In the not too distant future, Raxxon, the global corporation, has taken over every aspect of human life. They create all the world’s goods and biochemical military products and have generously provided permanent menial employment for all citizens. But a few refuse to bow to the corporate giant and are all too willing to use violence and terrorism to complete their objectives. Welcome to the world of Specter Ops.
Specter Ops is a hidden movement game. You may have seen something similar in Scotland Yard or Letters from Whitechapel. One player is hidden. Rather than using a piece or token to mark his movement on the board, he records it secretly on a separate sheet of paper. The rest of the players, however, team up to find him and eliminate the threat.
In Specter Ops, the infiltrating Agent sets out four objectives on the board. He must complete three of them (basically by touching them) and then escape from the map. While cat-and-mouse is always fun, this game is more like cat-and-mouse-and-grenades. The player can choose from one of four possible Agents. And each has their own unique power that they bring to the game. Best of all, the other players don’t know which Agent has been chosen until they see them for the first time during the game.
On top of that, the Agent has access to an assortment of equipment. Of course, they can’t bring it all and have to choose before the mission begins. But there are flashbangs, personal cloaking devices, adrenaline boosts, and other cool gear appropriate to the setting. And it is all kept secret from the other players. So those attempting to capture and kill the Agent have no idea what they are up against until it hits them in the face.
But those other players, the Hunters, are not without recourse. Like the Agents, each Hunter has access to a special power. The Beast can move faster than others, or can sniff out a hiding agent. Meanwhile, The Prophet forces the Agent to announce when he is about to complete an objective – effectively giving the team a one turn head start.
And, while Hunters don’t have equipment, they have guns. If they see the Agent, they can attempt to shoot him and neutralize the threat. Also, while the Agent may stun a Hunter for a turn, Hunters can never be killed or permanently disabled. The Agent, however, has to survive. If he doesn’t, then the Hunters win even if all the objectives were completed.
But, as awesome as all of this sounds, the game is awesom-er. Playing as the Agent is exciting. Your game begins even before the first move as you select your identity and equipment. Then, once you’re on the board, the Hunters surround you. You have to duck and weave, out-think and outmaneuver your opponents. And even though you have awesome equipment, it’s all single-use. As the game wears on, you have less and less to counteract the Hunters closing in on you. And the whole time, you know that they are just a few squares away from finding you and unraveling everything.
Meanwhile as one of the Hunters, the game is exhilarating. You get the fun of coordinating with a team and discussing possible locations of the Agent. You try to pin the Agent into various quadrants. But, you’re never quite sure where they are. Without any confirmation on the board, the Agent could be anywhere.
The game is fantastic to play on either side. Whether you enjoy the claustrophobia inherent in playing the Agent or the deduction on the side of the Hunters, Specter Ops never stops being intense until the very end. And it often concludes with a 50-yard dash with bullets flying with so many of the games coming down to the race for the exit after the third objective is complete. The Agent has used all of their equipment and is attempting to escape for the win. Meanwhile, the Hunters have finally landed on his trail and are closing in without the worry of explosives or other Agent tricks. Can the Agent make it out? Every roll becomes critical and the results are met with loud cheers or rueful cries.
And the variety in the game is just fantastic. As the Hunter, you never know what you’ll be facing and have to be ready for anything. As the Agent, you get to create a plan going in. But everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face. And you’ll definitely get a face punch at some point.
On my own shelf, Specter Ops replaced all other hidden movement games. This game is more thematic, more exciting, and does everything those older titles do plus more. If you like hidden movement, definitely check this one out.
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Featured Image Credit: Plaid Hat Games