Arriving in the morning to set up.
Last week, (simulated) federal and provincial officials and members of the PAXsims team met in a top secret nuclear bunker outside Ottawa to respond to the grave threat of global pandemic. This wasn’t COVID-19, however, or even African Swine Fever. This was the zombie apocalypse.
The occasion was the decidedly not-serious Apocalypse 2 North megagame and the location was the “Diefenbunker”—Canada’s former Cold War government command centre in Carp (about 20 minutes west of Ottawa), now a museum. The game was organized by the Ottawa Megagames group, many of whom had helped us run Apocalypse North at McGill University last year. This time there were 56 participants.
Mobilization Control arrives with a plentiful supply of coffee.
Let me start by saying that the Diefenbunker Museum may well be the most awesome place on the entire planet to run a game. The bunker is big—with four underground floors and three hundred rooms, it was designed to withstand a 5 megaton nuclear detonation 1.1 miles away and thereafter support 535 civilian and military personnel for a month or more. The place is also remarkably intact, filled with 1960s-80s decor and equipment from its days as CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Carp. The Prime Minister’s bed, for example, is the original. If you are ever in the Ottawa area, make sure you visit!
We even had a red telephone.
We utilized large parts of the 300 level, including the War Cabinet Room, the Emergency Government Situation Centre, the Military Information Centre, the Prime Minister’s Office and Suite, the CBC studios, and various other offices. The staff were extremely helpful and even let us use the bunker’s PA system to make game announcements. Players also had access to other areas of the complex and ate lunch in the cafeteria there.
Briefing the players.
The game started with a briefing—appropriately enough, in the Military Information Centre. There had been a strange rash of unexplained attacks in Atlanta, home to the Centers for Disease Control. These soon started to spread across the United States. As violence grew, thousands of fearful Americans sought refuge in Canada.
Players consult the national map. Picture credit: Madeline Johnson.
Some of those refugees were infected, however. Other zombies crossed the border or washed ashore. Very soon, southern Ontario found itself under attack from growing hordes of undead.
Things begin to deteriorate in the Niagara area. Picture credit: Madeline Johnson.
The Windsor map. Several Tim Hortons doughnut stores in the Windsor area have been closed, underscoring the severity of the crisis. Picture credit: Madeline Johnson.
The federal government quickly declared a national state of emergency. Military units were mobilized, as were additional civilian resources. The US Embassy offered what help it could, and some American police and military units fled to Canada and joined the fight.
Federal officials meet.
No Canadian crisis would be complete with constitutional complications, of course. However, federal-provincial cooperation was generally excellent.
The Prime Minister and Premier of Ontario meet, as a CBC reporter lurks in the background.
Unfortunately, at one key point Ottawa was left undefended. It was soon infected, forcing the cabinet to go into lockdown.
The Prime Minister, who had been making a speech to the nation, was trapped at the Ottawa CBC studios until evacuated by RCMP helicopter. Shortly thereafter, RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police teams liberated the capital.
Things looked bad in Québec too, with much of the province overrun.
Fortunately the situation there was soon addressed by units from the 2e Division du Canada out of CFB Valcartier. Later, some of these units travelled south to assist Vermont and New York National Guard units in establishing a safe zone around Burlington.
In Ontario, much of initial burden of dealing withe the zombie hordes fell on police. Those in Windsor were especially effective. Later they were reinforced by local Canadian Armed Forces reservists and regular units from CFB Petawawa.
The Prime Minister discusses the crisis with Canada’s First Nations.
Medical and scientific professionals were key to fighting the zombie virus pandemic.
Much of southwest Ontario is being overrun. Picture credit: Madeline Johnson.
Rumours swirled that the Tim Hortons doughnut chain was somehow responsible for the apocalypse, and their headquarters was raided in a joint RCMP-OPP operation. It turned out, however, that they were a secret zombie-fighting organization.
All of our map controllers and zombiemeisters possessed first-class pointing skills.
First Nations leaders provided another critical part of the puzzle, revealing that the zombie virus was endemic to North America, and had been responsible for past outbreaks in pre-colonial times. This information, together with technical assistance from the World Health Organization, allowed the Public Health Agency of Canada to first develop more effective treatment protocols and later a vaccine. With this, the tide began to turn. Canada would be saved!
Scientists and health ministers and others celebrate the discovery of a vaccine.
It was a terrific day—perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had at a megagame. We look forward to holding additional events there once the (current, real world) pandemic is under control.
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