I’ve been running a Night’s Black Agents campaign for a while now, the Pelgrane game of elite spies versus vampires and the rules, the ideas for structuring campaigns and the atmosphere have all combined into being one of the most involving and exciting games I’ve played in a gaming career that goes back far longer than I am comfortable admitting.
For most of those years of gaming I’ve been pretty emphatically anti-crunch. I’ve played with players, lovely each one of them, that fall everywhere on the spectrum from “pure story” to “pure number crunching” but I’ve always been biased toward the former end. Consequently I’ve tended to favour systems that are light on mechanics and that de-emphasise combat detail in favour of narrative immediacy.
However in Night’s Black Agents the details actually do their damned job and make the game more exciting. The core mechanics of the Gumshoe system are simple enough to make intuitive sense and even when adding in all the Thriller combat options and the expanded options from the Double Tap supplement things just flow well enough to convey the action in detail without slowing things down or taking the focus away from what’s happening “on screen.”
In last night’s episode we ended up using rules we hadn’t touched before and, other than a moment when I totally blanked on how suppressive fire worked and had to look it up, everything just shot along at a hair-raising pace just as it should.
Rules that were new to us included:
Sneaking into the concealed terrorist headquarters in a run down part of Siegen using the extended Infiltration rules from Double Tap (made harder by the fact that combat-monster Hans has no infiltration skills and had to be nurse maided past the tricky security by Rowan… but it was worth having him along when a botched roll led to a sudden encounter with a single sentry… that ended a second later with a silenced single shot from Hans)
Deciding halfway through the infiltration that some sort of escape-diversion might prove handy later and Hans making a cherry-rich Preparedness spend to have already taken care of that by placing flashbangs and noisemakers adjacent to one of the other exits prior to their ingress.
Our heroes becoming trapped in a dead-end attic corridor after rescuing a pair of prisoners, and the campaign’s first use of Suppressive Fire as Hans emptied his MP5 downrange. One of the enemy tried to risk moving for a better angle and got his head blown off, the others kept well out of the line of fire. This was followed up by one of the surviving bad guys lobbing a grenade into the corridor so we also got to play with the explosive rules and – more specifically- the panicky use of Athletics skill to leap for cover before the damn thing went off.
Honestly I can’t recommend this game enough. As it happened in last night’s session there wasn’t even the sniff of the supernatural so even if you’re only interested in playing high octane modern action this is definitely worth checking out.