Would you want to live in a world where human civilization was destroyed, then rebuilt by a computer that only had pop culture as a reference? Probably not. Would you want to play a board game there? Hell yes.
Inevitable is a board game many years in the making. It's the brainchild of Jeremy P. Bushnell and Jonathan A. Leistiko, and will be released later this year by Dystopian Holdings. The game is quite a genre combo platter – it has role-playing elements, cooperative elements, aspects of trading games (no sheep or bricks, though), and the core is your basic "roll the dice and move around the track" style of board game. It's sort of like that old Milton Bradley chestnut "The Game of Life," but the other players are trying to kill you and there's an insane supercomputer vying with you for votes in a major election.
That all sounds like fun, but why exactly is there a computer and an election and…zombies? Inevitable takes place in some distant (but maybe not that distant) future. At some point, we made an amazing supercomputer and loaded it with a huge amount of information about humanity, plus the ability to create human clones. A civilization back-up hard drive, essentially. And of course, we managed to blow ourselves up or wipe ourselves out with engineered plagues or catastrophic climate change or whatever. In between, however, the people in charge of running the computer got bored and used it to watch reality TV, Internet porn and cheesy B-movies. Thus, when it came time for the computer to reboot human culture, its version of reality ended up somewhat skewed.
That kind of thematic background hits a lot of excellent sci-fi notes. You might detect traces of Clockwork Orange, The Watchmen (the happyface logo makes that pretty overt), 1984 and any other science-fiction that takes a cynical, sarcastic look at society. Plus, with the omniscient computer running a domed city, there's a major tip of the hat to legendary RPG Paranoia. Inevitable even shares thematic ground (albeit unintentionally) with indie RPG MSGtm. There's dark humor aplenty, emphasis on dark. As in, creator Jeremy Bushnell's ideas on finding the hilarity in atrocity:
Maintaining a deliberate confusion about our culture's bewildering variety of depictions of atrocity, power, and money seems to open up this deep font of terrible images that I just think are flat-out funny — like a zombie devouring an opponent at a political debate, or a guy in a business suit firing automatic weapons into an ATM machine, or a UPS guy getting killed in a Dealey-Plaza-style assassination. The world of "Inevitable" is a horrible, horrible world, but I'll confess that it keeps making me laugh.
Each game progresses toward the inevitable conclusion, an election in which each player competes with the computer (HappyCOM-9) and the other players to get the most votes. Players act as representatives of a group with a specific special ability and agenda. Could be zombies, could be time travelers. There are 20 groups, and they're chosen at random. The zombie agenda? Legalize flesh eating, of course. The players earn money and votes, but can also gain stress or be physically harmed. Too much stress or harm and you go insane or die, and it costs money to be cloned if you bite the dust.
There are plenty of hazards as you move along the board, but your fellow players will be throwing them in your path as well. The game includes an entire catalog of strange, nefarious or simply absurd items that you can order when you visit the mail box (or any time, if you have the Smartphone and the proper app). Another player getting too many votes? Buy her a Box of Dead Raccoons and maybe she'll go insane.
When Inevitable comes out this summer, it will be available as a stripped down free pdf format, a full pdf, and as a deluxe physical box. The production of the deluxe version was funded through a Kickstarter.com campaign that has already met its goal and still has another month to go. In the meantime, you can visit the official Inevitable site, where you can even order your own "I Heart Dystopias" t-shirt.