Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cabal

Cabal is a game about sinister conspiracies trying to seize power through a corporation or organisation. Mechanically it feels weirdly like a game where a group of players share a single Runequest character and try and make them a Rune Lord.

The company has various attributes that are rated on 0 to 100 scale with points being spent at generation time and then the players going on missions to try and raise the value of the attributes by between 1 and 5.

The target value is also used to set the difficulty and provide the mechanisms of opposition. The game uses a GM to manage the opposition and provide the colour to the missions. Something that feels like a design cop-out.

The game does make some interesting use of the fact that the players take on the role of individuals in the company and therefore you get to play very different characters and the risk of them dying is lessened by the meta-reward to the organisation.

However it also has an experience mechanism that makes characters who survive missions both more powerful and hence valuable. Therefore the same risk and reward pattern settles in as for more conventional games.

Cabal has a lot of precedents, I have to admit that I thought it was an updated version of Covenant. It also reminded me of Wilderness of Mirrors and Black Seven but without the structure of either as it has a broader scope than just espionage.

Reign does a similar job of mixing individuals and organisations but Cabal is considerably simpler at the cost of flavour.

I'm not sure Cabal hits the spot for me, it relies too much on a GM to create interesting stories and the implications of playing an organisation are not really explored in the game design. The relationships between characters and the organisation are too shallow and conventional to be really exciting.
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