Sunday, August 11, 2013

Level 7 [Escape]

LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE]

by Privateer Press

Published in 2012

Level 7 [Escape] is a survival horror board game (if such a thing can exist) set in an underground research facility. The players are unwilling test subjects who attempt to escape the facility - by any means necessary.
This sounds like a great setting for a video game or a horror movie, but how would it translate into a board game format?

Surprisingly well!
Level 7 [Escape] does manage to come up with a strong enough theme to be taken seriously as a horror board game - which is something that in my opinion is a very difficult thing to do.


Level 7 [Escape] is a scenario-based game. The original game comes with a scenario booklet; basically a story that spans over 7 scenarios. For this game I made a standalone scenario of my own. Creating custom scenarios for Level 7 [Escape] is rather easy, which greatly increases the replayability of the game.
The scenario I'm using can be found at boardgamegeek.com - link for the pdf-file can be found at the bottom of this blogtext.

The different scenarios have different objectives and special rules, but the ultimate goal is always to escape, usually with an elevator. Most scenarios also have a lockdown-condition at the end - when the lockdown begins, the player characters only have a few turns to escape before the game ends.

The game board for Level 7 [Escape] is modular, which means that rooms and corridors are tiles that will be drawn randomly as the characters explore more areas. That's why in the picture above there is only one small tile in the middle of the table - that's the game board to begin with!

One of the key things to consider in Level 7 [Escape] is the fact that the inhabitants of the facility may also fight against each other. It is important to use this in your advantage - if you can get your enemies to kill each other, maybe your chances of survival increase...

The player characters - test subjects - receive two special skills at the beginning of the game.

Otherwise the characters are identical; they all have the same base stats.

In this game there are two test subjects, who I will refer to as the Man and the Woman (in the situation they are in, their names are irrelevant).

The Man has received self-defense training, and he is generally a tough guy, capable of withstanding a bit more damage than an average person.


The Woman is cautious and sneaky. She is smart, resourceful, and she actually feels safe in the cover of shadows, hence she is not as afraid of the dark corners of the facility as others might be.

(oh, the characters became quite clichéd!)



THE HORROR BEGINS:

"The last thing you can remember is being subjected to some sort of medical experiments. The room you are in resembles a morgue... Who ever did this to you seems to have declared you as dead, but then something unexpected must have happened: You feel very much alive! This is your chance to escape. Get moving and find a way out of this horrible place."


The survivors don't know each other, and the situation they find themselves in is very strange...
They decide to go different ways. The morgue has two doors.

The Man leaves the Morgue, and finds some sort of a Squad Bay. No one inside.

After a quick look-around, the Man finds a locker with something very useful; a stun stick! This stick - combined with his self-defense training - will surely help him to get out of dangerous situations...





The Man continues through one of the doors in the Squad Bay and enters an ominous corridor with some blood on the floor...

The Woman leaves the Morgue through the other door and finds an Equipment Depot, filled with boxes.

She finds a flashlight.
She is actually not so much bothered by the shadows, but she takes the flashlight with her anyway.




The Woman pushes forward, entering a room that seems to serve as an archive. She finds a map fragment that depicts some parts of the complex.
The room is somehow very scary - she can feel her heartbeat rising...

The Man turns around a corner in the corridor and hurries through another door. He finds a room that is labeled as "Purple Lab". Some scientific equipment is lying around.
Then he hears a strange sound from the corridor he just left! There is something moving in there, right behind the door...
And the sounds indicate that this something is not quite human...

The Woman leaves the archive-room and enters a corridor with two possible doors to go through. While pondering about her options, the door behind her suddenly slams shut and locks itself!

The Woman has never felt this kind of horror... She feels like running! Huge amounts of adrenaline is pumping through her veins...



Meanwhile, the Man thinks about leaving the Lab, while all of a sudden a guard walks in!






Without giving it a second though, the Man lashes out at the guard. A few swift and hard blows with the stun stick, and the guard is on the floor. Though still alive, this enemy should be out of the picture for a while.


The Man leaves the Lab quickly, and arrives at an Auxiliary Station.

A control panel attracts his attention: This panel could apparently be used to connect to the security systems of the complex.




The woman hastily exits the corridor... Something seems to be moving in the ventilation duct - watching her though a vent. As if it could smell her fear...
She enters a "Yellow Lab".

Peeking from behind the door, she sees something horrible: A grey humanoid crawls out of the ventilation shaft...
This must be a creature of extraterrestrial origins - an alien! It seems to sense her fear.

