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Dom Mooney's Website

September 2012

Zombicide - Mini Review

A few turns into the game

I decided to give Zombicide another workout earlier this week, as I really enjoyed the potential that the tutorial game suggested. As everyone had gone to bed and the kitchen table was free, it seemed a perfect time to experiment. For the game, I selected the first full scenario in the book City Blocks which uses all the tiles that come in the box. As a single player game I selected four characters from the basic game; Amy the Goth, Wanda the Roller-skating Waitress, Ned the Survivalist and Phil the Policeman. Each has slightly different basic skills and/or equipment, and their development tracks also add variety. For example, Wanda starts with double movement from her skates, while Phil starts with a pistol.

The set up went smoothly, taking about 20 mins as I found and punched the counters needed and aligned all the tiles. Production quality of the pieces and tiles is very good, feeling robust and looking excellent. The injection moulded miniatures are also well detailed and excellent.

The objective of the game was to come out from the starting point in the centre of the board, and then collect the four objective counters from the buildings to the North-East, North-West, South-West and South-East of the board whilst searching for basic supplies (water, rice, canned food). Once these are collected, the characters need to exit from a point at the south-western edge with the supplies.

Complicating matters were 4 zombie spawn points spread around the board. Now zombies want one thing ("brains") which they can only get from the characters. The numbers and types that spawn are determined by a card draw for each point cross referenced with the danger level. Zombies include Walkers (slow but plentiful), Runners (faster but as easy to kill as the Walkers), Fatties (harder to kill and always bringing Walker buddies with them) and the dreaded Abomination, which is nigh-on impossible to kill without a Molotov cocktail.

Danger levels relate directly to the success that your characters are having. If you kill a Walker, a Runner or a Fatty, you gain an experience point, Abominations get you five points, as do taking the objectives. As the experience for each character stacks up they'll eventually cross a threshold into a higher level of danger which gains them skills or extra actions. It also means that the zombies that spawn get nastier, providing an escalation mechanic as the characters succeed. The overall danger level for the game is that of the most experienced character, which provides an incentive to initially spread experience evenly across everyone whilst initial searches for equipment and weapons are going on.

Zombies, once spawned, move towards the largest group of players in sight, or failing that the loudest source of noise (from opening doors, shooting, chainsawing, moving around). This means the game is nicely suited to solo play. I made a few small mistakes initially on this, not noticing that noise in buildings can also draw the zombies in.

Zombicide 3
It pays to be aggressive - it’s not called Zombicide for nothing! Noise counters = weapons use!

One thing I quickly learned was that it pays to be aggressive and carry out 'zombicide'. The game mechanic for turns mean that it is in your interest to make sure no zombies are in your zone at the end of the player's turn, and ideally that adjacent zones are cleared out too (as it is progressively harder to escape the more zombies present). I spent too long in the middle of the game pinned down to the north of the board scared to move lest the survivor's were swamped by the evil dead. I only started making progress once I started being bellicose and carrying out hit and run attacks and gaining ground.

Combat is simple - both melee and ranged weapons work with a mechanic that defines a number of dice to be thrown and the target number to be achieved. Each success is a kill, and zombies are eliminated from weakest first. If you shoot into a zone with a survivor, they take the hits preferentially! A pistol rolls a single d6 with a target of 4+ and damage of 1, while a chainsaw has 5d6 and targets of 5+ with 2 damage. It's good to have a range of weapons from the brutal melee effects of chainsaws and katanas through to the punch of shotguns and SMGs, and the long range power of the rifle, knocking out the enemy before they reach you.

Zombicide 4
Combat brings short relief, as the game escalates based upon your success. More hordes massing!

The escalation in the game, both in threat and character ability, leave you in a position that you always feel threatened. The feeling of respite when you momentarily clear the streets near you is great, only to be faced with more and greater hordes massing as time goes on!

I recommend the game whole-heartedly, and look forward to playing it with friends. Or even solo again. If only Glory to Rome or Eminent Domain were also so suited to solo play, then I'd have tried them already!

Gratuitous Pics

A short selection of recent uploads to Flickr…



Port Sunlight - Fountain

Port Sunlight Boating

Captain Rex and his new Recruit

Riding with Poppy


Fire Hazard?

Birthday Tea!

No, I'm not getting an iPhone 5

Several friends have asked me if I want to get the new iPhone 5, and I've told them "No", which seems to be a surprise. It shouldn't be. My iPhone 4S is doing just fine, with a little over 12 months left on its contract. I'm happy with it, and it gets most of the software driven features of the new phone on 19th September when iOS 6 rolls out. I've always viewed smartphones as having a two year upgrade cycle. I don't remember an iOS device that has had a really compelling upgrade argument after just a year (except maybe the iPhone 3G); most people wait for their new contract to come up and the two year technology jump is usually significant.

The iPhone 5 has also pretty much got rid of my urge for an iPad 3 to replace my original iPad. As I'd expect the next tablet I get to last 2-3 years, I'm waiting for one with the new Lightning adaptor so my next phone and iPad will be aligned.

Hearing but not Listening

I find it amazing how people can be told about the consequences of an act repeatedly, but seem shocked and upset when they do it anyway and have to face the music. Behaviour I expect from children, not leaders. Isn't human nature wonderful?

Creation Myths?

