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.

 

 

Advertisements

Lady Kate’s Marvellous Maniacal Enumerator

Welcome my friends to the show that never ends!
Today we display for delectation and delight a device that shall take all the stress, woe and arithmetic from your cogitations.
This simple marvel shall allow you to not only calculate the cost of a figure with a few strokes of your cursor, but also the cost for the company entire!
Obtain this fiendish engine from the tent marked Bonus Material and open it. Within you shall find, in a tabular arrangement…

Oh tosh, shall we talk English?
Righty-ho, this spreadsheet is the sole reason that Charles and I have not had to issue more errata regarding points costs. Created by our friend Kate Winson it does indeed calculate the cost of individual figures and the whole company.
So let’s get down to business.
The Multiple column is where you write how many of this figure type you want in your company. Usually I do not complete this until I am calculating a company list for an evening’s play.
The next column is where you input the figure type.
The Cost column is where the final cost of your figure is displayed.
The next few columns all have drop down lists (click the top right corner of the cell) in them from which you select the desired value for say Pluck or FV, or the Equipment, Talents and Powers you want the figure to have. You will note that all the equipment, talents and powers from the three books is in these lists, so you may have to scroll down a bit to get what you want.
Figures have multiple rows for such things as equipment, talents and powers. This is so they can have more than one. The first two figures have more than the rest as these are the leaders or special characters who often have more stuff.
Grenades have their own column so you can choose from a number of variants and quantities.
The Additional Equipment column is where all the weird science, personal transportation and even walkers are.
The Misc other column allows you put in the cost of any custom kit you have created yourself, so that cost can be added into the total.
Kate has also included a second worksheet with two tables in for you to calculate the costs of any custom weapons and armour you might create.

We have used versions of this device to calculate all the costs for HVF, SDRS, Gothic and the various blog companies and it has proved both robust and accurate.
We suggest that you open a new sheet for each company you create and save it to that company’s name. Then when you want to create a company from that list to an agreed points limit just put in the number of each figure type in the multiple column and bob’s your uncle!

On a personal note we would both like to thank Kate and acknowledge the important part she has played in producing accurate books for you all.

 

IHMN Figure Reference Card v2

One thing I have noted from the various fora, comments on the blog, playtests and demo’s is that people would like something that brings all the various information together for each figure onto a single card.

We have experimented in the past with a number of Figure Reference Card formats and none have really fitted the bill. So here is my latest attempt. Instead of going for the high gloss graphic formats like in the past I have instead chosen the simple Index Card.

This gives all the information a single figure should need in a handy, single-sided, card. For combat the card has a weapon table that allows you to put in the sum of the weapon’s FV/SV bonus and the figures own FV/SV bonus. It also includes the standard modifiers for shooting and fighting so at a glance the player can calculate what they need to roll.

Then there is space for talents, powers and other equipment. You can find it in the Bonus materials section of the Blog, so please let me know what you think.

Excerpt from the Junior Officer’s Pocketbook – 1894

This is the first of a number of tactical guides that we will publish here in support of IHMN.

It has been written by by Major Bullington-Smythe MC, Commanding Officer, The Prince of Wales’s Extraordinary Company. In it he addresses the key factors to success for the commanders of small units in the covert war between the great powers that now consumes so many lives.

You may read it here:

Excerpt from the Junior Officer’s Pocketbook 1894

Mechanical Walkers!

Since the advent of the Herbert S. Johnson Mechanical Strider in the USA in 1881, the range of both civilian and military variants has multiplied rapidly.

OWG3_Art1
Most factories, mines, docks and construction sites now have these as they exponentially increase a man’s strength and ability to use powered tools. One man in a Mechanised Walker can do the work of six men, or two strong horses.
The Great Powers were not slow to see the applications of an armoured version of this invention. Now they can be seen in small numbers supporting infantry on a hundred battlefields. It was the Walker assault on the barricades that ended the Second Paris Commune in 1887.
The game includes eight walkers and more are currently in secret development in the Infernal Engine sheds.

The development of In Her Majesty’s Name

It is 1895 and things have gone awry…

Let me begin by saying that I have always had a fascination for the late Victorian period. Think about it, the British Empire was at its zenith, yet the cracks were beginning to show. The Great Powers had pretty much expanded as far as they could and the friction between them was reaching ignition point. And two energetic newcomers, the USA and Japan, were beginning to challenge their dominance.

Science and Engineering was at one of those tipping points between the dreams of mad geniuses and the real, just as it had been a century before at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This is the time of Nikola Tesla, Michael Faraday, Marie and Pierre Curie and Thomas Edison amongst others.  Yet people still believed in the spiritual and the mysterious.

Social revolution was in the air. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky were on the streets and arguing in the salons of the new intellectual bourgeosie. Every Empire feared the spectre of popular revolution on its own streets.

Add to this the emerging science romances of such giants as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, H. Rider-Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle. Now give this a small twist and you have raison d’etre for In Her Majesty’s Name. A game of small bands of heroes and villains fighting to make a difference in a rapidly changing world.

