On October 24th of an unspecified year—which we are only legally allowed to disclose as “from the recent past”—“Super Storm Nancy” plowed into the East Coast of the United States. Thousands of miles of coastline were devastated, but for Plum Island, a large albeit vulnerable atoll smack dab in the middle of the storm’s path of destruction, it was a horrifying gray-green, apocalyptic nightmare.
Plum Island is a sprawling isle off the Carolina coast and is home to the vibrant seaside town of Greenport. While the heart of the island’s daily hustle and bustle lies in its commerce and tourism, the predominant employer and revenue generator for the island was housed in a huge complex of nondescript buildings located on the north end of the island. This mega-corporation was known locally as “The Pearl,” or more precisely, the Plum Island Research Laboratory (P.I.R.L.). It was an enormous facility run by scientists who conducted government-sponsored biological research and experimentation. All legal and ethical practices of course—or so we were told.
A Few Sample Components (Please note that this is a prototype image, not final art)
The Plum Island Horror features a variable turn order system accomplished by drawing Turn Order Cubes from a bag made up of four faction-activation cubes, three Horror-activation cubes, and one “Impending Doom” cube. When a player’s activation cube is drawn, they may move each of their units and then select actions to perform. If a Horrors Cube is drawn, the players must Spawn and Activate a number of Horrors units depending on a Fate Card draw. With the Impending Doom Cube, an Event Card is drawn and immediately resolved. There are always eight Turn Order Cubes in the Turn Order Bag regardless of the player count. For the solo mode, the player will simply play the 2-player version and control both Factions. The 2-player mode has each player controlling one Faction. However, each player also has two faction-activation cubes in the bag (two for each faction). In the 3-player game, each player plays one Faction, but there is a “Wild” faction-activation cube added to the bag; when it’s drawn, the players must decide which faction will take the extra activation. Finally, in the 4-player game, each player controls one Faction that receives one Turn Order Cube.
Sample Faction Standee (Please note that this is a prototype image, not final art)
The Plum Island Horror features six unique player Factions to choose from, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The Factions are Neighborhood Watch, Greenport Township, Plum Island Constabulary, Islanders Athletic Club, P.I.R.L. Security Services, and National Guard. Each Faction has a leader, five basic units, and a Compound unit (a fortified base). I’ll cover each of these Factions in further detail in future articles, but for now, suffice it to say that each faction has unique flavor and all of the tools needed to get 80% of the job done.
The Plum Island Horror also features a “follow” mechanic, which adds an extra layer of strategy and a “push-your-luck” element that increases the game’s tension (not that it really needs more tension but making players as nervous and anxious as possible is very satisfying to me). After a faction finishes their normal activation, players have an option to Follow. If they choose not to, nothing happens—impending doom is waylaid for the time being, and the next Turn Order Cube is drawn. If a player does choose to Follow however, they may immediately conduct an out of turn Action with an eligible unit. If that sounds too good to be true, well, that’s because it is. After each Follow action, a player must draw a Fate Card. If the entry indicates “No Event,” then nothing further happens, and the next player has the option to Follow. If, however, the entry shows “Draw Event Card,” then all Hell breaks loose. First, no further Follow actions may occur during this round. Second, and perhaps the worst part, the players must draw and resolve the top Event Card, which is almost always pure evil. All of that to say, the Follow mechanic does add an integral layer of cooperative tactical strategy that keeps the whole table on the edge of their seats.
Sample Fate Card (Please note that this is a prototype image, not final art)
The Plum Island Horror features three unique decks of cards that each drive the game along in different ways.
Event Deck: These cards are almost always bad news for the players. The two main times an Event Card is drawn are when the “Impending Doom” Turn Order Cube is drawn or when a player takes a Follow action and gets the “Draw Event Card” instruction. These cards can spawn new Horrors, bring in a super-Horror, “Mutation” unit, affect the Biohazard Track, and create all sorts of other dangerous conditions.
Search Deck: Players can do a “Search” Location Action in certain designated areas. If they choose to use one of their precious action points to search, they get to draw two Search Cards and pick one to keep. These come in a variety of narrative styles—some are choices, some are tests, and others report something that just happens. They provide generally positive news for the players, and deciding on where and when a player uses an action to dip into these waters can be the difference between victory and defeat.
- One Mounted Map (22” x 34”)
- 135 Playing Cards
- 7 Faction Player Mats
- 4 Player Aids
- 1 Game Track Sideboard
- 2 Cloth Bags
- 6 Custom Combat Dice
- 70 Horrors Tiles
- 36 Cardboard Standees
- 102 Wooden Pieces
- 162 Cardboard Counters
GAME DESIGN: Hermann Luttmann
DEVELOPER: Ken Kuhn