Z. is a Zombie vs Survivors (digital/physical) card game that will be released on GNU/Linux and Android (as well as some other platforms).
It will feature celebrity cards such as Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert, Tex Murphy and more…
Currently $75,000 of the $100,000 have been pledged and only 62 hours to go, it’s difficult – but possible.
With your help, we can make it happen !
Z. is a zombies-versus-survivors downloadable trading card game best described as “Magic: The Gathering meets The Walking Dead” (and Left 4 Dead, and Dawn of the Dead, and Highschool of the Dead, and pretty much anything with “Dead” in the title). Are you a zombie, or are you a survivor? Choose your side!
Z. comes in two flavors: digital and a Kickstarter-exclusive physical boxed edition, but you can get both of them with a single pledge.
The Digital Version
What’s that? You hate reading 100-page rulebooks? You hate shuffling cards every 10 seconds? You hate sorting through all of your cards trying to create the “best” deck possible? This is the version for you — just start playing!
- Cross-platform play for iOS, PC, Android, Mac, Facebook, and Linux
- Single-player episodic story mode w/ live-action cutscenes!*
- Single or cooperative “RPG” mode with random loot, XP, and more!
- Turn-based multiplayer duels — take your turn whenever you want!
- Auto-sort your library: instantly create custom decks to fit your playstyle!
- Intelligent matchmaking — play against people with the same power decks
- Killstreaks, traps, and equipment sets bring elements of your favorite games to the trading card genre
- Unlock new cards naturally through gameplay!
Zombies don’t use supplies like survivors do. Instead, they gain “Aggro” each turn — the idea being that the longer you’re in the same area making noise and fighting against zombies, the more you’ll attract.
Each zombie turn, the aggro counter goes up one, and that acts as the resources from which you can summon units and lay down traps or instants. Unlike supplies, the Aggro refills after each turn, so if you’re on turn 7, you’ll have 7/7 Aggro to spend.
There are ways to both temporarily or permanently boost Aggro, and you can also boost the rate at which the counter increases. When survivors use certain cards like attacking with a particularly loud and powerful weapon (grenade, minigun, etc.), that usually increases Aggro as well.
Weak meatshield zombies are easy to spam early on, but they can be taken out without much effort. The trick is to pile them up and overwhelm the survivors, since each unit can (usually) only attack once per turn.
There are some unique zombies with special abilities, though. Here’s two examples:
A zombie that got itself tangled in a barbed wire barricade. It can’t move or attack, but has high HP and if a survivor uses a melee attack on it, they will also get tangled and sustain -50 damage each turn until the zombie is killed.
This unit is slightly more powerful than generic zombies but just as cheap to summon. The trade-off is that it drops a sword weapon card when killed. Luckily, only certain survivors can efficiently use a sword.
The Horde is a special zombie unit unlike any other unit in the game. It starts out with moderate power (roughly equivalent to three generic zombies in order to simulate a “small crowd”), but that can be increased exponentially in a number of ways.
The most common way is to sacrifice other units in order to have The Horde absorb their stats (HP and ATK). The idea being that those units joined the small crowd and made it bigger and more dangerous. The Horde does not gain any special abilities from units it absorbs, but the increase to health and attack can be more than substantial enough, especially if you sacrifice a Hero.
Loud weapons and explosions or traps/events like car alarms can also add to The Horde’s power. Sometimes the survivor player has no choice over the matter, and sometimes they have to decide whether it’s worth shooting their minigun or rocket launcher or whatever. Of course, if there is no Horde card in play, there’s no risk at all.
The Horde is also immune to a lot of negative effects or cards that would normally affect a single zombie unit. For instance, you can’t handcuff The Horde to another zombie — it just doesn’t make sense, so you can’t do it.
The downside to The Horde is that it can sometimes be destroyed or heavily crippled with a single trap, instant, or when facing off against a Hero or two. It also requires a bit of effort to build up The Horde, so if you sacrificed a bunch of units and then lose The Horde, you’re probably going to be in trouble.
You can only have one The Horde in play at a time…. usually.
Zombie heroes, like their Survivor counterparts, come packing boosted HP and ATK, plus a slew of special abilities. Perhaps they can infect survivors, gain an extra attack after a successful kill, etc. The Bride, my favorite concept character in the entire game (so far), can instantly turn a survivor if she kills them with a single attack (assuming they had max HP).
Zombie Heroes are also some of the more unique zombie characters in the game, and we’ll hopefully be showing off a few cool ones before the Kickstarter comes to a close (they take a lot more effort to make than survivors do).
Zombies wouldn’t be much good if they couldn’t infect survivors, right? So of course you can do that. Right now only certain cards and units cause infection, but we’re still toying with the possibilities.
Currently, an infected unit has two full turns before they “turn” and become controlled by the zombie player. This adds an entirely new dimension to the game, as both the survivor and zombie player have to decide how to handle that situation.
If the zombie player wants that card to turn, they have to risk going two more turns where that unit can still attack them. Playing an instant like “The Calm Before the Storm” will prevent both sides from being able to attack, so that’s a good way to bide time while the infection goes through.
If the survivor doesn’t want that card to turn, they can decide to attack it with one of own their units (something zombies can’t do except for in extremely rare cases). One card that’s a lot of fun to play is the “Dark Secret” instant, where a survivor unit is secretly infected (the survivor player isn’t notified). So at the end of two turns, oops, he/she’s a zombie now!
When they do turn, the zombie player usually gains a generic unit in their place and the original card goes to the survivor player’s graveyard. Some survivors will have zombie versions (similar to Whitney/Zombie Whitney), and there are ways to turn units into those more powerful versions instead of a generic. This is especially useful when infecting heroes.
Turning the survivors against each other is a very rewarding and evil gameplay mechanic.
Whether you’re a fan of Call of Duty or not (or The Grid, if you’re old-school!), Killstreaks were a good idea when Infinity Ward first implemented them. I’m a firm believer that players should be rewarded for being good at something, not punished like you would be in Mario Kart, for instance.
Killstreaks in Z. are less about being a bad-ass lone wolf and more about adding an extra layer of strategy to each match. Killstreaks are one of the only card types that can be played face-down, meaning the survivor player won’t know what Killstreak is in place until you start earning kill rewards. The Killstreak you choose should support the type of deck you have, so if your main strategy is infection, you’d probably want to put the Outbreak Killstreak in play as soon as possible:
- 3 kills: Put two generic zombies into play for each unit in the survivor player’s graveyard.
- 6 kills: Infection time is halved.
- 9 kills: Sacrifice Outbreak to instantly turn any survivor unit.
There are also Killstreaks that only grant a single reward, usually at a very high kill count (at least 10). But the reward is very powerful, and can shift the tide of the battle if the zombie player can achieve it. One example would be the Apocalypse Killstreak, where after 10 kills The Horde will automatically double in power each turn (200HP/ATK, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, etc.). This would be a good time for the survivor player to use a trap or instant that limits The Horde’s growth, otherwise….
Two other important rules about Killstreaks:
- Kills are not counted until a Killstreak card is in play.
- Your kill count can be broken, but not by losing a zombie card (unlike Modern Warfare, for example, where a death would reset your killstreak).
We’ll actually do an entire post on Killstreaks down the road, in case you’re interested to hear more about them and see some of the other Killstreaks we’re currently playtesting.
Traps and Instants are the only cards that work exactly the same for both survivors and zombies. Traps are always played face-down, and activate whenever the other player triggers their requirements. Because zombies don’t get to use weapons or items, a lot of their “special attacks” come from traps and instants.
- Backfire – When a survivor unit uses a gun weapon, it backfires, killing them and removing the weapon from play.
- Shock and Awe – When two or more survivors are killed in a single turn, all other survivors are stunned for their next turn.
- Bloodlust – When a zombie unit kills a survivor unit, that zombie can attack again during the same turn.
- Scathed – When a survivor kills a zombie, this card causes that survivor unit to become infected.
You guys probably get how Instants work now, so I’ll just list a few of my favorites.
- One Lone Zombie – Use this card to trigger any placed survivor trap.
- Resurrection – Put a survivor unit in the graveyard into play as a generic zombie.
- Twisted Ankle – Target a survivor unit. That unit cannot act for 2 turns.
- Car Alarm – For 3 turns, the Aggro counter is increased by 2 each turn.
- Dark Secret – Target a survivor unit. That unit is now infected. The survivor player is not alerted to the infection.
The Horde, the ability to infect, and Killstreaks are the three most unique and important aspects of playing as the zombies. Survivors get a lot of cool toys to play with and things to do, but that can also be their downfall. Without having to worry about supplies or equipping and reloading weapons or choosing between searching and attacking each turn, zombies are a much more focused and offensive faction than survivors.
