Act 3 - Bird Down
As quickly as we arrived back at the precinct, we were leavin' again. The bird had gone down somewhere in Spring County. She went down fast but the ditch seemed controlled enough that there could've been survivors. We decided it would be best if we got to 'em first.
Act 3 begins with our intrepid band making their way to investigate the crash site of the helicopter they saw go down somewhere outside the city in Spring County in Act 2.
We put our heads together about how we wanted to approach the rescue mission. We agreed that Jim would lead the group and they would take his Freelander to the crash site as it was our best off-road vehicle and had plenty of extra seats for any survivors we might find. Jim would be joined by Sadie and Eddie (I figured Eddie's M60 would be perfect for clearing zeds out quickly in the countryside without much risk of attracting more).
Lets have a look at the crash site:
Because this campaign encounter needed to feel urgent and frantic, we used a smaller playing area (the green bits) so we would be right in the thick of it from the get go. Our group entered in the Freelander from the east.
The crashed chopper is in the centre with one survivor still on his feet, protecting three out of the fight survivors from the zeds that were attracted by the crash (the fires and smoke bomb are just for effect and you can find an awesome video on how to make your own HERE).
The loan survivor holding position...
...as the hungry horde approaches.
Off we go! And here's some more mood music that we used for the encounter:
Wasting no time, Jim put his foot down, smashing the Freelander through the three zeds closest to the stricken crash survivors and bringing the SUV to a stop on the other side of the crashed chopper.
Sadie and Eddie dived out of the vehicle and each ran to the aid of an out of the fight survivor. They both picked up their respective wounded and pulled them back to the Freelander.
Sadie and Eddie extract the wounded
The last survivor falls back...
...as the horde closes in.
Jim hopped out of the driver's seat to provide cover fire for the survivor and between them they drop four approaching zeds.
Jim; getting it done
Sadie followed suit, killing a few feasting zeds and dead-checking their victim whilst everyone else made it back to the Freelander.
Sadie cleans up
With nobody left to rescue and wounded in need of attention, Jim got us out of there.
Aerial photograph of the crash site aftermath
A few bandages later and we'd patched the survivors up pretty good. The fella that was still conscious just introduced himself as "HANK" - must be some sorta' codename or call sign 'cause that's all he gave us - but he didn't tell us much more'n that until we got him to the Sheriff's station. Turns out HANK and his team were private security - "P-Sec", they called themselves - workin' for Prosperity Corporation. As it turned out, someone at Pro Corp had consolidated some fragments of the military and rolled 'em in with there own mercs as part of some countrywide reclamation initiative called Operation Roundhouse. The P-Sec boys were on a rescue op of their own when their chopper hit the skids. Lucky we were there, huh?
Final thoughts: This. Was. Awesome. The brevity of the encounter was totally mitigated by the cinematic moments that just kept hitting us in the face. It was a shame to lose a grunt but to be honest it just added to the flavour (pardon the pun). Eddie also bagged himself a Rep increase and we all made some new pals. Splendid times.
So the boys HANK and his team were lookin' for were a squad of marines designated "Zulu". Zulu squad had been doing long range reconnaissance in Bloom when their comms had gone dark. Their sole purpose was to gather intelligence on the densest areas of infection, survivor numbers, horder migrations...the whole shootin' match. Everything Pro Corp would need to take back the city. But something went south and Pro Corp needed that intel. Zulu's standing orders in the event of loss of communications or separation were to rendezvous for evac at Camp Hemsworth; the military base just outside of Springvale.
So using their last known position as a starting point, P-Sec were working their way into the county when they hit trouble. HANK told us that Hemsworth was the only place for miles with Sat Comm equipment capable of contacting the G.A. Romero, a re-purposed oil rig somewhere off the coast of Nova Scotia that Pro Corp were using as the staging area for Roundhouse. So the plan was to locate Zulu and the intel - dead or alive - and rally at Hemsworth. Once there, HANK could give 'em a sitrep and we'd all be getting a ride outa here to some safe zone in Halifax. That was the plan at least...
So we were searching for the four members of Zulu Squad, the wayward marines of Operation Roundhouse, in the hope of being rewarded with a chopper ride to safety.
It was agreed from this point on that any result of "Survivors", either from a PEF, searching a building etc. would be members of Zulu instead (until we'd found all four at least).
This was the point in the campaign that I wanted us to relax a bit and engage in more of the role playing elements found in All Things Zombie.
I left it up to Jim and Ross to decide where we should begin our search and they rationalised that the marines making there way across Spring County to Springvale might stick close to the highways in the hope of sequestering a vehicle.
