Monday, October 7, 2013

[Actual Play] Our Last Best Hope - Zombie Apocalypse: Infertile Land, Part II

As promised, here is part two of the actual play from our zombie apocalypse game of Our Last Best Hope.

First, a brief recap of what's going on and who's who:

THE CRISIS: The remaining survivor population is too small to sustain a next generation, the only hope for humanity's future is to rescue genetic engineering stocks from a nearby facility before the zombie hoards destroy them.

THE LIMIT: Our team is immune to the zombie virus, but have been made sterile by it.

THE PLAN: Reach the facility, grab the genetics tech, get out.

Our team consisted of the following people:

Dr Lorna McQueen (played by Heather Williams): A scientist who brought with her a terrible guilt relating to the crisis somehow, and left behind her sunny personality.

Prof. Dawcey Brannigan (played by Ray/Thomas): Another scientist who brought along his cold-hearted logic and left behind his recent heartbreak over the death of his ex-wife.

Dr Simon Butterworth (played by Chris): A doctor who brought along his trusted first aid kid, and left behind his wife.

Sgt. Richard Brannigan (played by Mike Cugley): An ex-military officer who brought along his trusty service weapon, and left behind his granddaughter.

Mairi McDoggett (played by me): A cheerful engineering whizz who brought along her trusty spanner and left behind her older brother. DECEASED

Note: Ray - who originally played Prof. Brannigan - couldn't make it on Saturday, so his role was taken over by Thomas, who decided to join us even though he seemed quite intimidated by how complicated the game seemed to be (and by its lack of a GM). I also got the relationship between Dawcey and Richard wrong last time; Richard is Dawcey's uncle, not his brother as I said previously.

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Last time, our heroes had just made it inside the facility before a building collapse sealed it off, leaving them trapped inside and forcing them to take an indirect route to the genetics equipment due to the structural damage. Mairi had died en-route when a little girl they had taken into their care turned out to be infected and sunk her teeth into the tech whizz's neck.

We start Act II with Mairi's spotlight, deciding to do a flashback scene about our initial recruitment for the mission, in order to introduce Thomas to the group and the reason we're in the facility in the present. Dr Lorna McQueen is sent with the team after she tells them that she used to work there as an assistant. Back in the present, we face a terrifying horde of...zombie babies. Which aren't quite so terrifying after Sgt. Brannigan deals with them, with some encouragement from his nephew - telling him they're not really babies because they're already dead - and Dr McQueen pointing out that they're easy targets because they're on the ground. (We had a LOT of story points left over from Act I, though we would soon find ourselves burning through them very quickly.)

Next, the group stops in a computer lab while Dr McQueen tries to 'hack the system' and gain access to the genetic stocks. During this scene, it becomes clear that Lorna's position within this facility was much more senior and more recent than she had previously stated, when the computer system greets her by name and grants her high level access to the system. (This was Lorna's Secret card finally coming into play, which read: 'She wasn't just on the team that caused the zombies. It was her mistake/curiosity which caused it. IT'S ALL MY FAULT! :-(') Before the team has time to process this revelation though, a warning appears on the screen saying that a reactor overload is in progress. Apparently they were experimenting with an alternative fuel source here, as well as the genetic experiments which caused the zombie plague. Busy busy little scientist bees.

Professor McQueen takes the threat, directing his brother to go to another part of the facility to activate the fire suppression system, to aid in cooling the reactor. It doesn't look good, as the professor struggles to get the reactor coolant system operational. But then the fire suppression system kicks in, cooling the reactor enough to buy Dawcey the time he needs to activate the coolant system. The professor tries to contact his uncle to thank him for his assistance, but there's no response on the comm system. Dawcey sends Simon to go check on his uncle, but when Simon arrives in the area where the fire suppression controls are located, he finds Richard slumped over the console with a knife in his back, having died AT THE HANDS OF ANOTHER. (Mike played his Death card but kept the result secret until his spotlight scene - taking place immediately after the threat was resolved - which he declared would involve Simon coming to check up on him.)

Simon is, needless to say, freaked and starts making his way back to the others when a subway train comes crashing through the walls. Rather than try and get out of the way, Simon closes his eyes and accepts his fate. (This was a result of Chris playing his Death Card, which read: 'BY YOUR OWN HAND'.)

The next spotlight scene is Simon's, so we cut from his impending doom to a flashback, where we see him with his father, getting ready to go and meet up with his father's friend - and secret lover - Richard Brannigan. Unfortunately, the 'scratch' that his father received from an earlier zombie encounter proves to be more serious than he claimed, and Simon backs away from his father as he alternates between hungering for brains and begging Simon to kill him. Simon stabs his father through the eye, destroying the brain and putting him to rest.

Back in the present, the two remaining members of the team - having retrieved the genetic stocks from storage - hear the crash of the subway train and go running to check it out. They're rather surprised to find a subway train (presumably from some sort of internal transit system at the facility) has crashed through the wall, and two figures emerge from the front car. One is another 'mastermind' zombie with glowing eyes, wearing a labcoat, who refers to Lorna by name as 'Dr McQueen'; he's flanked by a huge, strong-looking zombie brute who looks like he might once have been a famous NFL player. The mastermind asks Lorna to desist in her attempts to 'undermine the work they have done here' in creating a 'new and superior species' to mankind. Lorna doesn't see things the same way, and she and Professor Brannigan run for their lives.

The final threat comes when the security doors are manually sealed by the mastermind zombie and gas starts hissing out of the ventilation system. It becomes clear that one of them will have to override the doors while the other escapes. There won't be enough time for the other to escape as well. MIMIC insists that Lorna must be the one to survive - as the one who is most familiar with genetics - and instructs her to allow Professor Brannigan to override the doors while she escapes. Lorna refuses, overriding the doors and urging Dawcey to go. (She plays her Death Card, REFUSING TO OBEY A DIRECT ORDER.)

Our final roll against the Crisis came to 9 White. Professor Brannigan successfully makes it back to the survivor camp with the genetic stocks and the survivors are able to figure out how to use the tech to ensure a viable next generation for Humanity.

THE END

Post Game Reflection
Due to some of the threats we wound up with, the game pinballed rather wildly between being quite serious and very silly. We had a hard time justifying how a train might come crashing through a wall at that particular stage of the game, plus there were the zombie cats, zombie babies and the zombie monkeys (which I forgot to mention in the AP for Part 1). We should also have been able to finish the game in one evening, instead of splitting it over two sessions, so I don't know what happened there. I think maybe we got bogged down in explaining the rules too often in Part 1. We may also have cheated a little bit with our Death Cards, such as with Sgt Brannigan's off-screen death, but the end results were entertaining enough that I think we can justify that.
Despite the inconsistency of tone in the game, we still had fun, and despite how grim things were looking towards the end - with our Hero Pool and the Crisis Pool being evenly matched - we managed to hit just the right result to wrap up the game to our satisfaction. Due to the nature of our Crisis, someone had to survive in order to get the stuff back to camp, so it was fortunate that we came up with the second lowest good result in the final roll.
I think the issues we had with this game will be ironed out with repeated play; the more familiar we are with the game mechanics the better we'll be able to get through games in the single session timeframe the game is intended for. We also need to be clear from the start in establishing what kind of tone we're aiming for, so that more appropriate threats are added to the Threat Pool.

Still, it's a fun game once you get the hang of the rules, so I'm looking forward to playing it more in the future.

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