A really fun game that feels like a team building exercise, or the most stressful game I’ve ever played.
Specter Ops is designed by Emerson Matsuuchi and released by Plaid Hat Games. It’s a one (The Agent) against many (The Hunters) game, although with five players the agent has a helper (hunter betrayer). The hunters try to find the agent who is not shown on the board, while they record movement on a pad. If you have played Scotland Yard that will sound familiar, but it’s Scotland Yard on steroids, with a much stronger theme. That doesn’t quite do justice how incredibly well this game is made; both the artwork and miniatures are incredible. The game feels like it has been so well tested, there’s always slightly too far to where you want to go, and the hunters are always breathing down your neck when you play as an agent (but only rarely do they find you). And unlike Scotland Yard, finding the single player does not spell the end – they have hit points and the hunters attack them.
An agent is breaking into a lab where humans are combined with animals for evil. Characters are all human/creature hybrids which are really cool (like teenage mutant ninja turtles).
Everyone moves four spaces, the hunters start in a car which moves ten, everyone has special skills, the agent included. A dice is rolled to determine if the hunter scores a hit on the agent, the number of spaces distance must be met on a D6 but a 1 always misses. The game is a very different experience as the hunters and the agent.
When playing as the hunters, you have other players to bounce your ideas off; it all feels very comfortable and although it seems against the odds, you have a lot of strengths that come in handy. With five players you can’t trust everyone in your team, which makes it quite exciting. The five player game we played, the agent got all objectives done but just failed to escape. It was a close finish but The Beast (he’s one of the hunters who looks like a wolf man!) prevailed.
As the agent, this game is tense… and I mean sweating, crying and nervous breakdown intense. It’s one of the most intense gaming experiences I’ve had. The hunters were constantly close and then when they found me I had to play a lot of my cards to get away. I only got two of the four objectives done.
The good, the bad and the summary:
The components are awesome, the miniatures incredible, the board so well tested and the gameplay as nerve wracking as it needs to be.
The setting isn’t that clear, it doesn’t seem entirely clear why the agent has to go to four points on the board then escape, but that’s what they have to do. The hunters need to kill them or run out forty turns.
In the five player game as a hunter, it became clear to us who the betrayer was, without it being totally clear, we’d figured it out. Revealing who the betrayer was would have been counterproductive though as they then become an agent as well. So we didn’t, and it left everyone puzzled.
As an agent in our four player game it was me vs three, and in this circumstance I found it impossibly difficult. I get that I could have played better, and I don’t think it’s a simple enough game to solve first time, but perhaps with five it’s a better game… or with three, that’s how it seems to me at least. With four it’s just too hard. I think it claims to be playable with two, but doesn’t seem like it would be very fun – it would surely be played in silence!
Specter Ops is a really tense game if you commit to it. We have a group that commits. If that isn’t your group’s ‘thing’ then it won’t be such an enjoyable game. Different combinations of agents and hunters gives the game replay-ability, but I don’t think it’s as good with four.
Score: A- Highly recommend, but playing with four is not ideal.
Member of The BoardRoom Gaming Group in Cheltenham