404 - Charge of the Life Brigade

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404: Barhah not found. It may not work for you.

Especially if you have no Fiffy.

Havercroft, a case study in suburb reclamation

Let me take you back to the spring of 2009. Across the world people were enjoying such films as Hannah Montana:The Movie and G-Force. The survivors of Malton had banished the thoughts of The Dead from their minds and only a hundred or so survivors were sill alive in Borehamwood. In short the old cycle of death and life continued.

Nowhere was this more true than the suburb of Havercroft.

In late March, the Ridleybank Resistance Front had destroyed much of the infrastructure in the suburb, including Ackland Mall and the nearby tactical resource points. Although the RRF had moved on, Havercroft was struggling to rebuild. The suburb was still overrun with feral zombies who had been following the RRF, and most survivors had retreated to safer suburbs.

What follows is a case-study looking at the weeks following the RRF's attack. It's a tale that follows a group of survivors determined to rebuild a devastated suburb, and offers glimpses into post-siege survivor and zombie mentality. It also shows the effectiveness of survivor coordination when reclaiming a ruined suburb.

This isn't your usual all-singing, all-dancing shooting gallery of zombie headshots, but it is about brains...

The same thing we do every night...

Normally this kind of thing terrifies 404.

At this time random survivor group 404 Barhah Not Found were on a roll. Having spent months in Molebank they'd finally beaten the dreaded Poop Zerger. Then, in the far north west, they held Extinction outside The Pask Building for weeks at a time. 404 were even discussing a plan to hold Fort Perryn against the Feral Undead although they couldn't really explain the point of doing so.

Putting it bluntly, the group was bored, and with membership in the high twenties, 404 now had more members than at any point in their history. With this in mind, they enacted their most fiendish and well-organised plan ever: They decided to repair Havercroft.


  • Note Almost every plan 404 have ever had is "Hey, lets repair X". Half-the-time on arrival, the target is already repaired, or still swarming with organised Zombies and the group moves on. In fairness there is no secret planning junta. They just point ourselves at stuff, make a mess of it, and then see what happens. See Blackmore 4(04) for the perfect example of this tactic in action.

The following is an overview, breaking the reclamation effort into distinct phases, written from the POV of 404 Barhah not found.

Making it up as we go along...

Mall-rebuilding-small.jpg

Ackland Mall
Ackland Mall was recaptured a few days ago and is in survivor hands. There are currently 17 zombies outside the SE corner.
--Fiffy 06:45, 3 April 2009 (BST)


Shore Hills was the initial rallying point and as we ventured north, we found that large numbers of zombies were still on the streets. However, several survivors were making a successful bid to reclaim Ackland. A strong feral cloud was holding the burb after the RRF had stormed through at the end of March, and there were still more than 100 zombies on the streets. Seizing on this strange setup 404 ignored their standard cade strafing approach and piled into the mall. At the time there were a mere 13 zombies congregating outside its south east corner.

This, however was just the start of the fun.

Siege Mentality

Mall-under attack-small.jpg

Ackland Mall
Thanks to the efforts of unknown groups Ackland Mall is up and running. Would the heros of ackland please stand up? No sit down AMS.
--Ricci Bobby 18:45, 6 April 2009 (PST)


404 never normally help with mall sieges. Tactically Malls are difficult to defend and getting enough active players to watch barricade levels on all corners can be a nightmare. Initial progress was good, with a dozen or so 404'ers defending against a similar number of zombies. Cade watching meant that over the first day only a single zombie got inside.

In the meantime 404's semi fictional, and entirely gin-soaked diplomat Little Fiffan Zinja began searching for whatever survivor support was available, most actively with Ackland Mall Security and the DEM.

The news wasn't brilliant. AMS could provide scouting and local zombie contacts, but weren't even able to tell us how many members were currently in their own group. The DEM weren't active in the area, so a general appeal was made, but no promises.

In short, we were on our own.

AMS, in the middle of a major recruitment and reorganisation, provided profile links for local troublemakers, but few actual survivors.

