Like many of you, my friends and I have tried the Defend the Manor House scenario several times and it has always ended in a hero bloodbath in less than 5 rounds. Most of the zombie advantage seemed to be tied to the heroes not finding weapons within the first 2-3 rounds, and then having no way to actually defend the manor. So we decided to try using a modified version of the Manor Deck DOT rule, based on items one might feasibly have in a house and aren’t too powerful (no shotgun, chainsaw, etc). I don't yet have any expansions, so this seemed like a great way to even out the perceived imbalance.
We set aside these 10 cards for the Manor Deck:
1 Baseball Bat
1 Fire axe
1 First Aid Kit
1 Fire Extinguisher
We tested this with a 3 player game (2 hero, 1 zombie), playing with Johnny, Father Joseph, the Sheriff, and Jake. I was very pleased with the result, in that it created much more of the back-and-forth tension we wanted. It still kept the heroes scrambling for supplies and desperately trying to thin the zombie numbers, only to get wounded or lose valuable weapons, and be forced to run and search again.
I thought it was all over early on though when Johnny fell victim to a couple bad rolls and got swarmed in the manor, dropping us down to 3 heroes. We were playing with the Hangar though, and since we had already discarded 2 Flare Guns the Sheriff and Father Joe were able to turn things around by hunkering down in there and clearing out the zombies outside the manor.
It got dicey again in the last few rounds when there were 8 zeds in the house, Jake was leading another 3 away, and several more were poised to enter the house on the next turn. The Sheriff desperately searched the last few items in the manor, finding the lighter we needed, and Jake proceeded to clear out 6 zombies with the 2 bundles of dynamite he had saved up! My girlfriend was playing the zombies, and then had the misfortune of drawing Rotten Bodies which sent 6 more of her horde back to the pool. We called it at that point, since it was already 2am and there seemed little hope that enough zombies could sprint to the house in the last few turns.
So in all, it created a much more tension filled game, and honestly the heroes still only survived on sheer luck. I feel like this scenario is still heavily slanted towards the zombies, but I’m also not convinced this tweaked Manor Deck completely alleviates that. For one thing, my buddy and I knew exactly what items were in the house, and avoided taking them unless absolutely necessary. We also never exhausted that 10 card deck.
So I wonder if it should be reduced to 8 cards and/or with half still random. Or maybe just use the first 5, and let the heroes start with 2 cards each instead of just 1.
I’d love to hear any feedback on this idea, or anything else you’ve found useful to balance this scenario out and make it not so focused on the luck of the first few rounds. Thanks!