Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Bad Day at the Outpost (New ATZ Melee rules test)

Private Boothe checked her pistol again, shaking her head in disgust at the half dozen rounds she had left.  "If those things attack I'm dead!"  She exclaimed.
"Calm down."  Sergeant Hanson said in a gravely voice.  "You're here to drive the Hummer.  Corporal Lewis and I will make sure you're fine."  Looking into the morning gloom around the trenches the trio were stationed in Hanson had a bad feeling.  "It's awfully calm out there..."
With a crackle of static the radio came to life on the nearby table.  "All sectors, plan white!  I say again, plan white!"  The radio went silent as gunfire and explosions suddenly broke the morning calm. 
"Well hell."  Hanson said, unslinging his rifle.  "Seems this day is ruined."
"What is plan white?" Corporal Lewis asked, copying the sergeant and checking his rifle.
"We're being overrun by those things."  Hanson shouldered his rucksack.  "We're on our own now.  Let's leg it to the Hummer, Boothe, get us out of here!"
"Sarge, I think those things are already nearby!"  Lewis said looking out of the trenches.  As the morning light grew brighter, he could see massive amounts of figures in the distance.  "There's a million of 'em!"
"Crap.  We gotta be as quiet as we can until we get to the truck."  Hanson fitted his bayonet to his rifle.  "Let's do this quick."
The start of a bad day
Instead of just changing in the campaign, I have a quick scenario to test out the new melee rules tweaks from Ed at Two Hour Wargames.  The changes seem pretty straightforward, I'm hoping to give them a decent workout.  If you haven't had a chance to download the rules, I suggest getting them, but I will try and relate what is happening as I go through the report.

The scenario will force a large number of zeds into close contact with the living.  It is Day 35, this military post is being overrun by zombies and the action will follow a small observation/guard group as they try to escape.  There will be no special events, zombies will automatically spawn from all noise, 1d6 zombies will enter each end of the roadway at the end of each zombie turn.  All zombies will spawn inside of the the fences, basically on the road or in the trench area.  Nine zombies start on the table and there is one PEF beside the Hummer, which will be a group of 6 zombies when it is triggered.  The PEF won't move, it will just stay still until triggered.

The group consists of:
Sergeant Hanson (rep 5, Assault rifle, bayonet, BAP, Protected) *Star
Corporal Lewis (rep 4, Assault rifle, bayonet, grenade, Protected)
Private Boothe (rep 3, Pistol, knife, Protected) Has 'driver' special ability - can automatically start the Hummer and counts rep +1 for driving checks

From the new rules it appears zombies are going to be rep 3.  I am leaving the zombies as a base rep of 4 for this report, as the evidence I have is just one mention in an example on the summary card.  As ammo is a concern, nobody will fire when charged, but instead will go straight to melee.  (Besides, I am trying to have as much hand to hand as possible!)

Turn one activation: Humans 4, Zombies 2

With three zombies solo in the trenches, each model moves to fight one zombie each.  This will also give me a decent test of the three different character setups.
Lewis is up first, his rep 4, plus a 2 handed weapon (rifle with bayonet) and being protected gives him 7d6 in melee, versus the zombie's 4d6.

Lewis Attacks!
and rolls well
Lewis rolls three successes to two for the zombie.  He gets one additional success for fighting a zombie, but doesn't need it.  Each success over the zombies equals a kill.  He handles the zombie easily.
Sergeant Hanson and Private Boothe both do well, handling their opponents.  On the zombie's activation, two zeds charge the sergeant and Private Boothe. 
Sergeant Hanson handles his attackers easily, with three more successes than the zeds.  Boothe has to fight a bit more to get through hers...  Boothe rolls 5d6 for melee (rep 3, plus 1d for 1 hand melee weapon and plus 1d for protected), the zombies get 5d6 as well (rep 4 zombie, plus 1d for second zed).  It's a pretty even match.
Blurry action in the trench
Boothe wins by 1
Boothe by 1 again!
The first round of melee was even, with both sides rolling two successes.  Boothe gets an automatic +1 success for being alive versus the undead, and wins by one.  This eliminates one zed, and the melee continues, with the zombies loosing 1 die.  The second round of melee goes much like the first, with Boothe winning thanks to the human bonus success. 

Completing the melee in the turn is a change I must say I like, it makes the game move along much more quickly.

Turn two activation: Humans 3 Zombies 5 (no activation)

Hanson charges a lone zombie in front of him, clearing the way to the Hummer.  His 8 dice in melee is pretty impressive.  Corporal Lewis moves up to the Hummer and springs the PEF.
What's over here?

