Monday, 7 August 2017

MHvZ Game Report 5/8/17

Another game at Melbourne HvZ. We had some pretty good games and a solid turnout, and I had an opportunity to give some of the new Buzz Bee blasters a go in combat.
  • (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. 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.
    NEW RULE: While stunned, humans can stun zombies but not other humans.
  • Defence Survival - The three zombie upgrades of Infector, Tank and Husk are spread throughout three separated area, about 3-4m 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.
    NEW RULE: One Tank shield was made available to the zombies from the start.
  • Bounty Hunt - Three humans are designated as VIPs, known to all players, and allocated a particular zombie upgrade. If a VIP is tagged, their allocated zombie upgrade is made available. The game otherwise operates like a standard Survival round.
    NEW RULES: One Tank shield and Infector melee weapons were made available to the zombies from the start. The VIPs can only use a particular blaster that is given to them.
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.

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 two Vortex Mega Howlers for two Husks. A ranged Husk attack counts as a regular zombie tag. 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.
If in play, grenades can stun a zombie with a hit to a shield, and can be reused at will. If human vs human rules are in effect, a grenade hit to a human will turn that human into a zombie immediately. Furthermore, if a human is stunned by another human, they must drop any grenades they are carrying.

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) - typical high-ROF blaster at MHvZ. Can eat through a lot of ammo very quickly and easily without good trigger discipline, but can also hose down zombies very effectively.

Elite Stryfe (various motors, LiPos) - typical and highly popular all-round flywheeler at MHvZ. A little less ammo-hungry than Rapidstrikes, though can also easily eat through a lot of ammo with poor trigger discipline. There were several Stryfes equipped with full-auto kits, which behaved much like Rapidstrikes.
Elite Retaliator/Modulus Recon MkII (various springs, pump grips) - typical all-round springer at MHvZ. Very easy to build and quite effective in the right hands.
N-Strike/Elite Rayven (various motors, LiPos) - perform essentially the same as a Stryfe, solid all-round flywheelers. There are a couple of physical issues in the Rayven platform not present in the Stryfe that can significantly hinder performance and usability however. In particular, the very poor stock trigger mechanism and magwell-flywheel cage alignment issues.
N-Strike Modulus (assumed overhaul) - again, essentially the same as a Stryfe, just in a larger package.
N-Strike Vulcan (unknown mods, assumed overvolted) - as has been mentioned many times previously, a blaster that is more for looking cool and being fun than actual practical performance, at least in its current form. Without an extended belt, its capacity is not especially notable given the availability of Worker 22 dart mags, and its ROF is not impressive compared to full-auto flywheelers. Muzzle velocity is also somewhat lacking without a flywheel afterburner or similar technology.
ZS Sledgefire (various mods, usually singled and upgrade spring) - high power single shot springer. Effective at efficiently picking off single zombies at mid-to-long range, however quite ineffective in close range against multiple zombies due to its single shot nature.
(Assumed Elite) Alpha Trooper (assumed upgrade spring) - solid all-round springer with stock pump action. A little lacking in power compared to a Retaliator/Recon MkII, but quiite effective in HvZ nonetheless.

ZS Slingfire (upgrade spring) - notable for its one-handable prime with practice, allowing for somewhat effective on-the-run combat. Otherwise inferior to a Retaliator/Recon MkII/etc in most ways performance wise.

Doomlands Lawbringer (unknown mods if any) - reasonably high capacity one-handable revolver. Great for on-the-run combat against a couple of zombies, but struggles when faced with larger numbers.

Buzz Bee Thermal Hunter (double spring, accepts Nerf mags) - gave this a shot during the first round. Even with just relatively weak double springs, it had more than enough power for HvZ combat. I however had a lot of jamming issues, which I believe is related to how I cut the shell to make it accept Nerf mags. I have done a little further trimming and sanding since, and I believe it is more reliable now, though it has not been combat-tested in its current state.
Buzz Bee Rail Raider (stock) - a fun but not very practical blaster. 6 darts is a not a lot of capacity especially given the blaster's size, and it's not the most reliable blaster either. Feeding can be finicky, and often results in blank shots if it is not loaded full with 6 darts. Nevertheless, it was very fun to use against lone zombies, and being able to load multiple darts into the same spot was also convenient for topping up after every engagement.
ZS Dreadbolt (stock) - a silly, poor performing, clunky, unnecessarily large blaster that uses an unusual ammo type. It has no practical benefit over just about any other blaster.
Rival Apollo (pump grip) - quite powerful for a stock blaster, and also has good accuracy up to around 15 metres. Rival balls lose speed very quickly however, and beyond that range become extremely floaty and slow. Capacity is also a little limited as the largest compatible Nerf Rival mag holds a mere 12 balls. I also personally find the pump stroke to be uncomfortably long and rough, though this may be more due to lack of experience with it.
Dart Zone Magnum Superdrum (stock) - a very good non-mag-fed stock blaster. A huge capacity of 40 darts, backed up with good power and ROF makes the Magnum Superdrum all round a very good blaster. It can hold its own against several zombies and can be topped off easily, however its biggest weakness is in reloading a lot of darts. In the absence of spare cylinders, which are more difficult to procure than Nerf mags (especially in Australia), reloading the Magnum can take quite a while. The cylinders are however quite large, so carrying multiple spare is more difficult than carrying a number of mags. Regardless, the Magnum Superdrum overall is possibly the best modern non-mag-fed stock blaster.

It was relatively cool on the day, not breaking 15 degrees Celsius. It was partly cloudy, with the sun often providing some warmth on the field if not blocked by the occasional cloud. Wind was a major factor, often picking up to significant speeds and throwing a lot of darts completely off their flight path. This often made longer ranged engagements difficult, if not near impossible, however had minimal impact on close range combat. We had a peak player count of around 35, a little lower than last months but still a very solid turnout.

As always, we started with a regular Survival round. I took along my Rail Raider and Thermal Hunter, using the Rail Raider for the first couple of minutes before Tank shields were made available. Against one or two zombies, it worked fine, needing only a few darts to stun each. The Rail Raider was easily topped up immediately after each skirmish. Once Tank shields were made available however, I made the decision to dump the Rail Raider, switching to my Thermal Hunter for more practical combat against Tanks. I encountered a number of jamming issues with it, which I believe are related to the cuts I made to the magwell not being deep enough, and my priming stroke being too fast for the already iffy feeding position. Nevertheless, I was able to survive for a reasonable time with it. A fair way into the game, a friend of mine was hurt, so I took their Stryfe for the rest of the game, dumping the Thermal Hunter. With it and my Sweet Revenges, I survived long enough to be the last survivor.

We then played two rounds of Secret VIP. In the first round, I was selected as the VIP. This round went quite well for the humans, and they were able to hold off the zombies very well, even with Tank shields and the Husk in play. In the late stages of the game, the General was tagged, revealing my identity to the zombies. However, as the Traitor was still in play, I withheld my identity from the rest of the humans. To maximise my chances of survival, I gravitated away from human-dense areas, and in particular avoided the Husk and tended away from Tanks. In the dying seconds of the game, the zombies shouted my identity to their Traitor, who was still as yet unrevealed. Distracted by one zombie charging at me, the Traitor also charged at me. I turned in time to stun them, however from their momentum made it within tagging distance of me, a good several metres away from where I had actually stunned them. While I had assumed that while stunned, the Traitor is a non-threat, this was apparently not the case as the stunned Traitor tagged me for a zombie victory with ~10 seconds left.

I am particularly annoyed with what happened at the end of the game, partly given that we lost with a mere 10 seconds to go, but primarily that we lost because of a detail that to me does not make sense, and has never been stated in the rules of the game when I have attended. Every other rule regarding human vs human combat is designed to render a human helpless against other humans, particularly with the latest addition. A stunned human must drop any grenades they are carrying (the only weapon usable by humans that eliminates other humans), and when stunned they can still fire their blasters, but can no longer stun other humans. Essentially then, a stunned human is completely helpless against any other humans - except the Traitor.

While stunned, the Traitor is still able to use their Traitor tag, which I of course found out to my own demise. To me this goes against everything else that has been established about HvH combat, and I think that the Traitor should not be treated any different. A Traitor being able to use their tag while stunned makes no sense as either a human or zombie. As a human, if stunned, they should not be an immediate threat to the human group, in line with everything else about HvH combat. As a zombie, they of course should not be able to tag as that goes directly against the point of zombie stuns. It is also extremely awkward if the Traitor was carrying the grenade. By HvH rules, they must drop the grenade, however by these rules, the first human to go and pick up the grenade is likely within tagging distance of the Traitor, thus is essentially guaranteed to be tagged. As with my other issues with this current ruling, this also makes no sense as there is no real way for the humans to safely get the grenade out of the Traitor's grasp, and there is very little way for the humans to ensure that the Traitor doesn't get the grenade. At very least, if no change is made, I believe it should be made clear in the rules that Traitors can still use their Traitor tag while stunned, as it is (to me) a counter-intuitive rule that could easily have a huge impact on the game, through no real fault of the human victim. 

The second round also went very well for the humans, with the zombies making relatively little progress in either game, even with Tanks and the Husk. Late in the game, the Traitor tagged out the General, revealing the VIP's identity to both sides. While this helped to focus zombie attacks, this also left them without a Traitor on the inside to help destabilise the humans. The human group held firm in the face of repeated Tank charges and Husk attacks, and were rewarded with an extremely dominant victory.

