GTM #205 - Zpocalypse 2: Defend the Burbs - "Scavenging"
by Julie Ahern

Between Zach and I, both diehard RPG players, it’s not surprising that our maiden game, Zpocalypse, had a lot of world-building story elements. The most prominent were the cards for the ‘Scavenging Phase’. It was also one of the elements of the initial game that was well received, but after time, players wanted more content. There are 16 locations in the original deck. With four players, that’s four rounds before repetition starts.

The problem with diversifying locations was that it would also mean adding cards. If you haven’t noticed, Zpocalypse 2: Defend the Burbs is already a card-laden games. We tried a lot of different iterations, but what it boiled down to was this — to expand the world, we’d need to have a story book. This opened up a lot of new possibilities which I gleefully tromped through in those first few weeks. The notion that our survivors have traveled from a bombed-out city, and are searching for a haven — a central location to call home, sweet apocalyptic fortress was the central concept. We finally settled on the four cardinal compass points with six destinations at each point for a total of 24 locations. Why six you ask? One for each face of the D6 used in the game, naturally.

Here’s how it works:

Scavenging, like all the tasks in the game, is no longer a set phase. Instead, during the day each player may assign their survivors to different task choices. Players rotate through all their survivors until each has an assignment, which vary from patrolling the base, to healing/resting, crafting, and scavenging. This means that instead of your squad going out to scavenge, there’s a party that can be a mix of multiple player’s survivors.

Once the cardinal direction is agreed on (let’s say North to the downtown area), then the leader rolls a die and picks the location based on the roll (for this example it was a ‘four’ and we end up at the car wash). Based on what happens there, you’ll have a choice of either using one of two skills: Sneak or Mechanic. If any of your survivors have that skill, they will have a higher probability of winning that roll. Naturally, success leads to better loot, and failure to higher zombies on the tracker (bummer!). Looking at the survivors, they have a range of skills, and a diverse number of skills among your party means a better chance of improving the stats of your success roll. One other notable about locations is that each area has a higher concentration of different kinds of loot. Some may have more survivors to rescue, while other more food. It’s up to you to determine which locations have the stuff you’re looking for.

With more space to write in a story book, we were able to incorporate these new survivor skills, as well as add an extra choice to branch out the storyline before moving on to the success/fail track. The far locations (the ordinal points on the map) add another 12 spots that are higher in risk/reward, and also add a nod to the original locations in the city. We also created another 24 for the Wastelands that are more treacherous and not as upscale as the swanky places you’ll find in the suburbs. One of the things we were also able to work into Zpocalypse using these scavenging locations is the timeline of this alternate world. In Zpocalypse, you’re starting to see mutations and their effects in highly radioactive areas. Also, it appears some form of government has survived — perhaps because they were the cause in the first place?

Because we were determined to take the writing content off cards and put them in the book, it enabled us to delve deeper into the haunted landscape for your game-playing pleasure. May it give you nightmares.

Julie Ahern is the Lead Creative Writer and a Director at Greenbrier Games. Once a bright, naive thing, Julie wanted to make a non-educational board game with friends — one that didn’t involve Ellis Island, learning to read a map, or the wonderful world of multiplication. She emulated what actors who want to break from their known role do — as drastic an opposite character as the indie world will present them. Following that glorious tradition, she helped make a game about zombies. Her jump didn’t work as expected — she was called the zombie lady after that, and in subsequent games still researches history to create alternate timelines. Also, she laughs at the thought she would get away from maps and basic math facts.