Each day the players are presented with a choice of which location to visit next. They must make a consensus decision between the two places on offer. The main deciding factor here is a risk/reward trade-off. The amount of loot and number of Z-cards at each location convey the potential reward and risk at each location, respectively. Of course these numbers are only an estimate, the decision is not totally informed. Three Z cards will on average provide 2 zombies, but it may be zero or it may be many more depending on the draw of the cards. Likewise the loot might be valuable or rubbish.
The choice can be better informed in two ways:
- Counting cards: As the game progresses, players who have been counting the number of zombie and safe cards they have seen will have a better estimate of the odds at an unvisited place – at least until the deck is reshuffled. I have seen an experienced team successfully deduce the exact contents of a pile after several ‘days’ of play by remembering every encounter.
I am reluctant to design a game which particularly advantages this practice, since it encourages a kind of play that does not appeal to a lot of players. Of course, they don’t have to do it, but if there is a significant advantage to doing it they will either do so (and be bored) or not do it and feel they are suffering for it. Fortunately I think the reward for this kind of play is small enough that it can allow players who do it to feel clever while not making players who don’t do it feel like they are losing out.
- The binoculars specifically provide the players with the power to look at one pile of Z cards. This makes them more powerful. If they play it right, every decision can be made with full knowledge of the Z-cards. This can sometimes make the choices much easier, but the ‘draw two’ cards still leave a lot of room for uncertainty. This is a common design problem — rewarding the player with power can take away the challenge. In this case it could be balanced out by having a hand limit; providing power at the cost of carrying capacity.
In addition to the simple risk/reward relationship, I want to add more individual powers to locations to involve more incomparables in the choice. So the highway gets you to the goal faster (but has no loot), the hospital gives you health, the police station ammo, etc. An interesting situation arises when the players put off visiting the hospital (because they don’t need health yet) and then encounter a highway. If they take the highway they will be forced to discard the hospital also. I’d like to add more interactions between locations like this. At the moment only the highway and the research centre have any interest effect on the other location.
The requirement for a consensus decision here isn’t usually a big deal. There is usually some discussion about the best decision, which is good, but I have yet to see major disagreement arise. In particular, unlike the other choices in the game, usually the outcome that is best for the group is the best for each individual. It is probably good that there is at least one choice in the game for which this is the case.