratitude for our material circumstances.  I don’t know as I was ever certain what would cause these times, other than my own ingratitude, or how they might end.  I was certain, however, that I wanted to hide from them up there in Abrams.  Not too many people about, but those who were tended to be good with things necessary in the direst of circumstances and might even be honest and trustworthy enough to help you resist whatever might be causing the hard times.

I think I can say without fear of correction that a zombie apocalypse would count as ciezkie czasy.  With all this in mind, please join me as I, my wife, and my son journey to Abrams and confront the slavering horde of the undead as imagined by Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s “All Things Zombie: Reloaded” (ATZ).

The first thing to do was choose characters.  Having tried a number of other characters in previous games, I decided to have a go with Sailor.  He shows up as strong and particularly good in a hand-to-hand scrap.

Helllllloooo...never mind...

Helllllloooo…never mind…

I kitted him out with my preferred ATZ weapon, an assault rifle, as well as a spare pistol, some extra ammo, and some supplies.  Each character can carry as many “hands” of items as he or she has reputation (Rep) without penalty so, as everyone in our group is Rep 5, Sailor used two of the five for the rifle and one each for everything else.  Note that the rifle is placed above the character card indicating that it’s a carried item.  The other three are in his “backpack” and available only after using an action.

My wife went with the strong, silent, and accurate Bank, equipping him with a long-range hunting rifle, but bringing a grenade along just in case.

Hitman dude, at your service.

Hitman dude, at your service.

My son, obviously drawn by the siren song of the pretty girl on the box, chose Tonya.  She’s got a couple nice abilities and he set her up with a hunting rifle and a baseball bat.

Card says she was once a model...now she kills with a baseball bat!

Card says she was once a model…now she kills with a baseball bat!

ATZ comes with six maps, two each identified as “Rural”, “Suburban”, and “Urban”.  They’re intended to fit together in multiple configurations.  Abrams, WI, is nothing if not rural.

Our mission, per the instructions, was to either gather one unit of supplies or recruit at least one person to our group.  Regarding the latter, there are three classes in ATZ:  “Survivors”, “Militia”, and “Gangers”, each with their own agenda.  Groups cannot mix classes so we decided our own attitudes best matched those of survivors — folks determined to get by and retain as much of their humanity as possible.

The scenario instructed us to walk one full movement onto the board and then check for zombies that might be wandering about.  So, onto the board we walked.

My son is forever wanting to raid Meemo's.

My son is forever wanting to raid Meemo’s.

The two numbers on the counters are Rep and movement, respectively.  The former is fudged as the rules recommend all “Star” (human, mostly) characters have a Rep of 5.  The green triangles represent buildings that take a bit of extra effort to get into.  Single-hex buildings can be entered without a skill check, but the green, blue, and red hexes found elsewhere on the maps are more challenging.

Once on the map, we checked out the local zombie population by having each of us draw an event card.

That could have been worse.

That could have been worse.

As we’re in a rural area, it turns out there were only two zeds to greet us.  They were deployed according to the rules and we immediately plotted their destruction.  Parenthetically, zombies usually have a Rep of 3, except when they have line of sight to a human, in which case they frenzy and, for activation purposes only, get a Rep of 4.

The next photo shows the results of our first round of activation.  A couple notes are in order.  Activation in ATZ is a single-die test against Rep in which one is trying to roll his or her Rep or lower.  Characters in groups — these must be either in the same hex or adjacent — may choose to activate on the same die.  Those who succeed may do something, or several somethings, with those with the highest die roll activating first.  Because of this system, there can be an entire series of turns in which a poor roller is unable to move or act.  This is rarely fatal, but can be horrifying in the wrong circumstances — like when a zombie is charging at you.

So, in this picture, Tonya (effective Rep 6 due to her special ability), Bank (Rep 5), and the zombies (frenzied Rep 4) will be able to act and in that order.  Your humble scribe is on the outside looking in.

Ain't it always the way.

Ain’t it always the way.

In the event, Bank leveled his rifle and put a round into the head of one of the two zombies down range.  Tonya sprinted around the trees to the north and fired at the other.  She dropped it, but, in doing so, spawned another zombie.  You see, every time you use a firearm in this game, you have to check to see if nearby shufflers have heard the sound and are attracted to it.  Louder and rapid-fire weapons require the user to roll more dice.  It is also more likely that more zombies will be found on urban rather than rural maps.  In fact, it takes a six on a d6 to generate a new zombie up here in Abrams.  Despite this, we were to prove singularly able to create what my son took to calling the “zombie clown car” effect.

