Wednesday, 16 November 2011

LOST IN THE WILDERNESS: A Conversation by Firelight

JACK: Is the boy asleep?
BILL: Yes. At last. Mai Ling’s looking over him for now.
JACK: Your au pair, right?
BILL: Uh huh. I’m not sure he’s really accepted his mum and his sister are gone. (SIGHS) I’m not sure I have.
JACK: Sit down. The fire’s not huge but it’s warm enough, and we reckon the cliff here should block the view of it enough with the undergrowth.
BILL: Where’s Jensen?
JACK: Prowling around, keeping watch. We still don’t know…
BILL: How many of those things there are out there. I know. Christ; what the hell is happening?
JACK: I wish I knew.
BILL: Have you seen anything to give you any idea?
JACK: No. Nothing. I haven’t got the first clue what has happened to the world.
BILL: When did it start happening? For you I mean.
JACK: Yesterday. I think. It seems a lot longer. Though I was unconscious for some of that. Maybe I’ve lost track. I don’t know.
BILL: Do you mind my asking…?
JACK: How it started?
BILL: Yeah.
JACK: Well… Not a happy story. I was on a road trip with some friends.
BILL: You and Jensen?
JACK: Nope. He came later. There were five of us. Friends from college. Me, my… girlfriend.
BILL: (PAUSE) You don’t have to talk about it.
JACK: No, I’m fine. Really. I guess I just haven’t had time to think about it until now. But I guess it doesn’t matter, right? It’s just about survival for now. There isn’t time for anything else.
BILL: I don’t know about that.
JACK: Short version: We were on a road trip. We stopped in a town that turned out to be infested with those zombies. Zombies of all things! What the hell is going on!?
BILL: I wish I knew.
JACK: Everyone but me and a friend were killed. We had to leave on foot. We hooked up with some other survivors, including Jensen, but everyone was killed again.
BILL: Except you two.
JACK: Yeah. Not zombies this time. Who knows what. These bald… cannibalistic… I don’t know. Ghouls? And these massive white hounds. Huge things. Real bad asses. I saw one smash through a wooden barrier then rip my friend apart.
BILL: Good God.
JACK: They dragged Jensen and me back to their den to – I don’t know – eat us or something. Then left us there.
BILL: Under guard?
JACK: Sort of. It was in a swamp. There were these bugs. Gigantic slug things and cockroaches.
BILL: But you got away.
JACK: Yeah. Not sure how really. We heard gunfire and the bugs… went to check it out I guess. I don’t know. We just ran. Then a couple of miles further on we saw you.
BILL: Yeah.
JACK: We were headed for the same manor house you were. I still don’t even know where the hell I am! Do you know?
BILL: I thought I did, but…
JACK: What?
BILL: For the last hour of driving… The sat nav stopped—It couldn’t acquire satellites. The map I brought up manually from our last position didn’t match the roads we were on. (PAUSE) What are you thinking?
JACK: Maybe that… I wonder if that, right there, is the biggest piece of the puzzle I’ve found so far.
BILL: The sat nav?
JACK: Yeah. That maybe there's something bigger going on. You know? 

BILL: I don't know. All of this... I just don't know what to make of it.

