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Friday 22 July 2022

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

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 3: Quantum Rift differs from the previous two Mission Packs that it does not expose the escapees to the further secrets of the Dark Sector, but rather to secrets beyond its limits in terms of both time and space. The ‘quantum rift’ of the title is a strange anomaly which opens up a gateway in the fabric of time-space through which can pass inadvertent travellers caught in its field and malevolent forces taking advantage of the opening. As with Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 1: Twisted Tech and Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 2: Mutant Syndrome before it, Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 3: Quantum Rift includes twelve new Chapter cards which represent the encounters the escapees will have as they flee. Some of the new Chapter cards have black backgrounds. These are Rift Chapters and indicate that the escapees have been caught up in the Rift and thrown into the past where they might run into a pair of Roman legionnaires barking commands at them in a language they do not understand, a drunken guard in a castle wondering who they are, a gunslinger at the end of a dusty street ready to draw and shoot you, a treasure chest on a sandy shore under the watchful gaze of the crew of a pirate ship. Surviving each Rift Chapters though, is not the only danger as every time the escapees find themselves cast into the Rift, the players must roll the Rift die. Although they might pass through the Rift safely, the other possibilities are they lose Hit Points, lose Hit Points and an item, or even suffer Rift Disruption! When this happens, all of the players must swap their items!

More than half of the new Chapter cards are Rift encounters and add a fun mix of time periods which the escapees must survive, including a pleasing crossover with Escape the Dark Castle. The other Chapter cards do not throw the escapes through the time and space, but they are no less weird. For example, they might run into an old woman who visits prisoners scheduled for execution, but might read the escapees’ last rites, or find themselves under the gaze of some incomprehensible being which casts it judgement upon them... Lastly, of course, there is the end-of-game Boss card, the ‘Araknochron’, the arachnid-like alien being whose ability to control time can temporarily prevent the escapees from acting, completely replace their weapons and gear, and of course, inflict deadly damage!

Other mission packs added new Items, but not Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 3: Quantum Rift. Instead it gives Artefacts to be found. For example, it might be a Roman shield or javelin, a bundle of dynamite or bottle of grog, or a ration tin or a samurai sword. These enforce the sense of times and places that the escapees can visit with the various Rift chapters.

Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 3: Quantum Rift also adds three new escapees. Lieutenants Gorn, Voki, and Taloch all have ‘split doubles’ as new symbols on their dice. These have two different symbols, and when rolled, generate doubles of both. However, a player can only use one set of these. Otherwise, the double symbol works as normal.

Physically, Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 3: Quantum Rift is as well produced as the core game. The new Chapter card and Boss card 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 Artefact 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 3: Quantum Rift does not so much add new subsystems, as add an even greater degree of randomness to fit the randomness of its theme. It is a fun theme and one that easily expandable with yet more Rift cards which will take the escapees across time and space. As with the other Mission Packs for Escape the Dark Sector, this third one easily mixes with the others, perhaps even more so given its random nature. Escape the Dark Sector – Mission Pack 3: Quantum Rift is an entertaining addition to Escape the Dark Sector: The Game of Deep Space Adventure, pushing its Sci-Fi theme to an even more random height.

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