I'm on the Space Station Zero Reddit and Facebook groups, and Pod 6 is the mission I've heard the most about. It's supposed to be one of the toughest levels to defeat and people have reported losing crew members left, right and centre on this level, including one guy who had six of his seven crew killed. Gulp.
Betty gets unsteadily to her feet. Misloi is already standing, but looking shaky. Globrik is still unconscious, and Packman kneels next to the diminutive engineer and begins checking his vital signs.
"Did we all make it?" she asks, rubbing the spot on her head where she was hit by a beam.
"Yes, we're all good," says Packman, "but Globbs is still out. He's fine, he just needs to rest."
"Misloi, are you all right?" asks DeeDee.
There's a pause.
"Shgignbm shiwev I'm not azmvb sure... Mjrualf awighnhm I feel... odd..." the engineer replies.
Betty walks over to her, looking concerned. "Can you run a diagnostic?"
There's another pause.
"Wdngfnew ndqwi it appears that the damage I sustained in the cdhfhwe has affected my cognitive functions and hswgg. I mean mobility."
Suddenly, klaxons blare from the ceiling.
"What the fu-" exclaims DeeDee before Axon cuts her off.
"What the hell's that?" he shouts, pointing at a large metal cylinder that's rising from a hatch in the floor at the other end of the room.
Vashtar's face grows serious. "It's an AD-60," he says.
"And?" Packman asks. "What's an AD-60?"
Vashtar raises his gun and blasts the speakers in the corners of the room. The ear-splitting klaxon cuts out, and in the sudden quiet Vashtar's next words are heard by everyone.
"It's a virus bomb."
I have an even number of crew this game. I decided that instead of cramming them all together I'd basically split them into two groups. Vashtal, Misloi and Packman are on the left side, or bottom in the photo, and, Betty, Axon and DeeDee on the right. Here we go!
Axon moves into the room. With a resounding crack, the floor collapses under him and he attempts to leap away from the chasm that's opened up!
Axon has to make a Movement Challenge Test 4, and as his movement is 4 he needs to succeed with all the dice. He rolls a 2, 4, 2... and 9. Axon is trapped under the collapsed floor! He isn't injured and won't have to make a roll at the end of the game, but he's out of this mission! Five Muppets remain, and the virus bomb keeps ticking!
"Er... what just happened?" says Packman.
"Axon?" shouts Betty.
"I'm OK," says a muffled voice from under the floor. "But I'm stuck. Just get that bomb defused!"
The crew can now see the weak spots in the floor, so at least none of them will end up with the same fate as Axon.
There's a hissing noise from behind a green construct at the other end of the room. A blue-skinned mutant suddenly lopes into view and heads straight towards DeeDee and Betty!
Oh, did I neglect to mention there's four mutants in this room? They're hidden, and can either activate or stay in hiding. I decided to roll a D6 to see whether they'd reveal themselves, and on a roll of 5 one enters the game.
The mutants, represented by the Deep Ones I painted for last year's Monster Mayhem, can move up to 14" and have long claws that give them a combat stat of 4. To add a cherry to the top of this cake, if they attack a crew member who's on less than full health the mutant gets an additional attack dice.
Happily the crew takes back the initiative and as Packman is the only member who can see the mutant clearly, he takes a shot. Four kinetic rounds slam into the creature and it only saves two, leaving it with two wounds!
DeeDee moves into view of the mutie and also takes a shot but her rounds do nothing! Betty moves around the other side of the machine, but then the mutant charges into DeeDee! It rolls double-12, meaning all successes are doubled, giving it a total of six. Razor-sharp claws slash the ace pilot and she fails to save any of them! DEEDEE IS OUT!
Vashtal can just about see the monster. Misloi upgrades his weapon and he fires. Five of the nine shots reach their target, but a double-12 increases the successes to 10! The creature saves two, but the other eight blast it into pieces of wet, stinking flesh. Misloi, whose movement is reduced to 3", double-moves 6" in an attempt to reach the bomb. Turn 1 is over, the team is down to four and the bomb is still ticking! And to make matters worse, it's 6am and I'm out of coffee.
Turn 2 begins and I have to get these guys to the bomb ASAP. Misloi moves another 6" up the centre of the room but another mutant appears! It charges into her but thankfully can't attack this turn. A third mutant appears and charges at Betty, but happily can't get anywhere near her... yet. And just when the team thought things couldn't get any worse, another creature legs it to the centre of the room and closes in on Misloi!
Betty fires at the mutant closest to the engineer, but a double-1 means her three successes count for nothing! Vashtal moves away from cover and takes a shot. Eight searing balls of plasma whizz towards the mutant, with three hitting their target. But the creature rolls double-12! It survives unscathed!
The creatures take initiative. The one in front of Misloi rakes her with its claws and because her Life stat has dropped to 3, it gets five dice. Three attacks go through, and she saves two, taking her wounds to 2. She hits back, inflicting a wound. The other mutant moves up and attacks her. But it rolls double-1! Misloi whacks the mutant but only scores one hit, and the creature easily saves.
Packman moves up and fires at one of the mutants, hitting it twice and relieving it of two wounds. The final move of the turn is made by the last mutant, who runs in and attacks Betty. It scores four hits and Betty's down to three wounds! The captain hits back, succeeding twice, but the mutant saves them all. And we're into Turn 3!
Misloi disengages from fighting the mutants and runs up the room to close in on the bomb. As she passes a couple of innocuous cargo crates, two hatches slam back and a pair of huge gun turrets rise from the floor!
Oh, did I neglect to mention that along with the bomb, the mutants and the collapsing floor, the crew also has to contend with two turrets? This is why Pod 6 is considered to be — to use a technical term — an absolute bastard. The turrets each have 10 wounds, a combat stat of 5 and can each fire at three separate targets per activation. About the only upside is that they can't move. They can be destroyed with weapons, and have control panels that can be used to shut them down. Honestly, if the virus bomb went off right now it would be a mercy.
To give the Muppets a chance, I rolled a D6. A 1-3 means the turrets can rotate 360°, 4-6 means they have a 180° firing arc. The dice comes up 6, so if a crew member makes it past the turrets, they're safe from attack.
The right turret swivels to take aim at Packman. A torrent of kinetic rounds blast towards the medic, and thanks to a double-12 (I've rolled more double-12s and double-ones in this game than all the others combined) he takes four hits! Out of six dice he rolls 8, 12 and 2 and takes a wound! The turret targets Vashtal next and scores two hits, but the bulky soldier survives unscathed. Finally, it sets sights on Betty and manages to miss completely!
On a roll of 10, the turrets keep initiative. The left turret swivels around to target Betty, hitting the buxom captain twice. She saves both and escapes unharmed! Packman again survives an attack, and finally the guns range in on Vashtal. Somehow he too rolls well and is fine!
Vashtal raises his gun and fires at the right turret. His first shot scores an amazing seven out of eight hits, and his re-roll brings the total to eight! The turret can only save one, bringing it down to three wounds! He aims again and hits the damaged turret four times. Two more wounds are inflicted and the turret is a smoking mess (note: I know the feeling) with only one wound left!
The mutant fighting Betty goes for her again, its claws slashing into her. Three make contact but she saves all of them! As she's getting annoyed with the creature and its stench, she takes a step back, aims her pistol and scores three hits. The mutant is wounded once. On her activation, Betty double-moves, dodging around the mutant and getting behind the damaged turret (for the first time, I remembered that she can double-move 10").
Finally it's Packman's go. He's unsure what to do at first; he can't move fast enough to get behind the turrets, and he's stuck out in the open. He moves up to the two crates in the centre of the room and attempts to take cover. Welcome to Turn 4!
Vashtal decides to keep shooting. He moves just behind the white construct, meaning he can see the damaged turret but the other turret can't target him. Six out of eight plasma balls slam the turret, and with only one successful roll out of three it shuts down with a shower of sparks! His second shot is aimed at the mutants in the middle of the room. But it's a poor shot, inflicting only one wound.
Misloi reaches the bomb's control panel. She needs to perform a Reaction Challenge 10 (4+) to shut it down. In other words, the bomb has 10 wounds — or in this case, switches — and to succeed she has to roll even numbers of at least 4. Despite her stats dropping by 1, she still has a Reaction stat of 5. She rolls an amazing 8, 8, 8, 1 and 6, successfully flipping four switches on the bomb!
It's Betty's turn to leg it to the bomb. She only has a Reaction stat of 3, but somehow rolls 12, 4 and 10! Three more switches are pulled, leaving three to go!
I don't know what the hell's going on with the dice, but with an initiative roll of 12 it's Packman's turn! He sprints between the turrets and makes it to the bomb (I couldn't find anything in the rules about the turrets being triggered by movement). He can't do anything, but at least he's safe for now! And we're into Turn 5!
Misloi, having the best Reaction stat, goes first. She rolls a 6 and a 12, meaning there's just one switch left to shut down! But now the mutants have activated and because one can see Vashtal, it lopes across the floor right up to him and scores a wound with its claws. Luckily Vashtal rolls one success, which is enough to defend himself. He then hits back, inflicting four wounds and the mutant fails three. As it's already lost one, it collapses to the ground, its skull crushed by Vashtar's rifle butt.
The other mutant runs up to Packman and leaps on his back! Because Packman is below full health, the creature gets an extra dice in its attack for a total of five. Three slashing claws strike home, but Packers manages to save two and is down to 2 wounds! The medic strikes back, inflicting three wounds on the blue-skinned horror, and it fails its save completely, falling to the floor in a pool of sticky green ichor!
Betty pops her knuckles and studies the bomb's control panel...
She rolls 3... then 9... then 10! The bomb is rendered safe! With the bomb defused, Packman activates and blasts the last mutant into chunks of steaming gore. The level is over and the Muppets have survived!
But what about DeeDee? Taking a deep breath, I roll 2D12, using one pink and one white dice in the hopes that it'll bring her luck. She gets a total of 17 and makes a full recovery!
I'm left with just one question:
Seriously, by Turn 3 I was envisaging having to pick a new team! With Globbo out, DeeDee down and Axon having the holiday of a lifetime under the floor, I thought there was no way the remaining four Muppets would succeed.
Some of it has to be down to the number of double-12s (critical success) and double-1s (critical failure) I rolled. I could not believe how many I got, and they certainly helped when it came to taking out enemies. The mutants weren't too difficult to fight, although they did a good job of smacking DeeDee around, and the gun turrets didn't do as much damage as I thought thanks to some superb saving rolls.
Pod 6 was by far the most difficult mission to play so far. Again I had the whole metagaming thing of knowing the floor was going to collapse on the first move, so to make things fairer I gave each pirate a number on a D6 in alphabetical order (Axon 1, Betty 2 and so on) and rolled it. It came up 1, so Axon had to make the first move and face the danger. Having 50% of my heavy weapons guys out of commission for the game didn't help at all, but Vashtal did himself proud, especially when taking out the turret.
Also, kudos to anyone who realised that the virus bomb is named after the TDK cassette, of which I owned loads. The bomb itself is a plastic crayon-shaped pencil case I picked up for a dollar. I stuck on some googly eyes to break up the outline a bit and then just sprayed it with silver paint. A coat of matte varnish and some black wash dabbed over it with a piece of paper towel did the rest.
Packman slumps to the ground, exhausted from the stress and fighting. Vashtal runs over to where Axon fell through the floor and pulls his black-clad comrade out.
"I take it we defused the bomb?" asks Axon.
Vashtal laughs. "Yes, and we killed the mutants. And I destroyed a gun turret."
"Mutants? Gun turrets? That makes me glad that I ended up buried under the floor."
Betty calls the team together. Globrik, who's awakened from his brief coma, joins them.
"Hi guys," he says. "What did I miss?"
"Oh, not much," replies Vashtal.
"What do we do now?" asks Packman. "Is there a way out, preferably to a bar?"
"Wfvnggrk wjiqorh," says Misloi.
"Er..." says DeeDee.
"Jkwinr qhwioaz" says the alien engineer.
"Is her translator completely buggered?" asks Axon.
Globrik's ears suddenly perk up.
"What's that vibration-" he manages to say before the floor collapses under the crew, sending them plunging into darkness. As they fall, Misloi's voice can be heard.
"Plsnrhv witumv floor is in imminent danger of collapse..."
Next up: The Science Lab!
I should be on commission
A few readers of my blog have been inspired by these write-ups to buy the Space Station Zero rules. It's going to be interesting reading their reports, as all of them have way more gaming experience than me and I'm sure they'll find places where I've buggered up the rules to the Muppets' advantage or possibly disadvantage. I'm really looking forward to seeing their reactions to the game and reading their mission reports.
It's Zombtober/Apocalypse Me time!
October is a double challenge month, and I had a blast last year painting minis and making scenery for both. I have some minis to paint for Zombtober and Apocalypse Me, and I'll be starting on those as soon as I can, in other words as soon as I've cleared my painting desk to the point where I can actually paint on it.
Till next time, amigos!