JACK: (PAUSE) What happened to you? How did you get into this mess?
BILL: My family and I… We were going on holiday.
JACK: You must be loaded.
BILL: Why would you think that?
JACK: The au pair.
BILL: Mai Ling? No Not really. Just lucky. (PAUSE) Or not, all things considered. (PAUSE) We stayed at a hotel in a little village next to a river. Beautiful place. View of a watermill right outside our window. We were having a great time. Everything was perfect. Day one. On day two, we woke up and every last person in that hotel had been slaughtered. Everyone in the village.
JACK: By what?
BILL: I don’t know.
JACK: Still? You didn’t see anything?
BILL: We got the hell out of there. Bodies everywhere; torn apart. Dozens. Hundreds in all. Every single one ripped to shreds or... broken in half. We just drove.
JACK: Shit.
BILL: And the next village? The same. But these had been dead for longer. And there were zombies there. We barely made it out of there alive. (PAUSE) But we managed to get ourselves some weapons. Guns and other stuff.
JACK: I still don’t have one.
BILL: And that’s getting to be a problem. I don’t know how many shotgun shells I have left but it isn’t many.
JACK: Jensen is almost out too.
BILL: See, what if this isn’t localized? What if it’s happening everywhere?
JACK: It can’t be. Surely. We just need to get somewhere with people. Get to the city.
BILL: How can we even do that? We don’t have the car now. We used up two or three times as much ammunition trying to… getting away from those zombies… as we’ve got left. I don’t think we could survive another encounter.
JACK: We have to. We have to keep going. Find a main road. Or a phone that works. Get out of the wilderness. These fields and woods can’t go on forever if we just keep heading in one direction.
BILL: But zombies? Ghouls? Giant slugs? Whatever God-forsaken thing killed the people in our hotel? Or whatever else is out there waiting? We can’t—How can we hope to survive against that kind of opposition?
JACK: (PAUSE) I don’t know. Maybe… Maybe we just don’t think about that. Maybe all we think about is what we’re doing now. how we’re going to survive the next few minutes. And the few minutes after that. And we keep heading east.
BILL: East? Why east?
JACK: Because that’s where the sun is going to rise. (PAUSE) And I for one want to be alive to see it. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

LOST IN THE WILDERNESS: Drive for your Life!

The entire Wilson family sat in stoney silence as Bill accelerated toward the horde of undead as it clambered onto the road up ahead off the fields to the right.


"We're going to make it."

"Bill... They're going to block the road.We'll never get through."

"We're going to make it Sally. Shut up and let me drive!"

He hammered down on the accelerator. The car sped up. The walking dead had come from nowehere but they had clearly seen the car approach; were clearly trying to block them.

"We're going to make it!"



The car shot through the gap the zombies were trying to close in the country road, clipping one and sending it reeling back into the shambling crowd. 

Bill laughed and cheered but in the back of the car, his little daughter Carly was sobbing, pressed up against the bosom of their au pair, Mai Ling. Her brother Rick sat beside them, tiny hands clenched into white fists on his bare knees. Sally, Bill's wife stared back at them over the front seat and beyond them through the glass at the undead horde filling the road in their wake.

"That was too close."

Bill swerved, trying to avoid the stone wall on the side of the lane opposite an overgrown T-junction.

"Slow down Bill. We're past them now."

"I need to keep the speed up; get well clear."

"They're on foot. They'll never catch us now. Slow down."

He sighed. "Okay."

To the left of the road lay a creepy-looking old manor. Sally watched it with blank foreboding as the car ran on down the narrow lane. Then suddenly she was thrown forward against her seatbelt, the cry she tried to issue cut off by the sudden lack of air.

The car skidded, twisting, before it came to a stop and all of them looked forward. Nobody spoke, but Bill started shaking his head, trying to negate what he was seeing out there.

The lane ahead was packed with zombies; a horde even bigger than the one they'd passed.

For a long scraping moment they simply watched, the zombies not even seeming to notice them. Then gnarled heads started to turn their way; rotting faces blinking vacantly. And then the horde started to move; started to shamble their way; blocking the road impossibly densely and eliminating all hope that they could use the car as a battering ram.


He jammed it into reverse. "I know! Hold on!"

The car swung back and round, cracking against the stone wall at the edge of the lane. For an interminable second Bill's heart sank, realising that the car's bumper was caught on the ancient bricks, then it wrenched free and they were away, narrowly avoiding catching the front of the car as it straightened.

Up ahead, zombies singly or in pairs were clambouring over onto the lane from the fields on the side, reaching out their decaying grasping fingers.

"Daddy, look out!"

Bill swerved to avoid the first one that staggered out into the lane but cracked straight through the next two, the putrescent bodies shattering, spraying the bonnet and windscreen with liquified flesh. For the time it took him to find the lever that activated the windscreen wipers, Bill was effectively blind and still driving at speed. The car clipped the stone wall on the side of the road, bouncing clear, then scraped hard down the wall at the other side.

