Monday, November 10, 2008

Stockpile - A Last Night on Earth Session Report

This week, I'm doing something completely different. Instead of reviews all week, I'll be telling you a story. This story is actually an embellished description of an actual session report of Last Night on Earth. The game upon which this story is based was the best game I've played of any game I ever played.

I don't intend to make a regular habit of writing fiction instead of game reviews (though my critics might argue that I am writing fiction when I write game reviews), but I think that this is the best way for me to relate to you what a great time you can have playing Last Night on Earth. Plus the game was so fun, so tense, and so exciting that I really wanted to make it a story. So without further ado, here is part one of Stockpile, a tale of Last Night on Earth.


***

Becky was almost at the end of a long night - pulling a double, and on third shift, no less - when the bodies started crawling out of the morgue. She was retrieving a chart for Doctor Burnside, who was busy on an autopsy, and when she heard the old man start screaming, she ran to help. But when he stumbled out of the swinging doors, entrails dragging behind him, a vacant look on his face, she turned and ran for the exits.

***

Billy's lighter did a rotten job of lighting up the gymnasium, but he hadn't had time to steal one of his dad's mag-lights before he snuck out to go vandalize the basketball court. But the flickering flame did reveal enough for him to see that the court was already painted red - with blood. The janitor's bucket had spilled on its side, and soap bubbles floated atop the gory mess.

***

Sheriff Anderson was not having a good night. His wife had just called to tell him his son wasn't in his bed, and now he had to question this rather odd drifter who was just wandering through town square at three in the morning. The stranger has just told the sheriff his name - Jake Cartwright - when they heard a scream. They both turned to see Tom, the kindly old man who ran the general store, rip off his wife's left arm.

Everything started to happen at once. Anderson pulled his revolver and starting yelling at old Tom, but the crazy bastard ignored him until he fired a warning shot. Then Tom forgot about his wife - now dead with her throat torn out - and started toward him. Anderson emptied his gun - hit Tom four times, even in the dark - but the grocer kept coming.

Jake cursed under his breath. "It's happening. They're coming... again."

"Sheriff!" he yelled. "We gotta get some weapons, and maybe some medical supplies, and hole up! If we're out here when the sun goes down tonight, we're all dead!"

Anderson was reloading as the gray-haired zombie shambled toward the two of them in the middle of the town square. He was ignoring Jake completely and yelling for Tom to stay where he was.

"Sheriff!" yelled Jake again, grabbing the sheriff by the arm. "We gotta find someplace safe! Where can we go?"

Startled, Anderson turned away from the advancing undead shopkeeper. He looked around rapidly, on the edge of panic, but pulled himself together. "Grayson's barn! Out by the cornfields!" Tom was getting closer, and Anderson was loading as fast as he could.

Just then, the doors to the clinic up the street burst open, and the blonde nurse came running out screaming, eyes wild.

Jake ran off toward Becky. "I know the place!" he called over his shoulder. "See you there, before the sun goes down again!"

Anderson's hands shook too much. He dropped four bullets in the grass before he gave up and slid the gun back in its holster. Tom was close now, close enough that the sheriff could see by the full moon that Tom's face was covered in blood, and his eyes were cloudy white orbs. Anderson didn't wait to see what Tom meant to do. He sprinted past the old man and into the closest building - the general store.

***

When Billy heard the screams and gunshots, he jumped on top of the bleachers and looked out the windows. He saw Sheriff Anderson sprinting away from Tom. He saw Tom's wife, Mathilda, stagger to her feet, one arm completely missing. He saw more of the residents of the small town, now, starting to stagger into view. Some were covered in blood. Some had horrific wounds. But when he saw Gunther, the school janitor, it really hit him - something was really, really wrong.

He might have stood there, panic-stricken and paralyzed by fear, but then Gunther turned and spotted him. At the sight of Gunther's face - half of it completely torn off, so that Billy could see flaps of skin and muscles flapping loosely above the janitor's exposed jawbone - he shrieked and fell off the top bleacher. He stumbled a couple steps before he caught himself.