Cpl Lewis fires on the zombies!
Corporal Lewis fires his assault rifle into the zeds, killing two.  His shots will summon three more, but at least they will be further away to start next turn!  Boothe decides to run back and stay close to Sgt Hanson, in a more clear area for now.
Boothe decides to stay with sarge
Turn three activation : Zombies 4, Humans 2

The zombies surge forward the next turn, a group of two (from the shots last turn) move towards Hanson and Boothe with a group of four following close behind them.
It seemed safer just a minute ago...
Near the Hummer, the zombies swarm into Lewis.  I had misjudged the distance behind Lewis to a lone zombie on the road, and it added into the melee.  He was facing five zombies!
Lewis is surrounded
Lewis is rolling 7d6 for melee (rep 4, plus two handed weapon, plus protected) the zombies start at 8d6 (4d6 for first zed, plus 4d6 for four additional zombies).  This fight unfolds over a few rounds of melee.
Lewis wins by 2 (thanks to the bonus success!)
Three zombies left
Lewis wins by one.  Thank you bonus!
Two zeds seems easier
Lewis finishes them off easily
Lewis held up pretty well, once he managed to get ahead in dice, even with a 'bad' round of dice, the bonus success kept him killing zombies.  Luckily he's well armed and protected too.
Sarge takes out two more
At the end of the turn, Hanson had taken out two more zeds near the hummer, Boothe gets in the truck and gets it started and Lewis joins her.  The group should be able to drive to safety next turn.

Turn four activation: Zombies 3, Humans 1
Zombie surge!
Ahh, what is that about plans and contact with the enemy?  Zombies stream forward activating first, and four of them crash into Sergeant Hanson.  A large group behind the hummer can't quite get to the truck, so sarge is on his own for melee this turn.
Sarge faces tough odds
Sarge is still rolling 8d6 for melee (rep 5, 2 handed weapon, protected) and the zombies are rolling 7d6 (rep 4 plus 3 extra zombies).  Sarge has the advantage by one die.  Things don't start all that great...
A tie.  Hmmm, now what?
A tie is not mentioned in the summary for the new melee rules.  I assume that all parties just proceed to another round of combat.  Unlike previous editions there isn't any additional dice for 'Evenly Matched'.  I just re roll the combat and continue to fight rounds of hand to hand.
Oops.  Sarge looses by 1.
The zombies win by 1 success.  Rolling for their damage (see the chart) I roll a 6, Sergeant Hanson reduces his rep by 1.
When I first read this, I thought the zombies were rolling against their TOTAL success, not the difference.  It's an interesting idea - a large number of zombies, or even just multiple zombies could kill someone pretty quickly rolling against their total not the difference.  I may consider that for a house rule, if I am feeling particularly sadistic...
Sarge is down 1 rep
Epic comeback starts right here
One zed down, three to go
Sarge wins by 2 (thanks bonus!)
Last zombie to go
Now the dice roll well!
Sergeant Hanson clears the street.
Under the new rules, if a human looses any round of combat with a zed, after the combat on their next activation, they must make a 'Harry are you okay?' check.  This is rolling 1d and adding it to the character's rep.  On a 9+ they are okay, otherwise they will turn into a zombie on the next activation that comes up double equal to their rep.  (The turning process is new compared to FFO, it gives some uncertainty to when a character may turn.)
Not Hanson's day.
Sergeant Hanson is infected.  He elects not to get to the truck and instead charges and kills a pair of zombies that didn't quite make it to melee last turn.  Boothe guns the Hummer forward, running down two zombies in the process.  I handled the Hummer versus zombies per the existing FFO rules (roll vs bash).
Looks like two of them will escape
Turn five activation: Humans 3, Zombies 2
The Hummer is moving, so as an active, moving vehicle, it moves first and exits the table.  I decide to play out the sergeants last turns before he becomes a zombie or is killed.  He fights for a couple of turns, moving to the middle of the road before his rifle runs out of ammo.  Then we get this situation:
Alone and surrounded
I may be interpreting the rule wrong, but it seems that all zombies that can make contact from charging will charge and add into the combat.  The rules are as follows:
If I interpret the first bullet point to mean all the zombies within 6" (the zombie charge range) add into a combat, it means that weight of numbers from zombies has become very dangerous.  I like the idea of this, zombies in large groups would be a monstrous force to deal with, and having them all add into a melee simulates this pretty well.
For our scenario, I did a rough mark out of a 6" radius around Sergeant Hanson below:
That's a lot of zombies
I moved all the zombies in charge radius first to form a mass around the sergeant.  This was a total of 12 zombies.  Sarge is still rolling 8d6, the zombies this time will roll an impressive 15d6 (4d6 from rep, plus 11d6 for extra zombies).
Sarge looses by 1
The first roll off was actually very close.  Hanson rolled 6 successes, giving him a total of 7 with the bonus success.  The zombies got a (slightly above) statistical average 8 successes.  Sarge looses one rep from this beating, and never recovers...
Ouch, loosing by 5
Sergeant Hanson is knocked out of the fight and eaten by the zombie horde.  What a horrible end for his day.