Matters were not made any better when Sailor finally got into the action, moved himself into a firing position, and unloaded all three of his fire dice into one of the two zombies running straight at Bank.

Yep, these are misses.

Yep, these are misses.

There followed several rounds of firefights in which new zombies were spawned — mercifully enough with no Line of Sight to our heroes — until eventually the only one remaining was behind a stand of trees and proved unable to roll a successful activation.

Dead, again, the next turn.

Dead, again, the next turn.

In putting him down, however, Tonya spawned yet another zombie, this one near the heart of the small farm complex we had hoped to explore.  In retrospect, I’m not certain why we didn’t explore the little compound we were fighting in and around earlier, but, well, we didn’t.

Seriously, enough already!

Seriously, enough already!

Tonya rushed up, failed to hit at relatively close range, and then Bank stepped in to assist.  Or not.

Oops.  Yep, misses again.

Oops.  Yep, misses again.

Fortunately for Tonya, she was able to activate before the zombie on the next turn and she put the creature down without further incident.

This, at last, left the small encampment to the top of the map (we decided it was West for game purposes) for us to explore.  Sailor had been bringing up the rear for most of the game, so it wasn’t surprising that Tonya and Bank would be the first ones into the buildings.  The contents of buildings are determined by drawing event cards and checking against the building’s type.  Tonya found a crossbow.  Bank found a zombie in the kitchen.  Well, at least we said it was the kitchen.  Seemed appropriate.

This incident provoked our game’s first melee.  Bank first had to find out if he was surprised by the zombie.  Given that there was only one zombie and one big scary Bank, this struck us as unlikely and, indeed, he was not surprised.  This then gave Bank the opportunity to shoot the zombie at close range.  I will not here dwell on the probabilities involved with shooting a zombie inside a farmhouse with a hunting rifle, but he managed to miss.  As a result, the zombie closed the distance and attacked.

Statistically speaking, this was a poor choice for the zombie, but they’ve never been known for their flair for statistics.  The melee system is an elegant one and involves each side rolling 1d6 per point of Rep and then receiving additional d6s depending on weapons and other factors.  Notably, humans fighting zombies get an automatic +1d6.  The dice are rolled with both sides trying to score “successes”, i.e., 1-3.  The side with the most successes is said to have won the melee.  One zombie is killed for every success a human has in excess of that scored by the zombies.  All this makes this photograph telling:

Splat!

Splat!

Not wanting to let Bank have all the fun, and with her new crossbow tucked into her backpack, Tonya wandered over to the nearby outbuilding only to find it occupied by a single militia member.

Howdy!

Howdy!

As this person was not of our class (recall from above, the three of us were “Survivors”), we had to check to see whether he would talk to us or spray fire in our direction.  Given that we outnumbered him 3:1 we thought the latter outcome unlikely, but did have to check against a table.  When it was determined that he wanted to talk, we engaged in conversation but, given our class differences, it was always unlikely that this would be anything more than an exchange of pleasantries, which it proved to be.

What followed Tonya’s encounter with the militiaman was a remarkable run of inactivity.  Recall that our goal was to find supplies or a willing recruit.  We searched several buildings and came up empty each time.  We even rolled doubles on our activation rolls which required us to forgo activation and instead draw an event card.  Nothing moved the story forward.

Then we ventured north to a farm house hidden among some crops.  The farm house itself was empty, but, while moving about the site, we rolled doubles for our activation, drew an event card, and discovered we had found a group of no less than three survivors.

Where have you three been?!?

Where have you three been?!?

Thankfully, they chose not to shoot at us and instead — after consulting just a couple of tables — we found out they were willing to join our less-than-merry band.  Our mission a success, we chose to head off the map the same way we came, killing a couple zombies spawned by more “initiative doubles” as we went.

In ATZ, groups participating in a campaign take up two scenarios a month.  The first scenario is chosen by the players, the second is chosen by the system.  Each month, if players survive and are so inclined, they can choose to move between area types meaning, eventually, Bank, Tonya, and Sailor — their new-found friends in tow — could make their way to the teeming metropolis of Green Bay, just a little way up State Highway 41.

I expect Lambeau Field to be occupied even during the hard times.


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