But at the same time, a human guard enters the room as well. Speaking to his headphones, he gives a short report about "a Clone", then opens fire at the creature.
The Clone seems to be able to somehow dodge most of the bullets fired by the guard, but after a long burst from his assault rifle, the alien is finally hit.
The guard reports the Clone neutralized.

The Man hears the gunfire! It was very close, right behind the door he was about to go through next. There are now guards behind both of the doors that lead out of this Auxiliary Station: The one he attacked earlier, and the one who just fired...
He is surrounded!
Securing his stun stick, he decides to push forward, hoping that the guard ahead is still reloading.

The Man rushes into the corridor and savagely attacks the guard. Using his self-defense techniques, he swings the stun stick with great efficiency.


The guard is killed.

The Man searches the body and finds a Med-Pack.








The door to his right is locked, so the Man enters the door to his left. He arrives at the "Yellow Lab", where the Woman is exploring some of the lab equipment.


Then another guard walks in!


He reports about making contact with the "high-threat test subject"...






The Woman decides to use her cautious nature and her considerable sneaking skills to outwit the guard and to leave the room.
Without much difficulties, she sneaks out of the Lab and finds an Armory. But another guard is waiting for her there! The Woman drops her flashlight and grabs a scalpel from the nearby table, readying herself for an incoming attack... 


Meanwhile at the Lab, the Man continues his rampage. He engages the guard with his stun stick and kills him. He is getting used to this... The Man considers about taking a pistol from the dead guard, but decides to stick to his trusty stun stick; no need to attract more attention with loud weapons, when a silent one is doing the trick as well...

The Man decides not to follow the Woman. Instead, he doubles back to the corridor where he killed the first guard, takes the door to his right and finds himself back at the Auxiliary Station.
He hears gunfire coming from two directions...

The Woman is attacked by the Armory-guard. She survives the attack, but gets hurt.


She then outwits the guard and pushes forward.

She arrives at another Armory. 
There she finds a Med-Pack, which she instantly uses to treat her injuries.


The guard follows her.



The Man also faces another guard. This guard seems to be the same one he attacked earlier in the first Lab... He should've killed the guard when he had the chance!
But after a short skirmish, the guard is down again. This time the Man makes sure that this guard will not bother him again...

The Man finds a map fragment from the body and continues to retrace his steps. He stops at the corridor with the bloody floor.

Still not wishing to attack the guard, the Woman sneaks out of the guard's reach again.

She comes into a corridor that turns left. It is difficult to be certain of the directions in a complex like this, but this way seems to take her towards the Morgue again... there must be a lift here somewhere, but where!

At the same time, the Man finds the answer.
He comes across an "A-Lift". It was right next to the Squad Bay, which in turn is adjacent to the Morgue where the survivors woke up!

The door to the A-Lift is open, and there seems to be blood on the floor and on the wall of the car...




The Man runs right into the car and pushes the button that says "Surface level". Nothing happens. The Lift is broken or disabled...

Meanwhile, the Woman hears the guard walking away. Acknowledgements given by the guard indicate that he was called away to take care of "a greater threat". This must mean that the guard is heading towards the Man, who is responsible for killing three guards so far...


The Woman then enters an Environmental Control Room. The room seems quiet and relatively safe, so she takes a little time to access some of the control panels found in the room.

The panel grants her with a security key.





She then opens another door and finds a generator room. She gets a gut feeling that she shouldn't be there, and quickly retreats back to the Control Room...


The Man leaves the A-Lift and desperately tries to find another way out of this place! He finds a Central Command -room - this looks promising!

The Man begins to examine the systems in the room...

He can hear some alien voices coming from behind him: There is something in the Squad Bay...





The Woman is running out of ideas. No sign of a way out can be found. She walks around a bit and tries to come up with some kind of a plan... At least she is alone now: She has seen no guards or aliens for a while. Apparently they have found something more interesting than her.

She has managed to fight off her fears, and the guards don't seem to consider her as very much of a threat.

For the first time she feels that she could survive this yet...

If only she could find a way out!



The door behind the Man opens, and a Clone comes in. The Man tries to access the control panels in the Central Command and doesn't notice the alien until it attacks! The Clone injures the Man a little bit.

The Woman figures out a quicker way to move around; the vents! She gathers her courage and enter the first vent she finds. After a terrifying crawl in the dark, she finds herself in the same corridor where she spotted the alien creature.
She realizes that the monster came through the very same vent just a little while ago! However, now the Clone lies dead on the floor. There is also a dead guard...

The Man, enraged by the alien's attack, makes a counter-attack. The stun stick seems to work against the aliens as well, and he manages to beat the Clone down with relative ease. The creature appears to die from the attack.