The new rules did prove to be pretty well streamlined.  Even dragging out the sergeants demise only added about 10 minutes to the play through time.  I like the idea of finishing off a melee in a turn, no more just having an endless hand to hand combat between a survivor and a zombie just because the dice decide I can't kill the damn zed.  I'm still not sure if I will switch the campaign over right away, or wait until I can get ATZ: Fade to Black.


  1. It was good to see you giving the new melee rules a fair crack of the whip. I've used them in a few practice sessions and prefer them to the old rules. As you say, they make melee combat far more streamlined and it can no longer drag on for multiple turns.
    Although it might appear that humans have a big advantage in melee there are checks and balances in place. Most notable is the fact that if the human doesn't kill all zombie opponents in the first round then he may be infected. This could be from a bite, a scratch or even from a blood splatter. Shooting zeds is still safer than meleeing with them.

    1. Keeping the game moving is a good thing, and so far I do like the rules. Is there a further rule about ongoing combat that isn't mentioned in the short summary Ed put out? The only danger I see is if a human looses a round of melee...
      Either way, it's nice to see some good changes, it makes me hopeful for Fade to Black. I'm hoping more of the rules get some streamlining.

    2. There are no further melee combat rules, Steve. A melee fight continues until one side is Obviously Dead or Out Of the Fight.
      Just to let you know that in ranged combat there is an important change on the damage table. Roll 1d6 as normal. If the result is 1, the target is Obviously Dead. If the result is Impact or less but not a 1, the target is Out Of the Fight. The big change comes here - if the roll is higher than the weapon's Impact, the target will Duck Back. It no longer is knocked down and has to to take an immediate Recover From Knocked Down test.

    3. I forgot to mention that if the roll for damage in ranged fire is higher than the weapon's Impact, zombies don't Duck Back but Carry On.

    4. Interesting on the ranged combat changes. Are zombies still "easy to kill" in that you roll under your rep they are dead? Also, are there any knocked down results anymore?

      Great to see the game getting streamlined, hopefully it will continue to be a great rule set! (I'm sure it will)

    5. The "Easy To Kill" rules still remain and are unchanged.
      Knocked Down results are gone now.
      Reaction tests are now reduced to Received Fire, Man Down, Zed or No Zed and See the Feast. Most times you'll only be using Received Fire and Man Down. Once again, this helps make the game more streamlined.
      I approve of the changes but I still want to keep the Skills and Challenges as they give the game more of a role-playing feel.

    6. I agree on keeping the skills, it definitely gives it more of an RPG feel. I'll be curious to see the changes when I get a chance to get FTB.

  2. Interesting mate, I'll be using them myself later today so will see

    1. Can't wait to hear what you think of them!

  3. Hmm, I quite like melee stretching out over (potentially) many turns; it gives a chance for either side to reinforce, or to get bogged down! Having said that, these changes are a great improvement over the published ATZ-FFO version, I think.

    1. I agree, part of me does like the multi round melee, but it can drag out a game and make it less enjoyable as well. Keeping the game moving is worth the change, and I think it will be a good improvement overall.

  4. That was a very interesting play-test of the new rules (from the final, finalm final version ?)as I've yet to look at fully at the consequences of using them in my games. I tend to calculate the mathematical odds of outcomes rather than try and figure them out by trialing rules (because I'm like that and I can). From my reading of the rue;es (old and new)I think the 6" charge into contact rule is for zeds that actually could make it into mele when they move, not just because they've moved within 6".
    The infection possibility rule for being in melee with zeds issomething I've had in my rules for a long time, though it's a little different in application.

    1. Hahahaha! (Final, Final, Final version!)

      I am not sure on the 6" charge, as it maxes out the zombies at about 5 models in base to base contact. I was reading it as more of a mass wave of zombies, hence I figured all the zombies that can charge (within 6") pile into the melee. I'd say they would split up if there was more than one survivor in the area. My final example may have been a bit harsh... I maybe wrong, but it does give weight of numbers a significant advantage, especially if zombies are only rep 3. I think looking at the odds, it improves the survivors chances at fewer numbers and lower dice, but makes a 'huge' horde lethal.

      The chance for infection from loosing a round makes sense, I was worried it was a chance just from fighting. The "harry" rule is really tough on survivors, it's at best a 50% chance to survive. As it stands, I think its good.

    2. IIRC the maximum amout of figures that can melee a single figure is 4 (I use a six maximum). Many of the FFO rukles don't hang together well imo.

    3. I believe you are correct, there is a limit to 4 figs that can melee another figure at a single time. I like the idea of a zombie horde being able to swarm over survivors...

      The new melee rules do seem pretty good though. I'll probably start using them in my campaign.

  5. Nice run down of how things play out. Seems to make a lot of sense with how it played out in this instant.

    1. The rules do work out pretty well. I just need to remember to actually read and follow them!