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Friday 10 June 2022

Friday Filler: The Fighting Fantasy Science Fiction Co-op II

Escape the Dark Sector: The Game of Deep Space Adventure brought the brutality of the Fighting Fantasy solo adventure books of the eighties to both Science Fiction and co-operative game play for up to four players in which their characters begin incarcerated in the detention block of a vast space station and must work together to ensure their escape. Published by Themeborne, with its multiple encounters, traps, aliens, robots, objects, and more as well as a different end of game Boss every time, Escape the Dark Sector offered a high replay value, especially as a game never lasted longer than thirty minutes. Now, like its predecessor, Escape the Dark Castle: The Game of Atmospheric Adventure, the game has not one, but three expansions! Funded via a Kickstarter campaign, each of the three expansions—Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted TechEscape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 2: Mutant Syndrome, and Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 3: Quantum Rift—adds a new Boss, new Chapters, new Items, and more, taking the path of the escapees off in a new direction to face new encounters and new dangers. Each expansion can be played on its own with the base game, or mixed and matched to add one, two, or three mission packs that increase the replay value of the core game.

Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech takes the escapees off into the tech-based areas of the station. It includes twelve new Chapter cards which represent the encounters the escapees will have as they flee. They may run into security droids which attempt to detain or destroy the escaping prisoners; find a partially constructed android which can be scavenged for devices like a Medical Beam or a Replicator; discover a logistics terminal which can be hacked to determine the location of the nearest equipment stash; and even find a noodle seller to gain some rest and respite! The single Boss card is for Neuroshima, a technological genius with multiple cybernetic implants, such as automatically hitting in ranged combat or close combat. Fortunately, only one implant works each time he is faced—the particular implant being determined by a roll of the ‘Tech Die’.

Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech has nine new Item cards and three Drone cards. The Drone cards—Replication Drone, Surgical Drone, and Sentry Drone—give the escapees a tactical edge. All three drone models have the one basic function, simple healing, which is always guaranteed to work, but each model also has several advanced functions, which unfortunately not guaranteed to work, and may even harm the characters. The Replication Drone replicates items out of the Discard Pile;  the Surgical Drone restores Hit Points and can even remove a mutation (a feature of Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 2: Mutant Syndrome rather than Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech); and the Sentry Drone inflicts damage on designated targets in combat. However, if a Drone malfunctions, it can inflict damage on a character, and whether it malfunctions or uses a particular advanced function determined by a roll of the ‘Tech Die’. Further, the characters can only take one Drone with them, and of course, a Drone can only be used once per action.

The nine Item cards include a mix of new cyberware, gear, and guns. The ‘Drone Commander Implant’ grants a second use of a Drone’s Basic Function before its card is flipped over. The ‘Chrono Rig’ enables any type or number of dice to be rerolled once per chapter (Escape the Dark Sector is played out in four chapters) and the second result used; the ‘Teleporter’ is used and discarded to gain a flanking attack in combat; and the ‘Nutri-Pill’ heals two Hit Points. Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech also includes three new weapons—the ‘Punch-Gun’, the ‘Sniper Rifle’, and the ‘Flame Thrower’. All three work in slightly different ways. Both the ‘Punch-Gun’ and the ‘Sniper Rifle’ need to be loaded using the ‘Special Ammo’ die, but the ‘Sniper Rifle’ must be then primed before it can be fired. If either hits, the Special Ammo die is rolled and can have an extra effect. This is extra damage for the ‘Punch-Gun’, but removes either the chapter dice of one type in the combat or three chapter dice of any type. This is a powerful effect as it helps negate the effects an encounter or chapter. Lastly, the ‘Flame Thrower’ can fire three bursts of flame of varying length, represented by rolling the ‘Flame Ammo’ dice, either one, two, or three per burst. These can result in inflicting damage on a target, no effect, or even engulfing a character in flames and causing them damage. Lastly, of course, there are the dice—the ‘Tech Die’, ‘Special Ammo’ dice, and the ‘Flame Ammo’ dice. (It will be easy to see the ‘Tech Die’ being used in the other two Mission Packs for Escape the Dark Sector.)

Physically, Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech is as well produced as the core game. The new Chapter and Boss Cards are large and in general easy to read and understand. Each one is illustrated in Black and White, in a style which echoes that of the Fighting Fantasy series and Warhammer 40K last seen in the nineteen eighties. The Item and Drone cards are also easy to use and the dice are clear and simple. The rule book requires a careful read, if only to grasp how the different new mechanics work.

Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech adds new subsystems as well as new encounters with the Chapter and Boss Cards. They add both elements of complexity and luck, though more of the latter than the former. Design wise, this expansion is thematically strong rather than narratively strong, adding new technology that the escapees can use and technology that the escapees must defeat or overcome. What this means is that it has no intrinsic story of its own and is thus easier to integrate with the core game and its other expansions. Overall, Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech is a solid expansion which adds more Sci-Fi theme to Escape the Dark Sector: The Game of Deep Space Adventure.

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