A Taste for Flesh

vzAcross the IHMN world there are players experimenting with different types of zombies, so I though it might be interesting to explore them a bit here on the blog. Of course we have already addressed the classic Zombi of the Caribbean tradition, a victim of possession or modified fish venom, in HVF. Also the Society of Thule’s electrically reanimated Tod-truppen in IHMN, but there are others.

Recently I have watched a number of programs and films addressing the viral zombie and gave some thought to how that might work in the world of IHMN. By my interpretation these are people who should be dead but have instead been turned into reanimated viral hosts hungry for the flesh of men, and in some cases, their brains.

In my mind a basic viral zombie should be Pluck 6+, FV+2, SV+0, Speed +0, no talents, powers or equipment (so armour 7). This makes the basic zombie incredibly cheap at 3 points each, yet pretty vulnerable mano-a-mano. Note that I haven’t added anti-venom as these are not true undead but still living (just) creatures that seem to be able to make noises so are obviously still breathing. They can be injured and disabled fairly easily but to kill them requires the brain to be damaged beyond repair as this is the seat of the virus.

So far they don’t seem too dangerous, but put them in packs of ten for just thirty points and then you get people’s attention. They will be hard to whittle down quickly and if they hit as a group suddenly figures get surrounded. Then either the zombies all get an outnumbering bonus of +1 each or they mob the figure and one of them gets +3 on top of their FV of +2.

It is a mistake to think that as zombies are shambling wrecks it should be easy to avoid them… wrong! A Zombie with line of sight to a victim will run, after all what else are they going to do in the shooting phase? So now you have ravenous man-eaters trotting towards their lunch at 9″. Who’s laughing now?

So we send in a mob and it drags down a player’s figure what happens then? Well viral zombies seem to lose interest once the prey stops screaming and moving, a bit like a well fed cat with a mouse. Then the virus gets to work… In World War Z, Brad Pitt was counting to ten before the victim becomes yet another zombie.

Thinking this through I think we should count the victim as being knocked down and it will try to get up in the movement phase of the next turn as a zombie. With a Pluck of 6+ this isn’t certain by any means, but it will keep on trying. The newly minted zombie will drop any equipment but may benefit from better armour if it was wearing any.

That then is the basic zombie but looking at the literature and various films and games there seem to be others as well, so here are some ideas:

  1. Fast Zombies that could have a speed bonus of +1, +2 or even +3. Zombies charging around at a 10-12″ move and with a natural armour of 7+speed when fighting – welcome to World War Z.
  2. Tougher, fresher or possibly better fed, zombies could have an improved Pluck of 5+ or even 4+. If you want to splash out then add the Tough talent instead or as well.
  3. Mutant zombies that have been transmogrified into hulking mounds of decaying flesh. Give these a better Pluck and FV. They might also have had fighting weapons riveted to their arms thus gaining a FV bonus and possibly a pluck penalty.
  4. Pyro-zombies are ordinary zombies that have been soaked in pitch or petroleum and then set alight just before the battle. Their flailing attacks count as flaming but they must pass a Pluck roll at the end of each turn or be taken out of the game. These sort of zombies do not pass on the virus, anything they kill stays dead.
  5. Exploding zombies, come on, who doesn’t want to see exploding zombies? Essentially zombies with bombs strapped to them which are then detonated by an engineer, often when locked in combat with an enemy figure.

The last three ideas presuppose someone being in control of these zombies. Let’s call them a Zombie Master, a corny yet accurate description nonetheless.

A Zombie Master could be a victim of the virus themself who, for whatever reason, did not become a mindless flesh-eater. Instead he retained his intellect and has learned how to lead and direct his fellow victims. This could be a natural side-effect of the virus trying to spread itself. So we’d give this chap a much better pluck, perhaps 3+ or even 2+, and the Leadership Skill.

It could also be the classic mad scientist who has learned that you can herd and drive zombies using the VSF equivalent of electrical cattle prods (equivalent to an Arc Baton). The scientist and his assistants keep a horde of zombies on hand to protect them from people who do not understand the scientist’s brilliance (cue maniacal laughter).

Controlling zombies though should be like herding cats. They have a small problem with overcoming their taste for flesh. To cover this simply any zombie that is not within 12″ of the Zombie Master, or that is out of sight of him begins to react instinctively like so:

  1. It will move towards and engage the nearest live figures that it has a line of sight to. Running is compulsory. It will not do so if the figures work for its Master.
  2. If no-one is in sight it will move towards the nearest source of sound, i.e. fighting or shooting last turn. In this case it walks, it only runs for dinner.
  3. If there is no stimuli it will stop and hang about.
  4. A zombie will move through water and around impassable terrain.
  5. It will not move through any terrain that is on fire.
  6. Zombies cannot open doors but they can attack them and try to tear through them. Consider a normal door to be Armour 7, a reinforced or barricaded one Armour 8 and a metal one Armour 9 or 10.

Right, we have a load of zombies, so what do we do with them? Well I’m glad you asked that because zombies can be all sorts of fun.

  1. One player could create a Zombie list complete with Master and a few suitable henchmen. It would make an interesting foe. Flamethrowers and machine guns are recommended for the opposition.
  2. Make the zombies a scenario or a complication. Set up the table with at least half a dozen buildings in the centre. Hide objectives in three of the buildings. When a figure opens a building door roll 1d10 with a penalty of -1. This indicates that there are 0-9 zombies inside who must be dealt with before the building can be searched. Vicious players may send fast scouts forwards to play knock and run on buildings closer to the enemy than themselves or blow the doors off with a Congreve.
  3. Play King of the Hill but cover the hill with zombies.
  4. Play Death at your Heels with the zombies forming the driving force behind the player’s companies.
  5. Make Bad Jack a Zombie Master in the centre of a cemetery where he can conjure up 1d6 zombies a turn anywhere he chooses within the cemetery to help defend him.



6 thoughts on “A Taste for Flesh

  1. If you need inspiration take a look at the horror film ‘Frankenstein’s Army’ in which an evil teutonic genius creates a wide variety of Zombots, weird creations melding the flesh of dead and half-dead soldiers with metal and wood. With names like ‘Propellorhead’, ‘Dragger’, ‘Razor Teeth’ and ‘Hammerhead’ they really stand out…and would make an unusual company…

    • As a chap who watches The Walking Dead through his fingers I somehow doubt I’ll be watching the film you have suggested 🙂
      This shouldn’t hold you back though.

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