Hi! It’s Ryan’s brother, Michael, I help out by doing some of the marketing and ads for Brutal Cities plus some website management. Ryan converted me into a nerd at a young age just so he could have someone to play different games against. The other day we managed to get in a game of Zona Alfa , our last game before I move to Spain for a year.
The rivalry will never end.
We both love the aesthetic of Zona Alfa (which is why Ryan designed the Zona Alfa terrain) and have a classic sibling rivalry when it comes to versing each other. We’ve only played a couple of games of Zona Alfa together across a long period of time, so we were pretty rusty.
How does Zona Alfa Work?
You deck out your warband with warriors, equipment and weapons based on a total gold cost. The weapons themselves don’t add an extra cost. During the game, whoever wins initiative first activates a troop, then the opponent and so on. The troops can perform between 1-3 actions as part of their activation, like move, shoot, discover (when searching an anomaly, the objectives).
One of the nice parts about the game is even if you have line of sight to an enemy, every single interfering terrain piece makes it harder to hit. Having a dense table with a mix of natural and urban terrain makes for a cinematic game and means you have to get in closer than you think if you want to cause damage.
On to the battle report!
It was my Cultists vs Ryan’s Scientists in a heavily radiated battlefield, meaning the NPC enemies would be stronger and more numerous compared to other parts of the Exclusion Zone.
Scientists in the Exclusion Zone, searching for hidden artefacts
My cult leader ran straight for a menacing looking anomaly (one of the objectives). Too late, he realised his mistake – this was no anomaly at all but a clever ambush. A comet flew overhead revealing something sinister in the dense forest.
8 zombies emerged, unfortunate casualties of the radiated zone.
Across the wasteland, Ryan’s warband advanced, knowing I’d be involved in a scrap with zombies all of next turn.
(At this stage we’d made a mistake by having the NPCs have a full turn after us, instead of me having an action, then Ryan, then the NPC. This didn’t affect anything but did mean I’d have to fight off 8 zombies at once).
With a groan the first zombie stumbles into close combat with my leader. Quickly pulling the cord he revved his chainsaw, ready to show the zombies why he was the leader. He decapitated the zombie with a swing, spraying blood across the pine forest.
The second zombie stumbled over the corpse of it’s former ally and meets the same end. The boss has to weather 6 more zombie actions to live...
The third zombie inflicts a wound on the tiring leader, leaving him easy pickings for the remaining group. He’s wounded again and only by applying his medikits, which work twice as well with his special skill bone-doctor. He lives through the turn. Close to death and heavily pinned, but alive.
The cult leader is downed, but crucially survives. They'll sing tales about his chainsaw skills.
Ryan gets the imitative. His hardened troops goes on over-watch across the field and making sure I won’t be able to save my boss without taking some shots. He continues moving up towards the objectives and begins a flanking maneuver with a flame-thrower wielding scientist who has a thesis: applying flames to my unconscious boss will result in death.
My entire squad fires on the zombies, and only when the veteran unholsters his HMG and starts spraying above my downed leader do the rest of the zombies fall. Fortunately I rolled several crits, which meant that you get an extra action for free.
By the end of this turn Ryan’s troops are all well, my boss is nearly dead and some critical fails meant more of my troops were pinned. Next turn I'd use a bunch of my actions removing the pin markers so they can move again.
It was at this time I reached the other anomaly, only to reveal bandits. Looked like I’d have to keep fighting the game rather than my brother.
The three bandits were drawn to the gunfire. Taking out the survivors of firefight was much safer than a straight engagement, especially for a small group of four. For them to be surviving in the Exclusion Zone, they’d be well equipped and highly dangerous.
After seeing how the last few turns I’ve been fighting the NPCs Ryan decided to throw bolts into an anomaly in order to trigger them but failed his dice roll.
"Dammit! Just go and search the damn zone, stop throwing bolts you coward!"
The bandits opened fire into the back of my veteran and managed to pin him down with a wound. I took revenge with my HMG who repeatedly crit, giving extra actions and took out two of the bandits.
Turn 4 started with Ryan throwing more bolts into the anomaly and failing. Riveting gameplay. Taking up position in two opposite buildings we started a firefight, with his boss pinning down my shotgun troop but getting knocked down in return. It was only by running up with a medikit was he able to save the boss.
I forced a troop to drink electric juice – a concoction giving you two extra actions but making it so next turn you can only have a maximum of 1. For basic troops it’s fantastic but for advanced troops, despite being better fighters, having them not perform well the next turn is a risk. Especially as I drank the juice for a total of 5 actions and missed every shot, while a basic troop killed the last bandit.
My boss gave his actions to the veteran near the anomaly who searched for the prize, only for the whole zone to promptly explode but fortunately not injure him.
Once you've been in the Exclusion Zone long enough, you can always appear blase.
Ryan finally managed to search the anomaly with his bolts. Two hideous mutants emerged from the shadow of the ruins
We rolled the dice to see how many turns the game would go on for, adding 3 extra turns to the game.
The ruin lit up with gunfire as Ryan took out the two mutants with a rain of fire but lost a unit in combat.
Mutants, zombies, degenerates and death is what awaits you in the Exclusion Zone.
The building firefight continued with no damage but more and more pin markers meaning the units engaged wouldn’t be able to do anything the next turn. I moved up my heavy flamer into a prime position for next turn as he now had three units including his boss in close proximity and no one on over-watch.
Turn 6 started with Ryan searching the anomaly and like me finding an explosion of green fire but his troop lived. My flamer wielding troop smacked his lips after drinking electric juice ran out across no man’s land directly towards his boss. With his final action he let loose and sprayed white hot flame, covering three of Ryan’s men. His veteran and boss burn to death while the basic troop lives but is pinned down.
Electric-juice and flames can make a game winning combo!
At this stage there are two anomalies left to search. The score was 0-0 still, as whenever we search anything it explodes on us. Ryan decides to call the gg because he only has two troops left while I have 6 cultists remaining.
Sweet sweet victory for the cultists
Post game thoughts:
High burst weapons like HMGs are so good and I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to run them. I think Ryan performed badly as his list building was terrible, he didn’t give his troops medikits at all. The game looked beautiful more than anything and we kept taking photos which don’t do it justice. The overgrown urban board with the natural colours and trees made it really beautiful and I’d love to keep playing more and get comfortable with the rules.
Having the flexibility to make lists was great as well as finding a useful squad building tool online https://www.crewbuilder.zone/
If you're feeling inspired, check out all the great terrain for Zona Alfa and Exclusion Zones.