Both kids and Mai Ling were screaming in the back seat as the windscreen cleared. Bill jerked the wheel, narrowly avoiding a tree that pushed out from the side of hte lane and the car shot forwards.

There was only one option available to them; one hope.

"We have to get to that house we saw! Both ends of the lane are blocked with those things! There's nowhere else to go!"

*  *  * 

At the same moment, less than two hundred yards away on the fields to the left, Jack and Jensen stopped, looking at the same house.

"There," said Jack. "We can hold up there for a while. Work out what we're going to do next."

They'd been walking since they'd escaped the swamp with the ghouls and the giant bugs and both men were tired; especially considering the trauma they'd been through over the past twenty four hours.

Jack looked at Jensen; at the tightness in his cheeks; the red rawness around the edges of his eyes. "You okay man?"

Jensen flattened his lips. "Ask me when we're safe."

Then his eyes flicked off Jack's face, curdling Jack's blood for a second as he imagined what could be coming up behind him. He span to look and they both saw it.

A car was speeding up the lane between them and the house, swerving wildly; going far too fast for the narrowness of the road.

And then they saw why.

*  *  *

Bill spun the wheel, then spun it back the other way, scraping the car against one wall at the side of the lane and then the other, trying to avoid more of the shambling reachers as they stumbled off the fields from the right. 
“Bill!” screamed Sally. “Watch out!”

She pointed ahead but he’d already seen them. There, round the bend, was the horde they’d managed to avoid in the first place, now filling the road far too densely to break through. But there was the open driveway that ran to the spooky manor, and they weren’t blocking it! There was still time!

From the back seat, the kids screamed, squeezed painfully hard to the left as the car swerved, trying to make the turn.

“We’re going to make it!”

The right hand wheels almost left the ground but it remained stable, curving only a little too fast.

But too fast nonetheless.

For a fraction of a second, Bill lost control and that was all it took. Twenty yards down the drive, still a long way from the manor, the car hit the side wall and smashed to a sudden stop.

There was shocked silence and then groans, Bill quickly undoing his belt. “Come on. We have to move. Let’s go!”

“Daddy, I hurt my head,” whined Carly, rubbing her temple.

Mai Ling, cuddled her, whispering soothing words in Japanese.

In the passenger seat, Sally was clenching her fists on her knees. “I told you to slow down Bill. I told you.”

“Don’t worry. Just get out the car. We’re not going anywhere in this. We have to get to the house for shelter.

“Dad!” called Rick. “They’re coming!”

Through the back window, the horde was visible, slowly filling the drive entrance and coming towards them; speeding up when they saw the movement of the car doors opening.

“Come on! Move!” yelled Bill. “We have to go now!!” He got out of the car, snatching his shotgun where he’d jammed it in near the hand break and took the head off an approaching zombie.

But he could already see they weren’t going to have time.

The children weren’t being quick enough. His wife had never been that focused. Living together it had meant they were later for dinner parties. Now it was life and death. The zombies were coming! 

*  * *
Jack started to run, not even looking behind him to see if Jensen was following. He vaulted the wall onto the lane then ran across it, pushing a walker out of the way , seeing the zombies up ahead in the undergrowth but not caring about them.

He had his hammer.

And he could see children in that car and two women. He couldn’t stand back while they were in peril. But the zombie horde was packing the drive to the old house, forming a massive unwieldy queue toward the back of the crashed car. The man who’d got out of the car was doing his best to fight them off but there were far far too many.

Jack cracked his hammer into the skull of the first zombie he got to, shattering its forehead and pulping the rotting grey matter inside. It dropped to the ground, even as its partner reached at his face with clammy cold hands. There was a moment where Jack thought it might get him, but Jensen’s pistol came in hard to its cheek and blew it away.

“Over here!” shouted Jack. “Over here you bastards!”

Several of the zombies broke off the main horde and came towards him and as they reached the stone wall at the edge of the lane, Jack popped them, using the wall like a parapet. Jensen stepped up beside him and they worked together, luring the zombies away as they could and taking them out.

But was it going to be enough?