So sticking with the same characters and with HANK and two P-Sec officers in tow, our next stop would be the rural roadside truck stop: The Okay Diner.
The Okay Diner: Truck and Rest Stop. Open all hours.
The group carried on using the Freelander and entered the board at full speed, pursued by three zeds. Eddie, HANK and Sadie fired out of the vehicle and dropped all three.
"That's the last of 'em"
Distracted by the shooting, Jim didn't notice the zed in the middle of the road ahead and instinctively swerved to avoid it.
Fortunately, Jim regained control of the SUV without incident and was composed enough to shoot four zeds dead with his shotgun once he'd parked around the side of the diner.
Exiting the vehicle, Eddie and Jim split up; Eddie moving to search the diner's delivery bay and Jim making his way toward the parked camper.
Ever the professional, HANK wanted to secure the diner (there was a PEF inside) but attractive free spirit Sadie stopped him. She reasoned that if there were people inside, her presence would be less alarming than three heavily armed mercenaries. Reluctantly agreeing, HANK and the P-Sec officers secured the perimeter, leaving Sadie to enter alone.
Inside the diner, Sadie was greeted by a friendly survivor named Bridges. Enquiring about the lost members of Zulu (People Challenge), Sadie is told that some "soldier types" had come through the area less than twelve hours ago. We were on the right track so we increased the Encounter Rating for Spring County by 1, making it easier to get a Contact! result from a PEF or similar.
NOTE: I know I said that we would be treating 'Survivors' results as Zulu squad members but we ran into an unexpected snag. We were using the All Things Zombie Risks & Rewards Deck and there are some cards that have 'yellow' vampire, caster or werewolf results on them. That's what we drew for the diner so from then on I decided to let the D6 decide whether one of these 'yellow' results was (1-2) gangers, (3-4) suvivors or (5-6) Zulu. We rolled a "4" and got Bridges.
Sadie hits it off with Bridges and gets us closer to finding Zulu
Outside, with Bridges having already cleared out the diner's delivery bay, Eddie found the place empty apart from a few tins of beans (1 food unit). Leaving the sparse storeroom, Eddie checked the parked Golf nearby and found it still had fuel in the tank (4 fuel units).
Not empty! Eddie siphons the tank
Sadie and her new friend leave the diner behind
Something for the road
Jim's searched the camper and...dun, dun, dun...it was our lucky day! Sgt Coombs and Cpl Harris of Zulu squad were resting inside!
Always in the last place you look
Final thoughts: The general consensus was that this was the most enjoyable game we had played so far and it still sticks in my mind as one of my favourites to date. It may not have translated well in the report (I hope it has, though) but there was a very real feeling of safety and seclusion in this encounter. The zeds were around but far enough away not to be an immediate threat and the chance to forage freely and interact with some new characters was incredibly thematic considering our objective. This was a prime example of what ATZ is all about; it was easy to set up, quick to play and satisfyingly productive. Sometimes the game really throws you a bone. So now, not only did the group have a guiding purpose - the promise of evacuation - but we'd found half of Zulu squad and HANK and Eddie both increased their Rep to 6.
Two down, two to go! We could almost taste that chopper ride. That angel of deliverance we'd hoped for all these months. Zulu had split up back in Bloom and gotten themselves separated whilst fightin' that last big horde - the same one that drove us outa camp - that descended on the city. Coombs and Harris had been en route to Hemsworth when we found 'em and if their boys were still alive, they would be doin' the same thing. And the sarge had managed to hang onto the sealed document tube containing the intel all this fuss was about. We guessed we'd find out if it was all worth it soon enough.
NOTE: Before we move on I should explain some action from behind the scenes. We, the players, had all agreed that it would have made sense for our group to split up in their search - just like Zulu had - in order to improve the chances of success. However, we had lots of food and fuel now, both on us and back at Bloom HQ (so much that I actually gave up on bookkeeping at this point), and it would be more than enough to get another team of our survivors out to Spring County instead. So it was that our rescue team radioed back to Lily Ave and got another team to head out in the Camaro to look for Zulu and rendezvous with us at Camp Hemsworth.
This encounter begins with our secondary band of survivors, A.J., Ted and Al, driving into the little one-horse town of Roseville in rural Spring County, consisting simply of an intersection, (from the north-east corner moving clockwise), a garage, a bar, a deli and a gun shop (sorry, I didn't take a photo).