"I need a weapon," he said to nobody in particular, and ran to the equipment locker. He knew Mr. Cranston, the gym teacher, had the key, but he also knew he could break into it with a credit card. He had done it before.

However, he hadn't ever done it while staggering undead crawled over each other's bodies to crash through the windows of the gym. His hands were shaking, and he was sure he would piss himself, but just as Gunther dragged himself all the way into the gymnasium, the lock clicked. Billy reached in, grabbed a baseball bat, and turned to face whatever the friendly old janitor had become.

***

Jake grabbed Becky's arm and waved her toward the diner. "Come on! We gotta get to shelter!"

Becky was too dazed to resist. She was terrified and confused.

"What the hell is going on in this town?" she screamed. Jake ignored her and kept pulling her toward the run-down eatery.

Becky didn't fight him. She was just glad to have help. Her mad dash through the clinic had been like something from a nightmare. The new internist had been pinned under a hospital bed, pleading for help as two of his patients chewed noisily on his legs. She had just dodged a shuffling old woman in a torn hospital gown who lunged at her grunting, 'braaaains,' and had slipped and fallen in a puddle of blood just inside the glass doors. When she saw another living person offering her help, she was only too glad to follow him.

Jake picked up a trash can and threw it through the diner's window, then helped Becky climb into the little greasy spoon. He hit the lights, and a weak flourescent glow illuminated the worn-down eatery.

Jake turned to Becky.

"Look, we gotta look for supplies. We're short on time, and before you know it, we're going to be up to our asses in the undead. Check behind the counter for anything you can use - flashlights, crowbars, guns - whatever. I'll check the back. And shout if you see anything moving!"

With that, the drifter ran into the kitchen. He ignored the knives - he knew there was no way he could stop a zombie with a paring knife, and he didn't see a cleaver. But he was delighted to spot the diner's back-up generator, with a full gas can sitting right next to it. He swept up the can and ran back to the front counter.

He almost ran into Becky coming through the swinging doors. She was holding a signal flare and a blowtorch. Even for Jake, who was considered himself something of a professional scrounger, that was one hell of a find. His expression flashed through confusion, disbelief and delight.

"Where the hell did you find those?"

Becky pointed to a cardboard box behind the counter. "The county road crew must have left some gear behind after dinner last night. They probably meant to come back for it." She giggled hysterically, but just for a second. "Guess they won't need it now!"

Jake ignored the panic in her voice. "And the torch?"

Becky shrugged. "Hank keeps a bunch of tools for fixing pipes and stuff. It was in his office."

Jake lit up at the prospect of a box full of tools - he could do plenty with a crowbar and a claw hammer - but just then, the front door caved in. Two zombies in hospital gowns pushed their way into the diner, oblivious to the broken glass that shredded their bare feet. The time for foraging was past. It was time to fight for their lives.

(Come back Wednesday night for part two of Stockpile, and don't forget to read Friday night for the hair-raising conclusion!)

3 comments:

Hendal said...

Awesome report so far, this game lends it self to write session reports better then any other game I have ever played.

I love this game, I rated it a 10 at BGG

Chris Norwood said...

Great report so far! I just wish the game felt more the way that you're describing it.

I've given it a couple of plays, and it always feels more like I'm just randomly drawing cards in a pretty game rather than scrounging around for important supplies in a zombie-infested town.

Matt Drake said...

Well, I think the fact that I thought the game warranted a fictional retelling shows that I pretty obviously think it does feel like this, but I can also understand your point. You definitely have to want to supplement heavily with your own imagination if you want this to work as well as I think it does.

To me, the random events generally mirror the chaos and 'oh, you have got to be kidding me' element found in zombie horror. Just when you think you've got everything you needed, zombies rip through the power lines and you're stumbling around in the dark. You have the zombies contained in the basement, and one stupid survivor decides to be a hero - and then gets bit. You make sure everyone knows to report their zombie bites, but one guy hides his wife in the basement, who then turns him and his daughter into flesh-eating undead. It's classic zombie movie stuff.