Deadzone Designer’s Notes – Modes Of Play

As Deadzone has evolved it has become more of a family of games than a single thing. Or, perhaps a better way to describe it, Deadzone is a game that can be played in a number of different modes, several of which spin it off into what could have been separate games in their own right. Some of these have been explained in detail, others only mentioned in passing. I thought it might be interesting to look at why we’ve taken this approach and where it might be going.


Designing a game that suits a wide variety of different gaming groups and styles is rather more complex than designing a game that focusses solely on one. However, it’s obvious from the feedback from you guys that there is an interest in a variety of gaming styles. I’m also keen to design games that offer a lot of play value for their cost because that’s what I want when I’m buying. Squashing as much fun as possible into a game seems like a good idea to me 🙂

It is, as I keep being reminded, not the easiest way of going about things, but as long as I’ve got the opportunity I reckon it’s worth putting in the effort to make my games as good and as versatile as they can be. Hats off to Ronnie and the Mantic crew for backing me up in this and having faith. More nervous souls might have blinked…

Even so, boldness alone cannot do it all. Sometimes it’s simply not practical to fit everything into one package as my vision for what it could be is bigger than that. This is what happened with Dwarf King’s Hold. Deadzone too looks likely to spread well beyond its original spec as a simple 2 player game, and that’s fine by me. If someone is happy just playing that original version then none of the additions cause any problems – it’s still a solid core. I just think it can go into so many other interesting places at the same time.


So what are these different modes?

  • The Classic Game. Two-player, single mat, one-off battle. Two players play the game and then pack the armies back into the box. The game takes an hour or so. You might play a couple of games in a session, but there is no link between the battles and no experience gained by individual troopers. Things like different missions, variable terrain set ups, zombies, random items and so on all add to the replayability of this mode as no two games ever need to be the same.
  • Classic Campaigns. These are made up of a series of classic games. The history of a force carries over between games with individual troopers gaining new skills and equipment, or being injured or killed. Typically these campaigns would involve many more players than would take part in a single battle, with opponents swapping around  and fighting in different combinations over a period of weeks. Individual battles are often the same as a classic game and it is the rules that govern the developing history of the forces which give this mode its character.
  • Narrative Campaigns. These are similar to classic campaigns in that a force will develop and retain a history. However, they differ because the individual games are scenario based and tell a more developed story. This story dictates and often limits the options for reinforcements, equipment and so on, as well as including a number of campaign specific scenarios and missions. The results of one battle will dictate the next scenario, and in this way a single narrative campaign can be played through more than once with different results. Typically this would be played through by a small number of players, often only two, and sometimes in a single session or long weekend.
  • Solo Zombie Hunts. The zombie rules can also be used as a full enemy to give a solo game against a massed horde. I’m developing a small solo campaign for this mode which will be playable through in an afternoon. Fun and a bit lighter in some ways as nobody really takes zombie games too seriously 😉
  • Multi-mat Games. Two-player games with more than one mat as a battlefield. Playing lengthways down a two-mat battlefield gives a different type of game as there is a longer approach/position phase, plus long ranged weapons play more of a role. It’s possible to use light vehicles as there is enough space and ground to cover.
  • Multi-player Games. Usually on more than one mat, but possible to play on a single one. These games pit teams of players against other teams of players – in effect taking a large two-player game and breaking each side down into sub-commands. Introduces an element of co-op play into Deadzone. Naturally I’ve slightly spun this by saying that even though each side shares a common goal they also retain separate missions for the sub-commands.
  • Solo Games. Probably the most difficult to do well. An AI system plays your opponent so that you are, in effect, playing a normal two-player game against an invisible friend. At least, that’s the aim. Of course, it won’t be exactly the same as playing against a real person, but at least you always have an opponent!

I’ve described these as separate modes, but you can actually combine several of them very successfully. For example, a classic campaign could include multi-mat and multi-player games as part of it.

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21 Responses to Deadzone Designer’s Notes – Modes Of Play

  1. When the info for deadzonethegame first came out, I was on board immediately, 2×2 size, skirmish, what’s not to love? I must be honest I’m VERY excited about solo play. I will happily butcher zombies but must confess I would rather fight it out with another faction and wait with baited breath to see how this develops.

  2. killaminis says:

    It all sounds spectacular. The idea that all this can be put into one box/package, is amazing. It’s this kind of value that puts a Company/Designer above the rest. Most companies would split this up in different iterations of the same game and laugh all the way to the bank. By not being most companies you will pull the faithful in by the truckloads. I should know I’m one of the Faithful.
    Well played.

    I’m also very,very excited about the solo components you mentioned above. For 2 reasons really. For one, I tend to sit around alot and tinker with games a bit and I find myself playing solo and cooperative games frequently. For two, out of sure curiosity. I have yet to see a Solo ruleset that really delivers the elements you get with a 2 player game and I’m very curious to see what you come up with. I’ve become quite the fan of your work( as of late) and I feel that if anyone can do it, that you can!! If I had boat loads of money I’d throw some your way, but alas I don’t have that to throw around. The best commodity I can offer you is my time, raw data and opinions. If you need someone to playtest the Solo Variants I’m there

  3. Jack Trowell says:

    Please, if you can, try to include a version combining the solo and multi-players rules in order to allow a team of players to fight against the “AI”.

