Monday, 26 July 2010

New Release: That Zombie Card Game

That Zombie Card Game Logo

The Hide & Seek Weekender 2010 was held on the second weekend of July at the South Bank's National Theatre, and I almost didn't go. This is the story of that near tragedy closely averted, and a game that almost went unpublished.

Hide & Seek specialise in organising off-line gaming events, hosting everything from board games and role-playing, to street running and city exploration. The 2010 Weekender schedule was a diverse mix of all of these, allowing anyone to rock up and play for free. The event was packed with like-minded attendees, all bravely relinquishing their remote anonymity to get involved in a plethora of face-to-face games.

I hadn't heard of the event until one week prior when it was mentioned incidentally in an email chain started by World of Love's David Hayward. We were discussing the upcoming London Games Festival with a group of designers that included James Wallis. He was bringing a new game to the Weekender called Aliens Among Us, and with David hitting The Big Smoke to play as well, consensus was that it'd be a great opportunity to meet.

I checked out the website for the event, and raised an excited eyebrow when I spotted Werewolf on the itinerary (while I'm in my zen-like state, communing with the machines, that raised eyebrow is the equivalent of me jumping out of my seat and shouting “Yowser!”). Ever since I'd read about Werewolf's conquest of Silicon Valley in Wired Magazine, I'd been itching to try out this weird and wonderful game of group paranoia. The lying, cheating and back-stabbing did not disappoint.

On the Friday evening I managed to sandwich James Wallis' Aliens Among Us between three games of Werewolf. I enthusiastically ran one of the games, even breaking out my best DM voice for the occasion. Engaging in what was essentially a smack-talk battle royale, reminded me of the "debates" we used to have at LAN parties concerning one another's lineage or sexual preferences. I hadn't had fun like this since broadband made proximity gaming extinct. The proliferation of the Internet must mean that there are whole generations who've missed out on the treat of being able to look their assailant in the eye as they're verbally abused.

Being oblivious to this sort of event in my own manor may be explained, in part, by the lack of intersection between the videogames media and those covering the wider world of gaming. I hadn't heard a dicky bird about Hide & Seek in the run up to the Weekender, and I actively have my tentacles out searching for gaming goodness (I'm sure that Google must have to maintain a dedicated server farm to rival Jodrell Bank's in order to collate all the videogame news feeds I have coming into Reader). The rift between the two camps is bizarre given that videogames are essentially board games, but with a computer acting as the Dungeon Master.

Missing out would have had further ramifications than my inner werewolf being left dormant. If I hadn't gone to the Hide & Seek Weekender, then I wouldn't have come across the Cadbury's Pocket Game Competition. The brief for the competition was to design an easily portable game that could fit in the palm of your hand. Cadbury's stipulated that there should be no technology involved, and they would manufacture the overall winner for distribution. My excitable eyebrow went into action again as I realised that I had just such a game stored away in a hazy memory of a rainy day at Oktoberfest.

We head over to the boozy beer festival almost every year, and on one cold, dank day we played a card game of my own concoction. The initial stages of designing a videogame are the same for me as designing any other type of game, and given a hangover and a deck of cards, something will normally emerge to lighten the mood. In this case it was "That Zombie Card Game", a riff on Magic: The Gathering's combat, but without the strategic, and often expensive, deck building. All it requires is a standard 52 card deck and two Zombie Masters willing to duke it out for the chance to be crowned the Zombie King.

Each player takes it in turns to either: cast their voodoo to raise a zombie army from the grave; restock their graveyard by burying more bodies; or assault their opponent with the shambling horde they've built. Throw in a lucky Dark-Magic Bolt now and then for a bit of zombiegeddon, and that's all there is to it.

Thanks to the crunchy-looking carrot of the competition, I took the time to publish the rules in a nice, single sheet format. I licenced artwork from Cory Thoman to pretty it up, and the title font was very kindly provided for free by Patrick Broderick via The competition website only supports low resolution grabs of the rule sheet, so I've uploaded the original document for anyone to download and play.

If you have a spare 15 minutes and a deck of cards, download That Zombie Card Game and let me know what you think:

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