Game Design Bonus Tuesday: Steampunk Feminists Vs. Zombies (The Card Game)

This is the newest strip from The Escapist’s Critical Miss. Satire be damned, when it comes to cool concepts you just can’t go wrong with a name like “Steampunk Feminists vs. Zombies”… so I’ve decided to come up with the framework of a card game based on the title. At the very least, it’d be a no obligation brain release from all the trouble I’m having with my current game’s design.

So here goes!


True to the name, the game must contain elements of steampunk, feminism, and zombies. The easiest design is to do a co-op zombie apocalypse survival game, and then layer it on top with steampunk gadgets and a smattering of feminism ideas… and I’ll be doing that here. KISS and all that junk.
Here is how it breaks down:
  • Zombies. The players are defending their homes and zombies are knocking at the door. If they take down all the players, the players all lose. The game escalates as more and more powerful zombies are being thrown at the players as the game progress.
  • Steampunk. In order to fight back, the players assemble various makeshift weapons from household items… while engineering plans for more efficient and powerful steampunk weapons and barricades can be assembled, the players have limited rights to wield advanced weapons and have restricted access to the machines to assemble the items. Which leads to…
  • Feminism. Since all the player characters are female, in order to win the rights to use advanced machinery, the players have to risk leaving the safety of their homes to hold rallies, conventions, and assemblies in order to advance their rights. At the final stage, the players unlock the right to build the “Enigma Machine”, the ultimate anti-zombie doomsday weapon. Once it’s built and deployed, the players all win the game.


Character Cards: each player is represented by a character. Each character has a few statistics that affects her effectiveness in specific game related tasks:
  • Leadership determines how quickly the feminism track moves when she makes assembly and speech actions.
  • Engineering affects the speed she assemble and disassemble items.
  • Vitality determines the number of damage she can take before she is eliminated.
Materials: The player can spend actions to scavenge for materials. Most materials can be broken down for parts, shown on the right side of the cards. They might also serve directly as makeshift barricades or weapons, though they’re not very effective. Finally, advanced disassembly techniques can break certain materials down into specific gadgets, but the disassembly process requires access to a dissembler, a class-restricted machine.

Plans: The player can also spend actions to acquire plans. Most plans require materials to assemble – the list of components required are on the left side of the cards. Barricades can directly block zombie attacks round after round, while weapons can directly eliminate zombies. As the players gain more rights to use advanced steam power and assembly machines, they can assemble power generators to power automatic weapons, freeing them precious time to continue their road to women’s suffrage.

Zombies: You just can’t get enough of ’em. After spending all available actions, each player must add additional zombie cards to the horde. The zombies shamble from house to house, bang on barricades, and if the player is unlucky, they just might get a chunk of flesh or two bitten out of them. As the zombies are eliminated, more and more powerful strains of zombies enter the fray. To stop them once and for all, the player must work together to advance the feminism track…

Feminism Track: Once the player feels secure that their barricades would hold, they can spend actions to assemble and make speeches. These actions would push the players further up the feminism track. At certain milestones, all players would gain the rights to use a new class blueprints, allowing them to build more powerful machines to fight the horde. Ultimately, they must advance to the end of the track to gain the right to vote, then acquire the rights to build and deploy the Enigma Machine to end the zombie menace once and for all.

Game Rules Draft

  1. The objective of the game is to eliminate the imminent zombie threat. As a cooperative game, all players must work together to achieve a common goal. The players all win together or they all lose together, even if some of the players are eliminated during the course of the game.
  2. In the beginning of the game, each player selects a character.
  3. Put aside the “Enigma Machine” plan card. Separate the advanced zombies from the normal zombies. Shuffle and form the zombie deck, materials deck, and plans deck. Put the “Enigma Machine” at the bottom of the plans deck.
  4. The game begins. Draw zombie cards equal to the number of players and distribute them equally between the players. This is the initial horde.
  5. Each player take turns in order:
    • Activate Machinery. As long as there’s coal to power steam generators, power can be generated to activate steam powered weapons and barricades. These activation effects do not cost player actions. The coal is spent in the powering process.
    • Take ActionsDepending on the state of the game, the following actions may be available to the player. Each player can take up to 3 actions per turn.
      • Scavenge: draw a material card or plans card and add it to the player’s hand.
      • Trade: hand a material a plan, or an assembled item to another player.
      • Speech: the player spends the remainder of his or her actions to advance the feminist cause. Make a leadership check and advance the track accordingly. As milestones are reached on the track, the corresponding class unlocks occur immediately.
      • Assemble/Disassemble: Once the class I blueprints are unlocked, the players earn the right to disassemble materials and assemble them into basic machinery. A plan can be turned into an actual item as long as the materials are available for that player.
      • Use Items: use a material for its base effect or a machine for its activated effect. Items that are automatically activated cannot be manually activated on the same turn.
    • Zombie Attacks. Make attack rolls for all zombies currently attacking the player, and add additional zombie cards in front of the player afterwards. When the zombie deck runs out, increase the zombie cards drawn per turn by 1, reshuffle all the eliminated zombies and add 5 advanced zombies to form a new zombie deck, and continue to draw up to the necessary number of zombies.
  6. If a player takes damage equal to or more than the character’s vitality, that player is eliminated. The zombie that is attacking that player will spend a turn on the deceased player, then on the next turn that player’s character is removed, and all zombies attacking that player redistributes to the remaining players evenly. Any remaining materials on that player can be scavenged; any functional machines are considered broken and must be repaired with an Engineering check (after the machine is scavenged). The players lose the game if all player characters are eliminated from the game.
  7. To win the game, the players must reach the end of the feminism track, and with the plan in hand, one player must assemble the Enigma Machine and spend the required power and actions to activate it. When it is activated, all players win the game.
And I’m done! Since I’ve ripped this concept from someone else it’d probably be a bad idea to actually develop it (besides, the whole zombie survival thing is seriously overdone lately), so feel free to copy/steal/redistribute/whatever.

4 thoughts on “Game Design Bonus Tuesday: Steampunk Feminists Vs. Zombies (The Card Game)

  1. If you can get Grey and Cory's permission, I would so help fund a Kickstarter project for producing and distributing this.

  2. I think if this does become "a thing", then there has to be an Irony Meter as part of the Enigma machine, just for the idea of a Kickstarter Parody becoming a Parody Kickstarter.

  3. It is tempting… I think any fairly decent zombie apocalypse game would get a disproportionate amount of support on kickstarter, but more than a few similar games like Zombicide ( just got funded recently funded, so I don't know if people are already burnt out by the general concept.

    I think the game would need a stronger Steampunk and Feminist edge before it can become a legitimate project, and I'm not sure if I'm up for the job.

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