The Analog Gamer: Operation Impending Doom III
I realize its been awhile since the last installment of The Analog Gamer and there have been a few big changes in the tabletop gaming market – Wiz Kids, one time golden goat of the plastic collectible miniature market has been shuttered by its parent company Topps, Wizards of the Coast announced it was making substantial changes to the D&D miniature product line and miniature company Rackham SA (producer of sci-fi battler AT-43) disappeared into the dust.
Things are tough all over but there is some hope on the horizon. Wizkids, the owners of the Shadowrun and Battletech intellectual properties recently signed a two year deal with Catalyst games to continue producing pen-and-paper titles in both series and apparently that will continue even after the death of Wizkids. Also there is a lot of interest from other miniature makers to acquire the HeroClix line and to continue the property at another corporation.
The refocusing of Wizards of the Coast on semi-random miniatures aimed at role playing gamers is a compromise tactic that will hopefully please both the hard core players/collectors of the miniature game and people like myself who are dedicated to the pen-and-paper RPG and prefer the ability to buy the minis we need for our campaigns rather than roll the dice and pray we don’t get too many random packs containing the Farmer and Pig mini or its equivalent.
Amongst all this doom and gloom however I find some respite in my love of the undead (I know that was an odd segue but stay with me…). The recent PC release of Valve’s Left4Dead has my gaming time filled with
hordes of the rampaging undead and with grim news impacting the tabletop hobby its hard not to feel a sense of dread.
To that end, and since Halloween is already passed I thought it would be a good time to take a look at some gaming products that focus on those most disgusting of enemies – the undead. I’ve spent hours playing with my fellow Filefront team members (feel free to join us!) trying to overcome the innumerable waves of infested in the video game but I spent some time thinking about how I could bring that same experience to my gaming table.
What games would support the tension or stress of being a survivor in a city overrun by undead enemies who lusted for nothing more than your juicy, juicy brains? Was there a way to put everyone in a game like this and still maintain the horror or cooperation elements?
So I went back to the gaming shelf to see what I could find. I’m a fan of undead, as a DM I’ve always favored them as foils of choice in my campaigns. The horror inherent in telling an adventuring tale where the big bad was once a champion of light turned to the horrors of darkness and surviving after their vainglorious sacrifice or failure is not a new hook. (Clue obligatory Warcraft/Arthas reference)
There are games of all types that portray the undead – from the Goth LARPer’s beloved Vampire to the gritty and often deadly Zombie Survival games like All Flesh Must Be Eaten , gamers recognize the attraction of undead as a foe. Horror games tend to be short and violent and I’ve run them using Chill, Beyond the Supernatural, Nightspawn and Call of Cthulu, and Hunter the Reckoning to make my players the victims.
Throw the Resident Evil scenario together, stat up some buildings, obstacles and enemies and go to town and see how much fun it is to actually run a game where as a DM I’m out to kill or convert the players. This is not my usual style of storytelling but as a break in a long-running campaign or on a night when not everyone can attend it makes for an often intense experience for all involved.
Moving outside the RPG arena, Twilight Creations has made a mint publishing their Zombies!! Line of multiplayer boardgames. These tile-based board games allow everyone to be victim and to control the zombies. There are 7 current expansions, bags of add on zombies, zombie dogs and even Zombie babes to increase the options.
Next year Wizards of the Coast is adding its second monster focused book, Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead to the 4th Edition library and I hope this book will live up to the 3rd edition version Libris Mortis: The Book of the Undead.
The tumult of the economy is enough real-world horror for me so I think for the time being I’ll dive into my escapism to cope. Gaming survived the boom-bust cycle of the 80′s and come through, so while
some of our favorite games or game publishers reorganize and disappear maybe we can pay tribute by playing their games instead of fretting about the future.
Oh and in case you’re wondering here is a little image to get you through the next zombie apocalypse yourself: