Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Agent Down

I watched Skyfall for the first time yesterday and, my brain working the way it does, I'd had an idea for a game by the end of the opening credits, so here it is. I really recommend watching some opening credit sequences from a bunch of James Bond films just before you sit down to play this.

This is a short(ish) game for 3-5 players and it starts when a secret agent dies in action; in order to play, you'll need a standard deck of playing cards and some poker chips; one of the players takes on the role of the Agent, the others are his memories of the past, though one of those is also the Dealer. The Agent starts with 5 poker chips and is dealt one card, which only they should look at, it must not be shown to any other player.


The Agent begins the story by describing their death: this should occur in the field, in the middle of an operation, as a result of enemy action or friendly fire. Be colourful, but keep it short, as this is just the framing device for the story that follows and the precise details of the operation are irrelevant for now. Once the Agent is dead, the Dealer picks up the story with narration of the Agent's descent into limbo, a place full of images reflecting the Agent's dying regrets and memories. From here the game is played over 5 rounds, with the structure of each round as follows:

  • Each player other than the Agent is dealt one card from the deck, including the Dealer.
  • The other players take it in turn to describe an image from the Agent's past, basing that description on the card they get dealt.
  • The Agent focuses on one of those images and plays out a scene from their past, with the player whose image they picked playing the other main character in that scene; the other players may take on the roles of any supporting characters or simply narrate additional colour and detail into the scene.
  • At the end of the scene, the Agent may either give the chosen player a poker chip and narrate their own outcome, or they may hold onto their poker chip and the chosen player narrates the outcome.
  • After the scene is over, the Agent takes the card from the chosen player and adds it to their own; the chosen player then takes the remaining cards and chooses one which goes face down in the Widow in the middle of the table, the other cards are discarded.
When describing a past memory, use inspiration from the cards as follows:
  • Club: conflict, violence and action.
  • Heart: romance, flirtation and seduction.
  • Spade: subterfuge, stealth and deep cover.
  • Diamond: elegance, opulence and luxury.
  • Ace to Five: recruitment and training.
  • Six to Ten: international field missions.
  • Jack to King: the current mission, which the Agent died on.

Each memory scene should be something dramatic and meaningful, a turning point in the Agent's life which made them the person they are today; when the Agent pays a poker chip to narrate the outcome, it should reflect their growing awareness and prowess as an Agent; when the Agent keeps their chip, the chosen player should narrate an ending to the scene which shows the Agent's failings and shortcomings as a human being.

The game ends after five rounds; to determine their ultimate fate, the Agent picks up their hand of cards from in front of the, while the other player with the most chips picks up the Widow (in a tie, the Dealer chooses which other player picks up the Widow.) Both the Agent and the other player now make the best poker hand they can with the cards in their hand; the Agent must discard one of their cards, leaving themselves with exactly five..


Poker Hands (in order from highest to lowest)
  • Straight Flush: a consecutive sequence of cards of the same suit; the best hand of all, a Royal Flush, is a sequence of Ace, King, Queen, Jack & Ten in the same suit.
  • Four of a Kind: four cards of the same rank, consisting of one from each suit.
  • Full House: a hand consisting of a Three of a Kind and a Pair.
  • Flush: all five cards are of the same suit, regardless of rank.
  • Straight: all five cards are of consecutive rank, regardless of suit.
  • Three of a Kind: three cards of the same rank.
  • Two Pair: two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank.
  • One Pair: two cards of the same rank.
  • High Card: none of the above, so only using the rank of your highest card; every hand listed above beats this, so it can only ever beat another High Card.
The Agent now compares their final hand to the Widow: if their hand beats the Widow, the Agent recovers from their near death experience, otherwise they die.
  • If the Agent lives and has the least poker chips of any player, then they can complete their operation and their mission succeeds; otherwise, the mission fails and the Agent is forcibly retired or resigns voluntarily.
  • If the Agent dies and has the least poker chips of any player, then their destination in the afterlife is not a pleasant one and they will have to relive all their mistakes over and over again, forever; otherwise, the afterlife gives them a chance to put things right and make amends to everyone they wronged in life and seek forgiveness from them.
Whatever fate the Agent experiences, the player who picked up the Widow gets to narrate it for them; the Agent and the other players can contribute to this ending, but the Widow player is the one who ties the threads together to create a conclusion.