Keith M. Sandler
After some appropriate children’s bedtime stories this week, Maranda requested another go at City of Horror which we had last played at Unity Games this past January. She was in the mood for brains or blood, wanting something that was fairly cutthroat. Jon had no preference, so we went with her gut and broke out the zombie game.
Some rules explanation was in order, as Jon had never played before, but as always, he proved adept at taking in the rules set. His enthusiasm for The Walking Dead, Dead Space, and other things zombie helped him get into the theme, and after a few questions, he had a great grasp of the rules, and we got underway.
I’m a bit hazy on all the details for starting, places, but I’ll do my best. I began with my Grandma on the Watertower, Housewife at the Hospital (where she would remain all game), the Old Man at the Armory (also all game), the Priest in the Church, and the Student in the street.
Jon’s Vigil also started in the street, the blonde began in the Hospital, as did the Teen. The Sushi Chef was placed in the Armory, and the Pregnant Lady in the Church.
I can’t remember exactly where Maranda began the game, but I know she had someone at the Watchtower and the Bank, and I’m pretty sure she had characters everywhere but the Hospital.
Jon began as the starting player, and after we used the expert variation to draft the action cards, the zombie invasion began. There was a light but even dispersal of zombies; enough to threaten several locations, including the sole zombie in the street. M and I perused the 01:00 zombie card for our characters on the watertower. Of note was the airdrop at the hospital with two syringes. Since Jon and I both had characters there, and as, obviously, we all were seeking some quick early antidotes early in the game, I knew that would be a tough spot to get into, but I thought I might get lucky or be able to use the Service Door card that I had taken from the initial handouts. I went for the Hospital, but unfortunately, so did the Jon and M, and I was the last in turn order. Maranda used an action card to change her movement choice and guide them to safety. Jon stocked up the Hospital, but his Vigil was still left in the street with my Student. I chose to allow my Student to be bumped back into the street, as Jon would be threatened by the lone zombie there first, and I had plenty of action cards to take out zombies if needed.
As usual, the push-your-luck negotiating of the first turn went on, with plenty of zombies killed by all players. Jon added a fire marker to the water-tower as he fended off zombies in the Armory, figuring that if he couldn’t use it, it may as well not be there to present an advantage for M and myself. M used the Rocker’s ability to send a zombie from the bank to the Hospital, forcing Jon and me to deal with it there, which we did handily, thanks to my chainsaw card. Jon and I each took syringes from the hospital’s airdrop. The real toughie of the first turn was Jon’s attempt to use an action card to move the Zombie Leader marker to purple and threaten my Student, but I was able to use a Mace card to cancel it, much to his dismay. He was forced to use the Vigil’s ability to kill the zombie, lowering his point value significantly.
The second turn came, and M and I again, as sole occupants of the water tower were able to see ahead and plan accordingly. The bank looked like a good spot to hold out for a while, so I sent my student there that turn. Jon sent the Vigil to the Armory. Maranda used a service entrance to sneak someone into the hospital (I can’t remember which character, but I think it was the one from the watertower). The negotiations starting getting a bit more tense as the game crept towards the half-way point and zombies moved about and increased in number. I wasn’t able to get any items from the Hospital airdrop, thanks to Jon and M’s wheeling and dealing, and I had chosen to hang onto my cards that turn rather than buy a syringe there. The Armory was in trouble, and it looked like my Grandpa would be done for, as Jon had two characters present (the Vigil and Sushi Chef, I think) with Maranda’s Rasta rounding out the fourth spot. I waited to see if anyone would kill some zombies, then, seeing that no one really cared if my Grandpa bit it, I decided to play my “steal votes” card on Jon. M and I sent the Vigil (now useless for zombie kills) out to investigate a strange noise, and he was handily eaten by zombies, much to Jon’s dismay. (Slight misplay here due to rules ambiguity, and we chose the character rather than the player. I have since read that this is not the case and that the player gets to decide which of his characters is eaten.)
Turn 3 came with, of course, more zombies, and M and I were careful to note their movement as well as the locations for new zombies. I think by this point Maranda had moved her character from the watertower and was using her Rasta’s ability (he was in the Armory, by the way). Jon’s Sushi Chef would join my Grandma there. (Maranda’s Geek tried to get there, as well, but as Jon was first player, he didn’t make it and ended up dying alone in the crossroads.) The bank looked defensible enough, but the airdrop at the church was tempting, too. I also was worried about Grandpa at the Armory, as the zombies were rapidly gathering there, and with his not voting, he would constantly be under threat of being voted out. Luckily, I still held a couple of cards-- service entrance and little cat, I think. I believe I used the cat to send the zombies away, but I don’t remember precisely. I realized that my characters were all spread out, and I would need at least some doubling up in a location in order to secure a solid vote, so I sent my priest to the Bank, which actually didn’t have may zombies on it at this point, as many of them moved away.
