Monday, July 9, 2012

The Department: Goalsystem Noir Investigation Skirmish Reveiw

I recently received my print copy of The Department and have had a chance to go over the rules and play a couple games. Overall I'm very impressed with the book. I've read a few people on the Internet say that they were disappointed with the artwork in the book and except for one or two pictures I like the art very much. The artwork gives the book a great noir feel especially the cover art. My main concern with the layout of the book is there is no index at the back of the book making it hard to find a specific rule you need.

The game's background is similar to the movie Blade Runner where you work for the Department of Fabricant Management as a detective and your job is to hunt down and stop bad fabricants. Fabricants are robots built to look like humans to replace humans at certain jobs. Most fabricants do what they were programmed to do but sometimes just like humans some go bad and when they do it's your job is to track down those bad fabricants and either arrest them or kill them. The rules also have one prime suspect that is a human wanted for his anti-fabricant activities.

This was my first time using the Goalsystem rules and I have to say they work pretty good. For those of you who haven't played it before the system has a couple basic checks called goals. For one check you roll your skill/ability number worth of dice and each 4+ rolled is a goal passed. The second check-called a Target Number (TN) you need to roll the same way but your passed goals need to hit a certain number depending on the difficulty of the task you are attempting. An offshoot of that is certain rolls you need to hit a certain number but cannot roll to high, an example is you need to roll at least a 3 goals but cannot roll over 5 without consequences. The last check is an opposed roll where your character rolls against your target character and the character that rolls the most goals wins. I found this system very easy to learn and after a few turns for the more basic rolls I didn't need to flip through the book looking up rules. The game can be played solo or with people working together or working against each other but still as the detectives against the fabricants.

To play a game you pick a mission in the book and use your budget to spend on police backup, better weapons, and devices, or warrants you help your investigation along. You can also combine the missions and play a campaign where you work your way up to catching a prime suspect. Each prime suspect changes the environment in their own way that affects each mission in that campaign. An example is all the fabricant agents working for the prime suspect are good shots so they get a +1 to ranged attacks.
You get a set budget at the beginning of the campaign that has to last until you catch your prime suspect or you lose the case. During the campaign, you can also collect Internal Affairs Points (IAP) by going against the book and that can get you kicked off the case as well.

The game comes with 6 missions to play. The first has you gathering evidence by investigating people of interest. As you progress to more difficult missions you use some of the evidence you gathered previously to unlock these missions. Once you have enough evidence you can go after your prime suspect. If you've done all 6 missions and you still do not have enough evidence you can replay older missions as long as you have enough budget left.

I played the first two missions in the book solo and have to say I had lots of fun. It didn't take too long before  I understood the rule system and was moving through the turns pretty quickly. To play those two games it took me a little under 3 hours and I'm sure if I played those missions again it would take less time.

The rule book runs 140 pages of full color. You can buy the book in print for 26.99 pounds at the official website for The Department,  The Department of Fabricant Management or you can buy the PDF rules here for only $11.99 which is a really good deal.

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