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Level 7 [Escape]
Arriving late one evening for a game night, I found a three-player game of Level 7 [Escape] in progress. They were just finishing up the first scenario. Now, I’ve played that one before, so I drew a character to jump in for the next scenario. All four characters have sheets with their stats and ancillary information like blood type, age, height, etc., but besides those cosmetic differences, they are identical. The only differentiation comes from your two randomly drawn skills, which can make a huge difference thematically and mechanically. Knowing that you can adjust your fear at the beginning of your turn and can re-roll fear events is important, yes, but knowing that means you are a “Paranoid Zen Master” makes a world of difference palate-wise.
Looking at my character’s portrait, I’ve arbitrarily decided that my character looks like a scruffy Welshman (not that I’m terribly familiar with the Welsh), and my drawn skills in this case made him an Acrobatic Survivalist.
We’ll call him Kevin.
The four characters start Scenario 2 in the elevator. So the question naturally arises: where was I in the first scenario?
Hiding in the elevator of course!
You and the other survivors dash into the elevator, pursued by the thundering sound of military boots. Daring a glance back into the passage, you spot one of those things- whatever they are- leering at you from the dark hollow of an open maintenance panel.
Inside the elevator, you see a ragged bearded man frantically propping himself against the upper corner of the lift. (He’s Acrobatic!) He’d been trying to operate the controls when your sudden arrival had sent him scrambling…
On the elevator’s control panel, you see buttons numbered 5, 6 and 7. Not knowing what to pick, you hammer on all of them…
Given the nature of the game, all of our sanity is obviously questionable; the group accepts the crazy guy hiding in the corner without much debate.
“Maybe he’s a janitor…”
Studying the opening map tile, we plan out our exploration strategy. This scenario’s objective is geared towards someone with an intelligence build, so Kevin’s physical abilities make him more suited for keeping trouble off the thinkers’ backs. Plus, we don’t want my non-thinker exploring too many rooms when he’s ill-equipped with handling the objective if he stumbles upon it. So that means I stay in the open and act as bait for the Clones and Guards, avoiding being attacked by the latter if possible.
As she left, the heavy tread of approaching boots drew his gaze to the door. He glanced around the dark room for obstacles to slow the guards down, not seeing the slender grey arm lifting a duct grate above him…
In Scenarios 1 and 2, feel free to attack Clones whenever you can, as they only pose a threat when they actually attack you. However, whenever possible, do not attack Guards! Each time you do, you gain threat from the finite threat pool. When it empties, the game is over, and most likely, so are you.
Kevin edged along the wall of the room, keeping the table between them. The guard didn’t appear to see him as much of a threat but still moved to block him whenever Kevin tried to head for the door. The thing that came out of the duct lay on the floor nearby. He didn’t know what it was; he just remembered the blind panic when he felt long cold fingers wrap around his leg.
As he felt his heart pounding, the..thing.. suddenly stirred and placed it’s taloned hands beneath it. Was it trying to get up? With a lunge, Kevin brought his boot down hard on it once, twice, kicking it back to the floor. The sound of movement in the walls brought his gaze up as another dark form dropped from the duct…
The Clones are drawn to the player with the highest fear, but as higher fear makes you a better fighter, it also makes you a more attractive meal.
The ominous silence was broken only by the sound of hoarse breathing and fumbling footsteps. There were now two guards and two of those creatures in here with him, and he swore he could hear others just outside the walls. The one on the floor kept trying to get up, and it was getting harder to keep him down with the other one stalking him around the room…
Take advantage of the fact that Guards and Clones do not “activate” each turn, and if possible, keep a bunch of them tied up in the same room for several turns in a row doing nothing but watching each other.
The guard ducked Kevin’s first swing, but not his second, which drove him senseless to the ground. The door was clear, and Kevin leapt for it. The odds of staying healthy in this room were getting slimmer and slimmer each minute. For reasons beyond understanding, he stole a moment to glance back and saw the grey form’s sharp teeth as it dove greedily onto the fallen guard. As the door slammed shut, he heard the guard’s partner cry out in horror…
For the first two scenarios, the preferred strategy is for someone to knock out a guard without killing him when a Clone is nearby. When a Clone enters a space with a downed Guard, then crunch, crunch – the Clone automatically eats the Guard. All Clones go up in Threat, and all Guards gain Fear. From that point onward, it’s a free-for-all. As long as the players can carefully manage their fear to be lower than the Guards’ when the Clones activate, your enemies largely take care of each other!
As the game progresses, it becomes evident the crazy Welshman is exactly the trouble magnet we need. As rooms are explored, Guards and Clones spawn and try to attack, congregating around the main corridor outside the lift with Kevin. He manages to tie up most of the enemies until that sweet moment when the first Guard is eaten. At that point, the group cheers every time Clones spawn or move, as they’ve become the safest way to control the Guard population.
Special Note: Adrenaline Cards
Every turn, you replace Adrenaline cards you’ve used since your last turn. Each one affects your fear level, and grants a temporary secondary effect.
Increase your fighting ability while also raising your fear – which also makes you a better fighter.
Increase your intelligence and lower your fear – which helps you think clearer.
Add to this the Adrenaline cards other players can play on you if they’re adjacent, and this can lead to situations where your character “Hulks out” in battle, going from 2 to 8 Fear at once.
Kevin felt a fear-driven rage fill him as he pounded the life out of the strange limp form in front of him. A swift scurrying alerted him to the arrival of more figures, their large eyes hungrily shining from the shadows. He ran blindly into the next room and collided with a large unmoving figure. The cold metal flooring barely registered as he bounced off it and scrambled for any cover this room might afford…
…then calming back down to 3 Fear to avoid being targeted by the Clones…
Crouched behind a couch, Kevin felt a peace he had never known wash over him. The sounds of the guard’s struggles seemed to fade away, and as the shrieks were replaced with a wet tearing sound, he felt his heartbeat return to normal. The fog that had settled over his mind cleared.
“How am I doing this?” He wondered. This type of self control didn’t seem possible. “What else have they been doing to us?”
It’s towards the end of the scenario, and we’re working on our exit strategy. Unfortunately, the Guards have proven to be more adept at killing than the Clones, resulting in 5 Guards milling around three players on the left half of the map while our fourth finished up the objective on the right. I suddenly stop and look at our locations.
“Wait, all the guards are over here in the left wing, right? There are only two doors on the left that lead back to the main corridor, and we have two cards that can lock doors! We’re at the maximum number of Guards, so as long as none die, no more can spawn!”
Kevin turns back to the survivor in the business suit.
“So if you exit into the hall and lock the door behind you, we only have to lock the South door to keep the Guards contained!”
“But you might get trapped in here with them…”
“Don’t worry about it, I can handle them! LOCK THE DOOR!”
Kevin grinned at the guards as the door slammed shut and the control pad blinked from green to red.
“It’s you and me now…”
The first player exits the left wing and locks it behind him. On my turn, I bullrush my way out of the wing and our third player locks the door behind me as I emerge into the corridor by the lift. We congratulate each other on our strategy and pass the turn, confident that we can handle the few Clones remaining. And we seem to be in luck, as in the next event, only the Guards move.
The first player looks up from the rules.
“So, you know that Guards can open locks, right?
In the darkness of the corridor behind him, the dim red light of a keypad turns green…
Nathan Crocco is a regular contributor to the site. If you have any suggestions for his next In Depth adventure, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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