Welcome to the thick of the holiday season readers. As such I wanted to give you the gift of classic games. I also want to give you a warning that with a licensed property like James Bond there will be words used and things that you can infer that will make this seem more of a PG13 review if not R. Just in the next few sentences I will be referencing a James Bond Movie title from 1983 that has a history of spurring the immature to laughter and the mature to going… really… you named it that…
James Bond 007 by Victory Games seemed to be one of those games that was in the right place at the right time. Octopussy the thirteenth James Bond movie had just come out. The franchise was stronger than it had ever been. Roger Moore was, at the time, the only James bond that I knew. I was greatly shamed to later learn how much better Sean Connery had been in the role and had to move Moore to #2 on my all time Bond list.
It would not be until 1991 that I found this game even though it was published in 1983. Completely out of print, and if you take a look at the link above for Victory Games… you may see why. Back in the 80’s role playing games were getting out from under the “ohhh this is Satanic… worshiping demons… blah blah blah… my kids are doing something I don’t understand so I have to panic and over react and get all sorts of people to scream because I am prejudiced and stupid…” period that seems to come up with every generation and their forms of entertainment… (Please note I will now step away from my soap boxes before this goes from being a review to being a rant about generation vs generation stupidity). So in getting away from all that you had game makers looking for ways to pull in role-playing games. Make new ones. And license properties that would draw in new and experienced gamers. And of course this lead to companies that had the money, or could fake it, buying up anyone who would sell to them so that they could add their properties to their libraries, or cancel them over all and strip the talent. Guess where Victory Games was in all that… or read the link above and take note that the article in Wiki it takes you to is about Avalon Hill Games and Victory is a sub section of their story.
Oh and just to keep a flashback going, I found this game at the one hobby story I will always have big props and respect for, even though now they are gone… American Eagle Games and Hobbies. They dont have a wiki page I can refer you to, however Piazo apparently does and they bought up all of the stock that American Eagles had when they went out of business. Sigh… I miss that shop…
Anyway, still a James Bond fan in 1991, and I thought what the heck. I have played Top Secret and a few other spy games. Lets give this a shot.
Now then I have to say I was really impressed with all of the little notes, flavor text and even the slightly mocking “technical” drawings (yeah look at the quotes… technical my ass) for gear and vehicles. Add movie quotes, text from the novels and it is a fanboys… well it is not a fanboy paradise but it spurs you on. There are no photos from the movies and the character drawings in it are jusssst far enough off that I doubt they had to pay any actors royalties from the game sales. Considering all the fun I was having at the time with Shadowrun supplemental products and the quotes from ‘users’ in their weapons guides this book just added to my love of those sorts of flavor bits. It was not until later that I realized that the idea may have been done better, and definitely done sooner with this game and that Shadowrun was just imitating their betters.
As I broke the game down I found that while there were rules elements that I loved, there were a lot of gaps that left me feeling like they should have tried harder to get good rules and spent less time on the awesome fluff. Things that I liked included in the point based character generation you have a factor called Fame. You actually pay points for your characters height and weight and looks. The more “average” you are the more it costs and the lower your Fame. Play it cheap and you stand out so much it makes you much more easy to recognize. Strangely enough it does the same with rank. If you are a lowly agent your Fame stays low. If you are playing games at the ’00x’ level then your Fame is higher… sure you get more points to spend on making your character for that level, but you risk so much being so much more famous.
One of the other elements that I really liked was the difficulty bidding system for skill and action use. So the engine takes a stat plus skill to give you a total. Then you get a multiplier to set your difficulty level. So if your character is trying to drive, stat plus skill equals say eight. Average difficulty is a times five (x5) and so 8×5=40 you need to roll under 40 on a d100 to succeed. Now then if you are in a challenging moment and you need the success to really mean something you can bid your difficulty higher with the game master to get more out of what you are doing. So if the game master says the difficulty is x5, but you want to not only drive but get away with style you might offer to bump the difficulty to a x3 and now you would have to roll under a 24 on a d100 with that skill plus stat total of 8. Difficulty in the game engine runs from a x1/2 (hard as hell to pull off) up to a x10 (why are you even rolling)
Unfortunately they, in my opinion, blew it when they set up the combat section because they would do things like rating everything in a code for damage instead of just telling us how many dice to roll or anything like that. You end up tracing code versus code and you have a series of tables that unless you practice a lot with it you would end up confusing Gygax himself even after he created his falling tables for D&D. They then blew it further by listing things like anti tank guns and telling you that they were not giving them a damage code because that goes outside of the scope of the game. I can see setting expectations, but don’t go an list a piece of equipment only to then tell me I can’t get stats for it because it just does too much damage for you to feel like having it in the game. They ended up pulling the same kind of stunts a few times and that just ended up feeling like it was sloppy work to me.
Now then I know I said I was never going to do a bad review. And yes I do still have this game in my collection. And there is a reason for it. Things like the difficulty mechanic and the Fame tool were inspired. The level of detail in their fluff is just mind-blowing. Even without awesome art, the sheer flavor you get from it, if you are a James Bond fan is off the hook. Sure the game is hard to mod, but you can still steal from it freely to enhance your other games. You can take all of the reference materials and put them into another setting. You can even take the details they give for both MI6 and Tarot as awesome examples of how to build secret organizations. No one has beat them in that regard yet. So in the end, much like GURPS, this is a game I wont play, but I respect it a lot. I love the fluff and I steal from it liberally.
Overall Fluff 5/5 – I think I have gushed about it enough but this one is a tough call. With only mediocre art I am tempted to say its a four and not a five. But the volume of fluff and the use of it is just too good to say it only rates a four.
Overall Crunch 3/5 – There are some rules that I love and am happy to steal but overall the game mechanics, especially in combat are just not user friendly. The level of detail you can get in the rules for just about anything you want to describe is bloody impressive.
Overall Mod 1/5 – Just… no.. you cant.. well ok, I cant but if you can… maybe you can salvage more than I could out of the game.
Overall Fun 3/5 – Fun to steal from, fun to abuse, fun for fans. Yes its fun… but not fully fun.
Total Score 12/20 – Not a great score but I think I gave you enough why up above that I dont need to dive into a serious recap here.
All right then folks, thats it for now.
Game on, have fun and happy holidays
Now gimme the dice… I need to see if I can use the tables, tables, to retable the table of tables, table on that last table.