On Saturday, a group of gamers gathered. Our mission? To rebuild society from the ground up.
It was time for another Megagame!
This time, we’d traveled all the way down to Southampton based on the premise alone. It was a really epic sounding game concept – Britain rebuilding after a giant cataclysm.
Unlike many other games of the crisis management genre, this one didn’t focus on the “Event” itself – details of it were kept foggy at all times, and much of the pre-game briefing actively discouraged us looking into it.
I was to play the Chief of Gold Command.
TC and another friend Nick were on my team as Head of Police and Executive for Domestic Affairs respectively, and I knew the Military Commander, Tom, from previous Megagames. Executive for Health and the STAC rep (Science and Technology Advisor Cell) were represented as well. Together, we formed the remnants of the Hampshire county council, and the closest thing to a government for the people of post-apolocayptic South East England.
Below us in the hierarchy, three teams of three Silver Command members were in charge of turning out strategic overview into actual week-to-week operations, as well as enacting our policies, managing the food, water and other resources of the six CSZs (Community Safe Zones) set up in military bases or hotels.
The rest of the players – about 25 players split into teams of two or three – were survivor groups still living wild, many of whom had developed unusual… quirks. There was the Hive, who worshipped bees; the Holy Church of Apple, who were the tech experts stuck in an Apple store worshipping Saint Jobs; the Alohans who partied a lot; The Morrigan, a group of literal Feminazis camped out in Arundel Castle who killed any man who got too close; the Map Readers who set up a hospital; and another group who equipped grannies with pipe bombs, along with other groups that can’t be summed up as succinctly.
But, naturally, we knew none of that at the start.
As the game opened, we had about 3000 civs in our CSZs, and we were vaguely aware that there were probably other survivors out there. A long and harsh winter caused, as we later discovered, by an enormous volcanic eruption, was finally coming to an end, and it was time to begin rebuilding society.
Our priorities were, to begin with, to secure a sustainable supply of food and potable water. We established the current levels of food in each region, and mostly it was pretty dire. STAC flitted about advising which types of plants would grow best in the post-volcanic-eruption climate, and there was a moment of facepalm when we discovered that region three had burnt through most of their supplies because they thought it was their turn allowance, not their total supplies.
Initially the military were tasked with clearing roads between the CSZs, as well as travelling to Brighton to determine the state of the Solar Energy Development there. They never got that far. On the way past Arundel, they discovered a clan of survivors attacking “a certain sort of person”, namely men. The all-female survivor team managed to beat back several waves of military attack, and at the same time one of the local CSZs was hit by a terrorist attack. Morale in region two was pretty low all game long.
My police chief was keen to push through a new penal code. Locking up criminals meant turning them into dependents who just used up food and water reserves, as well as tying up some of the minimal police force as guards. That was when we brought the death penalty back to Britain. Admittedly, the first person executed was found in his basement surrounded by the part-eaten bodies of six of his victims, so the populace didn’t react to this news as badly as we feared.
As ever in a Megagame, the main drama revolved around miscommunication. Put simply, the rest of the game thought we were a sinister government conspiracy.
While we were enacting laws to secure the future of the community, by bringing in compulsory schooling and a census so people could find their loved ones around the region, many of the regions continued to struggle for the duration of the game with providing enough food and water for their citizens. With absolutely zero supplies in reserve, we at Gold Command couldn’t do much more than reallocate resources around the county… although the lack of cleared roads meant even this was difficult.
Our introduction of ID cards was also met with mostly negative reactions. From our perspective, the cards would let people bypass quarantine and be counted for voting. From the perspective of Silver Command, it was unnecessary paperwork handed down from a team of fascist dictators.
Each turn, Gold Command got the chance to broadcast on BBC South, where we took the opportunity to convey positive messages about the future.
“Hurray, the climate will be back to normal within the next FIVE years!” “We’re bringing in labour laws that mean you will now only need to work for just ten hours per day!”… somehow these weren’t as well received as we’d hoped. We also discovered in the pub after the game that most of the survivors had no idea what a CSZ was. Our messages were literally getting lost in translation.
One turn, we proudly announced over the BBC that we had secured a sustainable source of food and water in this region. While this was technically true (I mean, region three had even stopped rationing!), the influx of survivors to the CSZs following this announcement was enormous (one region’s CSZ population increased by 50%)… so they were back to struggling to feed everyone.
The game ended with the election of a Silver Commander for each region, and of Chief of Gold Command. Of the regions, an Alohan monkey won in region 1, region 2 seceded and declined to elect one, and one of the Map Makers won in region 3. A homicidal maniac got very close to being Gold Command, but in the end the STAC rep won (who had been violating communication restrictions throughout the game and had an in with basically everyone). I’m not sure that’s quite how the elections would have gone in real life (half the people in the room didn’t have government mandated ID cards and so couldn’t vote, for a start), but it was definitely an amusing end to the game.
After the game, there was the customary pubbage. That was when we learnt that the Alohans had more fuel than we could have possibly dreamed of, but the military who encountered them had declined to trade. We learnt that a missing van of nurses with a police convoy was just travelling inexplicably slowly and hadn’t actually been killed in the wilderness. We learned that the reason things went so disasterously at Arundel was because the Silver Commanders gave up easily because “they didn’t really want to go fight”.
Overall the game was tons of fun. Turn length was a little long (generally to allow control time to resolve everything), and a greater number of shorter turns would have improved the game IMO.
As for the performance of Gold Command… well, I think we did a pretty good job of keeping the county under control and to start to return the area to normality. Silver Command and the survivors may think we’re fascists, but really, that’s what this sort of game is all about – differences of opinion, and how they can make everything fall apart even when you’re supposed to be working together.
The amazing Aftermath was put on by Diversionary Games. They are planning to put on another Megagame towards the end of the year, which we will almost certainly make the 5 hour trek for again.