I honestly thought I was boned, trying to get to the annual Nigel Clarke game. This is the Christmas event my gaming group, the TNGG people, throw pretty close to the end of the year. The last few years have featured a re-themed CIRCUS MAGICUS race (“Circus Santicus”), and as far back as 2005 I even put one on, THE DARK SECRET OF SANTA TOWN. End of the year games tend to be pretty goofy, high concept, low on rules and universally about Winter or Christmas. Hosting duties this year were assumed by Steve Gibson, an old hand at the Christmas game. Steve’s offering this year was Christmas zombies. Steve runs a lot of Zombie games, using the Ares Fantasy rules.
that’s a whole lot of zombies.
We’ve played in Steve’s zombie games before and they usually are modern affairs set in a universe somewhat similar to Resident Evil. Not this time! This game was the Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge. Small units from both the German and American armies blunder into a terror greater than any horror of war they could possibly imagine in the midst of a driving snow storm.
American and German troops start the game on the move– the Americans have two halftracks, one of which is disabled, the other has run out of gas and ammunition (a common theme in the Ardennes). The Germans also have a halftrack, which is on fumes. There are three German units, all squad sized. One enters from the top right corner of the map above, and ends up beset by a zombie horde. Another is in the half track. Another is taking refuge in building 1. Most Americans ended up in buildings 2 or 3. I ended up making a beeline for 2, then changing my mind when it became clear that zombies were present, so I made for the much smaller and more open building 4. I entered from the bottom left corner.
The rules were ARES Fantasy combat miniatures rules with some zombie detection and generation rules influenced by ALL THINGS ZOMBIE. I’ve played it before, and found the basic framework easy enough to understand, except for combat, which I had to watch carefully to grasp. I arrived late, so missed the initial couple of turns, but Steve graciously made a space for me in the game. Alas, my force wasn’t exactly a group of hard chargers. They were a small headquarters division, green soldiers except for the veteran sergeant I had along with us.
And they drove in directly from the Southeast Corner, as mentioned.
My guys were HQ soldiers, not exactly G.I. Joes. I had two green rifle squad guys and an experienced Sergeant with a Thompson SMG. Fortunately I was entering the map with the only vehicle with sufficient gas in it. My first encounter was with an advancing horde of reinforcing zombies, so I had to find shelter, fast. The primary victory condition for any side was surviving through the upcoming snowstorm, which made the combat conditions less than optimal.
The battle was brief actually. There were more shots fired between Americans and Germans than humans and zombies. Both German units in contact with the Americans were what I would characterize as “Grenade Happy”, tossing potato mashers at the Americans all willy-nilly. This did a number on the Americans, but also did a fine job of attracting more zombies, much to everyone’s chagrin.
The other American Squads eventually clustered in Building 2, which had the best shelter available and fewer entrances for zombies to assail. They had the best shot at surviving the night.
The other Germans, above, managed to make it building 1, and probably had a decent shot of surviving.
The halftrack, as seen above, was last seen exiting the area with every ounce of horsepower they could muster, followed by a giant horde of slaverng goons. I guess they might be “the winner”, but I suspect the ‘track only got a mile or so before running out of gas completely and being beset on all sides by the undead.
Simple concept, simple enough rules, great presentation. The Christmas theme was terrific, maybe the best yet. Hats off to Steve Gibson (and children) for putting this one on.
Chris Gibson sums it up like this: zombieswantbrainsforxmas.mp3
And Merry Christmas, Nigel!