With survivors, we tried to capture a lot of elements that you’d expect if you were watching a horror film or playing a zombie game. Unlike zombies, they cannot sustain on moans and groans alone, so they need to constantly seek out supplies to use their equipment or bring in reinforcements, so that’s where we’ll start…
Survivors require “supplies” to use items and weapons or summon new units and lay traps. Supplies are a finite resource that can be used up, so careful management is a must.
You will automatically get 1 ration of supplies each turn, as well as another for each survivor unit on the field. Units can also give up their turn to “Search” for supplies. Read the SEARCHING section below for more details.
Lastly, the Survivor player can scrap unwanted cards (or, if you’re brave, you can even scrap good cards) to gain immediate supplies, but you can burn through your deck and options pretty quickly this way. It’s a definite risk-vs-reward system that seems to work well in our playtests.
Searching is a unique survivor ability that any unit can do in place of attacking (though some cards can do both in the same turn, or even search twice).
However, searching is not always beneficial. It’s a risk each and every time, since the Search pile contains supplies, weapons, items, traps, and events. You never know what you’re going to draw. Not all events are bad, but many are. You can trigger a car or fire alarm and alert nearby zombies, giving a boost the zombie player’s forces. Your character can get caught on barbed wire for X turns. Perhaps a zombie was hiding in the closet or inside a car? Now you’re infected. Etc.
But sometimes you can find a cool weapon or an item that saves your life, or a cache of much-needed supplies. And in the advanced modes, you’ll NEED to search to complete objectives, so this mechanic quickly becomes a key pillar in the game.
We’re also considering allowing the zombie player to play certain trap cards directly into the Event pile, increasing the chances that something bad will happen when you search.
Beyond the low-cost generic survivors who are basically meat shields, you’ll be able to add a large variety of class-based units to your deck. They normally have one or two special abilities that cost extra supplies to use. A few examples are below:
- Nurse: Can heal a single ally for X supplies each turn.
- Mechanic: Can reinforce a barricade for X supplies.
- Cop: Can drawn and equip a Handgun for X supplies.
- Cop (Veteran): Can drawn and equip a Shotgun for X supplies.
- Lookout: No ATK power, but can flip one unflipped zombie card (such as a trap) per turn.
Right now heroes are very costly to summon, but can usually search the deck immediately for a specific weapon at any time and once equipped with it will easily topple weak or medium zombie opposition.
They pack 3-5 solid abilities that really make them formidable opponents. Here are just a few to give you an idea:
- Nimble: Dodge one attack each turn if unarmed.
- Bloodlust: Attack again in the same turn after killing an enemy.
- Charge: Charge up for one turn to deal double damage with your next attack.
- Trained: Always attack first if equipped with a (specific weapon)
Balance notes: Heroes are probably the single biggest aspect of Z. that will be continuously and heavily tweaked over the next few months.
Weapons and items are unique to survivors (Lore: zombies no longer understand how to use objects or what they even are). They require supplies to put into play from your hand, and must be equipped to a unit or else they are discarded.
Melee is a risky approach to fighting zombies, as any zombie that survives a melee attack will automatically counterattack. Zombies can also more easily infect or use traps on melee attackers. On the other hand, melee weapons are all quieter than a ranged weapon, which has its benefits.
In Z., pretty much every weapon you can imagine will eventually find its way into the game. From fire axes to katanas to shovels and, if you’re particularly unlucky when searching, even a spork.
Durability - When a melee weapon’s durability is depleted, the weapon breaks and is automatically discarded. Each attack lowers durability by 1.
Ranged is a much safer way to dispatch zombies, but it comes at a higher price. Ranged weapons are usually more expensive to equip, they may have limited ammo, and firing guns almost always alerts nearby zombies, which has a variety of unwanted effects.
Like certain melee weapons (katanas), there are some ranged weapons that are ineffective when used by anyone lacking the proper training. So a nurse is not going to pick up a sniper rifle and suddenly be able to hit zombies like a trained marksman or military unit would.
Ammo – Ammo replaces durability for ranged weapons. When a weapon’s ammo is depleted, the player can either scrap the weapon for supplies or pay its summoning cost again to reload it.
Items are consumable non-offensive weapons, such as medkits. You’ll mostly encounter items when searching, and they ideally should be the most common card that gets scrapped for supplies.
An unique item that produces some pretty interesting results is the Handcuffs card. It’s used to chain two zombie units together so that they can be targeted as one. Though this item will probably be changed to an Instant-type card based on our playtesting.
One aspect of RPGs and MMOs not typically seen in card games is the notion of Equipment Sets. That is, a set of items that grant bonuses for each additional piece of the set you have equipped. So if you have the entire set equipped, you’d gain all of the different bonuses. We’re still working on the implementation of this in the various game modes of Z., but a couple examples right now would be the Riot Gear set, and the Samurai set. The Riot Gear includes the helmet, armor, shield, and riot gun. It could also include the boots and gloves/pads, but six pieces is a lot to try and get on one character in a single game.
More likely these will only really come into play in certain modes, or in certain fields where you can more easily search for set items. We’ll make them available in every mode, though, in case there’s a few brave souls who want to go for it anyway!
Traps and instants are the two cards that work the same for both survivors and zombies. Traps are played to the field face-down, just like in Yu-Gi-Oh!, and can only be triggered on the opponent’s turn. Unlike other games, traps are automatic, so if the other player triggers the trap’s activation requirements, it goes off (as opposed to asking you ever five seconds if you’d like to play a trap or interrupt).
Here’s a few examples of Survivor Trap cards:
- Plan B – When three or more survivor cards are destroyed by the zombie player in a single turn, instantly draw five cards.
- Scavenger (item) – When any unit is killed, draw a random item card from your deck.
- Scavenger (supplies) – When any friendly unit is killed, gain +2 supplies.
- Firehose – When a zombie unit attacks, firehose pushes them back, preventing the attack.
- Satisfaction – When a zombie kills a survivor, it is “busy” for X turns.
- Martyr – When a survivor unit is infected, that unit immediately kills itself.
Traps are a lot of fun, and always keep your opponents guessing. In live games with the physical cards, we usually have a lot of bluffing going on. Like, “Oh please play that card, I’ve been waiting for you to! Mwuhahaha.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
Instants are kind of like trap cards that you can play on your turn (instead of your opponents) and activate their effects immediately. Here’s a sampling:
- A Little Too Quiet – Zombie player cannot attack for the next turn, but gains +2 aggro.
- Boom, Headshot! – Deal 999 damage to any single target.
- The Calm Before the Storm – Neither player can attack for the next two turns.
- Back-to-back – Allows any two Hero cards to team up together, sharing health/stats and preventing rear attacks.
- Recalibrate – Select cards in your hand to discard, then draw the same amount of cards from your deck.
Permanents:There are many different permanent cards (played as instants) in Z. They act as modifiers (or mutators, for the Unreal crowd), and can greatly mix up the way the game works, even multiple times mid-match.
- Adrenaline – Allows any survivor unit to act twice in the same turn if wounded.
- Bottleneck – Only one new zombie unit can enter the field per turn.
- Scavenger – When any unit is killed, draw a random item card from your deck.
Playing as the survivors requires a bit of strategy, as they have a lot more to worry about and take into account than zombies. If you stack your deck with too much clutter, you might end up with no one to use it, or worse yet, no one who can use it properly.
On the other hand, if you make efficient use of your supplies, you can heal the wounded and keep zombies at bay with reinforced defenses while taking them down with heroes and powerful weapons. Searching is also a lot of fun, even when things go horribly wrong. It keeps you on your toes!
Some Game Modes
Versions: Digital Only
The Survivor Campaign follows the story of a few key characters as they try to survive and find their way in a post-outbreak world. The inspiration for Z.’s story is mainly from Lost, The Walking Dead comics, and 24. It’s going to be very realistic — shockingly so, I think. I want to have that same episode-to-episode “OMG, did they really just do that!” and “How are they going to get out of this?!” impact that my favorite shows have. No one is going to split up because they heard a strange noise and no half-naked girls will run off into the woods to have sex — I strongly believe that the more intelligent, relatable, and believable your characters and scenarios are, the more suspenseful it is when they genuinely find themselves in danger.
Note: ALL of the more fantastical cards you’ve seen like Ayane and the Gatling Gun will not make an appearance in the story mode, only in multiplayer mode.
The story begins three months after the initial outbreak, and a thorough five-year outline has already been made for the first major story arc/volume. A second and far more ambitious five-year arc is also being outlined should Z. be popular enough.
In addition to in-game cutscenes and gameplay, there will also be live-action cinematics produced by Northern Five Entertainment to accentuate key story moments.
Each chapter within an episode is a carefully-crafted narrative-driven scenario with pre-set Survivor and Zombie decks using one of the many objective modes you’ll read about in tomorrow’s update. There are also scripted events and dialogue/cutscenes that do not appear anywhere outside of story mode.
Each chapter is ranked based on your performance, from D to S rank. Higher ranks give better rewards, and completing all chapters with at least an A rank will open up a bonus chapter that tells a compartmentalized side story. We hope to have guest writers and actors for these side stories, so imagine a standalone zombie tale by Joss Whedon or Max Brooks within the Z. universe, for example.
Simply completing an episode with any rank will open up EX versions of all chapters, which allow players to use their own custom multiplayer deck in story scenarios. Completing an EX chapter unlocks EX Hard difficulty, and completing EX Hard unlocks EX Master difficulty, each time the rarity and power of the Zombie deck increases substantially, but so do the rewards (ie. unlockable survivor/zombie cards and booster packs!).
A new episode with roughly 5-7 chapters will be released each month, along with new location decks and new cards to obtain based on the locations and characters from the story.
The Depths (aka “RPG Mode”)
Versions: Digital Only
The Depths mode is an entire game within a game. Where the primary game has hundreds (and eventually over a thousand) cards, The Depths will have an infinite number of card possibilities. Like Diablo and many similar dungeon-crawling loot-happy games, cards are randomly generated in The Depths, and can have special stats not seen in the normal modes.
For instance, a Flaming Chainsaw of Delight +5, or an Angry Sawed-Off Shotgun of DeathSpray. o.O
The Depths will feature 100 levels of progressively more difficult enemies and rarer treasures. The inspiration for the 100-level layout is probably most directly from Persona 3, Onimusha, and Disgaea.
Like any good RPG, weapons can be customized and upgraded, while character cards can gain experience, level up, and learn new abilities or traits. You’ll also be able to select your starting party of characters each level, and then draw instants and traps and other cards from your deck instead of always looking for units.
Each level will have three random location decks to search through, as well as its own objective to move on to the next floor. If you complete the objective, you can stay and look for loot/level up, or GTFO to the safety of the armory/shop screen. There will also be a special boss stage every 10 levels.
This mode is also where you’ll see some of the most fantastical and special homage cards, like Block of Wood (which turns into a new item every level that you have it, eventually ending as a Diamond Sword — pending Notch’s approval):
That’s the general idea of The Depths, and we’d like to introduce one new dungeon (100 levels) every 3-6 months. I think this mode would also be great for cooperative 2-player since you’re always playing against the AI, but I can’t make any promises about that so early on. The Depths was meant to be a stretch goal for this Kickstarter, but I want it so bad it will definitely end up in the game no matter what, just probably not right at launch.
And for the truly brave, we’ll include a rogue-like hardcore mode where death is permanent and the only extra reward is appearing on a special leaderboard and knowing you’re a badass for even trying.
Zombie alternatives to The Depths and Story Mode are still in the conceptualization phase, so I don’t want to talk too much about them now and then end up Peter Molyneux-ing myself later on. Both sides will get equal treatment when all is said and done though — we don’t play favorites on Z.!
Why Pledge ?
1. CREATED WITH YOU, FOR YOU!
We’re not asking for your money and then running off to make our game in the corner somewhere. Z. is meant to be a community project– we’ll be talking to you every day, asking and listening to what you like or don’t like, going out to local comic shops and events like PAX and Comic-Con to play the game with you and get your feedback, and much more.
We’re creating this game with you, for you (assuming you’re a hardcore geek who loves zombies, that is). And of course, some of you will even be creating cards for the game or becoming survivor and zombie cards yourself!
2. CREATIVE FREEDOM!
Content was taken out of the final game and sold as Day One DLC? Publisher. Game was rushed out to meet an arbitrary holiday release date without being properly tested? Publisher. Entire studio gets closed down after releasing a solid game that failed to meet absurd sales targets? Publisher. Your company is voted the worst in America by the Consumerist? And so on and so forth.
Downward Viral will always remain independent, no matter how many personal heirlooms or comic collections or vats of plasma we have to sell to do it, or how many hours we have to work an extra job on the weekend to pay the licensing fees for our engine. We’ll do whatever it takes. And that independence will result in better games and the creative freedom to work directly with our fans and supporters like you. We want to have full transparency about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, and that’s just one thing among many that you’ll never get once a publisher is involved.
Celebrity cards !
Exclusive to this Kickstarter campaign are a number of special guest survivor and zombie cards. We’ll be announcing as many as we can throughout the campaign, and they are automatically included at ALL backer levels ($15+), on top of any other bonus cards.
Announced so far:
- Tim Schafer
- Ron Gilbert
- Tex Murphy
- Jessica Nigri
- Mr. Destructoid
- The Zpocalypse 5
- Sean Baby (Cracked.com)
- Linda Le
- Monika Lee
- And more!