Zafehouse: Diaries is much more difficult than I thought it would be initially. I wasn't necessarily expecting something easy because the description of the game mentions that tenuous relationships and personal prejudices of the characters would play a huge part in this, but it just takes much more careful planning of the interpersonal relationships than I thought. There's some simulated combat and tense situations due to the zombies, of course, but that is so much easier to handle than these people and their issues. We're supposed to be finding a car that a scavenger told us about and finding parts to make it work. I guess the goal is to escape the town. I don't know where they're supposed to be going, but whatever. I have a mission.
It's a simple enough task that requires scouting and planning by using the resources we can find in the town, but the dispositions of the group members have made it feel like this has been a slow process. I knew it wasn't going to be a quick run to gather everything we needed and just get out, but I've been dealing with so many petty emotions in the group. I've thrown my hands up more than a few times at some of these characters and their antics. I feel like I need to gather my little group together, make them sit down, and have a chat about all these feelings they're having. This is a zombie apocalypse we don't have time for you "not liking someone's look."
I've actually played two groups. The game crashed on me the first time after I made some progress, and I had to start a new game because I hadn't saved. However, I think I got far enough with my first group to kind of make some general comparisons between it, my second group, and general game play aspects.
[caption id="attachment_1536" align="aligncenter" width="520"] Lines indicate relationship strength. The more broken the line, the worse the relationship. The darker the solid line, the stronger the relationship.[/caption]
Before settling with this current group, my group consisted of four women and one man. Two of the women were uncomfortable around men, and the man was uncomfortable around women. There weren't any "not racist, just doesn't like [x]'s look" characters, as in my current group, but I had quite a few that didn't care for poor people despite being mostly uneducated and poor themselves. My current group consists of three women and two men. Two of them are racists, and one might be an undercover drug addict. I have a feeling this new group is going to give me many more problems than my first group would have. We're probably all going to die. I accept this.
While feeling my way around the game play, I tried to keep characters together who had good relationships, but quickly found out that, even if they liked each other, if they were doing something together that one character was skilled at and the other was only "okay" to "subpar" at, their relationship would deteriorate quickly if the better party felt the other wasn't doing their part. Likewise if you put characters together who are suited for the task but hate one another, even though they have the complementing talents to get things done, things can quickly come to blows because they hate one another. And I mean literal blows.
In my first group, I had two characters (the man and one of the women) trying to secure the house together because they were both suited for it, and they would always fist fight. She'd end up with injuries. Sure, I could've had one of them completing another task, but it was quicker and more efficient to have them both working on it while other characters performed other tasks such as watching for zombies, searching the house for supplies, etc. I actually started wondering if I could somehow orchestrate the man's death because he wasn't getting along with any of the women (possibly due to his discomfort around women) and he was actually physically attacking many of them. I'm playing the mode where you can't actually get rid of survivors unless they end up dying, so I was seriously thinking about sending him out alone on a suicide mission. Sometimes, we have to make these hard choices, and I was about to make it. I was going to send him into the most zombie infested building I could find. Luckily for him, my game crashed.
[caption id="attachment_1540" align="aligncenter" width="520"] "She claims she isn't racist, she just doesn't like the look of Erik." Right.[/caption]
On the flip side of that, when you have characters who like each other and whose skills work well together, you really have something great. In my current group, I have two characters who I always send scouting and breaching together (Kelsey, one of my racists, and Catherine, my possible drug addict) because they have synergy. They're able to handle a fair amount of zombies together with what they have on hand, and I haven't had them to run into any real problems that they couldn't handle together. Their relationship with one another seems to have strengthen because of this.
When assigning tasks, there is a little star indicator that tells you how successful someone will be at certain tasks. There character bios will also mention things that they are good at, but just in case you don't want to keep going back and forth between the task list and the bios, the star indicator is a good enough marker. However, people may still get into conflicts even when you've done the best you can. (Alternatively, it is acceptable to have a character do things alone for the least amount of problems, but beware if it's something that has a high chance of putting them in harm's way.)
You can work on the characters' relationships by spreading rumors. These rumors can be used to strengthen or weaken their relationships. You have some limited control over the aspects of the rumor, as well. However, rumors can backfire. Using Catherine and Brad from my current group as an example, I spread the rumor that they were related, but they lost contact due to a family feud. Suddenly, they remembered being related, but their relationship deteriorated more because of the "family feud" part. There were other options I could've gone with such as saying they lost contact due to family moving away, but I just stuck with the feud part. This made one member of the group become more supportive of Catherine while the other two didn't really care. So, rumors can do more or less than the intended effect when using them.
In another attempt to get Brad and Catherine to tolerate each other, and I think this became a thing because they were starting to argue a pretty good bit, I seeded another rumor about Brad being charitable and helping people. This seem to work to improve the relationship a bit until he found Catherine with the pills.
Aside from trying to patch things with rumors, characters seem to have the ability to gain skills, if that makes sense. In both groups I played, I had one person that was noted not to have any significant skills that might prove helpful, which was the cause of much arguing since I can't really put these people with anyone because they lack skill. However, I noticed that when things such as a chess board and dumbbells were found, the characters who lacked would use them and their strength would increase (by lifting weights) or they'd become mentally sharper (playing chess), so I'm hoping I won't have to sacrifice them--in the case of my new group, it's Erik--to the zombie apocalypse gods in order to keep everyone else alive. Hopefully, this will also help to improve improve relationships, since Erik can prove his worth.
Also, no one seems to trust anything Sandra says. There was a zombie attack and instead of taking her advice and going to a secured area of the house, they all ran in the bathroom and defended themselves with a hockey mask and a motorcycle jacket. I'm not kidding. I wish I was. I laughed so hard when that happened, but they managed to survive somehow. This group needs help.
Anyhow, I'll see how this drama plays out and if I can manage to keep this group from falling apart completely. I'm not completely optimistic at this point, though.