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Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos (A Megagame Rundown)

Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos (A Megagame Rundown)

There are several questions that you likely have right now. What is a megagame? What is Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos? What are you talking about?! Well, these are good questions, and hopefully this post will go someway to answering some of these questions.

What is a megagame?

Megagames are hard to describe accurately because, according to people who've played and ran several of them, they vary wildly in scale and function. For example, one megagame can run the width and breadth of World War Two and have over seventy players taking part, and another a week later could be about the struggles of a small English village in 2019* with just twenty players.

(*not an actual megagame that I am aware of at the time of writing...)

Both sound like really fun events, that bring their own challenges. And that's exactly what the players face during a megagame: The players will be working as part of a team, given a scenario, and pushed into the game-world. From there, it's up to them what happens. During the course of the game, they'll take actions that will impact and affect the game-world; they'll speak and communicate with the other teams in the room, or with the Control players helping run the game. In some cases negotiating for something to happen (or for something to not happen), negotiate deals for actions or resources. And above all else, I would say most importantly... they'll face the challenge of interacting with one-another, within their own team. Sometimes the situation can mean conflict within the team too.

So, what is a megagame? Well, to sum up simply... in some cases it's a simulation of what could happen or could have happened, and it's people putting themselves into a situation and seeing what happens. Rather like a role-playing game, right? A perfect way to describe this! It is role-playing, after all.

What is Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos (UNSoC)?

UNSoC is the story of an unfolding zombie outbreak within the United States of America, a fake state of Michigamya. Something's happened, and across the state there are reports of undead roaming. Not pleasant, but UNSoC isn't the usual story of "what happens during the apocalypse", because we're not there yet. We're much earlier on in this story. We're still at the point where there's a (barely) functioning government, at all levels: State, Federal and City. The Emergency Services are still working, and the populace is still going about it's daily lives.

The players fill the roles within the governments, taking control of the State, Federal and City Police/Fire Services/Medical Services, and attempt to control the city during this time, while also working towards maintaining the support of the populace to be re-elected. Because of course they are publicly-elected officials... Oh, there are also players leading three corporations, and the Badger News network (who genuinely each game turn ran a news bulletin, with sound effects et alm it was impressive).

So... what's the point of this post?

As you may have guessed, I had the privilege to participate in this event, as a member of the Control team, running remotely over Discord using various other online tools. This was my first ever megagame, and I was very nervous going in. Sure, we'd run several meetings to go through some practice some evenings the two weeks prior to the event... but everyone will say that practice events will never show the true creativity that players can.

I was given the duty of looking after the City Team of Spearing, Michigamya's state capital. From turn 1, my players were supportive but creative, the Head of Emergency Services immediately came up with the plan to press-gang trainees out of the classroom and into the under-resources hospital (that plan was nixxed for balance reasons, with the quick "already happend prior to the game" excuse). While this was happening, the Spearing City Hall Press liaison had gone to speak to Badger News, and a statement was released: "A Gun in every Paramedic's hands". The press was having a field day already reporting about Spearing. I quietly moved myself into the Control video room, and giggled insanely. My players, on the very first turn, were showing just how well this was going to go. I'd seen nothing yet...

Turn two, and new rules had on-the-fly been devised by game creator Jim Wallman (of Stone Paper Scissors' 'Watch the Skies' fame), regarding militia and arming the populace. I started reading these rules in my Map Room channel, and in popped the Chief of Police: "Hey, can we arm the populace against the zombie threats?"
They knew. They knew before I did. They must have been speaking to some of the other cities who'd had the same idea. This was no coincidence. So sure, I said, spend the action points and I'll handle that for you.

The end of Turn Two pretty much settled Spearing's fate for the rest of the game. One of the three militia forces within the city positioned themselves at the south-west of the city, and fought off a zombie infestation. The second, at the north-east, settled far away from any danger and were pretty... quiet. The third however were the most impactful on the game. The Wild Cards, truly living up to their name, and thanks to an entirely random roll, barricaded themselves within Spearing's Badger News office.

...Oh no. It took mere minutes for that news to spread. The Control teams were loving what was happening, and word spread quickly, and a breaking news post was created for every player to see what was happening. Spearing was taking yet another press battering.

Things were quiet for me for a few turns, until the end of the game was looming, just two turns were left. I was eating my Burger King that I'd ordered for lunch when the Police Chief again pulled me into a meeting. "The mayor is taking custody of a live zombie, can we put a GPS tracker on it?"

I put my burger down, and sighed. I had more questions than answers, and I had to chase down the Mayor. "What are you doing with a live zombie? Are you dealing with it yourself? Was it left alone in City Hallat any point?"
I was asking these questions for a reason. I had narrative control and freedom to place a zombie infestation token on the map at City Hall if I wanted. I mean, they brought it upon themselves.

But no. Apparently, the zombie was shipped off quickly to one of the other corporations... who's Control then asked me to have a quick chat. Apparently, they weren't expecting a live zombie delivery, and refused it... and the FBI took notice of this, and killed it for them. Well, this was... going well.

Next turn, same thing happened. "Mayor's taking another one, can we have another tracker?" Though this time, I didn't have to approach the Mayor for answers. I was swiftly pulled into a private (virtual) room, and told what was happening. The Mayor was sick of the press, and was sending in a horde into their recently-unbarricaded office in Spearing. The plan was for the FBI to arrest him live on air because they'd got wind of this plan. I couldn't mute fast enough, and I was laughing. It was infectious, and the three of us were giggling for a minute.

Then we had to engage the plan. And then the game ended.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it?

Simple answer: yes.
I am already signed up to another game, when the pandemic eases and we can play in person again. And this time, I intend to play rather than be part of the Control team. I had an absolute ball helping run the game on the day, but... I'd love to see from the player perspective just what happens. I've never played a megagame before, only heard stories and watched videos... and I want to have that experience.

Thank you to John Mizon (of SW Megagames) and Jim Wallman (of Stone Paper Scissors) for letting me be a part of UNSoC on 17th April, 2021. It was a fantastic experience, and I look forward to more!