*  *  * 

Bill continued fighting, taking down zombie after zombie, using the burst of his shotgun blasts to knock down two at a time where he could. Mai Ling had the window open, protecting Carly while she shot away with the pistol she’d taken from the dead cop they’d found the night before. Rick got out of the car and scampered over the wall on the opposite side of the lane from where Jack and Jensen were, shouting like they were to draw the zombies away.

It actually looked like they might be able to whittle them down! Sally got out of the car and started shooting too. The original horde was thinning. They were doing it!

And then Bill glanced back toward the manor house and his heart dropped into the pit of his stomach.

The other horde, the one blocking the lane further on, had followed them, cutting across the fields, and they were closing on them already, shambling round the side of the manor and closing the gap between where they were and their only hope of a defensible position.

And all around him, twitching zombies, apparently destroyed, started to claw back up, groaning in hatred for the living as they regained their footing and charged. 

“Run Carly! Run!” screamed Betty.

There was a gap in the crowding dead for a moment and it was going to be their last chance. Reloading was taking too much time and they had barely any bullets left! This was their one chance for freedom! Their final chance!

Bill smashed another zombie in the face with his cricket bat then crushed his brain with a downswing. At the wall, Jack and Jensen were beset by zombies now coming up behind them from the other horde. Carly scrambled out of the car and ran as fast as she could.

She didn’t run fast enough and she ran the wrong way.


The zombies were all around her, reaching down with pallid grasping hands, pulling at her hair.

Sally shoved a walker out of the way and ran to help her daughter, dropping her useless unloaded gun in her panic. “Carly!”

There must have been eight zombies surrounding the little girl but Sally didn’t care about that. She tore and yanked at their shoulders and arms, trying to pull them back out of the way but they had all been men and she was only a slightly built woman.


She only got a glimpse of her daughter’s eviscerated corpse before the zombies turned and looked down at her. Even then she didn’t let up in her fury to break through to Carly. Four of them dragged her down screaming out her daughter’s name as she continued futilely fighting back.

“No! Sally!” Bill fired another burst into the zombies as they tore chunks from his wife’s slender back but it was far far too later for her or his beautiful daughter. He had his son to think about now. And Mai Ling.

“This way!” shouted Jack. He got up on the wall, kicking at the heads and reaching fingers of the approaching zombies. “You can make it if you’re quick!”

The wrecked car was blocking the path of most of the zombies. Bill called to Rick, telling him to circle round. He was clear of the undead but too far away to reach directly. Then he grabbed Mai Ling’s hand and wrenched her from the car. “We’re going!”

As Jensen took shots at the zombies coming after them, Jack helped Bill and the au pair over the stonework and into the undergrowth beyond.

The car, wall and dense foliage was forming a wall, limiting the horde’s ability to get to them. The four of them withdrew, fighting back toward the lane.

It was clear. The zombies from the original horde were either all dead or had chased them down the drive to the manor.

“Jesus Christ! My wife! And Carly! What are we going to do? There’s no way we can get to that house now!”

Jack grabbed his arm and pointed. Rick was running down the lane toward them, flush-faced and happy to have gotten away. He didn’t know yet about his mother and sister. “We made it!”

“Just think about him,” said Jack. “Focus on getting him through this.”

Bill looked him in the eye and nodded. “You’re right.”

*  *  *

In the bushes on the other side of the road, concealed from sight, Skipper and Sparky watched the newly formed group of survivors flee on foot.

They’d tracked Jack and Jensen from the swamps and watched as the this thing went down with the zombies.

Now wasn’t the time to strike. Gunfire would only draw more of the undead. But a reckoning would come soon. Their friends were dead because of Jack and Jensen and they were going to pay!

Designer's Note: This game was another example of a nice story-based situation with variety and horror. Using cars is a nice change of pace and takes it away from the normal miniatures game feel long enough to really spice things up.

With the crashed car and the horde of zombies closing in it had a real feel of impending doom but though the odds seemed insurmountable, the characters actually looked like they might succeed at one point. Still, it’s a game of SURVIVAL horror and staying alive is more important than winning. It was good to see some principle characters escape to fight another day. 

And we have the ongoing plotline of Skippy and Sparky seeking revenge to pep things up a bit too!