Now we came to a bit of a problem. Normally 404 are the people nipping in the back door and repairing those empty warehouses whilst everyone else was concentrating on the mall. But now, the opposite was true. With many buildings still ruined, a fully repaired and lit mall was a huge distraction to all the zombies present.

The next few days taught as that the horde of zombies (now 20+) was not organised. There were no timed strikes, or use of X:00 tactics. There seemed no plan except to throw themselves at the mall. Survivors logged on to see cades at lightly, or heavily, but never doors wide open, meaning cade blocking zombies were never inside. The attack on the south east corner was the major threat and survivor mentality inside the mall reflected this. Away from the battle for the south east corner the other three quadrants were underpopulated, containing only two or three survivors. If the zombies were organised, they could have quickly switched focus and swarmed through a poorly defended corner almost immediately.

Of course, this is true of every Mall Siege since cade blocking was introduced, and a first the siege followed the usual script. What happened next however, was a major rewrite. A perfect storm of events culminated in what was probably the last successful mall defence in Malton History.

Coat-tailing

Start quote rb.gif Life is begining to return to Havercroft. Special thanks to the Malton Rangers and 404 Barhah not found. Acklands is up and running with all corners EHB and lit, despite the 21 zeds outside the southeast corner. Most resource buildings are up and running, but this will only continue with more survivor support.  End quote rb.gif

-- --User:Ricci Bobby 19:52, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

As a small aside to the larger picture, Havercroft is the closest 404 ever got to a large meta horde on a city-wide rampage. The RRF had only left three days before we arrived, so for once in our lives repair costs were low. Normally we gravitate to Extreme Repairs and suburbs long since abandoned by everyone. The danger from zombies was higher than usual, plus as an extra treat PK'ers were prevalent. For once we were standing in buildings with other survivors and suddenly, Feeding Groans were a real issue. A single zombie groaning at a single survivor has no range. One standing in a mall next to 15 survivors was a dinner bell for half the suburb.

As the remaining zombies were slowly drawn away from the ruins and towards to the mall, freerunning routes to NT's were cade strafed and TRP's were barricaded wherever possible.

As an illustration of the speed of recovery, at the beginning of the second of April only six Structures were repaired in the suburb, but by the fourth of April this had risen to 48. Quick recovery and the re-establishment of revive points meant that few of the survivors killed fled the area, as revives and secure buildings were readily available. Survivor numbers were stabilised, a crucial part of the recovery effort.

Initial repair sweep, feel free to cycle through the edits to see our progress.

Survivor Rescue

Mall-under attack-small.jpg

Ackland Mall
Mall is in survivor hands with all corners powered and fully barricaded. There are 35+ zombies outside the SE corner.
--Major Dick 02:17, 7 April 2009 (BST)


Start quote rb.gif Havercroft is barricaded everywhere. Survivor population is high. Ackland is holding. 2 FR lanes to NTs.  End quote rb.gif

-- GeraldThompson 16:26, 6 April 2009 (BST)

Pretty soon things turned for the worst. Zombie break-ins became more common (and weren't really helped by own own members dying of infection and letting off feeding groans). Survivor numbers were pretty static, and the feral horde kept growing and growing.

In addition small numbers of zombies were chewing on all 4 corners of the mall. 404 were more and more stretched, trying to reclaim ruined buildings, defending all the mall corners and clearing revive points in a bid to get more survivor AP's into the defence.

Help however, was at hand. Several Malton Rangers turned up to bolster defences and a small squad of MFD Firefighters, under the leadership of Gerald Thompson were instrumental in keeping the mall safe for a few more days.

But zombie numbers were still rising outside. With this in mind there was only one option left to us.

We were going to have to die.

A Growing Problem

Crazy Barricading Randomness!

