Plaid Hat Games is an anomaly in the current gaming market. They are a relatively small company that works independent of the big companies, and are one of the few that don’t use Kickstarter (or at least haven’t yet). And yet, their games are still wonderfully produced with lots of great bits and great gameplay. I can’t say I’ve been a fan of everything they’ve come out with (City of Remnants was a meh for me), but I can’t deny that they put everything into their releases. So they always get my attention with their new products. Including
Specter Ops is a new game from Plaid Hat Games (in conjunction with Nazca Games) and designer Emerson Matsuuchi. It’s a 2-5 player game that takes around an hour. It’s described as a kind of sci-fi version of Scotland Yard – one player is a terrorist from an organization known as ARK, sneaking around and wreaking havoc at Raxxon Global while the others try to catch him.
The game comes with a board, a pad of movement sheets, 4 hunter figures, 4 secret role cards, 4 agent figures, 2 six-sided dice, 1 occupy vehicle card, 4 agent character cards, 4 Raxxon hunter character cards, 4 unique agent equipment cards, 8 generic equipment cards, and 23 tokens. One player will by the ARK agent, others will be Raxxon hunters. The ARK agent will roll a die to determine the location of each of the four objectives, marking the appropriate spot with a blue Raxxon token. The agent also secretly selects an agent and three equipment, keeping them hidden so no one else knows what they are. Each hunter gets their own character, placing their figure on the occupy vehicle card to start. In a five-player game, each hunter will get a secret role card, and one will be a traitor (dun-dun-DUNNNN!!!)
The agent takes the first turn followed by the hunters. The agent tracks their progress on the movement pad. As the agent, you can move up to four spaces, orthogonally and/or diagonally. If you end in a space that can be seen by a hunter, you put your figure on the board. If you move through a space that can be seen by a hunter, but don’t stop, you place a “last seen” token there.
The agent is trying to complete missions. All you have to do to complete a mission is start your turn adjacent to one. Then you flip its token over to show that it is completed. If you complete three, you can then try to escape by ending your move on one of the 3-4 escape points on the board.
The hunters take their turn after the agent. Hunters move up to four spaces at a time, orthogonally or diagonally, but move their figure in view of everyone. If a hunter is in a vehicle, it can be moved up to 10 spaces, but only on roads. Additionally, the vehicle can only be moved 10 spaces per ROUND – that means all hunters have to split this total. If, at the end of the hunter move, the agent can be seen, the figure is placed on the board. You don’t get a last seen token if you pass the agent.
If a hunter can see the agent, he can attack. Roll a six-sided die, then count the number of spaces to the agent. If the number rolled is greater than or equal to this number, the agent is hit. A 1 is an automatic miss. A 6 means you can reroll and add the next number to the six. If the agent’s hit point total gets reduced to zero, he’s dead and the hunters win. If the agent escapes through one of the 3-4 escape points, the agent wins. And if the agent hasn’t escaped by the end of round 40, the hunters win.
This does seem like a fairly straightforward “one-vs-all” game. I’ve never played Scotland Yard, but it does seem quite similar to Clue: Master Detective (which I like, so take that as a compliment). These games are always best when the players can coordinate their strategies while the hidden player figures out the best ways to sneak around. Turns look like they move very quickly, and it looks like this is a pretty intense tactical game. It looks fun – we’ll see how it does when it comes out. Thanks for reading!
- BGG page for Specter Ops
- Plaid Hat Games website
- Rodney Smith’s Watch It Played overview (with links to gameplay)
- Miami Dice review of Specter Ops