The Woman uses her security key to open the door that was mysteriously locked the last time she was in this corridor.

She enters the archive-room again and locks the door behind her, then proceeds to the Equipment Depot.



A horrible scream can be heard... A guard is killed somewhere in the complex - there seems to be more Clones sneaking around!

The Man continues to work with the Central Command panels, but gets nowhere. He has never been very good with computers.

The Woman exits the Depot and finds herself back at the Morgue. Clone-related sounds can be heard from behind the other door.

Finally, the Man gets into the system!
He can't find a way to fix the A-Lift, but instead he disables the main ventilation fans. This should allow him and the Woman to use the ventilation ducts to climb to the surface!


Unfortunately, the Clones also notice this, and they begin to gather around the vents!


The way out is open, but it will be a very dangerous one...




A voice announces that the fans have stopped. The Woman quickly realizes that this is her way out! She turns around again and begins to make her way back to the corridor with the vent. Her security key had only one use, so this time she needs to hack the door open - with some difficulties, she succeeds...
She doesn't enter the corridor yet, as she spots an alien there. A moment later, a guard also arrives from the "Yellow Lab".

The Man leaves the Central Command in search of a vent. Out in the Squad Bay, he stumbles upon two Clones. He raises his stun stick and rushes out of the room, into the Morgue. He gets some minor scratches from the rush.

The Woman makes it!
First she watches another Clone crawling in from the vent. The Clones attack the guard and kill him. Then the Woman enters the corridor and uses her stealth skills to outwit the two aliens. She reaches the vent and makes the dangerous climb...
She reaches the surface and quickly runs away...

The Man tries to reach the same vent. He runs past the Equipment Depot, past the archive-room and into the vent in the corridor. Numerous Clones are blocking his way, but the stun stick proves to be a great tool for bull-rushing right past the flimsy aliens...

However, this is very taxing for the Man, and when he finally reaches the vent, he feels very tired. He begins the climb to the surface, but falls down!
As he falls down to where the Clones are waiting for him, he bangs his head on to something... The world blackens in his eyes and he knows that this will be his end... Hopefully the Woman got away. The world needs to know about this horrible place. It needs to be shut down for good...



CONCLUSION:

One got away, another one didn't - so I guess this game was 50% successful! A fun game anyway.
Nothing especially difficult or challenging happened in this game, but I think I got a good story out of it. Neither one of the characters got knocked out. Usually it happens a couple of times in each game. Normally a third knock out means the death of a character, so keeping that in mind, the characters in this game didn't have such a hard time.
According to the rules, the Man should actually have only been knocked out at the end, but it's my scenario and I decided that he didn't make it! Much more realistic ending this way...

Level 7 [Escape] has dice, but there are a number of ways to manipulate and/or add dice to your rolls. This means that the game is not completely void of strategic choices, and sometimes the players really need to weigh their options: When to fight, when to sneak, when to walk another way, and so on...
The survival horror -side raises its head when more and more enemies are getting spawned during the course of the game. Sometimes there may be so many enemies that you simply can't deal with them all, and then it will require both good choices and luck to get out alive.
It must be said, that usually the enemies don't die quite as easily as how it appeared in this game... This time I had luck; first the discovery of the stun stick -item, and then some really good dice rolls.

Artwork in the game is all-and-all pretty cool. The cover picture is great, don't you think? At least for me, it really works - when I saw it for the first time, it really made me want to know more about this game.
The room tiles are all unique, and there is a decent amount of nice little details to be found.
The enemies are represented by thick cardboard pictures in plastic stands... It's cool, they look very nice but must they really be so large? Now they completely dominate the rooms they are in, sometimes I need to move them around just to check the icons and doors in a room.

The rules of Level 7 [Escape] are not very easy to learn. The game has a lot going on, and sometimes it feels as though there is a few too many things to remember. Things that you may easily forget or overlook.
Also, the rules are far from being unambiguous... I guess it is understandable; a highly thematic game easily gets drowned under all the fiddly little rules. A price that I am willing to pay, but that still annoys me every now and then.

RATING:  8 /10

SOLO RATING:  8 /10

Level 7 [Escape] is a very nice game for small groups and solo players alike.
The game is mentioned to be "semi-cooperative", which means that while all the players work towards the common goal - the escape - they may very well end up betraying each other in order to gain some kind of an advantage (or perhaps just for fun!).
This aspect is of course taken away in a solo game, which pretty much makes Level 7 [Escape] a full-cooperative game for solo players.

The custom scenario that was used can be found from this link: