Friday, 19 January 2018

Jacksboro postscript

The anatomy of a game.

This was supposed to have been a Dragon Rampant game in part of the ongoing "Dark Conspiracy" fantasy campaign, but my opponent cancelled because of a hospital appointment (never used to happen when we were younger!). The table had already been set up, and I resisted the urge to play the game out solo, deciding instead to catch up on events with Brad and his group.

Since the encounter needed setting up "on the fly", I thought it might be interesting to give a 'behind the scenes' view to how I approach my narrative solo games, and the "Jacksboro" ATZ:FFO encounter would be a perfect candidate since the game itself only lasted three turns!
Although "Mythic" is one of the useful tools I frequently use (and highly recommend BTW),
the Jacksboro encounter was largely driven by a series of simple reviews of the possibilities, decided by the dice whenever there was more than one viable option.

Here's how the thinking went:
When Brad's "recon / scavenging mission a few miles South East of the farm" returned with a hostile 'casualty' (the campaign hasn't polarised into labelled groups of Survivors and Gangers yet), the earlier priorities of improvised zombie defences and ample food and ammunition stocks were suddenly overshadowed by the realisation that the zombie outbreak had generated the threat of attack from other, armed and dangerous survivors.
They'd already witnessed gangs of looters and street thugs taking advantage of the breakdown of law and order, but this was something at a totally different level and called into question their isolated position at Campbells Farm. With that in mind, what was the group to do about their unwanted guest?
At the time, I could only think of the four options, and only one of them didn't rule itself out 'in character'.  The safety of the group was an issue (as it was in two of the rejected options), so how could that be tackled and where would they be going?
These were the considerations, along with a look at the Texas road map...
 I didn't want to play out the journey, and had previously come up with a table of possible events for "road trips" between locations, so just modified it for 'Day 14' and it went like this.....
Then, before packing away the scenery already on my gaming table, I set up the pickup truck and RV on the 'backroads to Jacksboro' for the opening scene photo. 
Once that was done, I cleared the decks and randomly arranged nine 1ft square urban tiles (cork with pdf print-outs stuck on both sides) and populated them with buildings, ensuring I had a residential structure on the central tile as the 'target location'.

The game played out as described in the previous post, and out of interest, I took the role of Rebecca, her folks and the National Guard to see what happened after Brad's group had escaped.
The remainder of the squad made it through the apartment doors just in time before the zombie horde closed in. With more being attracted by the engine noise it was only a matter of time before the entrance would be breached.
The trooper who was encountered in the building (I decided he'd been scouting ahead of the rest of his squad) quickly led them to the window facing the alley where he'd entered earlier.
With the walking dead hammering at the doors and windows at the front of the building, the guardsmen climbed out into the alley, taking up covering positions as Rebecca and her group followed hot on their heels.
Despite the soldiers warnings to keep it quiet, the group attracted the attention of the tail end of the horde still in the mouth of the alley - and newly arrived zeds were out on the street!
As the biters moved in, Rebecca saw the gap and pushed her brother-in-law forwards, yelling "Get the hell outa here!" as yet more zombies were attracted by the sound of gunfire and the National Guard, along with the rest of her kinfolk engaged in grisly hand to hand combat with their undead opponents (well, the ones that weren't simply caught and mauled!).

So, Rebecca got away, along with poor old Jon's brother Pete (who Rebecca always thought was the better looking of the two!!), and as for Lee? After I'd packed away the mini's and terrain, I sat down with a brew and considered the options.
Rebecca and Pete meet up with Lee on the outskirts of Jacksboro and find a safe-house to hunker down in for the night. They've got the car parked outside, Pete and Lee's handguns, but little else other than Rebecca's grudge against Brad and his group.

Pretty basic stuff, and of course any comments or suggestions are most welcome.


  1. That's a really cool game mechanic, there, Greg. Going to be saving this post until I can make a copy of what you've said and done so I can use similar in my future solo games. Cheers for sharing.

    1. Many thanks indeed Roy, I honestly thought it would be "old hat" stuff and was more than a little hesitant to post it for fear of being accused of stating the obvious :-)

    2. I've only ever wargamed to be honest, with no element of roleplaying in any of my previous gaming so when I get going its going to be new ground I'll be treading.

      My previous solo gaming was all done using CS Grant's Programmed Wargames mechanics, and the Blitzkrieg Commander rules' basic solo methods, so everything was all, pretty much, provided for me just to get going with so cobbling bits together, now, for future solo games is, again, new ground for me.

    3. Programmed Wargames Scenarios is still a great book, as is CS Grant's Scenarios For Wargamers :-)
      I'll show my age now and confess that I STARTED my wargames journey with Grant's The War Game and Peter Young's Charge!

    4. My journey's beginning was thanks to my god-mother purchasing for me White Dwarf #160 magazine at Bovington NAAFI, back in 1993. Still too young to buy lead figures, back then, so I had to get my mother to do the buying when I was able to get to Games Workshop Middlesbrough. But it was always WW2 I was interested in, so began searching to see if there was such a thing as historical wargaming, where I found Charles Wesencraft's Practical Wargaming from Richmond library and Miniature Wargames magazine not long after. Hunting through the school library at Hipswell, the Garrison's secondary school, found (iirc) a book written by one of the Grant's, but I can't remember too much about it except there was colour photos of Foundry Jacobite and Government 1745 figures used in games. Solely Games Workshop gaming until the mid-2000s, but I got my first copy of Wargames Illustrated around 1996 and managed to get to my first ever Wargames Show around that time - North East Militaire at Redcar (a show no longer on the calendar). Come some point in the early to mid- 2000s I got Blitzkrieg Commander 1st edition rules, a couple of Pendraken Miniatures 10mm 1944 WW2 armies, and Programmed Wargames Scenarios began my Historical wargaming - though all played solo, as no one at the two local clubs played non-GW games. Funny thing was, Stu (Col. Bill's) was living at Richmond, then, and if I'd have known we were within 10 miles of each other we could have met 10 years earlier and probably playing. As it was, Stu was travelling miles to get access to historical game opponents, and now we both hardly ever play games as we're too busy.

  2. Very interesting insight to how you came up with the decisions for the relevant groups Greg, I guess as your campaign goes on other choices may enter in, like "trust no one !" so all other survivors are seen as a threat, or " We need what they've got ! " so taking items that will keep their party alive at the expense of others.
    Look forward to reading more

    1. Thanks Dave and you're absolutely right. It's down to good old fashioned role playing and just getting into the characters and their situations. The characters develop as they adapt to the situations they find themselves in, and the choices they make will hopefully reflect this.

  3. It is always cool to see the thinking processes of a gamer and this was a fascinating post. I do like that mechanic for providing options and it has certainly given me food for thought for my own games.

    Regarding hospital visits, it is a sad fact of life that the older you get, the more frequent they become. Ho-hum!

    I just knew that Rebecca would escape. She doesn't seem the type to roll over and die. She's born trouble! I expect her to return at the worst possible moment for Team Brad. Still, it is good to have a recurring villain in your games. Thanks for the post script, Greg. It was much appreciated.

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback Bryan, and I totally agree about the merits of "a recurring villain" for adding a touch of spice to the storyline. I'd thought about it before, and somehow had a preconception of a hardened gang of road warriors or similar - thanks to the way ATZ works, I've ended up with a redneck woman with a chip on her shoulder ;-)
      Just as with the age-related comment, we can only play with the hand we're dealt :-)

  4. Good stuff on the decision tree and an interesting post. I'm pleased you played out the ending, it always seems 'wrong' to suddenly stop a game as if it's a game and not a story, if you understand my meaning.
    I had one game where my survivors didn't survive but the guy's they met up with did and they became my new survivors, who knows where this could go. It's a story.

    I'm with Bryan on this, that Rebecca is a wrong in. ;-)

    1. Much appreciated John, and having "finished" the game but still having everything in place, I HAD to play out the 'proper' ending to the tale - if I hadn't, I would have sat with a brew, notepad and a couple of dice at some point and considered the options and odds to work out what happened.
      As you say, the encounters are very much "chapters" in an ongoing story, an for me this is FAR more enjoyable than 'competitive' gaming :-)

  5. Really interesting post Greg, a great insight into how you develop your campaign

    1. Cheers Andy, I'll post some more "behind the scenes" stuff that might (or might not) be of interest as and when they crop up.

  6. Brilliant! Having a solid narrative behind a game makes it so much better in my opinion, you've absolutely nailed it here :) I've never seen something like this before and it's definitely got me thinking how I can use it myself as solo games seem the only way to roll any dice nowadays.

  7. Many thanks Ivor, I'm really pleased this post has turned out to be 'thought provoking' when I was fretting that it would be 'old hat'.
    Just goes to show that we shouldn't take anything for granted, and I bet we've all got little hints and tips worth sharing :-)

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your very detailed reasoning behind how you came to the many important decisions "off camera". It's something I've considered doing on a larger scale, much like a computer game where linked scenarios are very linear. For example in the early part of TWD, Rick and his gang are looking for his wife (and their gang), then the Disiease centre in Atlanta etc.
    I do wonder if the interaction with National Guard had gine badly and gunfire resulted would you consider your group of survivors to be turned into Gangers (combatting authrotiy etc.) ?

  9. Many thanks Joe, what you're considering is exactly how I handle the campaign once a series of encounters have played out to a natural conclusion :-)

    As for the National Guard, "I don't know" is the honest answer, but I'm glad you asked.
    They were the remains of a full section that had been cornered by zeds in a nearby tower block while carrying out an evacuation detail, so they were already beat-up and trying to get back to base - would it still be a priority to disarm citizens with a zombie horde closing in?
    In the encounter, Brad decided to 'cut and run', avoiding the risk of being caught between zeds and the Millers, but afterwards feels bad for not helping the military guys.
    In the postscript, Rebecca blatantly used the Guardsmen to save her own hide and never gave it a second thought afterwards ;-)