Wednesday, 14 September 2016

MHvZ Game Report 10/9/16 - Lower Player Count, Balloons

We had less players than usual today, resulting in a later than usual start. There was also a little rain, though for the most part that didn't interfere with play. We did however have an opportunity to try a new zombie mutation which was rather interesting.
  • Survival - Standard HvZ gametype, humans try to survive for a given amount of time (or until the last human falls). Zombies are given access to upgrades at various times, we used Infectors and Tanks available from the start and Husk at 5 minutes. Last human to fall wins. 
  • Secret VIP - There are 3 special players in this game: the VIP, the General and the Traitor. The VIP is a human who the other humans are trying to protect and is restricted to a given area (we used the usual tambark area), while the Traitor is a zombie masquerading as a human. When stunned, zombies must move outside of the VIP's area before counting down their stun. The only person who knows the VIP's identity is the General, while all original zombies know the Traitor's identity. Everyone knows the identity of the General, making them the only guaranteed trustworthy human. The Traitor acts as a human, but can at any point do a single Traitor zombie tag, revealing that they are the Traitor, and thus turn into a regular zombie. Additionally, if a human hits another human, the hit human is stunned for 25 seconds, as if they were a zombie. If the humans protect the VIP for a given period of time (e.g. 15 minutes), the humans win. If the zombies successfully tag the VIP, the zombies win. Zombie upgrades are unlocked on a timer like Survival, with Infectors available from the start, and 5 minutes for Tanks. If a human is hit by a grenade, they are instantly turned into a zombie. This is the only way to actively eliminate the Traitor.
    When the Traitor is eliminated, they become a Berserker (see new zombie mutation).
  • Defence Survival - The three zombie upgrades of Infector, Tank and Husk are spread throughout three separated squares, about 3m wide. Zombies can pick up the upgrades if they touch the desired upgrade inside the squares. If a zombie is stunned within a square, they must move outside of the square before counting down their stun. Zombies are only allowed one upgrade at a time.

  • None

Zombie rules:
Zombies tag humans with their hands onto any body part, blaster, tactical gear, etc, turning the human into a zombie. If a human hits a zombie with a dart, the zombie is stunned for 25 seconds (approximately). A human can also stun a zombie with melee, but only with a direct hit to the back.

There are 3 standard zombie upgrades/mutations/perks: 
  • Infector - zombies get to use foam swords, pool noodles, etc. Tags with said foam melee weapons on humans count as regular tags. Said melee weapons can also be used to block darts. 
  • Tank - zombies get to use shields, which block darts. The shields cannot be used to tag humans, presumably as a precaution against shieldbashing which could cause significant injury. 
  • Husk - a zombie gets to use a ranged attack, in this case a Vortex Mega Howler. A ranged Husk attack counts as a regular zombie tag. Husk ammo can be picked up by any zombie, but can only be used by the Husk naturally. The Husk may move from the place they were stunned to retrieve their ammo, but do not count down their stun timer until they return to their original stun place.
Zombie upgrades cannot be stacked, so a zombie can only have one upgrade at any time.
If in play, grenades can stun a zombie with a hit to any equipment, including swords and shields, and can be reused at will.

There was an additional, experimental zombie mutation called Berserker. This zombie mutation utilises the JSPB balloon life indicators. While the balloon is still alive, the Berserker is invulnerable, and only once the balloon has been popped can they be stunned. Once the balloon is popped, they are turned into an ordinary zombie.


Since there were a lot of different blasters there, I've generalised them and only listed down the ones that I saw as significant or noteworthy, or remember for that matter. Being that I can't be everywhere at once, it's entirely possible I completely missed some blasters.
Elite Rapidstrike (various motors, LiPos) - standard high ROF full auto flywheeler. Highly effective at close to mid range and a lot of fun to use. They can easily go through a lot of ammo though, and need good trigger discipline to control.
I finally got a chance to try out my Rapidpistol in combat. It performed admirably, with the 2-switch allowing for reasonable pusher control. The pusher control felt a lot less precise than what I'm used to making it a lot harder to single shot, and it also felt a lot less accurate than my Bullpup RS. Nevertheless, the small form factor was quite convenient and the insane ROF was a lot of fun. I wouldn't use it over my Bullpup for PvP games like at MLF, but it might serve well as an MHvZ primary.
Elite Stryfe (various motors, LiPos) - standard all-rounder semi auto flywheeler, effective and close to mid range. Easier to build and control than a Rapidstrike, though more restricted in ROF.
ZS Slingfire (upgrade spring) - a decent but not great blaster. Decent power but somewhat slow in ROF. Used by one particular player who is experienced with it.
ZS Jolt - used by the Slingfire player, this has actually been present at many previous MHvZ events but I never bothered to add it in. It serves as a decent last resort pocket blaster, useful only against one or two zombies.
Elite Alpha Trooper (upgrade spring) - decent all round pump action springer. A little lacking in both power and ROF compared to a flywheeler, but for a low modding effort blaster works quite well.
Elite Firestrike (upgrade spring, speedloader) - high power, low ROF blaster that works well at suppressing and surprising zombies at long range. Naturally it's pretty vulnerable against multiple zombies and in close range, but it's always backed up by a Stryfe.

