COVID CRISIS: A Narrative Event for the Times

One of the things I really liked about comic books was how topical they could be. It was pretty cool how within a few weeks, the writers would weave in real world events into their superhero storylines, bringing a lot of poignancy to the plots and giving the characters a chance to develop their emotional story alongside the traditional action. I also always felt that, in general, artists had to express events in their medium as a way to come to grips with them.

So perhaps you can now understand how it became clear to me that as soon as I was able, I wanted to organise a live tournament that followed a COVID-based story line.

And so my chance finally came in early August when the lockdown rules in London loosened enough to allow small groups to gather at restaurants, which is what the gaming venue near me is clasified as. With all the proper precautions, we had 12 people gather to play a day of 4 different rounds, in a narrative story I told through the scenarios found in MCP. The rules, named “COVID Crisis, Part 1:  From Dread to Determination“, can be found here.

My goal was to make the day as relaxed as possible so that if people started to feel uncomfortable, they could be free to go whenever they wanted. So I designed my rules around strict 90-minute rounds and would call dice down at the end of that time. People then scored whatever number of VPs they had collected that far and the overall event win would go to the person with the most VPs at the end of the day. I had a few prizes to give away, so I invented these flavourful categories:

The “Hero of the NHS” award:  Player with the most VPs left at the end of the event.
The “Full PPE” award:  Randomly chosen from all players that are fully painted at end of event.
The “I Survived COVID” award:  Player with the least VPs left at the end of the event.

I wrote up a short intro to the event and pasted that around Facebook to get people intriguied by the event and teed up to the idea that they were assembling their superheroes together to help battle the pandemic. Thereafter, I modeled the four rounds of the event around each of the first months of the pandemic in Europe, starting in March. I thought back to what the major emotions and activities were going on in that month and then looked at the MCP scenarios to see how I could reimagine them to reflect the real world.

In that way, citizens in the game became citizens infected with coronavirus. I used the Gamma Shelters of the crisis to represent emergency rooms that you had to bring citizens to. I turned the Wakandan herb into a shipment of PPE that you were desperately trying to bring back to a hospital that needed it. Because it was meant to be a fun event, I reinforced that notion by introducing slight tweaks to the scenarios to further the story element, but not entirely break the balance of the game. For example, if you happen to have a citizen but was also within 2 of a hospital (gamma shelter), you would get one more VP than normal.

The day was a grand success. Everyone was relaxed during the day. Honestly, I think part of that was just the sheer relief/joy people had at finally playing again in real life. It was for me a highlight to see actual terrain in 3D and the figures I’ve been painting all year so far, on the table looking so cool. Hence if you’ll endulge me, I’ve added photos of nothing but the tables just to reflect that joy. The really weird thing was getting ready to start my first game and not having Tabletop Simulator getting the terrain and scenarios all automagically set up for me. And where was my rolling HP and Power tracker? How do I work tokens again? It was funny and disconcerting at the same time.

But afterwards, I got a lot of feedback from the players that they really enjoyed the challenge of showing up with pre-prepared scenarios. This meant they could really focus their Roster building as they knew exactly what they’d see each round. Now, I didn’t pick particularly “good” scenarios to put together for a more competitive type of event, but I could easily do that when we are back to normal and I think it would be a very interesting event to counter-balance the normal semi-random scenario picking rules.

Anyway, I hope you try a fixed scenario event sometime soon. And perhaps you like my rules enough to run this event at your store when you can. I’d love to hear about that. I’m waiting a few more months and then see if Part 2 is ready to be written. In 2020, you can’t ever be sure things won’t take another crazy turn. If getting out to a live event isn’t in the cards for you right now, why not join the international online league we are organising? Registration and rosters are due by 23-August, so don’t wait too long to sign up. Read all about it, including a link to the rules pack, in this previous blog post. Stay safe and keep gaming as much as you can.

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