Welcome back, survivors! Last week, we talked about the two main phases of Zero Hour: the City Phase and the Event Phase. This week, we focus on the Mastermind and the Final Showdown, which layer into these phases and ratchets the tension ever upward.

When the Z-B13 outbreak happened, it started slowly then exploded in a blast of sickness and dread. A disease of this life-changing magnitude couldn’t happen naturally, could it? Surely there was a greater cause behind it, yes? The rumors were as numerous as they are unlikely — alien life forms, chemical companies, mad scientists, government super-soldiers, GMOs, and so on. The Internet breathed life into them, and even as the servers started to collapse the whisper campaign continued. People claimed to have discovered manifestos, secret recordings, even samples of Z-B14 and beyond. But little evidence pointed to the true Mastermind until the survivors pieced together the narratives from the cities, the clues from abandoned locations, and their own research into the virus.

When the team gains its fifth Intel point, they’ve gathered enough clues to understand who is behind Z-B13. One Mastermind sheet comes into play immediately, and stays in play for the remainder of the game.

Most Masterminds have one reveal effect, a sudden burst of energy as their minions or underground networks warn them of the survivor’s meddling. The group suffers the effects of this one-time event. There’s no way of knowing who or what the Mastermind might be, so the group should ensure adequate provisions and health before they open a door they cannot close.

Most Masterminds also have an ongoing effect or two, as they take a more active role in stopping the survivors. Once the Mastermind is revealed, these effects are in play for the remainder of the game and will force the team to adjust its pursuit strategy. For instance, with Dr. Mutos, the team loses valuable Research on every Surge space, so they may want to place a greater emphasis on early research to avoid backtracking as the threat track escalates… or wait until much later to research all at once before being forced to flee the city.

Finally, many Masterminds have an effect that activates during the Final Showdown. With nothing left to lose, the Mastermind will hit the survivors with everything they’ve got. Unlike the initial reveal, however, the team knows what awaits them and can decide when they’re ready to start the confrontation… or if they’d rather search the next city for extra resources and Intel, if they’re feeling lucky (or desperate).

That Final Showdown is our focus for Friday. We’ll see you then for Zero Hour’s exciting conclusion!