Turn 4 was the big one. Maranda refreshed her Rasta with some Red Bull, so the invasion card was pretty much common knowledge. I had some hard thinking to do. The air drop would go to the church, but there would definitely be plenty of zombies there, and I didn’t trust my odds with a vote. I was getting nervous at the horde of zombies at the watertower--my grandma was running low on zombie kill cards, and I knew that I would soon have to come to a decision on whether to expend her ability in order to move her to safety. I had to worry about my Grandpa, as always, and as there were now plenty of zombies outside the Bank, I had to think of the safety of my Student and Priest. Then it came to me. I used my Priest to cancel Maranda’s attempt to move the Rocker out of the Bank. That would ensure that I could vote him to the wolves when the time came. I then used my Grandma’s ability and moved her off the WaterTower to the Armory, giving her a vote there to protect her and Grandpa, while also leaving Jon’s Sushi Chef alone at the Watertower which was now crawling with zombies. My Housewife was now alone at the Hospital with the screaming Blonde, but if push came to shove, I could either toss the the blonde out the door or kill some zombies with the Housewife. To ensure that I’d get my way, I used the Student’s ability and took the First Player marker, secure my safety in the Hospital and the Armory.
On the Watertower, Jon’s sushi chef looked done for. I made a suggestion-- Jon should at least get the Chef’s free card before he was torn apart. Jon drew. A hide card! He hid the Sushi Chef in the Watertower, assuring his safety as we all laughed at his luck. The Bank played out as I had predicted, with M’s Rocker being eaten. Jon bargained with me in the Hospital, and I finally relented and killed some zombies with the Housewife in exchange for an antidote. I also purchased another there, so now it looked like I even had one to spare, and all my characters looked like they might even make it!
All three of us had presence in the Armory, but my first player maneuver would give me the vote, so I chucked the Rasta out, much to Maranda’s dismay. All of my characters were now safe! It looked to be a very tight game between me and Jon at this point, and he was watching the points very carefully. (I should have had his Blonde killed... My mistake, but I wanted to honour my word.) I did help Maranda out with the shared items, taking the syringe and giving her the card... Which she used in the Church to refresh her little boy, allowing him to hide for a second time, and now Jon’s Pregnant Lady or Teen was hosed, even if the Pregnant Lady were to give birth for the additional vote!
We tallied up the final point total, and it was neck and neck. Maranda came in last, with I think 8 or 9 points total. Jon had 13... and I had 14! The extra syringe from Jon was the tie-breaker! I didn’t feel so bad at that point for allowing the Blonde to live, and we had some fun laughs about the Housewife who had stoically consoled the screamer in the Hospital the entire game before finally smashing up some zombies to save her. I probably should have made Jon exhaust her as a condition of saving her or just let her die, but so it goes. Jon also said that had he realized I would have given M a card at the end, he may have done something differently, but I can’t think of what he may have done. At any rate, we were able to capture the lone Sushi Chef hiding in the WaterTower amidst a horde of zombies:
You should be able to juuuust see the Chef peeking out behind his hiding spot on the Water Tower. (Sorry about the bag of chips in the background.)
This was a great game, and I am happy that we played it even though I had initially been nervous over A.) how it would play with 3 players and B.) how Jon would like it. I think it plays great with 3-- nice and streamlined, and things move quickly. And Jon was almost instantly fan, which made things even better.
I love the way this game consistently feels like a zombie movie. It starts out slow with zombies being killed and players being nice and co-operative. By turn 3, people stop being so generous, and characters are killed for running out of resources, and by the end of the game, players are actively hosing one another in order to come out ahead. The game can suffer from a bit of “king-making,” both as a burst of vengeance from a losing player or a show of solidarity from dating or married couples. I’ve seen this happen in several games, but this one was played clean, even if Maranda thought Jon and I were playing a “bro’s before ho’s” strategy. I think the end-game showed that even though it may have looked like a boy’s club at times, I was really only looking out for myself, just like a good zombie survivor should!
Great game, and a nice way to satisfy’s Maranda’s bloodlust while leading into an October full of horror games.
(Note: I’ll likely edit this once I look into any details I feel I got wrong. The advantage of a dedicated game room with two tables-- you can keep the game set up to reminisce!)