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Zombies At Your Heels - 2 player prototype available

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KAndrw
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Zombies At Your Heels is the card game I'll be launching on Indiegogo around the end of this month. 100% of the proceeds will go to Special Effect, a charity that help disabled children (and young soldiers severely wounded in action) find ways to play and enjoy video games. Because it's a cause close to my heart, I really want to make as much money as possible for them.

I became involved with Special Effect because a group of people at my work decided to run the Great British 10k on their behalf. So this is a game about running...

Specifically, it's a game about running to safety ahead of a wave of ravenous zombies.

On a player's turn, he or she plays a runner card from hand, then may use that runner's special ability AND the ability of one of his/her other runners already in play. At the end of the turn, either the frontmost runner escapes (if it belongs to the active player), or the hindmost runner is overtaken and eaten by zombies.

The game supports 2-4 players, is in colour, and has been through several months of testing. It takes around 15 minutes for a game and is a low-luck game with hidden information elements.

Here is a file containing sets of runners for two players, reformatted for maximum contrast on black and white printing. Some of the art is still placeholder, though the silhouettes are effectively final.

www.scatteredfleet.com/data/zombies_prototype_2player.zip

It's a standalone 2 player PnP game in this form, and I'd love for people to download it and give it a try. It's only 3 Letter pages of cards, and the rules should hopefully be pretty straightforward. It's missing a Zombie Horde card, so please grab whatever is handy and use it as a placeholder horde. Maybe not the cat.

If you enjoy it, great!

If you have feedback (even if it's game-hatred-related feedback), even better! Please post it either in this thread or email me - andrewrowse@gmail.com

Likewise with any rules questions. The rules set is pretty simple, but it's very possible that I've failed to make it clear enough!

Beriner
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Testing

I will be trying this out for you tonight. =) My gf's brother thought it sounded fun when I explained it to him last night, so we will be giving it a go today.

avalaunch
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I like how simple it sounds.

I like how simple it sounds. I love a quick filler game. I'll print this out and give it a try as soon as I find someone to play it with.

KAndrw
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Thanks guys! I really

Thanks guys!

I really appreciate the help :)

avalaunch
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Quote:Starting from last

Quote:
Starting from last place, compare the printed speed value of the new runner with those of the runners in play, and place the new runner directly behind the first runner you find that is the same speed or higher. If all runners in play are slower, the new runner takes first place.

Are we supposed to make room for the new runner, or place it next to another?

For example, the board reads (numbers indicate speed):

Bunker 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Horde

And I want to place a 4, does the board now read:

Bunker 7 6 5 4 4 3 2 1 Horde

Or does it read:

Bunker 7 6 5 4 4/3 2 1 Horde

with the new 4 & the 3 on the same line, now adjacent to one another?

avalaunch
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Also, during Escape phase,

Also, during Escape phase, what if more than 1 runner are tied for first? Or tied for last? Can more than 1 runner be tied for 1st/last?

Thanks.

avalaunch
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When playing, or activating

When playing, or activating "Charlie Harris", does that split all the runners into 2 lines?

If so, I'm not too fond of that ability. I'm not sure why yet, but it seemed to make things less fun for me - like it simplified an otherwise dynamic board.

Beriner
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avalaunch

avalaunch wrote:
Quote:
Starting from last place, compare the printed speed value of the new runner with those of the runners in play, and place the new runner directly behind the first runner you find that is the same speed or higher. If all runners in play are slower, the new runner takes first place.

Are we supposed to make room for the new runner, or place it next to another?

For example, the board reads (numbers indicate speed):

Bunker 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Horde

And I want to place a 4, does the board now read:

Bunker 7 6 5 4 4 3 2 1 Horde

Or does it read:

Bunker 7 6 5 4 4/3 2 1 Horde

with the new 4 & the 3 on the same line, now adjacent to one another?

What I understood from the rules is that it's like your first one. 7 6 5 4 4 3 2 1. Starting from the slowest, you place the new runner behind a runner that is of same or higher value, whichever comes first. Charlie just shifts all gun people from the order they are in, to a group in front, remaining guys stay in order they are in and are behind them.