As we play more and more Secret VIP rounds, and as the human players get more used to dealing with Tanks and the claustrophobic conditions of the game, it becomes increasingly apparent how important the Traitor is for the zombies. In the first game, the Traitor was able to obtain the grenade, not only preventing the humans from using it, but also giving them essentially a second, ranged Traitor tag. This coupled with the General being tagged during the game gave the Traitor a reasonable opportuntiy to win the game for the zombies - which they did. With the General turned, the zombies know the identity of the VIP, after which it is simply a matter of conveying that to the Traitor to win the game. Thus while I still believe that we should have won that first game given what happened at the end of the game, the Traitor put the zombies in a fairly good position considering their lack of numbers, and to be honest I would have been far less annoyed if they'd just tagged me at range with the grenade.
In the second game however, the Traitor elected to simply take out the General, which as I've mentioned many times before, I do not consider to be on its own a particularly effective or reliable tactic. While this does give the zombies a particular human to target, it also removes the zombies' most reliable human disruptor. This tactic is perfectly viable and effective if the zombies have been able to do reasonable damage to the human group already, however is risky at best if not. If the zombies have not already been able to make much headway into the human defences, determining the VIP's identity is not going to help much. It's not much use knowing who your target is if you can't get to them anyway. In situations like these, it is much more effective for the Traitor to find a position from which they can fire on much of the human group, and let loose just before another zombie charge. The subsequent chaos and stunned humans gives a struggling zombie group their best chance at breaking through and gaining an advantage. While Traitor - zombie communications can be a little difficult to establish, a coordinated Traitor attack and zombie charge can do massive damage to human groups, and I have seen easy human wins turned into crushing defeats when this tactic is executed well.

After Secret VIP, we took a break for lunch. After lunch, we played a round of Defence Survival. Unlike previous Defence Survival rounds, the zombies were given a Tank shield as well as some melee weapons from the start. This can greatly reduce the amount of time necessary for the zombies to get some momentum. In typical Defence Survival, the zombies spend the majority of their early game standing on the borders of the Defence areas, hoping to catch the defending humans off guard and grabbing an upgrade. With a Tank shield already in play, the starting zombies not only have much better opportunities to grab other upgrades, but also much better ability to get some early tags. I think that allowing the zombies a starter shield is a good idea to help speed up games a little, as Defence Survival can drag on for a really long time if the humans stay vigilant.

I actually didn't get to play for much of the game. While near some other humans guarding a Defence area, I heard a zombie running at me from about 5 o' clock, so I quickly turned to engage, firing off several darts and stunning them. The human next to me also turned to engage, however held their blaster at just the right position and turned just far enough to hit me in the side of the head with their blaster. Thankfully the injury wasn't serious, but it was sore for a time and did bleed a little bit. I also sat out the next round, which I believe was a 6 Mag Survival.

I was feeling better in time for the last round, a game of Bounty Hunt. This time around, the zombies were given a Tank shield to start with instead of having a Traitor. The VIPs were allocated to the remaining Tank shield and the two Husks. The VIP allocated the other Tank shield was given a Buzz Bee Flintlock pistol, while the Husk VIPs were given Dreadbolts.

I think this round of Bounty Hunt went quite well. With the Tank shield, the zombies start with much more ability to harass the humans, removing the concern I had previously with this gametype. The zombies still need to tag the VIPs to get access to their full upgrade arsenal of course, however are in a much better position than with no upgrades whatsoever. The blaster allocations also helped substantially with VIP identification and the game dynamic in general. Since the blasters are deliberately poor in combat, a VIP on their own will struggle to defend themselves against more than one or two zombies. With a Tank also in play from the start, VIPs are very vulnerable if not protected. This not only gives the humans much more incentive to help defend the VIPs, but also makes VIP tags much easier to achieve if the zombies can separate them from the other humans.

In the round we played, the zombies initially focused on the other Tank VIP and their group of defending humans. They were able to break through human defences and achieve the tag, partly through drawing human attention in multiple directions, but also by using their starting Tank shield to good effect. The majority of the game played out much like a regular Survival, with the main exception of the zombies being more target-focused. I believe this works well as a variant of Survival that still plays essentially like a regular Survival. The addition of a Tank shield from the start of the game helps to balance out the other Tank shield not necessarily being made available, and helps to reduce the how long the game can drag out for.

I think giving the zombies a Tank shield at the start of the game is a good way to speed up the game, or give the zombies an advantage if necessary. As mentioned previously, Secret VIP has turned from a near guaranteed zombie victory when it was first introduced into a zombie struggle as it is now. In the past couple of events, barring a very poorly organised human team, the zombies have struggled to make as much impact as they used to be able to. I believe this is partly due to the increasing total player count giving the humans progressively more firepower to use, as well as more and more players learning and becoming more experienced. There is also a possibility of the chosen Traitors being less effective than past Traitors have been, as many of the games that have been decisive victories for the zombies had previously looked good for the humans. Having a Tank shield available to the zombies from the start may make Secret VIP more competitive without the zombies having to rely on the Traitor.

I had a lot of fun this event, barring my unfortunate injury incident and my annoyance at that Secret VIP round. I quite liked the changes made to the gametypes this time around, and would be fine seeeing them become part of the standard rules.
A link to the same post on BlasterHub: link

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