Zombie Cinema and Lady Blackbird were the most popular games in the Indie Gaming Lounge on SävCon X with five plays each.
Since we had brought ZC several years already, and it was very popular we had intended to not offer it at all this year. But we got two new hosts, who both love the game, so we kept it for another year.
ZC is one of the games I have played the most in the last years, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on actual play.
We pitch the game not as ‘a zombie RPG’, but as ‘a zombie movie RPG’, and it is popular both with beginners and veteran players. Since the rules are very simple and easy to explain, and the players make the setting together before play starts the time from sitting down to actually playing the game is very short.
On SävCon we have players that have returned every year and asked for it again. But this year I forced them to play Love in the Time of Seið instead, the IGL is about finding new favorites, not playing old ones!
Start with building the setting. Make sure to have a setting and a situation that would be interesting even without zombies. ZC works the best if you first play it as another kind of story, and then have the zombies appear. Don’t start from a stand still and let the story linger while you wait for the zombies to come on so that you can get the action started. The PCs should already be doing stuff important to them when the zombies appear.
Then build characters the usual way. Make it clear to the players that it is perfectly fine to swap out cards that they don’t like, or even to trade cards with other players. Extend the character generation with building small name signs for the PCs from scraps of paper. Since there are no character sheets it is easy to forget the names of the other PCs, or even your own. The signs solve this problem.
Do the first round of scenes as pure introductions of the PCs, don’t bother with the conflicts and don’t advance the zombies. This is just practice at setting scenes and at the same time we learn what the PCs are like.
Once the first round of scenes is done, set up the game board, explain how to read it and how to do conflicts.
Now you can start playing by the book, or in the case of ZC ‘by the dark gray sheet with tiny black print’.
My advice is to keep the zombies out of the story entirely until the first PC is eaten by them. Play the game, follow the situation that you set up while you decided upon the setting. Let the PCs follow their own agendas. Listen to APAP #14 for an example of how this works.
If you should find yourself as a zombie player, know that the stories get more interesting when the players are forced to let the PCs have conflicts with each other in order to advance. Dodge open conflict, attack or threaten NPCs rather than PCs.
Don’t forget the epilogues, they wrap up the game nicely.
www.arkenstonepublishing.net/zombiecinema – Official Zombie Cinema page.