  4. Willz says:

    Hey jake,
    All thease different modes of play sound awesome! Can’t wait to play a few games of the beta.
    In the classic campaign have you decided how units will be able to upgrade their equipment? (Will it be anything like mordheim/ necromunda with a post battle shop and exploration chart? Used to Love that) or have you got something else in mind?

    • M Hollingsworth says:

      +1 to this question. I’m very interested in the “classic campaign” rules. Will there be two types of currency? E.g. experience points (perhaps for kills and/or achieving mission goals) used to add skills/abilities/stat upgrades to the models and money (perhaps just for playing and/or the amount of stuff [maybe even add money as something you could scavenge?] scavenged during the game) used to buy more equipment and/or new models into your army.

      I am very excited about this rule set!

  5. Joe K. says:

    This is one of the main reasons I am willing to spend so much money on this game. It will have the flexibility for me to play it whenever with whomever is available, and in differing ways.

    I will also add that the Solo play option is something I am also VERY keen to see. My group can’t meet nearly as often as I would like to play, so being able to run a game solo would be fantastic. I would love to see a solo narrative campaign, or just a way to make any scenario solo capable.

    I am no game designer, and I am sure Jake has this covered, but what I could see work would be an AI deck of cards that you draw from on the enemies turn. Something in the way of a Gears of War or an advanced version of the newer D&D boardgames. I wouldn’t think adding an extra deck of cards for the AI would be unreasonable to add as part of a solo stretch goal.

    Anyway, I love what I have seen so far and really appreciate the hard work and openness of Mantic and Jake on this project. Thanks for listening!

  6. Psychochink says:

    What about multiplayer free-for-all? Although I’m guessing this would just be an X player version of the Classic game.

  7. Mark says:

    I’m hoping for a defend against the horde variant – with the landing pad and fortification battlezone, I think there is some real possibilities. Have a defensive line with the goal of making it to the landing pad for an evac after a particular turn. For more fun, put the landing pad outside the fortifications.
    The zombie tactics deck could even function as a pseudo event deck that might include things like extra zombies appearing nearby (but out of los initially), cutting power to fortification turrets, etc.
    I’d also find it fun (if both players agreed beforehand), that you play a normal game, but it’s in a zombie infested area and the more fighting that occurs, the greater chance the horde will be attracted and then each side has to work out do they team up against the horde or go free for all. Maybe even pretend to team up, but in a lul in the zombies back stab the other player 😉 Not sure how well that would play out though in reality… hehe

  8. Iñigo says:

    Enhorabuena por el juego con tantos modos de jugar el juego adquiere otra dimensión . Me parece magnifico . La idea de jugar solo tambien me parece bien porque como ya han comentado a veces es difícil jugar con alguien y la posibilidad de jugar solo ayuda mucho cuando tienes muchas ganas de jugar. Cuando tenemos mas de 45 años es mas difícil encontrar rival y aunque algunos como yo nos encanta el juego solo por las miniaturas el poder jugar con las miniaturas es un extra que no tiene precio. Queria saber si el manual saldrá traducido al español.
    Gracias y enhorabuena por el juego , fantásticas miniaturas Y fantástico multisistema de juego.

  9. FredTGZ says:

    For a zombie hunt, how many zombie minatures would be required ?

  10. Tom Rolland says:

    This game just keeps looking and sounding better with each passing day.

    The practical, but involving solutions to typical wargaming issues such as range and cover have been dealt with elegantly and in a manner that leaves little room for dispute.

    I has all the elements that attract me to Dust tactics and zombicide, but in a more polished manner.

    Well done to you!


  11. ph3brickid says:

    Wow, very ambitious to get all of these game modes done! Will we be seeing all of the in December or will the compendium be in the second shipment?
    I’m really excited to get hold of this game as there is so much variety to the play styles.
    Two questions:
    1.) How many zombies will I need for a solo zombie hunt? I’m currently down for 25 but if I was to get 45 would that be enough?
    2.) What about a multiplayer ‘free-for-all’ game? Eg. 4 players but in a 1v1v1v1 format. Is this do-able in the rules as they currently stand, are there any plans for something like this, or don’t you feel this type of game will suit Deadzone?

  12. Conan says:

    I am excited to see what this game can do. I would like to see a gameplay video to further fill in the gaps of visualizing this on the table if that was possible. In my vision, the 2 mats are actually stacked ( i may have to buy 2 plastic boards for this) kind of like Resident evil with the mansion above and the labs below, except it would be the infected city above and the ruin with artifact below. You mentioned vehicles. Can you elaborate?

  13. gavinhunter says:

    As I said on the KS thread, I love the idea of runing this as a sci-fi, story driven, dungeon crall. The player factions going into plage infested citys, gaining experience and upgrades then having to fight it out with another players force before they realise that to get out alive the enforcers and rebs will have to team up, well, at least untill they are clear of the deadzone.
    please add medics!

  14. Joe K. says:

    Sorry to dig up an old thread, but any chance we could get a new sneak peek post on the solo game modes? I would like to hear what challenges you have had with designing the AI deck, as you mentioned this would likely be the most difficult mode to make.

    Thanks again Jake for all your hard work, it is appreciated!

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