Review: In Case of an Emergency
In Case of an Emergency is a wild game in the vein of SCP Containment Breach or Control that hits all the perfect notes to make the concept a full on game of fun and antics.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea when or how I heard about this game. Despite spending much of last year avoiding doing any work I didn’t absolutely have to, I did manage to lurk around seeing a lot of releases and random games popping up on my feed. I assume that In Case of an Emergency was one that just showed up somewhere on Twitter, retweeted by someone with good taste. You can find the game, written by Colin Cummings, over on Itch.io as a PDF and it needs only 2d6 to play (and no it is not a 2d6 system game).
The book itself is presented as kind of a brochure for the in-universe conglomerate that you are a minor employee for. The Foundation is a business that gets ahead of its competition by capitalizing on interdimensional knowledge and using the paranormal and supernatural for profit. This means that they have an abundance of dangerous objects and systems that aren’t likely fully understood…by anyone. You are the meager no-name to the higher-ups. Someone who shows up everyday, answers emails, changes toner, that kind of thing. The problem is that your building has gone into lockdown, a safety precaution. Oh, and the help that is supposed to come also had their own problems. Now it is up to you to solve the problems and get out of lockdown alive.
In Case of an Emergency is designed to be fun and full of tropes, with games not taking more than one average session of 2-4 hours with 5-7 players (one of whom is a GM). Right of the bat I have some mixed feelings about this. The expected game time is perfect because my groups tend to get little time to play and that often coincides with time catching up, so despite playing almost every week, we don’t have time to play one-shots that are made for upwards of 8 hours. A shorter game, especially designed to be played as a one-shot is perfect. However the fact that it is designed for a larger group is a bit of a problem for me as my groups tend to be 3-4 people including the GM.
After having gone through the rules, though, I really don’t think this should be any problem. There are no hard and fast mechanics that involve hit points, health, or any other such variation. You’re trying to solve a problem with a time limit. A smaller group might make it a little harder but I think familiarity with practically any monster of the week style show gives you an understanding of the dynamic this game could take with a small group.
The premise is simple. Depending on group size you are given emergencies that should be solved and a time limit to do it. Only red emergencies are necessary for success and the end of lockdown, however, giving you prioritization on what to do. That being said you are nobodies and your chances of success will be completely up to how your group works together against the unexpected. For the GM, you must only bring obstacles and a mad mix of “what the hell is going on now” to the table. Colin has given the GM plenty of material in the form of the book itself, a brochure of Foundation, as well as descriptors of various aspects of the Foundation. Different departments present different challenges (or perhaps aid) with notes and warnings hinting at what might happen in those departments. All of this is resolved by one or two six-sided dice rolled against a gradient of success.
The thing is, the mechanics are easy in that there practically aren’t any. You roll 1d6 and do your best, hoping luck and cleverness are on your side until you reach the half-way point. Then, the Foundation grants you abilities. Chosen at random they will help in specific ways while also allowing you to roll 2d6 and increase your odds of success. The main mechanic of this game is just fun story telling. That’s the whole point, there are no contesting mechanics. The dice are there to guide how bad things are going. I love it. It might be difficult for some GMs but this is the perfect opportunity to explore just playing the game. You can be as nice to your party as you feel the need to be. If they fail their mission, you can always try again. If they succeed, they live to go to work tomorrow.
The point of this game is the one adventure (if you want to call it that), not some large and overarching narrative. You are meant to get into the feel of the world and the genre. It is based on the likes of the SCP Foundation but also reminds me of Control, Warehouse 13, and the X-Files. Especially Control. There are no hefty backgrounds, no required events, no bad guys. There is only feeling and guidance to immerse yourself in and Colin wants you to lean into the tropes. We all know that some stuff is cliche or troped to death, but coming into a game where you are basically the characters from Office Space trying to survive interdimensional lockdown it pays to revel in those kinds of things and enjoy the ride.
Personally, I only have two problems. The first is formulating running this for a smaller group but, as I said before, that probably won’t be a problem. The second is that I am a lore fiend and this is going to be a good challenge to just go with the flow. I have done it before but that isn’t my normal go-to. And let’s be honest, neither of these are terrible problems to have. This book is really well done and looks fantastic. If there was a print version available I would buy it right now and I cannot wait to get a chance to run it for some of my players. For only $10 you should definitely look at picking it up. I don’t think it’ll be for everyone, but if you are into SCPs, liked the game Control, or enjoyed Warehouse 13 then this game is perfect for you!