Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our subscriber list to get the latest news, updates and special offers delivered directly in your inbox.

Into the Twilight: Quick Glimpses of The Zone

Have you had enough of quelling cosmic catastrophes?

Perhaps we can interest you in an introspective journey instead: a ready-to-go RPG experience that’s light on setup but vast in depth and personal meaning, facilitated by gorgeous tarot-sized cards and wrapped in speculative fiction ambience.

Also, it’s another horror game. And you play it in the dark, assisted only by the light of glowsticks. And its premium edition comes in an actual Nanuk 910 hard case.

Welcome to The Zone.

The Zone, developed by game designer Raph D’Amico, is advertised as a surreal play-to-lose horror RPG, where participants assume the roles of various character archetypes. These stalwarts, with their own phobias and obsessions, enter the eponymous Zone: a location where the rules of reality and biology are in flux, and travelers face their innermost selves as they change. It’s a collaborative storytelling experience where everyone contributes to narrating the story and no separate GM is required, aside from a facilitator—most likely the person who owns the game and physically sets things up for play.

We won’t get into the details of gameplay yet for this feature, though; we’re saving that for another time.

For now, we’re here to show you what’s in the box case!

The Containment Edition of The Zone (which I was lucky to order during its crowdfunding period) comes in the aforementioned Nanuk 910 hard case, thematic testament to the game’s mood and context. The six glowsticks are battery operated and serve as the primary lighting for a proper session of The Zone. A nifty sticker sheet and thank you card also come with the Containment Edition.

Inside the game box proper are the gameplay cards, instructions, and supporting texts.

Three sizable pamphlets reside in the game box, each very clearly and helpfully labeled: MANUAL contains the game’s instructions, MUTATION contains supporting imagery and descriptions for the metamorphoses your characters may undergo during your session, and TWISTS contains supplementary adventures put together by esteemed guest authors and game developers.

Now for the gorgeous centerpieces of the game: the character and location cards.

Each character archetype is presented in a rainbow foil treatment. Pictured here are only six of them, with many more included in the box. On the reverse side of each are the relevant descriptions and concepts for each of them.

Each character is paired with a motivation card, of which there are many. Like the character cards, they also come in a rainbow foil treatment on one side. On their flip sides, they have Phobias and Obsessions, which add layers of drive and compulsion to your character archetypes.

Rounding out characters are callsign cards, each determining when exactly your character is likely to meet their fate on the path into The Zone. They also have handy taglines for each stage of the storytelling process.

There is one last set of tarot-sized rainbow-foil cards: the Locations.

Locations are randomly drawn and assembled into your session’s unique Zone, creating both settings and potential challenges for your characters to overcome. Speaking of those challenges:

A few other decks complete the setup of The Zone: Scene cards that define the choices and conflicts to be faced, “Not So Easy” cards that are both hurdles and narrative launchpads for your characters to evolve—sometimes literally—and Fate cards, which are randomly placed along the path to sequence each character’s potential demise.

Of special note is the single X card, which is meant to stay present in the game space, and acts as a no-questions-asked placeholder for when a player wants to veto something in the game’s narrative. As The Zone is a horror game, unwelcome or triggering situations and imagery may spontaneously come up during storytelling. By pointing to the X Card, at any point the game can pause, rewind to before the triggering moment, and pivot. Mental and emotional health and safety are paramount for games like The Zone, as is mutual player respect.

Curious yet?

You can learn more about The Zone at the Laughing Kaiju website. There’s also a digital version that you can play for free, and preorders for the physical editions are open on Backerkit now that the original crowdfunding backers have been receiving theirs.

Alternatively, you can wait for our own gameplay feature about it soon!