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Zeno is a space horror game which presents players with suspense and foreknowledge. It frequently obliges players to decide whether to prioritize their own objectives or the interests of the group, knowing that the latter may be at odds with the former.
While the theme is mature, there is no nudity, swearing or explicit portrayals of violence against people. There is a little blood and gore. We believe it is suitable for those aged 14 and up. The game system encourages situations to develop and be interpreted by the players, rather than serving them up in a pre-packaged state. While it is possible for more mature themes to emerge, these will flow from the players and their imaginations rather than the game itself.
Set in the distant future, the game is played on Space Station Riga. This research station has for some months been surveying a remote Star System. On the second planet from the sun lie the dust choked ruins of an alien civilization. Many wonders have been discovered. These relics of a dead age will occupy archaeologists for years to come. However, not everything that came back was a relic. Or dead.
In a semi co-operative game, players compete against and co-operate with each other throughout the game while trying to complete a common objective. Players can all win the game, all lose the game or somewhere in-between.
In Zeno the players all lose if the alien menace fully awakens. This happens if you run out of time.
Players win individually if they complete their personal mission and jointly evacuate a winning number of survivors from the station. The number of survivors you must evacuate depends on the number of players.
It is possible, albeit difficult, to win the game as a paragon. You will usually have to tread on a few toes to get ahead; ignore the occasional fire, abandon comrades to the aliens, sneak contraband onto an escape craft or commit treason. This does not mean you are not co-operating. You are semi co-operating.
Excepting solo play, there is nothing very different about how different numbers of players can enjoy Zeno. There are a few small adjustments depending on the player count. In theory any number of players can participate, but we propose to ship enough game materials to equip 5 players. The player materials are not very complicated though and with a little work more players could easily be added. If you have other games you probably have suitable components.
Game duration is controlled by the size of the clock deck. Cards can be added or withdrawn to make the game longer or shorter.
The number of evacuated survivors needed to win can be adjusted to increase or reduce the difficulty of the game, regardless of the player count.
Solo play is a little different but it is still recognizably the same game. You will still have most of the same decisions to make, albeit on your own.
The artwork in Zeno is more than eye candy. It is an integral part of the game, helping to tell the story and enable narrative interpretation. It also speeds up the game because you can see what is happening.
Most of the card art tells a story. It may not be a very big story, but it will tell you something about the situation you are dealing with. The game environment is built as you play, using tiles. Each of these displays a top down rendering of the affected area.
Click here to explore the gallery of prototype game art.
Click here to see some of the game tiles.
Zeno features over 250 core illustrations, not counting items, weapons, skills and the like.
Sometimes in a game you will experience a beautiful moment. Everything will just click and you will be presented with a perfect little piece of storytelling. Brief as they are wonderful, these little moments are the jewels in the crown of gaming. Zeno is not an attempt to tell a pre-written narrative. It is an environment designed to encourage moments, and from these your own personal narrative can develop.
Zeno is a pressure cooker chock full of storytelling ingredients which will naturally blend during play to create a unique experience.
In order to do this the game has a stripped down feel. Materials are designed with the bare minimum of text which, in concert with the accompanying art, enable game events to be interpreted and explained quickly. There are no long narratives for players to read out.
We have found the best format for delivering text to be the Senryu; a short form Japanese poem. Many of the cards in the game feature these. Players do not have to read them out, though they may. Their purpose is to aid interpretation. At 17 syllables each they are just as long as this sentence.