Cthulhu and World War II is an odd mix when you think about it. The horrors of war are bad enough and then our twisted imagination decides that it’s not scary enough and that we need some otherworldly beings added to the mix. It’s a recipe that has succeeded in many genres with obvious seeds in the Hellboy comics and movies and the popularity of the Achtung! Cthulhu role playing game. Emergent Games have already had success with Fireteam Zero, a tactical miniatures game that blends Lovecraftian horror with an alternative World War II but are heading back to Kickstarter for a slightly different reason to usual so I spoke to Mike Langlois from Emergent Games about Fireteam Zero’s return.
Before we begin give us a brief overview of Fireteam Zero.
Sure thing! Fireteam Zero is a board game of squad tactics and horror, set in an alternate WW2 where long dormant living artifacts have begun to wake up and feed on the chaos and bloodshed of the war. Naturally, it’s up to the players to put a stop to it and save the world.
The gameplay is centered around squad tactics, which means that the heroes are dealing with board positioning (distance to threats, to each other for support, and to the Specialists which provide bonuses) and resources, which are the cards in hand. Cards are used to attack the enemy, support allies, defend the team…and represent the hero’s survivability. When you get hit, you must discard cards equal to the damage or you drop.
Our mantra is “complexity without complication”, so it’s easy to pick up but still tactically deep.
Oh, and its chock full of stunning miniatures. Just the core set alone comes with 43 figures and over 100 figures if you have all of the expansions and add-ons.Is FTZ a cooperative game or does one player take on the role of the horrors? What led to choose this method?
It’s a cooperative game, so just you and your squad against overwhelming odds. We joke internally that it’s the Dark Souls of board games, but it’s not quite that difficult
While we do enjoy playing opposed tactical games like Descent and Mansions of Madness, it can sometimes feel like the opposing player is playing a bit of a dungeon master role for the other players.
On the other hand, really working together to pull off a tough victory is something that keeps us coming back to games like Eldritch Horror and Space Alert. It’s a sort of foxhole camaraderie where the whole table is on the edge of its seat at the same time.
Games like FTZ live and die based on their combat mechanics, can you give us a brief over view of how combat works in FTZ?
The combat is based on the idea that you can only do so much during a moment of combat. Each hero has a hand of five cards that represents what you can accomplish in these few precious seconds of hectic fighting. You spend cards to attack and to support your allies, but you also discard them to avoid getting snapped in half by the monsters. After the heroes and the monsters both go, you refill your hand for the next round.
Here’s a quick example:
Let’s say I’m playing the Demolitions hero.
• I start my turn by throwing a Satchel Charge into a space with two charming and delightful Corrupted Animals. My roll is good, so I blow them to smithereens and clear the space.
• I have two movement to spend, so I use both of them to enter the space in front of me, which happens to be Difficult terrain. It’s worth entering though, because there’s a Spawn Point here that I need to search.
• I already spent my action by giving free explosives to needy monsters, so I don’t have it to search. Luckily, Patty is close by. He’s an NPC Specialist on the team that lets me search for free, which I do. I find a strange radio that is broadcasting in my voice <spoiler redacted>.
• Now it’s the monster’s turn. There’s one close to me, and it starts by rolling the Activation die and getting a Special, which for Corrupted Animals means their attack will get an extra die of damage. Then it moves into my space and chomps down.
• However, I’m not out here alone. As always, my squad has my back. In this case, my buddy the Marksman is using the Opportunity Fire Focus card and puts a .30-06 round into it before it can take my leg off.
• After all of the monsters take their shots at us, more creatures boil up out of the Spawn Points on the board.
• Before we take another hero turn, one of us gets a chance to play a Tactics card. The Close Combat hero plays Search and Destroy and charges through two spaces, turning the monsters in them into finely diced bits and pieces, clearing our path to the next Spawn point.
• Then we start the next round :)What was the inspiration behind Fireteam Zero?
I think the universe of Fireteam Zero comes from two main influences. First, I’m a huge fan of Lovecraftian horror, but I always wished that humans could be more than prey in the grand scheme of things. Second, I love paranormal adventure like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels, which is chock full of supernatural ass-kicking.
FTZ takes place in a world where the threats are profound in true Lovecraftian fashion, but are met head-on by heroes who are up to the task of defending humanity from them. The game is actually a prequel to my Emergent Earth novels Bad Radio and Liar's Harvest. The books take place today, but the game shows you how everything began.
Lovecraft and Dresden Files, you have my attention sir. Was the intention always for the game to be set during World War 2 or did you ever consider the game in a modern day setting?
We always wanted to set the game in WW2. In the books, the war is in the past, but the protagonist’s life was shaped by the events there. The game not only shows what Abe and his squad were up to in the war, but it lets you live out their missions.
This is the second visit to Kickstarter for Fireteam Zero the first was highly successful, why are your returning to the crowd funding platform?
We’re back so that we can fund a French edition of Fireteam Zero! Of course, as soon as we announced it, we received a flood of requests for copies in both languages, so we’re going have both French and English editions available during the campaign. Anyone who backs the project can swap between languages for free, including folks who backed the original English edition in the first Kickstarter. As an added bonus, any Stretch Goals that get unlocked will automatically be awarded to the backers of the original Kickstarter if they had a pledge that included Stretch Goals. We figured that no matter what language people decided to support, our entire backer community should share equally in the rewards.
Why a French translation, I always thought Germans where the biggest tabletop gamers?
Turns out that over half of our original backers were from the EU, and a huge percentage of them were native French speakers. We were contacted by French publisher Play & Win - creators of Mythic Battles and part of Editions Sans Detour (who you may know from their Call of Cthulhu editions) - to form a partnership with Emergent Games for the entire Fireteam Zero product line. Not only can we now offer a French language edition, but we have access to their world-class art team and European distribution network. We feel incredibly lucky to be able to work with them.
The large number of EU backers sounds like it came as a surprise to you, were there any other surprises from the original Kickstarter?
Yeah, absolutely. First of all, we had no idea how much work was involved in running a Kickstarter. A friend of mine ran a very successful campaign (Slim wallets by Supr Good Co.), and he warned me that it was going to be a full-time job. I figured that he was just using that as a turn of phrase, but it turned out he was exactly right. It’s also exhilarating and a lot of fun, but anyone who is planning a crowd-funding campaign should be ready to commit everything they have, and do it for the long term.
The other big surprise was in how cool the Kickstarter community would turn out to be. We’ve had our share of newbie mistakes and delays, and by and large the backers have been supportive, and even helped us out with great advice when we needed it. It’s pretty cool to be working on a project where everyone is pulling together to get across the finish line. We didn’t really expect that going in.
Last of all, what your favourite Lovecraftian horror and why?
Nyarlathotep! Three reasons:
• My favourite Call of Cthulhu adventure is Masks of Nyarlathotep, which we won without being devoured.
• It’s the Old One in my favourite faction in Cthulhu Wars. I have never won, but I get the closest with Big Blue.
• If I ever start a punk band, I want to call it Crawling Chaos.
A big thank you to Mike Langlois for taking the time to answer my questions. If the concept of a tactical cooperative miniatures game in a Lovecraft drenched World War II takes your fancy then check out the Fireteam Zero Kickstarter project.