14 November 2018
Imperfections can't stop this hidden gem from shining
The first expansion-sequel to Specter Ops is a stonkingly fun hidden-movement success marred by some unfortunate production issues.
If you’re coming from the original box, don’t expect anything revolutionary here: there’s a new map, items, agents and hunters (all fully compatible with the previous game, making this a worthwhile acquisition all the same), but things are otherwise much as they were.
The changes, though slight, are enough to build on an incredibly strong foundation. Agents can now procure extra equipment from supply caches around the map, serving as a way of better evening the odds against their pursuers and providing more options during their invisible sprint around the board to hack terminals and escape.
Meanwhile, the hunters’ ability to fatigue the agent and force them to slow, combined with more inventive ways of detecting the stealthy intruder – such as the box’s MVP, scent-tracking mutt Rover, and a brand new vehicle for hunters to zoom around the map in – make for a far more unpredictable array of cat-and-mouse chases, refreshing the ways to lay traps and tighten the net. Specter Ops' robust gameplay remains as slick and accomplished as ever, disappearing comfortably behind the hugely enjoyable experience of playing.
The vastly improved traitor mode becomes Broken Covenant’s standout feature, with the previously deflating discovery of the turncoat among the hunters – who then turned invisible and joined their ghost-like companion but could do little more than distract – now an electrifying reveal as they flip their character card over to gain new agent abilities and contribute to the mission.
While the gameplay refinements shine, they’re tarnished somewhat by the overall presentation of Broken Covenant, which suffers from numerous production issues – most significantly, multiple mislabellings of co-ordinates and objectives across the board’s grid. While none of the mistakes make the game unplayable, they’re frequent and noticeable enough to irritate when they do pop up. (Publisher Plaid Hat has since released a free sticker sheet to correct most of the problems, which is worth requesting.) Given the striking, amped-up cyber-style of the universe's characters and environments, it's a particular shame – but not worth condemnation.
These missteps are ultimately minor and pale in Broken Covenant’s wider achievements of making a great game even better. When it comes to hidden movement, there’s no hiding from the fact that Specter Ops is among the best out there.
The visual hiccups fail to tarnish a shining example of why Specter Ops remains one of the best hidden-movement experiences out there. It's more a careful refinement than a total reinvention, sure, but why mess with near-perfection?
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Artist: Steven Hamilton
Time: 90 minutes
This review originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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