A.J. throttled the Camaro through the centre of the town, splattering one zombie under its wheels and just missing two more. As he turned right at the intersection, who did they see? Private Kowalski of Zulu squad, just standing on the middle of the road (PEF > Contact! > Survivors)! This was getting too easy.
Dodging the zeds...
...and spotting Kowalski.
Not believing their luck, A.J. pulled the Camaro over next to the deli and got out to meet the marine (who spent a few turns rooted to the spot as he refused to activate).
A.J. parks the Camaro...
...and hurries Kowalski along.
Back at the deli, Ted peeks inside in the hope of finding a snack. He unwittingly catches a female ganger inside, trying to relieve a recently killed cop of his body armour. The ganger didn't attack but she made it pretty clear with her still-smoking Tec 9 that Ted ought to turn around and mind his own business. Not wanting any trouble, Ted left, closing the door behind him.
The ganger warns Ted off
Outside the Camaro, three zeds were getting a little too close for Al so she fired up her chainsaw and cut them all down. Unfortunately, her weapon got so gunked up that it stalled.
Al keeps the car clean but stalls her chainsaw
Finally able to get the marine moving, A.J. and Kowalski searched the bar on the corner. A.J. was surprised to find another ganger inside. Clearly the scattered remains of the Lil' Kings had made their way to Spring County. A.J. scored lower in the In Sight Test but is left unharmed by the ganger's clumsy revolver fire. Feeling the deadly magnum rounds zip through his hair, A.J. reacted and double-tapped the ganger in the chest, killing him instantly.
A.J. scores lower in the In Sight Test...
...but he's too fly for that guy. Yo' daaaamn right.
Back outside the deli, the female ganger finished looting the former peace officer's vest and left the building.
Still by the Camaro, Al saw the smug ganger and the bloodstained BPD body armour, flawlessly re-started her chainsaw and took the murderous thief Out of the Fight. Only Al could hear the ganger's last gurgling pleas for mercy as she finished her off with her pistol.
'Overkill' Al strikes again
Ted looked across the road and saw a zed trying to get into the gun shop. More than a little nervous about standing too close to Al anyway, he headed over and casually knocked the dead-head to the ground.
With no success in picking the lock (Savvy Challenge) or kicking the door down (Physical Challenge), Ted shot the lock with his B.A.P. and pushed the gun shop door open, finding Bridges and Phil inside.
Bridges and Phil, gathering supplies
NOTE: Once again we had drawn a 'yellow' card and rolled up (3-4) Survivors so to make things interesting I had Ross roll 2D6 against the Encounter Rating of the area. If he scored two passes then the survivors were new people, randomly generated. However, two failures would mean it was someone we had already met. This would continue to work as it made the likelihood of meeting strangers in the busier urban areas more likely than in the sparsely populated countryside. Suffice to say, it worked really well here as Ross scored two failures and we ended up randomly choosing Bridges and Phil from our list of NPCs.
Now, I know neither of these characters had met this group before but we operated on the assumption that there was some form of regular communication between the police factions and our groups, allowing for a sort of call and response for friendly characters to identify themselves ("Thunder!" "Flash!"...you get the idea).
Anyway, this led us down a completely unexpected side avenue to the story so here is some bonus narrative to flesh it out for you:
Bridges had stayed behind at the Sheriff's station when the others had left for Camp Hemsworth. The old fella used to be Texas DPS, Ranger Division and Sally and Officer Diggs needed a guy like him. See, things were starting to get pretty hairy back in Bloom. The horde was getting closer again so Diggs and Ramirez reached out to the Sheriffs to see if they could round up some trustworthy folks who'd be willin' to exchange able hands for three hots and a cot. And off Bridges went back into the county to find any friendly enclaves that could use a change of scene. Alone! Brave sum'bitch. He'd already found Phil and Maya from Springvale and was making his way back to Bloom when we met.
Ted asked Bridges if he wanted to come with us but the old ranger explains that he can't (see above) so Ted asked if he had seen our final missing marine (Hard People Challenge) and in this at least Bridges came good. The marine was in Roseville! That only left one more place to look: the garage.
Ted welcomes PFC Jones to the band
With all of Zulu present and accounted for, there was nothing left to do but reunite with our friends at Camp Hemsworth.
Final thoughts: This was another incredibly enjoyable encounter, both in terms of its unexpected outcome and the random occurrences and story development throughout. Everything went better than I had imagined it would and it threw up some awesome new material for games further down the line. Anyone else want to see Bridges ride solo across the countryside, looking for our friends? I do. And to top off an already outstanding result, the borderline psychopathic Al was bumped up to Rep 6.
