Special Infected Cards for my AR:SE Rewrite
MT, PB and I all got together recently for a gaming weekend at my place. As is usual these days, the emphasis was mainly on board games.
In addition to those games I decided to set up a Zombie Apocalypse miniatures game, largely due to the success of a game of AR:SE that MT and I played a few months ago.
While I planned to use the AR:SE rule set again I felt that some modifications to the rules as written (available here) were required. So I set about trying to sort those out in advance of the big day.
AR:SE is a game that provides a cinematic way to use your toy soldiers with friends against a system that plays the zombies for you. It is not a competitive game or even a test of skill. It is a type of game that my group often calls a “funny voice generator” which basically means that it is an excuse to muck about with toy soldiers with your buddies and have a few laughs, rather than a contest.
The card driven AR:SE rules provided for a cinematic and very entertaining game the first time that MT and I played it some months ago, but we did feel that we had to make a lot of the supplementary rules up on the fly. That session, while very entertaining did feel a little woolly, a little more like a RPG jamming session than a delineated boardgame or wargame.
That’s fine if that’s what you are into and I think that it was definitely part of the intention and design philosophy of AR:SEs original author. Horses for courses and all that. For our needs however I wanted to add a few elements that suit our play style, such as a more concrete process for spawning new zombies, specific rules for the arrival and behaviour of “special” boss zombies and a standardising of the somewhat eclectic ranges used for movement and shooting.
That process turned into a full blown re-write of the rules that included the following:
- Revised/streamlined weapon and movement ranges and rules
- A full glossary of very simple special effects/rules that are applied to create different types of Special Infected, weapon effects, character abilities etc with the minimum of duplication
- Expanded simple Spawning Rules that dictate the quantity and frequency of zombie reinforcements and that do not require a GM
- A very simple points/character generation system which was then applied to many of the Survivor models in my miniatures collection (and which could obviously be easily applied to anyone’s miniatures). These rules were then added to cards along with a photo of the relevant figure. This allows for a very easy way to field those figures either at random via a deal from the Survivor Deck or with ballpark values assigned that will mean that all players have roughly the same level of forces, should that be deemed necessary for some reason
- Another set of cards (the Event deck) was made for the various special zombie types plus other things that might crop up in the game like Extra Ammo, First-Aid, Pipe Bombs etc. Basically the sort of power-ups that occur in Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil, that sort of thing. These cards are inserted into the standard AR:SE Activation Deck at certain points to govern the appearance of Special Infected or Power Ups for Survivors. Additionally in some circumstances these Event Cards are used to generate the circumstances when and where Scenario Specific items show up (like a briefcase containing the zombie virus antidote or keys required to enter the underground lab complex or whatever).
The Goal: The rewrite process had to pay particular heed to one main criteria: it was absolutely crucial not to bog down the simple, fast and entertaining core of the card driven AR:SE system with needless extra rules that would slow things down more than entertain.
The aim was to add a series of modular and clean extra rules without cluttering the system, while simultaneously streamlining the original system.
Ranges/Movement. A major part of the re-write process was to rationalise the ranges and modifiers from the original AR:SE.
I felt that the weapon stats were quite varied but without much gain, that some distinctions were made unnecessarily and that overall they were a little counter-intuitive.
After a couple of different attempts I decided to convert the movement and weapon ranges to an approximation of those from Song of Blades and Heroes.
I feel that the movement and range measurement system in SoBH is far and away the best thing about it, so I happily transplanted a version of that into my AR:SE rewrite.
In addition to that I also reworked how the modifiers to hit at range apply to the various range bands when shooting. I did this by reassigning the target number and then removing nearly all negative modifiers to hit (negative modifiers to hit are a slightly odd pet peeve of mine).
This was easier to organise than it probably sounds and was worth the little bit of effort.
Add to that that the fact that all of the information (including modifiers to hit) for each and every Survivor in play is written down on a card in front of each player and the potentially irritating effects of modifiers overall are minimised. I hope.
More Survivor Cards, Yakuza this time.
Glossary/Special Rules. The largest part of the rewrite was the generation of a large glossary of terms. While quite a large number of terms were eventually settled on, very few of those are at play at any one time or even in any one game. The few that are in play are always summarised on the cards used for each survivor miniature and for each of the more esoteric zombie types.
I did my best to standardise most of the special rules so that the same rule for a leaping Hunter was applied to a leaping Jockey for example. Similarly a particularly dangerous weapon uses the same damaging rule as a particularly dangerous Special Infected for another example. Of course it has to be ensured that this streamlining doesn’t render the game too generic and homogenised too. This is all pretty fundamental stuff but it is essential to enable a game to run satisfactorily. It’s a balancing act that many systems trip up on that I hope my rewrite has handled adequately.
So, after all of that time consuming work my as yet un-named rewrite was ready to go. Anyone who is still reading at this point might be interested to know that the after action report for the inaugural game that MT, PB and I played will be posted next week.
Filed under: Game Rules | Tagged: 2010, AR:SE, Horror, Sci-fi, Survivor, Video Game, Zombie | 24 Comments »