Den of Wolves Megagame
On November 6th 2022, I participated in a megagame called Den of Wolves. A megagame is a live roleplaying game where in this case 43 players got together to play a game where a ragtag fleet had to escape the onslaught of the Wolf fleet. Den of Wolves is definitively inspired by Battlestar Galactica, where one outdated warship is tasked with defending the remnants of mankind, in the form of a ragtag fleet, and finding the path to Earth.
|The Fleet in Battlestar Galactica. (Image by NBCUniversal, fair use)|
How the megagames work
For Den of Wolves, the players were assigned to the 10 ships of the fleet. Another group of players acted as “Control”, or what we’d call game masters. The game was timed, with each turn lasting roughly 30 minutes of real time.
In practical terms, each ship was represented with a physical table. Each table had an A3-sized “control panel” which featured a sort of worker placement minigame. To produce water, we needed to man various stations on the ship with crew tokens. Most stations had an input requirement and an output. For example, our hydrogen collectors had 1 crew token as a requirement, and would produce 6 water tokens as a result. Notably, most ships are incapable of self-sufficiency. The Lucas could produce both food and water, but not fuel, for example.
The players were for the most part autonomous in this game. The Control players mostly just clarified rules and sometimes afforded hidden information options. When we conducted ship operations, or freighted resources across the fleet, we as ship players were mostly in charge and acted according to the relatively simple rules.
Occasionally there would be sirens and alarms as the Wolf fleet warped in an attack formation. During Wolf attacks, movement between tables was restricted. If I were about to ship water to another ship, I’d have to emergency land at the closest table and stay there while the attack was underway. There was a “battle table” where the first officers played out the attack actions, which I really didn’t get to experience.
We were also given briefs that set some objectives and positioned our national culture compared to the other in-game nationalities. While interesting, this document felt less instructive than I first thought.
Overall, this particular megagame seemed like someone had taken the board game Battlestar Galactica and expanded it to accommodate several players. In terms of roleplay, many of the players did play their roles, but did not act or make special voices or anything like that. A bunch of players had put on some “costumes”, such as green vests and hard hats for the refinery ship, all black clothing on the Aegis (the sole military ship in the fleet). Others appeared more casual.
Shut up and sit down made a few videos about their experiences with the megagame “Watch the Skies”. It has a different format, featuring a UN game linked with a sort of XCOM global view game.
- First Megagame (youtube link)
- Second Megagame Part 1 (youtube link)
- Second Megagame Part 2 (youtube link)
While I cannot make a complete summary about how the game played out, I can tell my perspective of the game. This is because the experiences of the various player roles were vastly different. I played the role of captain aboard the logistics vessel Lucas. Along with me I had a first officer, a chief engineer and a council representative. The Lucas is notably capable of producing high amounts of water. Water, in this game, is one of the crucial resources for ship operations.
I started out early with collaborating with the Sheperd, which was a ship equipped with lots of “thirsty” food synthesizers. By providing water to them, we ensured that the fleet was fed. Generally, I made it my goal to supply the whole fleet with water and food, but it quickly turned out that this was impossible. Each turn, we had to ration and potentially under-supply various ships. We had to prioritize harshly.
Other captains were having none of it. The Quellon looked out for their kinsmen aboard the Vulcan, who claimed more food for each unit of water they exchanged compared to the Lucas. We also had the Salvador to consider, a medical vessel with a crew from the same homeworld as the Lucas.
Coming up to the middle of the game, things were heating up as the Wolves had activated sleeper agents in our fleet. A shuttle exploded. Ship stations exploded. The Vulcan and the Endeavour drew a lot of attention, as something fishy was going on between those two ships.
The Vulcan was a prisoner ship, while the Endeavour was a science vessel. It turned out that they had found a way to “indoctrinate” prisoners to perform more advanced labor. However, something backfired and rumors of an infiltrator flourished. The Endeavour was also supposed to deliver improved hydrogen collector technology to us, but failed to deliver for many turns. This also made our crew suspicious about them.
Towards the end-game, the Wolf fleet had made several appearances and wreaked havoc in the fleet. We suffered a lot of damage, and had so far failed to capture the Wolf sleeper agents. While we were all struggling to repair our facilities and crew morale was plunging across the fleet, the game was over and we were all left “hanging”.
We all got together in one room and made self-assessments of our game experience. It turned out that three sleeper agents had been activated in the fleet. One was aboard the Vulcan, and had planted explosives and spaced crew. A second infiltrator was aboard the refinery ship, implementing organizational sabotage. And filling a coffin with explosives for some reason. More crucially, the third sleeper agent was the vice president, who had basically sabotaged all communications between the president and the rest of the fleet.
Overall, the Den of Wolves megagame was a really fun experience. I was so busy playing that I failed to stop and take pictures, unfortunately. I was also kind of exhausted after the game, having been so mentally active for almost 8 hours straight. Next year, in February, the local megagames organization is going to run a Watch the Skies game. I’m looking forward to joining that one.
It really triggered a lot of “game design” thoughts, and has me considering making a cosmic horror inspired megagame. Essentially, you can take a board game and make it a megagame. Or maybe even matrix games could be adopted to play out a megagame. The only limit is imagination.