Start quote rb.gif The SE corner of Ackland is still under attack by zombies apparently miffed at the preference given by the Goth Store's clients to vampires over brain-eaters. However, the vigilance of 404: Barhah not found, AMS and others is denying the 30-odd zombies outside a chance to sport sexy boustiers and hot (literally!) studded leather pants. Meanwhile, doctors in Ephram General are reporting a local scarcity of anti-zombie prophylaxes, thus resulting in uncontrolled undead breakouts -- or, rather, break-ins...

The rest of the suburb, however, remains calm with barricades and power and little to interrupt the existential monotony of life, death and rebirth in Malton. Weather report at 10:45.  End quote rb.gif

-- --WanYao 16:37, 7 April 2009 (BST)

Of course the feral horde still grew. But for once 404 were sneaky. With increased survivor numbers, and repaired buildings popping up everywhere some members suggested a truly unique plan. We were no longer facing an organised horde which followed orders and moved as one, we were facing an amorphous, anonymous enemy. In theory facing such a horde should have been normal for us. The issue was the scale of the group facing us.

The first stage was knowing our enemy. Three or four members of 404 who met their untimely death went and stood outside the South East Corner of the Mall. Every time a zombie stood, or groaned, or destroyed the barricades we contact listed their ID number. In 36 hours, we had over 40 zombies identified out of a horde that was still growing. At this point the number of bodies and zombies totalled 60. It was without doubt the focus of zombie attention in the suburb.

All around the rest of the suburb survivors were gaining the upper hand. Whilst neighbouring suburbs were still facing the full brunt of the RRF, or struggling to recover, Havercroft was a bright light in a large ruined area. Survivors were naturally drawn to it, with its powered TRP's, and short revive lines.

Stage two was slightly more insidious. Every Hotel, Building and Tower in the suburb was barricaded to EHB by our members. Few zombies were focussing on these fairly useless buildings, so this was accomplished with little risk.

Then the real fun began.


  • Notes on feral mentality.


A typical feral siege results in a break in based on some fairly simple facts. Ferals react to the world around them.

  1. Feral zombies tend to group together, as it improves their chances of success.
  2. As more ferals arrive, more break-ins begin to happen, more Feeding groans in turn attract even more ferals, and new zombies
  3. A Feral zombie logging on everyday to see more zombies at their location than the previous day knows
    that soon they'll be able to break in by sheer force of numbers.
  4. If a feral thinks that they are about to break into a mall, they aren't going to leave.


  • So, in order to break a feral siege, you need to break this pattern.


With this in mind the way forward was simple. The only way to break the siege was to stop the increase in zombie numbers. So on the 8th of April the horde were attacked in a real time strike. Like the Battling Blackmore Bastard Brigade before us, we charged outside and into the horde.

But our weapons weren't guns. They were needles.

The Charge of the Life Brigade

At a prearranged time, the group struck (well, Stuck). Seven members of 404 hit the horde. Having 30+ Zombies contact listed meant that we knew who we were reviving without having to rely on DNA Scanning.

Some members only revived a single zombie, others revived five, one member even used their final needle to revive another member of the group, who stood and revived another three, in the very definition of Pay It Forward. Altruistic survivors knew full well they could not return inside for safety. This was the least of their concerns.

If you've never read the Combat Revive page, go read it right now.

In the blink of an eye a horde of almost 40 zombies was transformed into a handful of rotters.


Over the next 24 hours the combat revived zombies did many different things.

  • The Dual Natured players left to help the survivor cause.
  • Some Zombies stood up and asked other zombies to eat them.
  • Some Zombies attacked the survivors standing on their square.
  • Some zombies went to the nearest Tall building to commit suicide, only to find they were all EHB.
  • Some zombies went off to be merry Death Cultists.

What none of these zombies continued to do, most importantly, was to attack the mall.

Ferals logging on found that the horde of 30+ zombies that was going to help them attack the mall was gone, and with it their chance of an easy meal. With the tide turning against them, other targets became more tempting. Specifically Martha.

Martha

Mall-safe-small.jpg

Ackland Mall
Tha mall is in survivor hands, with one lone zed outside the south-east corner.
--Alex1guy 09:18, 9 April 2009 (UTC)
Martha; a much more familiar home for the 404.


There was another reason for the few remaining zombies to leave. As Havercroft came back to life a smaller feral horde had been terrorising the north of the suburb , focussing on the area around Ephram General and Martha General Hospital.

This was the final incentive the ferals needed. As the week progressed the message *You heard a loud and low groaning 4 blocks to the North. became increasingly common. An easier target only 4AP was much more tempting.

This was a real lucky break for the group, as it meant that not only where we trying to move the zombies on, the zombies were trying to move themselves on. Although the suggestion was discussed to create our own feeding groan distractions, we felt that sending a horde of frustrated zombies at an unprepared building was a bit, well, mean. In such cases it's far better to draw zombies to a position of survivor strength, where they can do the least damage.

(This is probably a good time to mention that most members of 404 are experienced zombie players. As such a lot of our work, our real time strikes, IRC channels & constant profile grabbing is as a result of learning from the best zombie groups. If you ever want to run a good survivor group, shamble a few months in the undead's shoes.)

It took a ridiculously small amount of time for the threat to the mall to subside, and so several members of the group decided to head up to Martha on their own initiative. The standard "lets repair X" plan kicked back in, and we found ourself back in our comfort zone, defending a TRP from pesky zombies.

Hospital Hopping

Mall-safe-small.jpg

Ackland Mall
There are no standing zombies. Zero. Three dead bodies in the SW, one more revivifying.
--Ryvyoli Y R 22:35, 12 April 2009 (BST)
Martha (A) and it's helpful sister (B), surrounded by (C), (D) & (E) catering for all it's power needs.


Start quote rb.gif Very few zombies outside. (Like 5 in all the (resource heavy)squares I saw.)I saw no ruined buildings. Most buildings lit, especially near the mall.  End quote rb.gif

-- User:Rachel_Akebre 22:41, 12 April 2009 (BST)


Start quote rb.gif HOWEVER The 30 zombies and 20 corpses outside Martha General Hospital [33, 41] is a bit of a worry. Members of 404: Barhah not found have been holding the building for the last 5 days. Come have a look if you're bored.  End quote rb.gif

-- --User:Rosslessness 13:19, 13 April 2009 (BST)

Martha was a sexy little location. As a hospital, it's a great defensive building, but there were some tricky zombies inside that needed shifting, and so to begin with we slept next door in Ephrem General Hospital, before clearing the place and manning the barricades.

Over the next few days we cleared Martha, but then Ephram fell. We swiftly swung between the two buildings, making sure one of the two buildings was always barricaded and powered. This way any survivor dealing with a breach could nip next door and practice Surgery on themselves, before getting straight back into the fight.

It was also a great time to restock with Faks. The mall was filling up nicely, power was abundant and the constant chewing of our flesh was only a minor inconvenience. In the end it became easier to barricade and heal around the zombies, and let passing survivors use their own ammo to remove the undead.

Pointless Conclusion

So the inevitable happened. Slowly but surely the zombies drifted away, whether this was to do with external factors, or the several karaoke renditions performed in the street by our members was never properly investigated.

Overall the plan had been a success. Within ten days of our arrival the entire suburb was rebuilt, revive point were clear and power was restored. Of course, none of this was because of 404. The group's contribution had been something very specific, they had held the zombies in key locations, allowing other survivor groups, including AMS, Malton Rangers and the DEM to complete the task of reclamation unhindered.

The real achievement was the chance to try out a new approach to sieges. For years the easiest way to break a siege was to let a building fall, let the zombies move on, and then reclaim afterwards.

Attempting to hold the zombies, then splitting and steering them to certain targets was ambitious. The whole foundation of the plan was to understand that your opponents are not faceless zombies, but devious, clever, thinking people, trying their best to win. Too many survivors consider zombies to be what they are in fiction; simple, mindless and slow. This is never the case in Malton. The more people who realise this, the easier survival will become.

404: Barhah not found stocked up on supplies, and headed over to Quarlesbank.

But that's another story...

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