Monday, 10 October 2016

MHvZ Game Report 8/10/16 - High Player Count, Hostage Survival

We had a lot of players today which made for some really good games and in particular some rather big and scary zombie hordes. We also tried out a new Survival variant, Hostage Survival.
  • (Regular) 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 at 5 minutes, Tanks at 10 minutes and Husk at 15 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 turning into a regular zombie. Additionally, if a human hits another human, the hit human is stunned as if they were a zombie, however they can still fire their blaster. 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, 5 minutes for Tanks and 10 minutes for Husk. 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.
  • 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.

  • Hostage Survival - Three humans are selected as "Hostages". These Hostages have their hands bound, and abide by some special rules. They cannot move unless a human has their hand on their shoulder, so the human is essentially walking a Hostage. For safety reasons, the Hostages are not allowed to run. Though the Hostages' hands are bound, they are still allowed to fire their blasters. The humans can choose to "free" a Hostage, removing their binds and allowing them to be a fully functioning human player, but they no longer count as a Hostage. Hostages are not allowed in the tambark area. If a zombie is stunned in the tambark area, they must leave it before counting down their stun. If there are any Hostages still alive as Hostages (and not regular humans) after 35 minutes, the humans collectively win. Otherwise, the winner is deemed to be the last survivor as per regular Survival rules. One of the Hostages is supposedly a Traitor, who operates on the same rules as the Secret VIP Traitor, and can use their Traitor tag while still bound (this of course unbinds them and turns them into a regular zombie). As such, the same human vs human combat system is implemented, a human hit by a dart is stunned as if they were a zombie, but can still fire. The zombie upgrades are made available the same as in regular Survival.
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 a count of 25. 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.

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 Stryfe (various motors, LiPos) - staple of MHvZ, it was probably the most common blaster today. Good range, usable accuracy, solid ROF, easy to build, easy to use and modular, there's a lot to like the Stryfe.
Buzz Bee Sentinel (unknown mods, if any?) - a solid, low price springer rifle. Though its ergonomics are not great and its lever prime is much slower than a pump, the (US spec) Sentinel's raw power makes it a usable out-of-box blaster, which in itself is worth note.
ZS Slingfire (upgraded spring) - same Slingfire from the other MHvZ events, used by the same one player. A usable blaster, but generally inferior to most other popular primaries overall.
Elite Retaliator (various pump grips, upgrade springs) - staple of MHvZ, trading the slam-fire of its out-of-box pump action brethren with a little more power. Also one of the most tacticool and customisable blasters on the market, which is one of its main draws.
Elite Rapidstrike (various motors, LiPos) - staple of MHvZ, packing the same performance as the Stryfe, with a much higher sustainable ROF. Requires even better trigger discipline to keep in check, as well as a lot of spare mags.
ZS Sledgefire (singled, upgrade spring) - hasn't been seen at the past few MHvZs, but has appeared a number of times before. Best at mid range potshots and covering fire, though the switch from FVJs to Kooshes has hurt its accuracy significantly, greatly reducing its effectiveness at range. Very vulnerable in close range.
Elite Alpha Trooper (upgrade spring) - solid all round springer, easier and cheaper to build than a pump Retal, though not as powerful and has a lot less customisability.

N-Strike Barricades (compatible with Kooshes, unknown other mods) - used as a pair by the same one player, good at fast moving scavenging play, though few other players could pull it off as effectively.

ZS Hammershot, Rebelle Sweet Revenge (various light mods) - small blasters effective for light scavenge based combat. Very vulnerable against significant numbers of zombies, but paired with a lot of running could keep its user alive for quite a long time. My friend decided to carry 5 Hammershots into battle, and he could survive a reasonably long time off of those and scavenging between combat. I drew my Sweet Revenges at the end of a few Survival rounds, and they served quite well, helping me hold off zombies for an extra minute or two after running out of mags.

