I got to Orccon (one of the Strategicon
set of games) at about 1pm on Friday. After checking in, my first game of the day was a game of All Flesh Must Be Eaten
with the title of "Ludlow Horrr". In this game, I and the five other players were rich partying UCLA students. We'd set off to go on a trip together out to the town of Laughlin, Nevada for a weekend getaway. On the way there, our car broke down (cracked radiator) and we were forced to head to the nearby town of Ludlow, on foot, in the desert. Things immediately began to go downhill: before going into town, one character (a drug dealer) chose to begin getting high on marijuana. When we reached town, and got the truck towed, we found that it would take until sometime the next day to be fixed. After a quick stop at a convienence store (where the drug dealer attempted to cut a weed-for-munchies deal), we got rooms at the nearby hotel. The drug dealer and a couple other characters decided to go the nearby bar and drink their bordem away. The dealer arrived first and chose to get quite drunk. Once the other characters arrived, he then attempted to sell more weed to the bar patrons (sterotypical bikers) and then tried to put a roofie into one of the female character's drink. She noticed and told her boyfriend who immediately (after some cajoling from the players) punched the dealer. The dealer responded by stabbing the boyfriend in the gut and then running to the hotel where he holed up for some time. After the remainder of the party dealt with the stab wound and fled the bar, my character also went to the hotel to hole up (note, there are no zombies yet) because she was also irritated with her boyfriend (because he was discussing breaking into a store with the other girl's boyfriend). The remainder of the party (now 4) went to a diner to shake off the recent incident. At this point, one of the characters paid a trucker to get use of his CB radio (because the phones were out in the town) so that he could get the hell out of this crazy place. After walking a ways away from the party and using the CB, he ended up being attacked by the trucker (who had just succum to zombiehood) and wasn't seen again by anyone else (he took more actions, but they took him away from the city and he was eventually turned by the infection). The three diners were soon greated by a zombie lumbering through the front door and then attacking the diner staff. They fled back to the hotel and nearly simultaneously, a car crashed and burst into flames. Ignoring it completely, they headed back into the hotel where my character had just walked out and been attacked by the hotel manager. I was bitten, though the party eventually dealt with him. Moments later, the nearby gas station exploded (cause unknown, but perhaps related to the burning car) blowing out all the windows in the hotel and allowing easy access to the now approaching horde of zombies. Before they found us, however, we met a "fast-zombie" who pounced the (not my character's) boyfriend, getting a good bite on him. We eventually got him off and then fled toward the freeway. Seeing more zombies in the underpass and more behind us, we fled up to the road to get to the truck stop on the other side. The drug dealer (having jumped out a window to try to save my character when she was being attacked) having rejoined the party, suggested trying to jack one of the trucks going past. After first trying to shoot out tires of one truck and failing, he was able to (with the help of my character's boyfriend) throw the infected boyfriend of the other female in front of an oncoming truck causing him to stop. About simultaneous to this, I finally fell to the infection and proceeded to bite my boyfriend. The dealer held up the trucker, shot my boyfriend when he tried to get in as well, and took the other female character with him while holding the driver at gunpoint. Net result, the only survivers were the drug dealer and the girl he tried to slip a roofie to earlier that night.
That game ended about two hours early, so I spent the next couple of hours playing a board game called Priests of Ra
. It is a sort of bidding game where players collect tiles to get points. I did quite poorly, but it was sortof fun.
Immediately after that, I had a demo of Small World
. It is a game of conquering a map with a fantasy theme. The twist to the game though is that you're not really trying to conquer it, but instead trying to get the most amount of points. Points are obtained through holding territory or special abilities, but characters are encouraged to quickly cycle from one race to another so that they can maximize the area that they control. I came in last because I didn't quite grasp that I needed to be cycling. Instead, I ended up spending most of my time striking at whoever was doing the best at the time and then completely redeploying to new positions every turn. In all, I think it is fun enough to warrant additional play.
I next had an RPG game that was a "playtest game". The game itself was called House of Cards
and the particular campaign was called "The Trans-Siberian Job". House of Cards is designed to be a sort of collaborative storytelling game geared towards emulating the feal of a cinematic heist film. It has 4 distinct phases. In the first phase, you create characters by first having one person be the leader. He then decides what additional "role" the party will need in order to complete the job by describing a complication that will arise. The complication goes onto a list of complications and another player adopts that role. Some of the background of the new character is filled in by the first player (why she could fulfill that role), some is filled in by the player taking on that role, and some in filled in by the next player. The next player role is then chosen by again laying out a complication and picking a role that could fill it. This continues until there is a complete party. The GM helps in this phase by providing a sort of framework to keep a general tone to the play and to keep track of what complications are showing up. Once the party is filled out, they then begin their prep work. This prep work is done in a series of "scenes" and "shots". Scenes are extended interactions between the GM and one (or more) player and shots are short (single challenge) interactions. Each of these scenes and shots is attempting to somehow mitigate one of the complications that sprang up during character generation. Additionally, some new complications are added by the GM to the list, but are secret. These additional complications can be discovered (and mitigated) by scenes and shots as well. The third phase of the game is the heist itself. In this, we are actively attempting to carry out the heist. This where we face what is left of our previous complications and get to our objective. Here we have a few scenes with the GM where the additional complications left from the previous challenge are dealt with and any additional ones may pop up. Additionally, every character has a secret drive that they may be attempting to carry out during the heist or thereafter that may pit them against other PCs. Once the target is in hand, the game then goes into the final "getaway" phase. Here, every man is generally out for themselves and is focusing on getting the target away and finishing up their goal.