So let's say:
G = gun person
7G 6 5 4G 3 2G 1
New order would be:
7G 4G 2G 6 5 3 1

Cards definitely get out of order. One of our games had something like this after Charlie and some other cards:
6G 4G 6G 7 8 8 2

This makes rules interesting, so a new runner of speed 6 goes like this:
6G 4G 6G 7 8 8 6 2

From playing tonight, that's what I figured out.

I can see a 3-4 player game being a little annoying though. Moving around all the cards wasn't too fun and since if you can escape a person, then no one gets eaten. Someone only gets eaten if on your turn the runner in front is not yours. This can make it almost 16 cards always out there for a 4 player game. If the good doctor comes into play, the 1 speed guy, then no one can escape unless he's in first, which can make the runners stack up even more.

It's fun, but I think it still needs some more balancing. I can post some ideas later.

avalaunch
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I think you're right, but the

I think you're right, but the rules could use clarification. An example would be ideal.

Regarding Charlie, I wonder what the outcome would be if the starting lineup was:
7G 6 2G 2 4G 5

Would it be:
7G 2G 4G 6 2 5

or
7G 4G 2G 6 5 2

In my one playtest so far, zombies didn't get to eat much at all, which was a bit unsatisfying.

KAndrw
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Beriner is correct about the

Beriner is correct about the placement rule (the existing runners make space for the new runner) and Charlie. I've actually made a point in the revised rules to explicity clarify Charlie's ability:

"When Charlie is played, all the armed survivors are moved to the front of the pack, but the order of survivors should otherwise remain the same. An easy way to do this is to shift all the armed survivors half a card up and all the unarmed ones half a card down – then close any gaps by moving the armed survivors towards the Bunker and the unarmed survivors towards the Zombie Horde, before shifting all the cards back into a straight line."

I agree that the 'split into groups' text on the card is a bit confusing, and have changed his ability to:
"AUTOMATIC: When you play Charlie (or if activated on your first turn), move all armed survivors ahead of the unarmed survivors."

It still needs the rulebook clarification, but hopefully it will now be more obvious from the card text as well.

In reply to Avalaunch's most recent Q, the first suggested answer is correct - the runners are not reordered by speed, only armed status.

Runner (now 'survivor', because too many people have pointed out to me the association with scifi rather than horror) abilities only take effect when the runner is activated (or if automatic), so Dr Ross does not cause the escape phase to be skipped unless he uses his ability to feed one of your armed runners to the horde.

As things currently stand, exactly one runner should be added to the field each turn, and one or two will be removed (Jane Tam causes two to be eaten, Dr Ross can cause one to be eaten and then escape himself, and Emily Freiheit will cause three escapes and one eat if played on the last turn).

Thank you both so much for your feedback! It's this sort of thing that is invaluable in the late stages of a project, when you've exhausted the pool of nearby testers and everybody already 'knows' how the game works.

Here is an updated rulebook, and it would be great to hear your impressions of it. It still needs to be fleshed out with images, and I think an image of a survivor moving forwards and the existing survivors making space should definitely be one of those images.

www.scatteredfleet.com/data/zombies_at_your_heels_rules_v2.pdf

Beriner
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Rule Update

The rules update looks good. I was going to complain about the Doctor, but as you stated his Skip Escape Phase only applies when you use his ability. :) We weren't playing that way haha. We also didn't read the escape phase too well and we were escaping a runner (if ours) AND eating a zombie, regardless of whos it was lol.

avalaunch
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Beriner wrote:The rules

Beriner wrote:
The rules update looks good. I was going to complain about the Doctor, but as you stated his Skip Escape Phase only applies when you use his ability. :) We weren't playing that way haha. We also didn't read the escape phase too well and we were escaping a runner (if ours) AND eating a zombie, regardless of whos it was lol.

Which way was more fun?

avalaunch
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Do you have the color

Do you have the color versions of the cards available?

Also, would you like me to test this with 3 players? I could do that this Saturday if I had another player's worth of cards.

Beriner
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avalaunch wrote:Do you have

avalaunch wrote:
Do you have the color versions of the cards available?

Also, would you like me to test this with 3 players? I could do that this Saturday if I had another player's worth of cards.

You could probably print out another set yourself and just add some color with hi-lighters.

As for your earlier post, I kind of liked it more with both escape phase conditions happening. Escaping a runner AND eating one. Though, this made it so that there were very few runners on the table by the end of the game. So it probably wouldn't work too well.

avalaunch
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I just played your game

I just played your game again.