Elite Rhino-Fire (stock) - a cool but ridiculously impractical blaster. Was very easy to jam, very cumbersome, difficult to reload, rather unergonomic and performed very poorly.
Doomlands Double Dealer (upgrade spring) - was typically used with just a single mag, essentially making it into a fancy Rampage. When only firing one dart at a time it could keep up with the other equivalent springers present.
ZS Brainsaw (stock?) - used to be cool more than anything. 8 darts pump action isn't much, but the chainsaw on it makes it a fun blaster to have at MHvZ.
Mega Rotofury (rebarreled for micro darts) - hasn't appeared for quite a while so I thought I'd put it down here. High power and ability to reload on-the-fly (with rear-loading holes cut) makes it effective at mid range potshots and covering fire. Relatively low capacity and slow ROF make it rather vulnerable at close range, though with practice it can certainly still be effective.

ZS Sledgefire (set up for HPA) - Ryan of MTB's HPA Sledgefire. Equipped with a heap of spare shells, each loaded with 6 half-length darts, this Sledgefire was notable for sheer cool factor. Exceedingly effective against individual zombies, but having to reload after every burst made it very difficult to use against multiple zombies. Nevertheless, it was an awesome blaster to have around.
Buzz Bee Destiny (set up for HPA) - Ryan of MTB's HPA Destiny. When it worked, it was awesome, spewing out darts at a ridiculous rate, however seemed to be having some problems so was only used a little bit.

N-Strike Longshot (various internal upgrades, usually pump grips) - appear at MHvZ somewhat infrequently, and usually in different forms used by different people. Usually reasonably effective at mid range potshotting and cover fire, with its faster reload making it slightly better in close range than the Rotofury. It's still much bulkier and clunkier than the most popular blasters.

We used the same play area as always, a large grass triangle with trees in the northern area, and a tambark circle with several large trees. Something that is becoming painfully apparent is that the triangular play area shape with the lack of trees towards the tip is highly sub-optimal for a HvZ game. There is essentially no reason for humans to go towards the southern tip of the play area. It is far easier to get boxed in, and there are no trees to potentially hide behind to conceal yourself. This turns the play area essentially into a trapezium, with the effective border to the play area a small distance south of the southern most blue square.
Weather was very nice on the day, a maximum of 16C and sunny. We had a peak player count of around 30, higher than usual, which was good to see. The sheer number of players made for much larger and more intimidating zombie hordes in late game, and also made Secret VIP more chaotic and claustrophobic.

Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc

We started as usual with a regular Survival round. It didn't go particularly well for the humans, with several early casualties that could have easily been prevented with a bit of situational awareness and coordination. This resulted in the zombies having a greater than usual number when they were permitted access to the Tank shields. In general the human group did not perform especially well in this round, lacking the coordination to survive for a long period. The humans fell much faster than usual, resulting in a much shorter game. I ended up as one of the final survivors, though didn't put too much effort into my final stand, so as to preserve my energy for later rounds.

We switched to a Defence Survival, which also went quite poorly for the humans. I moved to defend the Husk square, as the new Husk is much more of a threat than previous version, so is much more worth guarding. We managed to hold off zombies from the Husk square for quite a while, however the same could not be said for the other squares. Whether through poor coordination, luck or otherwise, both the Infector and Tank squares were lost before the Husk square. The Infector and Tank equipped zombies stayed near those squares however, so I didn't come into contact with any of them until after the Husk was lost. With all three upgrades, the zombies were in a good position to whittle away the human group, and like with the first Survival round, it didn't take too long for the human group to get wiped out.
Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc

I paired up with one other player (incidentally that player was ThatRussianMerc) late in the game to survive. Together we were able to survive a lot, including one instance when we were attacked by at least half the horde and both Tanks. Despite the massive numerical disadvantage, through a combination of luck, communication and teamwork, we were able to stun the majority of the zombies and escape. This engagement really highlighted how much power two well equipped and coordinated humans can have in HvZ, and how important communication and teamwork are. Because we worked together to cover each other's backs, we were able to effectively stop just about every zombie, even the Tanks. A bit of luck did help to stun the Tanks early on, but there was nothing lucky about stunning the other zombies. Eventually we did both get tagged through sheer zombie numbers and running out of darts, but we were 2 of the last 3 humans.

We then played a pair of Secret VIP rounds. Though historically the humans have had a very poor record in this gamemode, today the humans performed exceptionally well, with chances to win even the games they lost.
In the first round, I was chosen as the General. The Traitor chose to use his Traitor tag me early on without firing darts at anyone else, before I ever fired a dart. This round went quite poorly for the zombies. Although we knew who the VIP was, and so who to target in particular, the humans were well organised and were able to keep casualties to a minimum. Even when the zombies got access to the Tank shields, through luck and volume of fire, the humans were able to keep them back, out of threatening range of the VIP. The Husk did provide a boon to the zombies, as it allowed for tagging of humans without the Husk actually having to enter the tambark, and also added an additional indirect threat to the VIP. Even so, the zombies were doing quite poorly and I wholeheartedly expected us to lose. With about a minute to go, the majority of the zombies formed up for a charge with both Tanks. This went very poorly, both Tanks getting stunned out very quickly, but served as a good distraction. During this time, one of the other zombies was actually able to sneak in and tag several humans, but more importantly, tagged the VIP, before getting stunned. The round went from an almost guaranteed human victory into a surprise zombie victory.
Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc

The second round progressed even better than the first. The General managed to identify the Traitor early on, who was acting especially suspiciously, and it was simple enough eliminating them with a grenade. Without the Traitor to disrupt the human ranks, the humans were able to maintain a very solid defence for the entire game. Even with both Tanks and the Husk in play, the zombies were unable to make significant progress, and though there were several casualties, the VIP and General were left unscathed, and the humans maintained a good number. I think about half of the human group survived the entire game, which is very impressive. This round ended in a resounding human victory.

These rounds really emphasised two key aspects of Secret VIP - the Traitor and the necessity of human coordination and awareness. In previous rounds, a good Traitor would reveal themselves during the worst possible time, stunning a number of humans and using their Traitor tag if not stunned. Though sheer firepower is often enough to hold off zombie charges, the extra chaos and distraction introduced by the Traitor's reveal is more than enough to break the human formation. This allows for a lot of easy tags, which in turn swings the game heavily to the zombies' advantage. From there it's a simple matter of constant zombie charges to wear down and eventually wipe out the remaining humans.

Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc
In these two rounds however, the Traitor had very little effect on the game. Neither Traitor did anything to disrupt the human formation, and I've always felt that Traitor tagging the General is nowhere near as useful as simply attack the humans. Having a guaranteed +2 to the zombie numbers (with knowledge of the VIP's identity) is not worth anywhere near as much as a disrupted human formation and the vulnerability it comes with. Without the Traitor to disrupt the human ranks, a decent human group without significant casualties can easily hold off any zombie charge through sheer volume of fire.

Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc
Zombie charges and the Traitor are not the only threats however, and humans should always be wary of the lone zombie. In the chaos of the game, it is very easy for the humans to fail to notice a single zombie hiding behind a tree. Humans will often gravitate towards areas with multiple zombies, and the commotion of a large zombie charge or some other event is often enough to draw the attention of most of the humans. With their attention drawn towards one direction, this gives a lone zombie a chance to slip in from the side or behind, and get some tags that they wouldn't have been able to get normally. Zombie charges are often not enough to tag humans, and excepting very large ones, it is rare for zombie charges themselves to make a significant direct impact on the humans. Rather, it is the lone, unnoticed zombies who usually do the most damage, and besides the Traitor, it is those zombies who have the best chance of winning the game. 
Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc

The best counter to these zombies? Proper coordination and awareness. As a human in Secret VIP, I often move away from the main group of humans. Not just because it'll result in me getting caught up in the chaos of big zombie charges, but also because there is no real need for me to be there. One more human worth of firepower is insignificant when there are already a good 10 or so humans facing that way. Instead, I will take up position in an area with few humans, but is still under threat from zombies. It is very easy for a couple of humans to get distracted and lose track of a zombie, so having extra eyes and ears is extremely helpful in that regard. By helping to ward off the lone zombies, I help to keep the human group as a whole alive and organised, keeping them in the best shape for the end game. It is important for the humans to have every angle covered at all times, regardless of how big the impending zombie charge is, so as to ensure that no zombies can sneak in and get some free tags.
Secret VIP is a claustrophobic, chaotic gamemode that is a nice changeup from the large Survival modes. It does well as an intermediary gamemode that prevents people from getting tired too early in the event due to its general lack of significant movement (for the humans at least).

Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc

We took a break for lunch, and after that played another round of Secret VIP. I decided to sit this round out to take some chrono data. I was told that the zombies won with about 35 seconds to spare, much like the first round we played. We finished with a round of Hostage Survival. It was a little bit odd, but did give the humans an actual objective to play for. Early on it played out essentially as a regular Survival would. One particular human decided to try and free all the Hostages (which would eliminate the possibility of a human group win). After he managed to free two of them, the other humans stunned him and started forcing him away from the remaining hostage. With the exception of the remaining Hostage being a focus point of human and zombie attention, this game progressed essentially as a typical Survival.
Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc
The Hostages provided an opportunity for the zombies that accelerated the game. Because the Hostages can only walk, any humans who dedicate themselves to defending Hostages make themselves much more vulnerable by reducing their own maneuverability. Though this is no issue against regular zombies and Infectors, slow moving humans are an ideal prey for Tanks and the greatly improved Husk, allowing them to reduce the human numbers much more quickly. Eventually the final Hostage was lost, pinned down behind the tambark area surrounded by zombies, turning the game into a regular Survival. Though the admin had claimed that one of the Hostages was a Traitor, this was in fact a lie and there were no Traitors in the game. I suspected this from the start when I was told that he hadn't talked to any Hostage in particular, and this has happened previously. Late in the game, I paired up again with the same player as from the Defence Survival round, and again we were able to fend off much larger zombie groups than most other human pairs. In one final zombie charge, I was able to escape the encircling zombie group, however my partner was not so lucky, leaving me alone as the final survivor. Though I was able to evade and stun quite a number of zombies on my own, I was eventually consumed by the horde.

The 35 minute timer for Hostage Survival is far too long I feel, at least with standard time based zombie upgrades. 35 minutes is the timer applied to regular Survival and Defence Survival, which are gamemodes that limit the humans far less in maneuverability and have no special win condition. Even then, it is rare for the humans to survive that long. The chances of having at least 1 of 3 particular maneuverability inhibited humans surviving 35 minutes is extremely small without an exceptionally good human group. The ability to free a Hostage does introduce an interesting choice for the humans - do they free Hostages to improve their firepower survivability but reduce the chance of a group win, or do they keep Hostages as Hostages to improve the chance of a group win, but make themselves much more vulnerable? Of course, like Defence Survival, there is also the choice for humans to simply abandon the special objectives in favour of self survivability.

I feel that something more important should be tied to the Hostages. As is, if all the Hostages are freed, the game turns into regular Survival, with no real disadvantage of the humans, besides lack of group victory. At the moment there isn't a big advantage to playing the objective in Hostage Survival. At least in the case of Defence Survival, if the humans refuse to play the objective, they give the zombies instant access to all their upgrades. I think perhaps tying the zombie upgrades to the Hostages in some way would be highly beneficial for the game. Perhaps increase the time for zombie upgrades to be unlocked, at least for Tanks and Husk (say 14 and 21 minutes respectively). If a Hostage is freed or tagged, the zombies immediately obtain the next upgrade, and the time to the remaining upgrades is shortened respectively. For instance, if the zombies already have Infectors but not Tanks and a Hostage is freed or tagged, the zombies immediately get access to Tanks and (using the example extended times above) only have to wait 7 minutes for the Husk. This adds significant incentive to defending the Hostages, as like with Defence Survival, playing the objective delays the zombies from obtaining their upgrades. Since it is easier to defend a moving player than a stationary square, the upgrades are still on extended time limits to give the zombies some chance in mid-late game.

Photo credit to ThatRussianMerc

Overall today's event was pretty good. We got some good hordes going and I had some awesome moments staving off near impossible odds with a few humans. We also had much closer calls with Secret VIP instead of the usual fast human annihilation. I think Hostage Survival with some tweaks could become a decent Survival variant.

A full album of ThatRussianMerc's photos can be found here: link
 The same game report can be found on BlasterHub: link 

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