Mechanics wise, the game in the last three phases uses an interesting mechanic. Rather than using dice, characters have two resources: edge (represented by poker chips) and cards. In any scene or shot, players describe what they are doing, and the GM plays a card of the character's designated suit which represents the difficulty of that action. The player must respond by playing a higher valued card in order to come out completely successfully or else take on some sort of negative condition that they'll have to deal with before or during the heist. Each challenge they win gives them an addtional piece of personal edge that they can use later on. If a character can't win on their own, they can be helped by other character playing cards of their "friend assist" type. Doing this increases card value by two ranks, but causes all edge from the shot or scene to go into the communal pool rather than going to the specific player. The value of edge is two-fold: first, every character has a special ability that lets them spend edge to do things with cards (leaders can do a blind trade with other players, tough-guys can trade their cards for new ones, etc); secondly, during the "escape" phase, the group edge is divided between the players, and their total edge dictates how many cards they'll get to carry out their escape. Perhaps interesting most is that the GM is restricted to a fixed size hand for each phase and must play out of it (though he gets to use 2s and 3s as wild cards).
In our game, I was the leader (surprise, surprise) and our team ended up consisting of the inside man (my brother's wife, Elena), the tough guy (her lover, Sergi), and the tech girl (the neice of our benefactor and a family friend of my character, "The Sparrow"). We were trying to steal 500 million dollars from a the Russian mob for one of the Chinese Triads. We discovered that the train was the inaugural running of a special high-speed train, that it was being guarded by tons of "special guards" (Mobsters), and that even moving 500 megabucks was going to be a huge pain (weighs about 6 tons). We went about strong-arming the designated conductor (so that we could get an extra train for a getaway and make sure that he would drive it), planting various explosive and distraction devices in the train to cause trouble later, and faking the passenger manifests so that we could get aboard unnoticed. During the heist, most everything went according to plan: we disabled the guards very quickly, and disconnected the train car. We disabled the experimental train and sealed it up so that the remaining guards would be delayed and then headed off.
That's where things began to get complicated. The mobsters were disabled, but Yakuza hitmen had apparently been after the train as well and began giving chase. I attempted to return fire, but couldn't manage to get the requisite number even with the help of my allies. Almost immediately thereafter, Sergi betrayed the party (drive: "Fulfill an obligation" interpreted to mean arrest all of us as he was ex-KGB) by setting off explosives to blow the engine. He failed due to our coordinated effort to resist him (jiggling the train, failing to properly prep all of the explosives that he was using, and jamming from an unrelated GPS jammer). When I walked up and shot him in the face, no one offered to assist him. He made a few more last ditch efforts to resist us (in the form of other KGB agents firing on the train), but was ultimately unsuccessful. His attempts drained both my hand and Elena's of cards and the train was failing. Luckily, the tech person had previously arranged for a helicopter to air lift the money out in case something came up with the train and so began to lift us out. At that moment, I revealed by drive: "Bring the heist team to justice". I took this to mean, kill my brother's wife and her lover. At that point, the lover had already died at my hands with the full assistance of the party and I was alone with my brother's wife. I made my challenge, but was unable to pull the trigger due to her pleas for her life (my card wasn't big enough). However, doing that left both she and I out of cards, and at that moment, "the Sparrow" revealed her drive: "Get out of the business with one last big job". Lifting the money out of the train, she shook both of us off, leaving Elena and myself to the approaching Yakuza, Russian Mob, and KGB agents nearing the train, and flew off with the money. The parting shot revealed that the pilot of the helicopter was our benefactor giving the high sign to his neice.
All in all, I think the system for "House of Cards" is very interesting and makes for a very fun game. It does have some serious roughness around the edges (we never failed a challenge during the prep phase due to the various card manipulation abilities), but is still a game that I'd be eager to play again. Supposedly, the GM/game creator is going to send us a copy of his working draft so that we might try running our own (with hopes that we'd provide additional feedback). I hope that he does follow through with that.
After that game, I got some food at In-and-Out Burger and then hit the sack.
Published by XPostcurses