Urban Nightmare : Megagame of Chaos

DSCF7352.JPGThe zombie apocalypse trope is well established in literature, movies, computer and board games. And in megagames too, with the first series of Urban Nightmare megagames played in 2012.

As a megagame, the Urban Nightmare games explore the higher level decision making during a major, potentially existential, crisis. In the movies and other games the zombie trope generally focusses on the individual or on small groups of survivors, but rarely explores how the world gets to that state. It all just happened and got out of control.

In a megagame we can really look at how things get that far out of control. Or not. In the emerging gameplay of a megagame the outcome is entirely open to the consequences of player decisions and their interactions.

In the previous version of the game, the focus was on just one city – Romero City – a place beset with many mundane problems of its own even without the outbreak of a terrifying pandemic. In the recent megagame Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos (Played on 1 July 2017), we extended the perspective to explore what is happening across the whole state. Five cities (of which Romero City was the largest) are therefore being played out – struggling with their own troubles and turning to the State Governor and the National Guard for help.

Key to the unfolding gameplay is the question – will state-based resources be enough? or will the state Governer have to sacrifice valuable political capital to declare a State of Emergency and go, cap in hand, to the Federal authorities and the President for Federal help.

So far so good.  But int his game I also wanted to use it as a test bed for an idea that had been mulling around for a while.  Connecting up multiple megagames in multiple locations simultaneously – into a so-called ‘Wide Area Megagame’ or WAM.

So – of course – there is more than just one state in America. What if the crisis being played out in the megagame is cropping up in more than one state? This seemed an ideal starting point for the WAM Eperiment.  Together with partners all over the world we were able to organise multiple megagames, each megagame representing a different state of a fictionalised America and each containing different cities.

DSCF7503The individual megagames both stood alone as individual megagames yet were in touch with each other, and are played in exactly the same time frame on the same day.

So, for example, Governors of neighbouring states were potentially able to confer with their counterparts – pass on what they had learned about the crisis, or warn of cross-border threats.

And to cap it all there there were a set of overall Federal teams (The White House, The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security  – effectively a small megagame in its own right) who were in touch with all the games and able to allocate important resources such as military, FBI, aid etc, in real time, to where they are most needed.

This was a massive experiment in intercommunication between games.  Huge amounts happened – far too much for me to recount.  Fortunately I don’t have to because those stalwarts at Last Turn Madness not only reviewed the game and interviewed some of the organisers of the other games, but also interviewed me and give me a chance to mull over (at length) how it went.

A lot easier than typing it all up, so the links are here!

Episode 7 : Review and interviews of other UNSOC organisers.

Episode 8: Interview with the game designer.

Thanks To

Given the Epic Scale of the WAM, I must thank those without whom the project could not have happened… in no particular order…

John ‘columbo’ Mizon (owner of the famous ‘Mizon Tower’) – (Southwest Megagames) for organising the Bristol game of the State of Ouisconsin [Wisconsin]

Zane Gunton – (Diversionary Games) for organising the Southampton game of the State of Ilinewek (that’s ILL-Y-KNEE-WEK, Zane) [Illinois]

Pieter Chielens and Hans De Ceuster (Megagame Makers Belgium) for organising the Brussels game of the State of Adirondack. {New York State]

Marc Seutter and Jurrien DeJong (Megagame Makers Netherlands) for organising the Nijmegen game of the State of Susquenhannock. [Pennsylvania]

Darren Green and Bob Faulkner (Crisis Megagames) for organising the Cambridge game of the State of Wabash. [Indiana]

Tim Campbell (Pennine Megagames) for organising the Leeds game of the State of Ahao. [Ohio]

Paul Howorth (Pennine Megagames) for organising the Birmingham game of the State of Shawnee. [Kentucky]

Rex Brynen and Tommy ‘Danger’ Fisher (McGill) for organising the Montreal game, representing Northland. [Canada].

Brian Stacy and Stefan Salva (Ironmark Games) for organising the New York game of the State of Kanawha. [West Virginia].

DSCF7392.JPGJeff Quick (Megagame Texas) for organising the Austin Texas game of the State of Powhatan. [Virginia].

Brian Cameron (Megagame Makers) for running the London game of the State of Mishgamaa [Michigan] – the largest of the state games.

And, of course, to Becky Ladley (Pennine Megagames), the Media Queen for her massive effort to create and to keep the Badger News network running accross all games in circumstances that can best be described as ‘challenging’.

And to all of those who helped in Control roles all over the world, and especially those who gave me a constant flow of suggestions and support during the development.

And finally, my home team at Past Perspectives – Viji Szepel-Golek who managed her own personal WAM keeping all the organisers in touch and fielding the admin in the six-month run up to the game and Angela Schütz who built the vast majority of the game components we needed.


Urban Nightmare:State of Chaos was a massive, spawling exercise in confusion and intercommunication.

I’m pretty convinced that the concept works, and would recommend groups currently designing and running megagames seriously consider ways they can link up with other megagamers (at least in their time-zone) – though would caution against trying an 11-game WAM for their first go.

Not for the first time, I have rightly been accused of being over-ambitious!



There have been loads of After Action Reports – here are a few:

The Megagame Report

Becky Ladley’s Blog



Confessions of a Megagame Control

PaxSims review

Pete Ess’s megagame blog

If you have any AAR links I’ve missed, just post them into the comments section.



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