The rules were initially inspired by discussions amongst the stalwarts of the Forge of War Development Group. We had been very successful with our free publications FUBAR and In the Emperor’s Name (a W40K skirmish system). We had been looking for new genre’s and game types to work on. The VSF version of FUBAR had been doing quite well and someone suggested a VSF version of ItEN.

Shortly thereafter Phil (of Osprey fame) offered me the opportunity to create a set of VSF skirmish rules for their new wargames range. After I got back off the floor I said yes. The rest, as they say, is history. I picked up this offer and began to run with it. I quickly realised that there was too much work for one man and asked for collaborators. One chap stepped forwards but just as quickly disappeared – such is the curse of the interweb. So then I approached my old friend Charles who, after  a short delay, agreed to become my co-conspirator.

The rules themselves were based on the philosophies that:

  1. They had to be simple enough to learn in an evening, but have sufficient tactical depth to keep us playing for a long time. Not quite KISS, but damned close.
  2. The rules must reflect the spirit of the period. For example; Colonialism was seen as a civilising influence and there was considerable dismay at home when those being colonised chose to not cooperate.
  3. We wanted to stick close to the science and engineering of the period. Yes, we would have some unusual technology, but it would be logical extensions of that being experimented with in that time.
  4. We would include some of those mysterious powers so popular in the penny dreadfulls and dime novels of the period. However, no power would be allowed to dominate a game.
  5. It had to be a game we would enjoy playing ourselves. With these in mind we began drafting the game.

IHMN is a game of covert action between small Adventuring Companies. Sometimes these groups are motivated by patriotism, sometimes by baser ambitions. They are often used as a deniable tool of foreign policy.

To play it you need no more than a dozen figures and a single die. It is designed to be played on a surface three or four foot square – so a normal kitchen table will suffice. This is all deliberate as we wanted people to be able to play the game with the minimum of resource.

One thing you will need is terrain. Figures die easily and cover is an absolute must. A game played on an open table top will likely last just a couple of minutes otherwise (a bit like ‘The Gunfight at the OK Corral’). Unlike many skirmish games IHMN puts a lot of effort into terrain, cover and Victorian period landscapes. Terrain can obstruct, channel, move and even be dangerous.

Imagine having a shoot-out in a busy steam engine shunting yard at night, or amongst the gas bags in a huge dirigible. The rules cover this and we actively encourage people to experiment by giving them a number of classic landscapes to play across.

The game itself has been designed so that no-one is sitting on their hands for long periods waiting for their turn. With an alternating action system you will never be bored and the tactical situation in the battle space can change in seconds.

Turns in the early stages of the game, when the two companies are manoeuvring for tactical advantage or to secure vital objectives or lanes of fire, can take just a couple of minutes. Once people begin firing or getting up close and personal it does get a little longer, but not much. Shooting or fighting takes but a single die-roll, and if a figure is hit they may be able to make a Pluck roll to resist the effects of their injuries (Pah! It was naught but a flesh wound).

Games vary from half an hour to an hour on the average. So you easily play two or three in an evening’s play. We encourage a narrative form of play, and thus there are guidelines for running campaigns. As well as rules for improving your heroes and their companies during them. This is a game where your figures will become the subject of stories told in the bar long after the campaigns themselves are over.

To get people’s imaginations going we wrote up ten adventuring companies from an initial list of over a hundred. Each one is full of the flavour of the period and has its own strengths and weaknesses. To support this we created a fully-featured points system. This allows people to put together balanced forces to increase their enjoyment on the table top.

There was another reason though. Charles and I are both lifelong gamers. We want a game to give us the freedom to play the way we want and to give us the options and guidance to do so. The points system allows you to design your own companies, figures, talents, powers and equipment.

Also to support players in creating their own companies based upon themes from the period, we put in far more weapons, armour, weird science, unusual forms of personal transportation, talents and mystical powers than would be used by the included companies.

Like many games we have included a number of ‘standard’ scenarios, to which we added a selection of scenario complications. If you also consider the listed landscapes there are almost nine hundred unique games you can play straight out of the book.

All through the process of design, play-testing and writing Osprey was supplying us with sketches by the contributing artists and then their fully realised work. This was pretty amazing and inspired us to up our game and even include an entirely new section.

Then Northstar came on board and this gave us a whole new set of challenges. It is one thing thinking up an entertaining company list, but a whole other thing to test this by creating balanced lists for a sculptor to work on. Fortunately the points system worked fine and soon we were getting pictures of greens and finally fully-painted figures.

As those of you that have followed my work at the Forge of War Development Group know, I am a stickler for giving credit where it is due. To that end we must thank the following:

  • Phil Smith at Osprey. Our long suffering Editor and IHMN enthusiast.
  • Nick Eyre and Steve Saleh at Northstar for realising every small boy’s dream of having our own figures to play with. And for providing playtest feedback, it made a difference.
  • Kev Dallimore for the incredible paint jobs on the figures, and the photographs of them that you will find throughout the rules.
  • Jesse McGibney for the inspirational internal artwork and Fab for the cover.
  • And of course all the stalwarts at the Forge of War Development Group.