We all met up at Hemsworth and as we looked at the camp from a distance things were eerily quiet but the signs of recent battle still showed on her canvases. Then we saw what was left of the camp's personnel shambling between the tents.
“If comms are still up, then I doubt anybody’s using ‘em,” HANK surmised “We do this slow and smooth, okay?”
We all agreed and carefully set off toward the camp.
This brings us to the final game of Act 3 and the penultimate game of the entire campaign. I would like to point out that this was the point that we (the players) were feeling our worst. It was well into the wee, small hours of the morning and we had been awake for more than 24 hours at this stage. Thankfully, it was a straightforward game and we didn't have a huge amount of thinking to do.
We had to choose one of each of our survivors to head back to Bloom, leaving us with Jim, Ted and Eddie to help assault the camp.
Our bolstered band - now ten strong with three survivors, four marines and three P-Sec mercs - entered the south-west corner of the board with the camp situated in the north-east. Lots of player characters meant lots of zeds...but we were tooled up and ready to go.
Camp Hemsworth from the air
Our group approach from the south-west
Oh, we listened to this. And you should too:
We split up, with Jim heading north alone, Eddie and the marines moving east and Ted, HANK and the P-Sec officers guarding the rear against any zeds generated by gunfire.
Eddie and Zulu pushed forward, unleashing hell on the closest group of zeds; Zulu shooting three dead and Eddie throwing his Bowie knife, which plunged through another's eye socket.
In a frenzy of gunfire and katana swings, Jim, P-Sec and Ted - Ted broke ranks and went on a rampage of Kill Bill-esque proportions - decimated the rest of the zeds on the table leaving just five of the original number (D3 per character...I didn't write down the exact number) standing in camp.
Every turn of activation saw the groups push further towards the camp, zeds falling under a hail of hot lead as they went. And any dead-heads attracted by the battle had the might of HANK and P-Sec to contend with.
The group divides and Eddie and Zulu lay it down. "Stay frosty, people."
Aftermath of the initial assault
Eddie and Zulu move on...and Eddie retrieves his knife
P-Sec are the unwavering rearguard
Ted goes crazy (88)
After the devastating incursions on each front the group had easy access to the camp proper.
Eddie and Zulu formed up on the south side of Camp Hemsworth and guarded against the zeds that emerged from between the tents (PEFs).
Jim hopped up on the mounted machine gun of one of the Humvees parked in the northern quarter and gleefully slaughtered all of the zeds that had gathered in the centre of camp.
With the area secure, Ted began searching the tents for the Sat Comm gear.
NOTE: The mechanic we used for searching the tents was as follows: Each tent would be searched just like a building. Once any combats or meet & greets had been resolved we would roll a D6, subtracting '1' from the roll for every tent searched previously. On a result of "1" we had found the Sat Comm gear.
Inside the first tent, Ted found the camp's Commanding Officer and a Spec Ops bodyguard...and he rolled a "1" so the Sat Comm gear was in there too, presumably being manned by one of the tent's occupants.
The pair in the tent were friendly and they allowed us to use the Sat Comm gear as soon as Eddie, Zulu and P-Sec had mopped up the remaining zeds in the area.
Permission to use the phone, sir?
And that brought a somewhat abrupt end to the game and Act 3.
Aerial view of the camp reclaimed.
The signal wasn't great but HANK relayed his verification code and the voice on the other end seemed satisfied. After giving the Romero the run-down of the last few days' events, the voice over the Sat Comm asked for confirmation of the Zulu intel. Sergeant Coombs patted the document case hanging over his shoulder and proffered his own code and once again the Romero acknowledged their receipt. The voice then relayed coordinates for our extraction; the highest building in downtown Bloom...
The safe house.
Whatever they said next didn't matter. The pause before they said it was enough to crush our spirits.
“Most of our birds are in-country right now, Zulu. Whiskey One Niner can make the exfil from Bloom but you’ll have to hurry. Fuel's low enough as is so she won’t be able to wait around. Confirm?”
“Roger, Romero. We’ll be there.” HANK was ready to sign off when,
"One more thing, Zulu," the voice sounded more human then somehow, "Whiskey One Niner wasn't designed to carry a lot of passengers...and with fuel so low..." the voice trailed off. Our hearts hit the grass as the Romero delivered the deathblow,
"...she can only carry three of the civvies at most, Zulu...Confirm?"
So with a little injection of scandal at the end there (gasp!) I will leave you to ponder the events of Act 3. This was a big one but we had such a great collection of games. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. See you in a bit for the final act (and the final game).
Catch up on all of the Safe House action below: