Game: Vice Squad: Eighties Police Adventures
Publisher: Politically Incorrect Games
Review Dated: 9th, July 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 4.00
You can get tired of even your favourite RPG. Sometimes a player whose character is central to the on-going plot has to miss a gaming night. There are those evenings when a gaggle of gamers arrive at your apartment and you’re expected to provide entertainment. What do you mean you forgot your character sheet? No, you didn’t have strength 18! The genreDivision series from Politically Incorrect Games is a collection of quick games designed to solve this sort of issue. Since we’re being Politically Incorrect here, let’s describe genreDivision as the one night stand of the roleplaying world. You have fun with the game for a night and then put it aside. You can go back to your normal gaming schedule afterwards.
It’s the clichés that make Vice Squad. Those police TV series from the 1980s all shared common idiosyncrasies and this RPG turns them into one of the best gaming mechanics I’ve seen in a while. Clichés are powers, they’re character advantages, perks, bonuses or feats even. Let’s steal from the product and look at a few examples. Here’s a combat cliché a character can enjoy having: “Fiery Wreck: Firing a gun at a parked or crashed car will always cause it to explode.” What about a chase cliché? “Key Prop: The hero always has a car on hand and his car is always unlocked, yet it never gets stolen.” Not only is this a great laugh it’s also very clever. I’m such a fan of game mechanics that manage to encourage the atmosphere of the game.
A quick and easy atmosphere is important for Vice Squad. You’ve only got the night to summon up all that’s good and cheesy about eighties police adventures. The whole series is heavily dependant on, well, the genre. You’ve got to know the genre and be able to run with it yourself. There’s no room in the tightly packed PDF for an explanation. That’s okay with me. I remember these police shows well. The cliché powers for the heroes (and then later for the villainous NPCs) are reminders for any quirk that I might have forgotten.
Space is used very carefully in Vice Squad. There are only thirty pages of rules… and if that was slim enough, you’re only actually ever using 15 pages of them. The first 15 pages are the on-screen version and the next 15 pages are designed for printing. Rather than having two separate PDFs, one for reading on-screen and the other for printing, Vice Squad keeps it efficient and bundles the two together. The game assumes readers will have enough computer savvy to know how to print a selection from the PDF rather than all of it. I would to. The on-screen selection are nicely designed, the pages look like an old paper filing system of the sort we might remember littering the desks of busy detectives in eighties police TV shows. These pages are wider than they are high. The page layout switches from landscape to portrait for the printer friendly copy of the rules. The background changes to plane white as well.
In just 15 pages of rules you’ll find everything you’ll need for a night of police action. The game system itself is as efficient as the PDF design is. To resolve a task you’ll want to roll lower or equal to your skill total. If you’re enjoying bonus dice then you get to roll more than 2d6 and pick the lowest two. If you’re suffering from penalty dice then you must roll more than 2d6 but must accept the highest two. Since car chases were a key piece of action in these TV shows its good to see that room’s found for this too. The vehicle rules shouldn’t confuse anyway, there are rules for blasting away with your gun while driving and a cliché that lets you do it without penalty.
Vice Squad provides a selection of pre-genned characters. Typically I want one sample character generation given to me as a key example but in this case these ready-to-go characters are vital for a quick start to a game. In addition to pre-genned characters there is a collection of vehicles and their stats.
On a similar note, I’m almost always ready to forgive the inclusion of one pre-written adventure. This genreDivision game has four. This time, given that this is a genreDivision game, I think these four are a good idea. The adventures are what you’d need if those gamer friends of yours arrive without warning and demand a game or you’ve already spent an hour deciding that you’ll want to play something different tonight.
Vice Squad is good fun. It made me laugh. It’s cheap (just US$4) and makes effective use of common clichés in order to ensure an evenings entertainment – just like those old TV shows.