Shambling Towards the Board #2 (The Long Treck to Creating the Game 'Dead Things')

DM Fitzgerald

Turn Order One of the first things I wanted to do was to make this a game where you are playing against the system not each other. The problem with that is using a normal turn order puts the game at a disadvantage since the players can out think most program based turn orders, or they get too complicated.

Using the Move Deck allowed the players to have an idea of what is going to happen, but not anything they can plan on too much. Basically each human gets 3 cards in the move deck, when their turn comes up the character gets to move. When a zombie card come up they get to move. The Move Deck also determines when the turn actually ends and when new zombies are added. I love this mechanic and the game started to build itself around the mechanic, which is a good sign. However no plan or mechanic survives play test... I liked the card mechanic but playtest showed some problems. Originally each character moved when their personal card came up and the rest of the characters didn’t. This was a great idea on paper but it sucked when it was play tested. Because there are so many cards that deal with zombie movement and placement the players were getting a turn once in a while, the rest of the time they moved the games tokens around. The players watched as the game played itself. Even when a character got to move the others didn't so there was very little coordination between the players. To fix this I cut down the number of Zombie Move Cards and Add Zombie cards. I cut the number of player move cards down but put all of the humans on each card, but the turn order is different on each card, since you can’t hold your move you have to move when you can. This pretty much fixed it, but it took a long time to get the fix in place.

I still think that the Move Deck is one of the things that makes Dead Things a cool game to play and pretty challenging. The board The rules have changed a bit but not as much as the board of the game. When I first started designing the scenarios for Dead Things I envisioned a game with three separate stories and three boards. The first would be "Get to the Car" basically a race out of the mall. Followed by "Gas and Were out of Here" a street scene and finally "Home" The inside of a huge house. There was also a fourth that was cut very early called "The Lab" which didn't get beyond basic drawing.

Three boards was beyond the budget I had for the game and after a lot of thought I cut it down to one big board. The board was HUGE about 5X5 feet and covered the small town of Paradise. The streets and such were built using the City of Mayhem from WorldWorks. I had to scrap that idea early since I figured I couldn't afford to buy the rights from World Works, also who was going to buy a game with a board so big? Going back to square one I made a smaller board that was 2x2 but it was still too big. Finally ending up with the 8x11 inch board.

Even with a small board there were some problems, the first being where do the zombies spawn. When I was working on the 5x5 version the idea was to have zombies spawn at cross roads, but that seemed kind of dumb, so I tossed it. Part of the problem was that zombies spawning everywhere meant that some wouldn't get into play and would just end up being something the players had to move around.

I decided on a "phased" approach to zombie entrance. Numbering the board with Z1 - Z6 squares the zombies came on to the board based on the turn it was. So on turn 1 zombies came in on spaces labeled Z1 etc. That means as the characters move there are always zombies ready to meet them. Additionally since lower level Z spaces are also filled when zombies are added, zombies would provide pressure from behind. Play test show that this worked really well, characters have a hard time outrunning the zombies and need to work together in order to survive. Somone had the idea of putting pieces of garbage on the board corresponding to the turn that zombies appeared there, this gives the board a more streamlined look.

Want to so how we did? Take a look at the Dead Things page: