Sunday, October 18, 2015

Carnival Zombie.. bizarre setting but interesting game mechanics

Every October or so, we usually get into the Halloween spirit and play horror games. Jeff, Jim, CB and myself sat down today and maintained that tradition. I didn't know what game Jeff was going to bring over, but in the meantime, Jim and I killed some time playing the card game Mag-Blast (Third Edition).

The game has cute artwork and cute mechanics. You basically have a fleet of ships led by a command ship and surrounded with support vessels.

You move your support ships around and fire laser blasts at the other guy's fleet. The game as it was taught to me by Jim seemed like a fun filler of a game. Almost all luck based, in terms of the ships you draw and your attacks.

 You get to throw the other guy curve balls like I do here with " Temporal Flux" etc, so like all card games, there are "gotcha" cards.

Here, Jim's mag blast causes 5 damage on my destroyer, the Badiroc, which only has 4 hull points, and so is destroyed.

We played like for 10 minutes just so I can learn the game mechanics. I'll elaborate further on this game the next time we play but basically you need to match your attack cards with your turret colour guns.

Jeff brought over Carnival Zombie from the Italian company Raven.

The premise is that our 6 characters are attending a festival of some sort in Venice, Italy, (armed to the teeth) dressed in Renaissance to Enlightenment era clothes and that evil monsters, similarly dressed, have arisen and that in 4 days time, a leviathan from the sea is coming to destroy the city. A cooperative game where we need to escape either by sea, airship or by a bridge.  Oh, and Venice is sinking.

Lastly, if we find the "Holy Hand Grenade" on the way, we may use it to destroy the leviathan.


The Holy Hand Grenade sounds tongue-in-cheek and Monty Python-ish, but all of this is juxtaposed against serious art, a very busy game board, demonic sounding creatures (Moloch, Incubus, etc), and we have less than charitable characters.

I mean, look at the undead here... "Incubus" "Moloch" "Goliath" "Vermin".. this is not tongue-in-cheek stuff.

I was playing the Engineer and the Doctor, and these two guy's bios sound like two nasty guys.

My engineer, Pantalion, is a hunchback dressed like an 18th Century highwayman and shows up to a festival or carnival with an M79 grenade launcher.

His bio reads that he is "wealthy, miserly and lustful", "hunchbacked and awkard."

Uh.. huh..

My Doctor is "Doc Pestilence" (how is that for comforting!) who is wearing a plague mask of the 14th Century, and unlike the engineer who has a modern M79, he comes armed with a flintlock.


His bio is even more bizarre.."a disturbing figure, he rejects human contact" and has "messianic" traits.

The other players have similarly bizarre characters.

We and the demonic hordes are in 14th to 18th century costumes, with modern weapons (I got a grenade launcher!) and old muskets, and we must fight off the demonic and vile hordes, while trying to escape Venice by boat, airship or bridge.

Yes, an airship, like I was Count Zeppelin or something. The modern weapons preclude a Steampunk setting, so I don't know what the hell the designers were thinking.

This is probably a cultural thing that maybe the Italians like to have things mixed up, but it seemed like a bad TV show setting to this North American. A serious tone, but also a ridiculous setting at the same time.

Jeff though, loves horror so it wasn't a big issue to him, but as a history buff, I found all of this strange.

Along the way, my Engineer finds a flame-thrower and my doctor finds an anatomy book in Venice... I don't know.. don't ask how it got there for me to find them, just go along with it..

Jeff tells me the English rules are poorly written, and I can see why. Look at the poor translation in my "treatise on anatomy" card:   'Al Infected Doc Pestilence makes fall off the pile of corpses are put back in the Abyss"

However, the game mechanics are interesting. We move throughout the city abstractly with the objective of radioing the Airship first at the radio tower southwest of us, and then head north to the Airship. It's not an aerodrome, but I find out later, a graveyard where we fight the hordes one last time.

We basically have to "tower defence" at every stop along the way, and survive the night against the evil creatures and their bosses, who are represented by cubes, cones and cylinders. A typical Euro cube pusher in other words. They put a lot of effort in the art, but then give us boring cubes to play with.

Look at the scary cubes and cylinders!

The cube-hordes are pulled randomly from an opaque bag, and they attack us in the centre from all points of the compass.  

The most interesting game mechanic is the dropping of the dead on to a gravestone. You kill off a horde, represented by a cube, and physically drop them from whatever height you want so long as you're not touching, on to the gravestone. Those cubes that fall off come back immediately... "risen from the dead" as it were.

 In this case, this purple cube, a "Moloch" comes back immediately.

We scoffed at first at this "childish" game mechanic, but quickly came to appreciate that it added good game tension when there were lots of cubes piled up.

Anyways, we make it to Airship zone and fight off the hordes and boss hordes, but barely...

All in all, a bizarre game setting with some interesting mechanics.

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