Note: this was a game I couldn’t attend, due to all my remaining vacation time being devoted to Ragnarocktoberfest. However, many of my HvZ-playing friends were able to go, and were kind enough to do a report. Or in the case of Scotty, take pictures that have been subsequently stolen. Enjoy reading someone else’s report – with footnotes, even! A fitting report from what was sadly the last MAASF game.
Three weekends ago, a group of Ohio HVZ players including myself, Team BrOhio, made a trek out to MAASF’s closing event, Godfall: Dust to Dust. Part of our attendance was due to urgency of this being their last event, but mostly we just heard it was balls to the wall awesome. On that point my comrades and I have formed a consensus that it was in fact balls to the wall awesome.
For some background, my group of people came from a largely HVZ background, having played at various HVZ games throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and Detroit. Now we can add Massachusetts to our list. What we mean by this war resume is that we went into this game with HVZ expectations, which may have been somewhat a mistake on our end as this game was ultimately a LARP with HVZ mechanics (namely zombies and blasters).
Beginning (Entrance and Establishing Basecamp):
We were occupying a large paintball/airsoft arena, so our initial briefing was done outside. At around 16:00 we were given a barebones rules briefing on how to be safe because many theatrical explosives were being used in the game. Blank shells in old timey fire arms, smoke grenades, and sound grenades were all employed by mods, players, and non-player characters. Once the briefing ended we were offered two choices. We could approach the opening fight on foot or on truck. Team BrOhio (sans Andrea who took the ground approach0 with the other group) chose the truck option. So our group of seven hopped onto the back of a truck along with 20? other players and rode into the arena. Then the sparks flew1.
We had a brief opportunity to fire at zombies from our truck bed, but few blasters could have reliably stunned zombies from where we are. This did not stop players from nearly emptying their drum magazines. This was effectively an interactive cut-scene to enter the game. Once boots were on the ground again, we had to start fighting zombies for real to get from the town area to Freestone, the human hub. In this first real fight we got our first taste of zombie LARP. Normally in HVZ zombies will either stand as a meat shield or promptly disengage from the action. Those last two “LARP” letters are critical here, as zombies would dramatize their stuns and let go of their bodily control and fall over dead mid charge at us. This was very cool in theory, but in practice there was still a 150 pound meat suit barreling towards our legs that we didn’t know how to interact with besides stepping back. One time one of these meat suits was wearing full plate armor. Fortunately for us at least, he ran into some metal structure, making a loud CLANG on impact2.
We only had one skirmish on our way to Freestone, and once we made it to the town our first objective was to search the area for resources and wait for a generator to be built (somewhat literally. I heard hammering…) and turned on to turn Freestone into a safe zone. We may have seen one or two zombies but the area became safe rather quickly. Once we had an established safe zone, we were given various tasks to do such as decoding alien documents and finding colossi. Colossi were posts that if deactivated in the correct order stun timers would increase. There was a big emphasis on counter-play in this game, unlike what we’ve seen to be common in HVZ where zombies only have the goal of tagging and trolling.
Our first venture out of Freestone was to find and destroy the three Colossi. BrOhio decided to scout in a particular direction and familiarize ourselves with the camp while it was still daylight. Along our travels we managed to find a lockbox, so we split up into two groups taking different paths back down. The group I was not a part of went back to Freestone to find people to pick open the lockbox. My group went to explore and found a second colossi. We called via radio back to Freestone (btw, radios helped a lot this game, for once) and called in a moderator to come over and mark the objective a success, mechanically. Theatrically/in lore, he came to set up an explosion, and we made the colossi go ka-boom! It was pretty cool3. We took a round-a-bout way back to Freestone, destroying another colossi in the process. Combining that with another human group destroying a third colossi, we managed to double the zombie stun timer, which was a huge boon for us in the early game. The mods / NPCs were surprised that we managed to complete the mission so swiftly.
Along the way back we had our first up close encounter with grenades. Humans and zombies (mostly zombies) could use grenades to stun each other. These worked by creating a loud noise after lighting a five second fuse and underhandedly tossing it at a group of the opposing team. If caught standing within ten feet away from it/inside a building, you were considered down if human, or stunned if zombie. We would later learn that these grenades varied wildly in their construction. Some would detonate after five seconds as usual, while others would detonate after three seconds or ten seconds. They always got humans to scatter and break formation, so I guess they did their job.
We were also introduced to a Kaiser that had large crab claws. It seemed relatively simple to take down but we learned that some attacks would anger it. Rockets were needed to take it down as with most opponents in the game. This one however was immune to ammunition that hit its claws. In fact, this only served to anger it. Allegedly a group of humans managed to take it down for good, but I remember my group scurrying off and separating ourselves from the main group to avoid it, as this is where we first felt out of our depth in any capacity.
Base Camp, Small Jobs
Night had fallen in Cape Cod (sunset was at 18:17), and we were back at the base of Freestone after successfully downing the three colossi. Humans ate food, drank water, and did more decoding and puzzle solving. Half of BrOhio opted to do more scouting and gain more information of the area and find more things to do4. Half of us stayed behind for R&R and puzzle solving. We liked the north and south towers a lot. We stayed there a lot. It was very defensible and incredibly advantageous.
While snacking and providing over-watch from my tower I heard movement in the woods. I shined my flashlight into the woods, searched a little, and the noise stopped. I turned off my light, and continued eating. Then I heard the noise again. So I searched, convinced that someone was attempting to scout our base undetected. We did this dance for a few minutes until I had managed to shine my light onto a zombie ten yards away, clad in all black, but to their misfortune with reflective strips on the shoes and ankles. On knowing they were found out, they scurried back away into the woods. Continuing my watch I noticed someone stepping out of the safe zone to take a leak5. The zombie did not know or did not care that this life necessity was motivation for a human to leave safety, and attempted to strike. Sprinting through the path and brush gave me enough auditory notice to bring up my light and track the zombie. Raining a volley of darts from my stryfe onto the zombie I had saved my fellow human6, who may not have had the time to relieve himself in the process of readying his defense.
Sometime later we were given a side objective to move a bucket of (fake) radioactive waste to a valley to deter or upset the zombies, the true motivation I can’t recall. Tyler and I took point in guarding an NPC and a third human while another two guarded our rear. As versed in HVZ and armed as Tyler and I were, we still felt vaguely powerless in the dark with the knowledge that zombies could be lurking in the bushes all around us. This fear was unnecessary however as we successfully delivered the waste barrel with no resistance.
Night having fallen, we were given another objective. Never had our trigger fingers been so itchy and so cold. We were to head to the town we entered the game through and disrupt some zombie ritual. My half of BrOhio also wanted to collect the other half who was still stranded in the woods, alone in hostile territory. We formed up in a two man wide column and marched out into the cold dark woods, feeling more afraid than we were prepared for. Along the way we found encountered our first Kaiser (special NPC). I’m sure it had a special name that I could look up, but it had a flame thrower7 and that was the important part. We only knew that the tank on its back was what we needed to interact with. So one group needed to distract the Kaiser while a smaller quiet group attempted to shut off the flame thrower. I have been on both sides of this.
Somewhere along our route, we encountered the hot head (this is what I called said Kaiser while goading it to me, so we’ll call it as such here). Combine that with a zombie rush in the dark, and the human group split pretty immediately. BrOhio managed to regroup once or twice, but ultimately I was separated from the main human force. It was strange. It was me in the dark with a few humans rotating in and out depending on our individual opportunities to seek escape from the situation. Initially I was only separated from the main group by the Kaiser, and so we traded between taunting the Kaiser and trying to disable it. Both attempts failed. We were later told back at base that we needed to stun it with rockets five times, and then attempt to disable the flame thrower. However, we didn’t know it here, so a few people (in game) died trying to disable the air tank. I nearly lost my life in such an attempt but had managed to scurry up a hill just in time as the Kaiser turned around to light me up.
After that I was further and further separated from the human force, to the point that a valley had separated us, but we could see the hell that they experienced, and we were left powerless, only able to watch their demise from afar8. It was me, and a friend with a nemesis, in the dark woods alone at night, unsure of what to do or where to go. There was no use rejoining the human group only to join the horde along the way or while there, so we opted for a quieter approach, following a dark empty trail wherever it would lead us. Fortunately this was to another human. Unfortunately it was also to a zombie who took my first life tag. We then also rendezvoused with a member of BrOhio, Greg, who had been turned. In a truce9 we exchanged pleasantries, determined the whereabouts of our comrades, and then parted ways so that we wouldn’t have to engage with each other. In parting ways we made it to an edge of town, providing fire support for a small group of humans, and I had reconnected with the bits of BrOhio that I initially set out with. After the reunion, we went back to freestone and were reunited with the rest of BrOhio, having lost only two. One we lost to the horde, the other to their own digestive track.
Finale The Lost BrOhio
This section will be criminally quick but I hope to do it justice, having only heard bits and pieces rather than experiencing it. Around twilight, the quieter half of BrOhio (socks, melee, a talon claw, and an FR1 viper, rather than Artemis and flywheels) decided to scout around the area more to find more things and learn more about the surroundings. For a while it seemed as though they were trapped, hiding on the outskirts of the town near arena entry. I think they may have done some scouting as well, but ultimately, we were usually separated. At one point we thought we heard machine gun fire coming through their radio. It was wild. Any time we were calling them over radio, I thought we might have doomed them by giving away their location to the zombies. Evidently not.
Once the mission involving the hot head was underway, they knew at least that we were attempting to extract them. I think, although I could be wrong, that the zombie objective had pushed them out of hiding, forcing them either off to the side or towards us. During this engagement, Greg had tripped and fallen, while the others turned and fled. Humans and zombies were clueless after a flash grenade had been thrown. It was just Greg, and seven zombies. Greg, armed with a noodle and shield, had managed to stun four zombies with a single swipe. Two of the remaining zombie’s swords struck his shield, with the last zombie connecting with Greg, taking his last life token.
With Greg eliminated, Brandon and Andrea carried onward. At some point in a zombie engagement, Brandon managed to back himself into making acquaintance with the flame thrower Kaiser. If I recall correctly, this removed one of his life tokens. The scouting party in the end lost two members, as mentioned in the previous section. The reunion was bittersweet, but ultimately we were relieved to see our comrades again.
Reunited, quickly becoming colder as night took hold and the Atlantic winds carried cool air to the battle grounds, we contemplated our next move. I think we all ate more food and drank more water, resting to regather strength. Periodically more information would come in about something. Allegedly the flame thrower Kaiser had been vanquished finally and we learned how to take it down when it no longer mattered.
So we found an alien artifact. We needed to combine this with the generator in our safe zone, and set it off in town to disrupt a big zombie ritual, which would sever our world from the aliens and humanity could live in peace. This was our final mission. I think out of game we moved the finale to being so early so that we could go home because it was quickly becoming colder. After spit-balling a few methods of approach we ultimately agreed on a route, and one person opted to take the lead twenty yards ahead. BrOhio took point at the bulk human formation, two by three, with the rest of the humans trailing behind us. We were as ready as we could be, as ineffective as we could be, and on we marched to town. Shortly before we encountered another Kaiser, the knight, which we had to approach diplomatically. Our scout did this effortlessly, and we had gained an ally for the final battle. When we reached the town he threw a handful of grenades into the horde and we quickly had to ready to fight.
In the first charge I had attempted to fire a rocket at a shield zombie coming at me. I failed, and he tagged me pretty effortlessly. As such, I quickly discarded my gear, and ran off to play zombie as you do. The other humans marched to their final holding location, while I luckily met up with Greg. We took part in a zombie summoning ritual which summoned two Kaisers that would aid the zombies in this fight12. Then it was an all-out assault on the human formation for fourteen grueling explosive chaotic minutes.
This finale probably had everything I loved and hated about this experience. I loved that there were explosives. I felt that the fight was far more even between humans and zombies, often the zombies even had the upper hand, which was a feeling I had rarely felt since my freshman year of school playing HVZ for the first time. I thought it was a great bit of immersion, and we all seemed to have fun with it. I did not, however, appreciate blanks being fired at my face. I don’t know if I inherently signed up for that happening through participation in the event, but I know that it was an overall unpleasant experience. When it happened the first time I just dipped behind a plywood wall and processed things for a minute, remembered that this was part of what I signed up for, and carried on charging at the humans. The second time I had a shield. I guess this offered some placebo of protection when someone fired shotgun blanks into the horde13. I didn’t know exactly how to respond to this happening, and I had no interest in acting things out, as I didn’t understand the hierarchy of power-ups at play here, so I walked off, and carried on only approaching players with normal foam armaments. I had already attempted to charge someone only for him to say “I have plot armor” and then gut shot me point blank with a HIRicane. It was chaos.
Despite human forces dwindling from 40 to 20, there was a human victory at the end of the fight, marked by the human objective literally going up in flames and explosions of purple. It was quite cinematic. Mechanical human victory and plot zombie victory seems like a good place to end the game to me. Given another five minutes and the humans would have been wiped. Only Andrea had made it out alive in the end, and maybe Scotty. The rest of BrOhio had fallen defending humanity to their last dart, and their last cold breath.
Ultimately our group wholeheartedly enjoyed the experience. It was a large amount of culture shock for all of us having predominantly played HVZ. This was a LARP with elements of HVZ, and had we gone with that in mind we would have been much more prepared. The over-acting got in the way of fair play sometimes, as zombies falling down in front of me made me think they weren’t stunned, and also impeded the action which is something I normally see professed against in HVZ unless it’s PSU or New Paltz where you are able to stop in place. I loved feeling like I wasn’t a Call of Duty action hero unlike normal HVZ where only a truly overwhelming horde could stop me. Hard and fast rules were often neglected in favor of narrative, ease of procedure, or lack of player understanding. This is not a critique of the event, just a point of momentary frustration. We had a lot of fun, and we’ve done nothing but rave to our friends and each other about the time we had there, and we hope that more of these events happen in the future.
Side Tangents and Explanations.
- Her group went straight into the woods and quickly lost the path, coming out in time to see the truck round the corner. The zombies rapidly cut us them off, getting between the two groups and they found us again after skirting the edge of the town.
- The truck transport and theatrics were Tyler’s favorite moment from the trip
- No one was hurt. Armor is good at protecting the body. This was still Danny’s favorite moment.
- This mod, who was in character, was escorted by another human group, and as I guarded humans cresting the last hill I received three compliments on various elements of my attire in the space of ten seconds. It is the most validation I have ever received in such a small amount of time and I got really gushy about it. The subsequent up-blowing was Andrea’s favorite moment. Specifically the absurdity of asking a mod if we could blow stuff up.
- The lost BrOhio section
- There were no bathrooms aside from staging area, and the safe zone mechanics were not well communicated, as zombies often tried to tag humans standing within boundaries, and humans often stepped outside not knowing they were unsafe.
- Brian’s (my) favorite moment.
- “Flame thrower” was just compressed air and a red light, controlled by a gruff slow moving NPC that didn’t say a word. He’s probably a chill dude outside of the game. Here, we were all terrified.
- Just a writer’s note to snap me out of the in-game emotion. Thinking back on the experience it was AWESOME. But it was eerily terrifying at the time.
- Both of us dragged out the conversation, hoping it would draw the attention of horde or humans. He wanted horde. I couldn’t care less, but I wanted more people either for action or support.
- Unsurprisingly, Greg’s favorite moment.
- Brandon’s favorite moment
- We learned later that this ritual should have guaranteed a plot victory for the zombies (because LARP and narrative). This ritual would allow a new strain of zombies to enter earth, and wage an endless war on the humans.
- The blanks probably looked really cool from the side lines, but it was counterintuitive to any lecture on firearm safety that I had been taught.