Elite Demolisher (unknown mods) - I didn't get a close look at it, but did see it in action. It appeared to perform essentially like a bulky Stryfe.

Modulus Recon MkII (unknown mods) - didn't get a close look at this either. It worked decently as a compact springer, though is far outmatched for ROF by any of the flywheelers present.
ZS Brainsaw (stock?) - was a cool, fun thing present at MHvZ. Its exposed barrels allowed for decent scavenge based combat, though otherwise was not particularly practical, especially considering it's bulk. Not that you'd use a Brainsaw for practical combat anyway.

We used the standard MHvZ play area, mostly open with only a few trees, and some large trees in a tambark circle. There was a little on-off rain, however for the majority of game time we were able to avoid it. Player count was lower today than usual, I think somewhere around 15 people, perhaps a few more. This resulted in somewhat more quiet and less chaotic games, however there were still enough to make a decent zombie horde. Due to relatively low player count, we started somewhat late.

We started as usual with a Survival. For the most part it progressed as per the standard course for Survival, with the zombies not being able to do much until they were given access to the Tank shield. There were no Berserkers in this first round as the balloon systems were still being assembled. During this game we had the lowest player count, around maybe 12, so it was relatively quiet. Mid-way through the game, I noticed several players arriving. I decided to sacrifice myself, so as to not tire myself out as much, save some of my loaded mags, and speed up the game so the rest of the players could join in. The small player count seemed to benefit the zombies in early-mid game, especially once the Tank was made available, as there were less humans raining down darts on them. At the end of the game, this did make the horde look a lot less impressive, but it was still easily large enough to hound down the last few humans.

We did a second round of Survival with the recently arrived players to boost up player count a bit. This game also progressed about the same as usual. I was tagged out by the new Husk. In previous games, the Husk is usually a rocket fired from a Titan or Drain Blaster, which typically do not have very good range or accuracy. In this event, we used a Vortex Mega Howler, which with good throwing technique can be thrown quite far with surprising accuracy. I personally was tagged in the foot from at least 10 metres away by a good Husk throw in this round. This new Husk significantly altered how threatening the Husk was. With the rocket launcher Husks, it was usually a very easy prospect to just dodge the slow moving, inaccurate rocket, even at relatively close range. The Vortex Mega Howler, however, can travel at a much higher speed, with much better accuracy. Throughout the day I saw a lot of very near Husk misses, even with the Husk over 15 metres away. Though the Husk is still not a significant threat to an alert and otherwise unengaged human at mid range and beyond, it is far more of a threat than previously when humans are occupied with other zombies. There is also no need to spend time pumping up a rocket launcher, making the Husk a much more persistent threat. I think this new Husk is much better than the old ones, and is definitely worth a second shot at the next MHvZ. I also love the mortar-like whistle it produces when thrown correctly.

We played a triple of Secret VIP. They were all very short, and progressed rather similarly. As usual, I would take up position away from the main human group, warding off just a few zombies. During this time I got a good amount of practice getting used to how my Rapidpistol behaved, and had a little fun dumping entire mags at just one or two zombies. As usual, since I wasn't near the bulk of the humans, I rarely ever saw the VIP get tagged. Surprisingly, the humans rarely survived long enough for the zombies to get access to the Tank. I believe a significant contributor to the humans' quick demise was the low player count. In typical MHvZ events, there are at least 20 or so players, resulting in 3 or 4 starter zombies and a good 16 or so humans. In today's Secret VIP games, we still had around 3 or 4 starter zombies but only around 12 or so humans. The significantly reduced human count resulted in much less firepower packed into a small space. This is what I typically rely on to keep the bulk of the humans safe, as even with 4-6 humans watching the sides and rear of the main human group, there are plenty of humans to fend off the main zombie advance even if they are distracted. In today's event, the lower player count meant that the central human group was left much more vulnerable.

Like with last event, the Traitor did not have a big influence on the game as a human, however with the addition of the Berserker mutation, became in many ways a second Tank. Like Tanks, the Berserker is practically invulnerable from head on attacks, and is an absolute nightmare to take on 1v1. Unlike Tanks, the Berserker only has a small weakpoint that is easily covered up or otherwise protected, and their equipment has much less impact on mobility. Also unlike Tanks, there is no real strategy to taking down a Berserker besides hosing them with darts. A balloon attached to the Berserker's arm is a small, fast moving target that is extremely difficult to hit if they are running directly at you. I faced a Berserker in Secret VIP once head on, and I was only able to pop their balloon at essentially point blank range. In contrast with Tanks however, once the Berserker loses their balloon, they permanently become a regular zombie (at least they did in this event). The JSPB balloon kits worked extremely well provided the balloons were inflated correctly. The equipped player is more than capable of running without popping their balloon, but any decent hit from a blaster will hit the balloon hard enough to knock it into one of the spikes, popping it. If the balloon is not sufficiently inflated, it is much harder to pop, and if it is over inflated, it can be popped easily by accident.

I think the Berserker mechanic worked very well in Secret VIP. The elimination of the Traitor is usually followed up by one of two situations. If the Traitor has done their job well, the human group will be in disarray or be otherwise distracted, making for an easy target for the zombies and a quick end to the game. If the Traitor messed up or their hand was otherwise forced, then the humans are typically left in a good position, in which case the zombies could do with some help. Although the Secret VIP gamemode has historically been a losing proposition for the human group, there are many games in which I felt that the human group had a very solid chance of victory, especially if there is only one shield. Countering a single Tank in Secret VIP is typically not a problem if the humans are alert. Having two is a different proposition, particularly if they charge at the same time (or one right after another) from different directions. Having the Berserker is akin to having a second shield for a short time, which if coordinated correctly, can have a huge impact on the game.

With so few humans in the main group, it was extremely easy for the zombies to disrupt and break through the human defences. Whether with the Tank or Berserker, or even just a coordinated rush from regular zombies, the zombies will have many opportunities against the humans, far more than with larger human groups. Taking into account the already poor win rate of humans in Secret VIP, perhaps a slight alteration of zombie mutations is in order. Especially for relatively lower player counts, the zombies only really needed one Tank/Berserker, and usually the release of that mutation ended shortly after with the demise of the VIP. In larger player games, perhaps have the two shields become available separately (ie first one at 5 minutes as usual, but second one maybe around 8 minutes in). Regardless Secret VIP is a good change up from the regular Survival games. It is much faster paced and more intense, and has a unique claustrophobic not found in any other well established gamemodes, besides Blind Bomber which hasn't been played in a while. The addition of the Berserker mechanic for the Traitor I think helps significantly, as even if the Traitor fails miserably as a fake human, they have another chance to make it up for the zombies. The addition of a one-time special zombie is a fun mechanic that I personally enjoy.

We ended the game with a round of Defence Survival. The early game progressed as typical for Defence Survival, several minutes of stand-off eventually resulting in the zombies getting their desired mutation. Any of the mutations help the zombies' cause greatly, with the shields and Husk in particular helping the zombies break the stand-off. Once either of those mutations are obtained by the zombies, the game devolves into regular Survival. I was one of the last two survivors in this game, with both of us falling after running out of darts. This game was exceptionally long, lasting for over an hour. For reference, in previous events when there would be a set human win condition, the humans are declared to have won if they survive 35 minutes. This game was so long that we didn't have time for another round, which we usually would.
Something that's always irked me about Defence Survival is that once the Tank or Husk are acquired by the zombies, the squares become essentially meaningless and the game devolves into regular Survival. While early game is drastically different from regular Survival, mid and late game are essentially identical because the Tank and Husk invalidate the safety of the squares. I feel like perhaps having some final objective to defend would add more of a defence feel to the game, and only when that final objective is lost does the game devolve into regular Survival. The risk here of course is that the game becomes too much like Secret VIP or Blind Bomber. At the moment I think Defence Survival works ok as a simple hybrid gamemode, but I wouldn't mind some possible alterations to it to make it more defence oriented in mid game.

Besides my thoughts on Defence Survival, today's event worked quite well. My Rapidpistol proved itself as a fun and effective blaster, and I will likely bring it along again at future MHvZ events. The new balloon zombie Berserker was a neat injection of intensity to the game that offers something a little different to the other mutations currently in use. The new Vortex Mega Howler Husk is a much more formidable threat, and is also much easier to handle than the old rocket launcher Husks. I would be happy to see both of these mutations return in future MHvZs.

A link to the same post on BlasterHub: link

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