On the iPad creation myth
Prompted by a genuine question from a friend on whether the iPad is any good for creation, or is really a consumption device, here are my thoughts. As a starting point, the iPad is a great device for consuming media; the web, films, news, TV streaming, books and social media all work extremely well, and you can definitely pass (waste?) many idle hours with your new found friend. The lack of Flash is not a real issue either, as most sites stream H264 video these days, and it’s not something that I've really missed(*).

(*)And you can get around it for video with Skyfire, which converts the streams on the fly to H264.

But is the iPad a device for creation? There is a commonly held myth out there that you cannot create with a tablet, that you need a full computer. Now, I'm writing this post on the iPad, but must confess that I decided to pull out the bluetooth keyboard after I realised that I could be spending some time typing. But isn't that still creation?

How easy it is to use an iPad creatively will depend to some measure with what you want to do with it. It will also depend on how much you want it to meet those needs. I've no doubt that if I had an 11" MacBook Air then my iPad would definitely see a significant reduction in the amount of work with prose and some photography related activities that I do with it. However, I have a 13" aluminium MacBook which is doing just fine, but is nowhere near as portable.

Evidence of Creativity?
Rather than circle around debating how many angels can creatively dance on the head of my iPad, perhaps I should tell you what I do with my iPad, and you can judge whether it meets your idea of creativity or not?

I write on my iPad using apps like
Drafts, iA Writer and Pages. The first two fill the same niche, the second tends to be used for more formal work like material. Some of the finished product will be used 'as-is' – for example for blog posts – and other material may be tweaked in Word on either my Mac or work PC before it is used. It's fair to say that Pages isn't a favourite, and that I will buy Microsoft Office for iOS if it ever becomes something beyond a rumour.

I've written three gaming scenarios to the point of running at convention and taken one to the first draft of publication on the iPad. I've also experimented with synchronising a more detailed project with
Scrivener on the Mac via Dropbox and PlainText, but haven't had the need to do it again.

I produce mind-maps for work and gaming writing using
Mindnode, which is probably the best mind-mapping tool that I have ever used, anywhere. The touch interface is a joy to use. I produce flow-charts and diagrams using OmniGraffle, which is expensive, but excellent, and provides a portable Visio style tool.

I proofread and annotate drafts of gaming and work material using
iAnnotate, these days in conjunction with the excellent Cosmonaut stylus made by Studio Neat, mainly because it feels like using a highlighter. This is supported with the excellent iOS versions of the Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus for reference.

I sketch, using
Paper and Penultimate, and can produce useable vector images with Inkpad. There are other art tools like Adobe Ideas, ArtRage and Brushes which are all excellent, but not really something that I have had cause to do any more than mess around with. If I was talented this way I could see the interface being a joy to use.

I outline, sometimes with
Carbonfin Outliner, sometimes with OmniOutliner, depending on my mood. Not something I do too often, but it happens.

I've knocked together presentations with
Keynote, and also used it to show PowerPoint slides from work. I've taken meeting minutes with the ever-so-useful ActionNotes, and have moved most of my notes from a Moleskine to DayOne. I dabble with Evernote, but mainly for a capture-system for gaming related material.

I've used
Photogene, Touch Up and Snapseed to edit photos before carrying out batch uploads and other changes using Flickr Studio. I've used Skitch to annotate webpages to explain functions to friends and relatives.

If I needed to edit code on my server, I could use
Diet Coda, from Panic, which seems subtly powerful. Fortunately, I rarely need to do this. I've used the Wordpress application to update websites that I manage when away from access to a full computer and browser.

Concluding Thoughts
I find the iPad a fantastic tool which supports a number of my workflows really well. Many are the times I've sat staring at the iPad screen, capturing ideas and inspiration and working them through for a while. The work may not finish on the iPad, but a lot of the hard slog is done there.

My laptop and desktop aren't going to go away anytime soon, as they still have unique advantages (higher performance, screen size etc.), but they have a companion with a unique niche. And that niche is getting bigger, as developers continue to push the envelope of what iOS can do as time goes by. The applications that were around when I bought my iPad 1 have nowhere near the sophistication that current generation applications do, and this can only continue to progress with each iteration of iOS and the hardware platform underpinning it.

In conclusion, I think the iPad is a tool for creation as well as consumption. My evidence is above, but it will always be a matter of how it fits your personal workflow.

I started this in Drafts, using the on-screen keyboard. I then shunted it to Phraseology (a longer form writing app I'm trying out) and got my Logitech Tablet bluetooth keyboard out when I realised that this could be a longer post (c.1,000 words if you're counting). This will then be sent to Dropbox (or maybe emailed to myself) and I will import it straight into Rapidweaver on my Mac for upload to my personal blog.

Secondly, there are a lot of apps mentioned here. I haven’t bothered linking, as you can just search for them in iTunes…

So Quick

As we headed out to Wetherby this morning, I noticed that Nathan has done one of those growth spurts that kids have again. Suddenly he's become taller, longer and leaner. I suspect that the hair cut yesterday has brought it all out, but then again it's only four months until he's six years old and he's now in his second year at primary school.

Aidan is also sprouting well, a very different little boy to his big brother. He'll be two in January! He tends to think things through more before he acts, and is incredibly stubborn once his mind is set on something. He doesn't lose heart very quickly either, refusing to be defeated. His coordination is great for a small child, with very accurate throws and kicks (as my nose has felt on several occasions).