Last weekend saw the first event of its kind a ‘wide area megagame’, simply put this saw multiple venues each put on the same megagame all at the same time with interaction between each game possible. Jim Wallman of Megagame Makers came up with the concept and scenario, a monumental expansion of earlier game designs of his, and bravely decided to make the experiment happen. The scenario saw a zombie outbreak hit modern day USA; each venue hosted a game representing a single state, whilst in London there was a game set at the Federal level that was linked to all the other games concerning itself with shuttling resources about. In all there were at least 500 players in 11 locations in 5 countries (1 game each in Canada, Holland and Belgium, 2 in the USA and the remainder in the UK), it goes without saying that to have simultaneous gameplay with time differences the players in the Americas had to get up rather early. Each state was made up of several cities, each with their own police, emergency services and Mayor, state police and National Guard as well as a State Governor. In additional there were a few players taking on the role of Federal Liaison linking them to the Federal game in London.
Pennine Megagames decided to host two of the games rather than just one. I was originally slated to be a city control for Leeds but due to a personnel change I ended up going down to Birmingham to act as WAMCOM (Wide Area Megagame COMmunications) control, I had the job of co-ordinating any game information that had to flow from my game to any other and vice versa. The meant I had a much better idea of what was happening in the rest of the game but surprisingly little of the detail of the Birmingham game. Accordingly, I can only give an account of how I felt the game ran rather than the detail of the happenings within the state of Shawnee (basically Kentucky). For a better insider’s look, you’d be best off heading to Facebook and reading the player’s reports on there.
The players seemed to get into their roles with gusto, with separate cities there was much politicking going on as there were state wide elections to be considered while trying to stop the zombie outbreak. Unlike the previous Urban Nightmare games this one had an open map meaning the players had to interact with the rules directly and there was a lot less hidden information about zombie numbers and strengths. In the other games, the zombies were played and human directed but given the Birmingham game had relatively little control so the zombie spread was administered by them, I think that this made the job of the Shawnee players a bit easier than that of the other games.
From the emails that I got in the early part of the day the zombies hit hard, many cities declared a state of emergency (necessary to call in state assets) after only a few turns of the game. This didn’t surprise me that much as I had helped to play test the game before hand and new that they had the potential to get out of control very quickly unless the players were very aggressive early on. After a few cities had fallen states were announcing a state of emergency so they could get access to federal help; Shawnee was the last state to declare a state of emergency. I did write little notes to keep our political control team up to date with the nationwide state of play, these were then passed on to the press team player, the media played an important part of the game, necessary in any game set in the present day really, these became known as the post-its of doom as I never had any good news to pass on. Not sure how many made it to the players as I know that most of the new generated was to do with our own state.
You can read the press reports that the game generated here: http://unsoc.net/
By the middle of the afternoon several of the states were in mass panic with cities completely overrun with zombies and in some cases completely abandoned to their fate, in comparison the Birmingham players were doing well. Rumours abounded of other state’s governors being hunted down and arrested as well as one state being taken over by a National Guard coup (there were rumours at this point of a nuclear weapon being used, I’m not sure one was but I did see a picture of a release form allowing the use of unconventional weapons signed by a state governor. I’m not sure what the federal team were up to but a great deal of military hardware was released to them along with all manner of experimental medical equipment. In the end, I think a cure had been developed and then aerosolised and was being prepared to be spread out over the states. This came at a terrible price to both lives and infrastructure of the affect states through the four days of game time.
Overall, I think the first Wide Area Megagame was a great success, credit should go to Jim Wallman for putting it all together, also to the control and players around the world. A few technical issues popped up but not enough to break the game. For one I struggled to get access to the relevant game server through the firewall of the school hall’s wifi. We ended up having to use a mobile phone hot spot for the duration of the game. At an individual venue level, I think that the game worked better being multiple cities in a state rather than the previous games of Urban Nightmare that I’ve played that were just based around a zombie outbreak in a single city in one state
It was great to go on something of a megagame road trip to a new part of the country and see some new faces. Hopefully they’ll make it up to Manchester at least for future games.
Will there be another Wide Area Megagame? Who knows but I’d like to be involved if there is based on my experiences of this one. Everyone in Birmingham had a great time and it was great hearing all the individual game stories in the pub afterwards.