My biggest concern is that the momentum feels off. The game starts off really complex, and then gets more and more simple as things proceed. That's the reverse of what I would expect, and want in a game. When you start playing, you have 4 cards on the board, and 7 in hand. You get to choose one of your 7, giving you 7 possible actions. But then you also get to activate one of the 4, giving you 4 more actions. All together, there are 28 different scenarios you could choose as your first move. That takes a lot of time to process, especially when you then have to factor in what your opponent will do next based on the 4 cards of his that you can see. Each game I've played I've stared at the board and my cards for about 10 minutes before making my first move. Even then I wasn't confident that I was making my best move. I just didn't want to take up any more time. Contrast that to the end of the game, where I still have 4 cards on the board, but only 1 in my hand. Now I only have 4 scenarios to choose from. I have to play my card, so I do, and then I have 4 choices. And at this point, my opponent's last move is easier to predict. Plus, I've been looking at the board for a while, so I have a better idea where everything stands. It's not all hitting me at once. Every turn is giving me 4 less scenarios to choose from. So I go from 28 choices to 4. That changes a bit if more than 1 runner is eaten on a single turn, but the basic flow of complex to simple is the same. Not surprisingly, I enjoyed playing more and more as we got closer and closer to the end of the game.

I'd suggest talking to others and see if they share my concern. If they do, perhaps try a different structure to limit the decisions on any 1 turn. Some possibilities:
You draw 3 cards, play 1, then shuffle all your cards again, draw 3 more. That'll limit you to no more than 12 scenarios to choose from.
You only get to play a card, not activate another as well. This might cripple too much of the strategy, but might be worth playtesting.
Start with an empty board, and a small hand size. No escape phase until there are 8 runners on the board. Then players could ease into the thick of things at least.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I'd be curious to find out if anyone else shares my concern or not.

For the most part the game feels pretty balanced. As long as players get the same cards, it pretty much balances itself, which is clever. But players don't always get the same cards, since a runner starting on the board is different than a runner in your hand. And because 2 cards from each players hand are randomly left out. Thus, here's one small balancing issue I found so far: Professor Jane Tam
If my opponent draws her into his hand, and I don't, I feel like I have a sizable advantage. Why? You only get 7 cards to play, and this has to be one of the ones he plays. Yucky for him, because when he plays her, he'll have to skip his escape phase, and have no chance to score points (and unless I'm missing something, scoring points is FAR more important to winning than getting your opponent eaten by zombies). Yes, I'll probably lose a runner because of her, but because of her low speed score, it'll almost certainly be the one at the end of the line, which he could have chosen to make me lose anyway. Now I lose that same runner, but he has lose to Professor Jane as well. And not score. That's pretty awesome for me, and not so good for him. I'd prefer if either you didn't have to skip the escape phase, or you could choose ANY of the runners to be eaten along with her.

Hope that helps some. Like I said, I'd like to try it with 3 players, and in color. The cards I printed out thus far aren't that pretty to look at, mostly because I inversed them first in photoshop. There was so much black on them that I didn't want to kill all my printer ink.

avalaunch
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Beriner wrote: You could

Beriner wrote:

You could probably print out another set yourself and just add some color with hi-lighters.


That's my backup plan if he doesn't see this and respond by Saturday.

Beriner wrote:

As for your earlier post, I kind of liked it more with both escape phase conditions happening. Escaping a runner AND eating one. Though, this made it so that there were very few runners on the table by the end of the game. So it probably wouldn't work too well.

I thought that might be the case. Part of the fun of a zombie game is killing zombies, which you don't do here. Another fun part is forcing your opponent to be eaten by zombies, which you can do here, but strategically it doesn't usually make sense. With a little tweaking, it might be workable though.

Beriner
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Agreed

I agree that the very beginning of the game takes awhile. Going through your hand, and figuring out what's already on the board is kind of tiring. As you suggested avalaunch, some way of building up the board to 8 runners yourself, instead of just random 8 runners, may make it more manageable. I like that idea. Also, maybe each eaten zombie is -1 point? This way, forcing your opponents runners to be eaten can be a good thing.

KAndrw
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avalaunch wrote:My biggest

avalaunch wrote:
My biggest concern is that the momentum feels off. The game starts off really complex, and then gets more and more simple as things proceed. That's the reverse of what I would expect, and want in a game.

You're absolutely right, and this - quite frankly - is a problem. Once players have played a couple of games and got to know the cards, I feel that the complex-simple transition adds a feeling of attrition to the game - that options are dwindling as supplies run out and survivors fall prey to zombies. BUT - that complexity can be a huge barrier to new players.

One idea I've been toying with is to adopt the philosophy of Munchkin or Fluxx for players' first games. I would add a bit in the rulebook along the lines of:

YOUR FIRST GAME - On your first game, players should not draw a hand of seven cards and choose one to play each turn. Instead, they should each deal seven cards face down into a pile, and each turn play a card from the top of the pile. This simplifies players' decisions, and serves as an easy introduction to the survivors' abilities.

Quote:
Some possibilities:
You draw 3 cards, play 1, then shuffle all your cards again, draw 3 more. That'll limit you to no more than 12 scenarios to choose from.
You only get to play a card, not activate another as well. This might cripple too much of the strategy, but might be worth playtesting.
Start with an empty board, and a small hand size. No escape phase until there are 8 runners on the board. Then players could ease into the thick of things at least.

I like the idea of having a three card hand, perhaps maintaining it rather than drawing it fresh each turn. The only thing is dislike (mildly) about such a rule is that it randomises play while the game is in progress. Zombies At Your Heels was designed to begin with a randomisation element, and from then on play as a pure hidden information game (like a game of Stratego where each player randomly discards 5 of their pieces before the game)

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I'd be curious to find out if anyone else shares my concern or not.

Quote:
Thus, here's one small balancing issue I found so far: Professor Jane Tam
If my opponent draws her into his hand, and I don't, I feel like I have a sizable advantage. Why? You only get 7 cards to play, and this has to be one of the ones he plays. Yucky for him, because when he plays her, he'll have to skip his escape phase, and have no chance to score points (and unless I'm missing something, scoring points is FAR more important to winning than getting your opponent eaten by zombies).

In the updated rules I make a point of stressing that activating a newly played runner is optional. However, you're not the only one to have a problem with Jane. I've increased her speed to 5 and dropped her value to 3, so she's a more effective assassin - or a decent source of points if you prefer.

Quote:
Hope that helps some. Like I said, I'd like to try it with 3 players, and in color. The cards I printed out thus far aren't that pretty to look at, mostly because I inversed them first in photoshop. There was so much black on them that I didn't want to kill all my printer ink.

It helps a lot, and I'm keen to hear your impressions on a three player game. With two opponents, there are more situations where you're not in a position to escape a survivor, so it becomes a choice of which enemy to throw beneath the zombies. The carnage tends to be greater than a two player game, where your escape options are generally more regular.

The game in its current form may well be final, so I'm not going to post it publically. However, I will contact you via PM with a link.

avalaunch
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Played Zombies at your Heels

Played Zombies at your Heels again last night, and am back to report our impressions.

Note: This was another 2 person playtest. Hopefully I'll get a chance to playtest with 3 or 4 sometime soon -- just didn't happen last night.

The overall impression was that the mechanics worked well, but something was holding it back from being fun. We analyzed it for a bit, and I'll do my best to summarize where I think the problem (at least for us) may lie.

The main issue we both had was that while there is a lot of thinking involved, and very little luck (maybe too little?), the thinking didn't feel like strategic thinking, as much as it did "puzzle thinking". That is, you don't get the feeling that there are a number of possible strategic paths you could go down to potentially lead to victory. Instead, it feels like if you're willing to put forth enough time and mental energy up front, you could definitely discern an optimal series of moves. I suppose you could say the same of a lot of games, but with Zombies at your Heels, it feels as if there is clearly a single optimal strategy right from the get go, and if you don't put forth the energy to figure it out, you're doomed.

We also compared your game to Guillotine, which is another "move the line" game, where you line up 12 nobles, and then play action cards, which more often than not, move the order of the line. That game is silly, with more luck than strategy, but manages to get away with it and remain fun because of the goofy theme. I'm not suggesting you should go down that path - just thought it might be interesting to look into if you hadn't heard of it before.

