Skip to Content

An idea for a stempunky zombie game

8 replies [Last post]
Koen Hendrix
Joined: 11/24/2010

Hello esteemed fellow game designers,

I'm currently in the process of desiging a new game, and I would really appreciate any thoughts or comments you might have on the below rules. It's a bit longish, but I've tried to include everything that's important. Thanks for any reply!

It is a yet-unnamed cooperative zombie survival game in the Victorian age. The game takes some inspiration from Pandemic; I'm aiming for a similar "Oh no, everything's escalating, time to make some decisions!" game feel. Players are Victorian characters who try to survive an ever-increaing zombie threat.

The game consists of:

  • Game board, containing three tracks (location, health, infection)
  • approx. 50 urban salvage cards
  • approx. 50 rural salvage cards
  • approx. 20 event cards
  • approx. 6 role cards

The board consists of a large 'location track' containing cities and rural areas (around 16 squares), a health track ranging 0 - 5, and an infection strength track ranging 1 - 20. Health starts full (at 5), infection starts at 3.

The salvage cards contain something that the players can use. Generally this is either food, a weapon, transport, or reserach. Food has a numeric value. Weapons have a numeric strength value. Transport have a numeric size value. Some Weapons and Transports are large and come in multiple cards, so one card might contain 1/2 of a gatling gun. You'd need two of those cards to create a gatling gun. I'll explain research at the end.

Players start on one end of the Location track. The game can be won in to ways: either by reaching the other end of the location track ('Escape to the New World'), or by discovering a cure for the zombie infection.

Each player start with a hand of two salvage cards. Apart from their hand, the players can store cards in 'the camp': a common, open collection of cards on the table. Both the hand and camp are normally not limited in size, but only a limited number can be carried over when Travelling (see Actions).

Every turn, each player gets 1 action. Then the Infected strength is increased and food is eaten. Each turn ends with one Event.

The players may execute their actions in any order their like. Once every player has taken his or her turn, the food supply is reduced by the number of players, and the Infected strength is increased by 1. If there is not enough food, health is decreased instead. Then, one Event card is drawn. After the Event (providing the players survive it), a new turn starts and all players may take another action.

The actions available to a player are:

  • SEARCH. You must specify whether you search for
    • food,
    • transport and weapons,
    • research.

    Take three cards from the appropriate salvage stack (urban if in an urban location, or rural if the location tracks is on rural area). You may keep all cards of the chosen type. Discard all other cards.
    You may either keep the received cards in your hand, or add them to the camp.

  • EXCHANGE. Give or take as many cards as you want to/from the camp.
  • CONSTRUCT. If you have enough parts of a multi-part tool in your hand, create the tool by putting all cards in a single stack in the camp. The weapon or transport now counts as a single card.
  • TRAVEL. If you have a Transport card in the camp, move to the next square on the location track and decrease the Infection by 3. However, each player must reduce his hand to two cards, and the camp cards must be reduced to the size value of the transport.

After all players have taken an action, an Event takes place by drawing an Event card. The most common event is the Attack. In this case, zombies attack the players and they need to have an amount of weapons with strength equal to the infection strength. If they've not enough, they'll lose health. Other events include bad weather, meeting a camp of survivors, and so on.

Health determines the maximum amount of actions taken in a turn. So on health 2, only 2 players can take an action, even if 4 players are present. When health drops to 0 the players have lost the game.

Each player has a specific role (eg. Explorer, Apothecary, Engineer) that grants him/her additional powers. For example, the Engineer can more easily construct multi-card weapons and transports, and the Apothecary can increase the group's health.

There are several research cards in the deck. By finding a matching combination of them, a Cause and a Cure can be discovered (in that order -- first need to find a Cause, only then can a Cure be discovered). I've haven't detailed the match-making of the research cards yet.

Thanks again for reading.

Koen Hendrix
Joined: 11/24/2010
Any thoughts...?

Any thoughts...?

Joined: 02/16/2010
Well, this is just a guess,

Well, this is just a guess, but I think the Zombie element may have estranged most potential posters.

The fact is that I can name, list, or link 15 or so published zombie games. That doesn’t even include the ones you could find with a little digging here or on .

“Pointing out a problem without offering a resolution is the lazy mans approach.” So let’s try something different. It doesn’t have to be zombie to include all the elements you listed above. You could use your game mechanics in a variety of ways, hopefully avoiding zombies while you do it. Trust me when I say, the zombie theme should be avoided for now. The market is completely oversaturated with Zombie products.

A fun concept could be to go with a storyline like H.O.L. . Now this is a bit more on the satire side but it could still work. Another fun concept could be the classic Wealth/ Poverty scenario.

Heres a fun story outline that includes no Zombies yet offers a solid “world” for your mechanics.

Dystopian Steam-Punk

Long ago during the early days of “steam” magic wielders tapped into demonic power to fuel their steam engines with a new and limitless energy source.

Eventually the forefathers of steam lost control of the power and ripped a hole in their dimension causing demons to spill forth in an endless tide. Overwhelmed the ancients built “Sky City”, a huge floating city.

Now we jump ahead some indeterminate amount of time. Survivors and wanderers roam the wastes beneath the city (perhaps the wastes are a city themselves). The survivors live off the refuse of the massive and overpopulated Sky City, sifting through the trash and debris of Sky City in order to carve out a life for themselves.

Now simply introduce a creative critter, perhaps a demon you are fond of. You can use your salvage style cards and basic “survive the mobs” system in any number of ways. Perhaps the warriors your players are going to run about smashing heads with are on Safari from the city (victory = kills?), or maybe, this is a small band of survivors that have come together in hopes of one day building a Sky-ship from junk and reaching the city( victory = condition?).

Any way you slice it a story that doesn’t revolve around Zombies means not getting ignored entirely on the market.


cottonwoodhead's picture
Joined: 03/02/2011
I agree that zombies might

I agree that zombies might not be the right route to go but for different reasons. Regardless of its commercial prospects for sucess I don't think zombies fit well with steampunk thematically. Zombies tend to be either supernatural in theme, or some sort of plague generally supposedly caused by scientific experimentation. Steampunk while it does involve scientific experimentation it seems to be to mostly mechanical rather than biological in theme. I think you can keep most of the mechanics but should change the theme, perhaps brass men, clockwork monstrosities, goblins if you want to overlay a fantasy theme or something else. I feel like steampunk zombies is a forced combination and you should rethink the theme.

le_renard's picture
Joined: 10/08/2010
Steampunk and

Steampunk and Zombies...
Well, I must confess that I don' t think they actually go together that well...
Tweak the theme a little and I'm sure that would do the trick ^^

Clay's picture
Joined: 08/30/2010
I must respectfully disagree

However much the market may be over saturated by zombie games I do not think that one should allow themselves to be swayed by trends IF (and only if) the zombie theme is integral to the theme "making sense" when it comes to game play.

I am a musician and we experience the phenomenon of people always trying to write music that will sell i.e. follow the latest trends.
As much as we all want to be successful, the best thing you can do to succeed is do what you love (no matter what anybody else is doing).
People will see the love you have for your project and be drawn to THAT not some fancy theme that catches your eye from the shelf (not that that could hurt). (hope that helps)

About the theme, maybe you could...

Example: The zombies need not be ACTUAL zombies. They could be Borg-style Steam-monsters created by a mad scientist determined to create a new race of humans that can survive the harsh new conditions of a dying planet (or perhaps they have "cheap" implants that are "broken"and cause them to become violent).
OR you could go the DOOM/HELL RAISER route (as lofwyr suggested) and have the zombies pouring through some inter-dimensional door that needs to be closed.
OR the "zombies" could be drug-addicted gangs that roam the streets mindlessly looking for their next fix (possibly addicted to a "magic" high of some sort).

Take the cartoon (anime) Full Metal Alchemist for instance. It does a great job of blending Victorian era visuals with human/genetic manipulation and it doesn't feel over done at all (IMO).

Folks do have a point though, that a straight up cut-and-paste zombie into stream punk world might feel a bit "forced". Especially with the undeniable popularity (and saturation) of both genres.

In short. If the story line is fun (and advances the game play) it won't matter what it is, people will play it because they like it.

Good luck:)

Joined: 01/24/2010
zombie theme

I have to disagree that a victorian steam-punk zombie setting is entirely forced. Cherie Priest's Boneshaker is exactly that in book form, and it got good reviews and did a great deal to propel her writing career.

Im sure there is still room in the community for more zombie games, just as there is more room for high fantasy games and space games and empire building games and pirate games and etc. What's going to matter more if you go with a saturated theme (and what should matter more anyway) is your mechanics. What makes them different and interesting.

cottonwoodhead's picture
Joined: 03/02/2011
I have actually heard of that

I have actually heard of that book though I haven't had a chance to read it. If I remember correctly the zombies in that book were limited to a very small area, not really so much an apocolypse so much as an infestation. Zombies on a smaller scale would be more interesting and would work better with the steampunk theme, I just didn't think a full blown zombie apocalypse would work that well and would dominate the steampunk feel.

Joined: 12/01/2010
I just finished the book

I just finished the book [Boneshaker], and it was great. The zombies in that book were called "Rotters" Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is another example that was hugely sucessful.

Getting off topic a bit, a society that still didn't understand sanitation very well having a plague spread quickly - and especially in steam punk where airships are fairly common - seems like a worldwide Zombie epidemic could happen.

On the game. It sounds pretty interesting. Without playing it it would be hard to tell how well it works. I don't see where weapons come in, or how its possible to employ skill in the same - above the most basic - we don't have enough food, draw food cards - as long as we have enough food try to make transport.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut