“Rabid” is the number 1 phenomenon of Coma Ward. Whether from pure random coincidence or through people just wanting to play the first Phenomenon because traditional logic dictates “number one is first in order,” a lot of folks have played Phenomenon 1.
What’s in the box?
Inside the box, you’ll find a Phenomenon Rules Sheet that gives an explanation of what clues you found, a breakdown of recommended player count and estimated play-time, someone’s rambling prose, instructions for what to do with the rest of the box’s content, and some rules for how the game has shifted. You’ll also find two solution cards (one “paper” and one “Serum for Virus B9”), ten “Ravenous Diseased,” and two Epilogues.
This Phenomenon is a cooperative one and players need to inoculate themselves and one another with the serum and kill the Ravenous Diseased to survive the phenomenon.
The Ravenous Diseased are pretty tough enemies. When you attack them, you need six or more successes. If you fail to damage a Ravenous Diseased, they infect you and you will become one of them when you die.
Unlike other enemies in Coma Ward, when you hit them you deal damage equal to your Attack Value. So, Unarmed Attacks would deal 1 damage and any attacks made with weapons would deal the damage rating listed on the weapon card(s).
Granted, the text of the card does a horrible job communicating this and I’ll get to that.
To find the Serum for Virus B9, you’ll need to find the Paper. The Paper is an interoffice memo for hospital staff and is placed face down on the space where the first Clue was discovered.
Where’d you steal THIS from?
You know this is about zombies, right? The initial draft of this phenomenon featured a straight-up rip off of the opening of “28 Days Later.” You all wake up, you’re scared and confused, and also there are zombies doing zombie things.
Wisely, the publishers of Coma ward said “Danny… Zombies are overdone. Can you make this less derivative?”
I’m sure they phrased their request differently, but memory is mercurial and I’m writing this so I’ll recall it however I want.
In fact, I recall right before that the publisher telling me I was the best designer they’d ever worked with, I was the most handsome man alive, and I would be getting a bonus check big enough to purchase an Elon Musk rocket so I could escape the planet before we’ve drained this blue marble dryer than a 20-year old raisin.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the publisher wanted me to re-theme this phenomenon. They suggested replacing the zombies with demons or giving the zombies unique attributes.
I just said “what if they’re insane technophobic terrorists who created an airborne virus that removes the higher cognitive functions of the human brain and turns everyone into gluttonous violence monsters. When the concentration of the virus becomes too diluted to spread through the air, it spreads through saliva, because rabies or whatever?”
The idea came to me in an instant and it seemed like a very natural transition. The publisher liked the idea. They weren’t the ones writing it and if I could convey the concepts on the limited space of a single paper and some 2.5″x3.5″ cards then I had their blessing.
Honestly, I cannot express how much creative freedom I had while working on this game. It’s insane. Imagine “Lord of the Flies” but everyone gets along and the boar is the king.
This is the worst game I’ve ever played and here’s why…
The Ravenous Diseased are terribly designed.
I don’t mean they are “unbalanced” or “unfair” or “too hard to fight with only two players.” I mean the language of the card is inconsistent with every other enemy in Coma Ward.
Why the language of the Ravenous Diseased is so different is a fun story. But, that’s not what we’re here for.
So, how would I fix the Ravenous Diseased? Easy. I’d change the text to this:
At the end of the round, after each player has taken their turn, each Ravenous Diseased moves 2 spaces toward the nearest player on their floor. If there are no players the same floor as a Ravenous Diseased, they move towards the nearest player on another floor. Ravenous Diseased use the stairs because they don’t trust machine and elevators are scary when you’re a member of a technophobic terrorist cult. Ravenous Diseased use the stairs the same way players do.
If Ravenous Diseased enters the same space as a player, that player makes an Attack Check.
0-5) The snarling lesion-covered figure lunges at you and bites you with yellow teeth. You scream and pull back a crimson spewing arm. -3 Health and you are Infected.
6+) You dodge the hideous figure and share some thoughts of your own…violently… by attacking them. Deal damage to the Ravenous Diseased as if you attacked a Player with this check.
Whenever Ravenous Diseased is dealt damage place that many tokens on it. If a Ravenous Diseased ever has 5 or more counters on it, it is eliminated and removed from the game.
The Ravenous Diseased may be attacked. To do so, you need 6+ successes on your Attack Check. You deal damage to the Ravenous Diseased as if you attack a Player with this check.
That’s the only thing I would change about this phenomenon.
Sure, this change takes away the option for players to Dodge the Ravenous Diseased. That makes sense, though. These are rabid zealots driven to murder and societal collapse and you’ve just woken up from a real long confusing nap. Like it or not, they will MAKE you fight them.
Anyone who’s visited r/the_donald knows what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
Okay, so it has A FEW cool things going on.
Conceptually, this phenomenon is pretty cool. Its influences are obvious, but not directly ripped-off. Which is apparently hard to do in the world of board games.
Epilogue A is one of the few “good” endings in Coma Ward. In fact, this whole phenomenon has a very sardonic, yet playful, tone to it.
Epilogue B is one of my favorite epilogues in all of Coma Ward. It isn’t the only misanthropic ending. Heck, it isn’t even the most nihilistic.
This is also one of the easiest to learn/pick-up-and-play Phenomenon in Coma Ward. It also offers some great open-ended options for strategy.
Players with larger parties an split the group. One set of folks can keep exploring the Hospital, looking for weapons, while the other set gets the serum and starts inoculating everyone.
Players with smaller groups can stick together to try and position themselves so they are in range of as few Ravenous Diseased as possible while trading items to keep the weapons in the healthiest player’s hands.
I’d say it’s my Xth favorite
So, how do I rank this particular phenomenon against the others of the core set?
Rabid is probably my 9th favorite concerning narrative and general concept. It’s just zombies with a fresh coat of paint. It’s not as “epic” as Zombicide, but Coma Ward doesn’t star Roddy Piper, so that makes sense.
As far as gameplay goes, I rank this phenomenon as my 11th favorite in the core set (3rd from the bottom). The poor directions on the Ravenous Disease just mixed too many people up and hearing that some folks didn’t have a good experience knocks this one down several pegs.
Granted, with my corrected Ravenous Disease text in the section above I’d bump this phenomenon to my 8th favorite. Not the best or most innovative game. But, there’s some avenues for strategy and player freedom in here. That’s what Coma Ward’s all about.
There ya go, how I feel about Phenomenon 1, Rabid.
Feel free to leave some feedback.