I feel like I probably haven't been all that helpful. I wish I had more solid suggestions, but I'm not sure what might solve the issues we were having. I'll keep thinking on it though.

KAndrw
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Great feedback! ZAYH was

Great feedback!

ZAYH was designed to be a sort of opposed puzzle game - the initial state is random, but from that point on it's a hidden information game. It's the sort of game I like.

BUT...

There's no point releasing a game that only I like, and I think your stance of preferring a little more randomness (and less information overload) is probably very common.

In the current rules, I have a suggestion that for a player's first game, everybody should just play a random survivor each turn instead of choosing. I tested that variant with four players on the weekend, and it worked fairly well - but the lack of choice was a little frustrating.

I'm leaning towards changing things around quite a bit - having players maintain a hand of three cards, and keep playing until every player has used all their cards up (ie 11 turns in a 3/4 player game, cf 7 at the moment). This would inject randomness into the way the game plays out, while at the same time removing the randomness of variable survivor pools (which can be a little unfair).

I'll then turn the current rules system into a variant called 'One Week', and add it as an advanced option.

If you have a chance, would you mind trying the game with this rule (play all cards, three card hand) and seeing whether you prefer it? I'll also try it out, and hopefully the fun factor can be brought up to the same level as the mechanics!

KAndrw
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I enlisted a couple of my

I enlisted a couple of my workmates to test this variant, one of whom had played an early prototype and the other of whom was entirely new.

I tweaked the end condition slightly - players draw back to three cards at the end of each turn, unless their deck is exhausted. The game ends at the end of the turn when all decks are exhausted and all players are down to two cards.

This means that every player gets to see every card, and have an opportunity to play each of them, and in a three player game there are a total of nine turns each (eight for a two player game).

With the reduced choice, the game went a lot faster, and I have to admit that the combination of not knowing which cards each player held with the limited strategic choice was very compelling. I'll test it a few more times with different numbers of players, but I'm fairly sure that it's a huge improvement of the opposed puzzle gameplay.

Thank you very much to Avalaunch for the feedback. I doubt I would have thought to take the game in this direction had you not given such great criticism! Thank you also to Beriner for expressing your concerns with the gameplay, all of which were immensely helpful.

As always, more feedback is very welcome!

KAndrw
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The Indiegogo campaign is

The Indiegogo campaign is almost ready to go live - all that remains is to record a video that doesn't make me look like too much of a spaz...

I've created a BGG entry, and have linked the latest rules and demo decks in the news forum:

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/124264/zombies-at-your-heels

The links are here, but (like the link in the first post) are likely to go dead at some point when documents are upgraded:
http://www.zombiesatyourheels.com/data/zombies_at_your_heels_rules_beta.pdf
http://www.zombiesatyourheels.com/data/zombies_at_your_heels_cards_2pmon...

Thank you to all those who gave valuable feedback, especially Avalaunch and Beriner. If you guys could email/pm/geekmail me your full names, I would like to acknowledge your contribution in the rulebook.

Nb - Unlike a lot of compaigns, I'm not going to make rulebook mentions a pledge reward. Instead, I'll invite everybody who pledges to submit a photo of themselves in a zombie pose, and the Zombie Horde card will be made up of all the backers. At the moment, it's just made up of a too-small collection of images of me!

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y23/ARowse/52_ZombieHorde.png

avalaunch
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Last Saturday we did use the

Last Saturday we did use the 3 card hand rule, but not the play all cards rule. We each randomly set aside 2 at the beginning per the old rules. I agree that playing with a 3 card hand is better than a 7 card hand. I also think it'll work better the direction you went, going through all the cards, but leaving 2 at the end that aren't played at all.

I'm still looking to play again, hopefully tonight, with 3 or 4 players. If I do, I'll let you know how it goes!

And good luck with your indiegogo campaign!

avalaunch
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First, congratulations on

First, congratulations on meeting your minimum funding goal on indiegogo!
http://igg.me/p/78253

I was thinking about your game the other night and I had an idea for it. I think it would be interesting to have all of the players simultaneously decide which card to play each round. Then you'd need some sort of priority on who places their survivor first (whoever has a survivor closest to being eaten always goes first, followed by the next closest after the first player took his turn?). I think it would add an interesting 'can you get inside my head as I'm trying to get inside your head' aspect to the game.

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