Author: Alan Bahr
Publisher: Gallant Knight Games
Page Count: 52
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $6.99
Print (Softcover) – $9.99 / (Hardcover) – $15.99
Tuxedos, fancy cars, imaginative gadgets, top-secret information, disguises, double-crosses, and chase scenes are all hallmarks of the cinematic espionage story. Whether it is James Bond or Maxwell Smart, espionage-themed games call upon the above to set the scene. Many espionage roleplaying games are available, but Tiny Spies slips to the front of the line with its rules-light approach.
Tiny Spies is a rules-light espionage roleplaying game inspired by James Bond movies, the writings of John le Carrè, and the television shows Mission Impossible and Get Smart. The game focuses on fast pace action and larger-than-life heroes with a minimalist approach to game mechanics that allow characters to organically evolve through play.
The game uses the TinyD6 Engine to resolve Tests, the core mechanic of Tiny Spies. Any complex action the Gamemaster feels is appropriate requires a Test. Standard Tests use 2D6, where the results of five or sixes are successes. Usually, only one success is necessary to pass a Test, but it is up to the Gamemaster to determine the amount required to succeed. An extra die may be added to the pool if the character has an advantage, bringing it up to three dice. In turn, the superspy could be disadvantaged, and the dice pool is reduced to a single die.
In the game, superspies will face obstacles that will require Save Tests. These tests prevent something from happening to the superspy, like leaping out of the way from a sprung trap or escaping a dangerous situation at the last minute. Not all Save Tests are life-or-death situations, but they can be. Those situations are suggested to be used sparingly, for Tiny Spies is about heroic superspies overcoming overwhelming odds.
Character creation beginnings with players choosing one of five archetypes: Agent, Face, Driver, Hacker, or Soldier. The Agent archetype is your basic globe-trotting superspy. The Face is the charismatic spy, able to pull information out of an individual without them knowing it. The Driver is a vehicle expert. No matter what type of vehicle, the Driver is an expert at controlling it at high rates of speed. The Hacker is the technology expert. Hackers use their knowledge and talents to defeat technological obstacles, from software to hardware. The Soldier is the group’s muscle trained in warfare and personal combat.
Each archetype provides the character’s hit points and traits unique to that archetype. An additional 33 non-archetype-specific traits are available to add to the superspy as directed by the archetype chosen. The titles of the traits are self-explanatory, but each carries a very brief description of what they encompass. At the end of character creation, the player’s superspies will have four traits in total.
Next, players will arm their superspies. Tiny Spies reduces weaponry’s complexity into four weapons groups: Light Melee, Heavy Melee, Light Ranged, and Heavy Ranged. Light Melee and Ranged weapons are light weapons held in one hand, while Heavy Melee and Ranged weapons require both hands. Each superspy chooses one weapon type that they are a master in. It can be what they like if it fits into one of the four categories.
To help shape the player’s superspies, players will select a background trait from a list of nine or create one reflecting their knowledge base. These are former careers or knowledge gained through higher education and a means of gaining valuable contacts.
Lastly, the players choose a driving force for their superspies. It is a simple statement that players can use as a guide to roleplay their character. Six sample backgrounds are provided that can be embellished or substituted for your own with the Gamemaster’s approval.
Combat begins with an Initiative Test, a standard Test by the players. Those who succeed go before the enemies, and those who fail go after. The combat is played in rounds, about five to six seconds, until the combat is completed. Superspies may take two actions per round. Simple actions are moving, attacking, or other actions like drawing or reloading a weapon.
Superspies may choose a special action: Evade, Focus, or Take Cover. When a super spy chooses to Evade, the act does not end until the beginning of the next round. Within that round, if the superspy is hit by an enemy, they can evade the attack by successfully making a Test. The Focus action increases a superspy’s chances of a successful by including the 4 with 5 and 6 as successes on their next Test. The effect carries over into future rounds or until the superspy attacks. Superspies who Take Cover will be at a disadvantage for their next turn, but any attacks against them are also at a disadvantage. Taking Cover and Evade can not be combined in the same round.
Movement in Tiny Spies can be played in two ways. It can be vague, with the Gamemaster narrating the distance the superspy can traverse using the theater of the mind or a more tactical approach with miniatures, maps, and characters moving a set amount per round. Tiny Spies address both situations.
When attacking superspies using their mastered weapons, attack with an advantage. If they are only familiar with the weapon, it is a Standard Test. Superspies using unarmed attacks or improvised weapons are at a disadvantage. Successful attacks with light weapons deal one hit point of damage and heavy weapons two. After the end of a fight, each superspy that used a ranged weapon that holds multiple rounds of ammunition makes a standard test to see if they have run out. Those who pass the Test are fine, but those who fail must replenish their stock of ammo before the weapon can be used again.
Superspies do not have a lot of hit points; the Soldier has the most. Eventually, they will get hurt and need to recover their lost hit points. All their damage will heal with a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep, about six hours. If their sleep is not fully restful, the superspies regain one hit point per hour of good sleep. When the superspies are reduced to zero hit points, they need to make a Save Test to stabilize. They have two chances for success before the superspy is declared dead.
Vehicles and Gadgets
The cornerstone of any cinematic espionage game is the flashy vehicles and nifty gadgets for superspies. Vehicles are built much like superspies. A template for each chassis type (motorcycle, sedan, sports car, truck, jet ski, boat, and helicopter) provides the necessary hit points and traits. Upon that chassis, the player will add three upgrades to it. Upgrades included ejector seats, armor, weaponry, and engine upgrades.
The superspies’ gadgetry is confined to a few samples listed in the book, with the option of creating your own with the approval of the Gamemaster. The superspies’ gadgets should be orientated to the mission at hand and balanced to not overpower the encounter. Some sample gadgets included a laser concealed in a wristwatch, an armored tuxedo or evening gown, and an exploding pencil case. When superspies use their gadgets with a Test, the gadget gives them an advantage that could nullify any disadvantages they may have.
Another must-have with espionage themes is the chase scene. Tiny Spies‘ mechanic for chases is inspired by Victory Games’ James Bond Roleplaying Game (Read our review of its clone, Classified). Chases begin with establishing momentum. The base momentum starts with the number of superspies present and continues on a chart adding or subtracting based on the number of situations present. Once the final momentum number is determined, the superspies will use that amount to bet against their opponents. The two sides will go back and forth until the bidding is resolved and the winner makes their first maneuver. There are five maneuvers, and each can give or take away from the superspies’ pool of momentum points. Once the winning side goes, the losing side also enacts a maneuver. After both sides have gone, their momentum pools are recalculated, and the process repeats until the chase ends. With each maneuver, a Test is required to determine its outcome. Certain maneuvers might trigger complications. When a complication arises, a D6 rollable table of consequences is used.
Tiny Spies provides a simple framework for players to roleplay as heroic superspies. Its rule-light approach ensures that new and old players can quickly grasp the mechanics and enjoy the game within minutes of introduction. The minimalist approach allows Gamemasters to overlay any story they wish to present without worrying about how to adapt it to the system.
With the publication just as light as the game, 52 pages, players and Gamemasters might need to expand on certain aspects like gadgets and such or situations not covered by the rules. Tiny Spies touches on this subject and suggest keeping a good dialogue between the Gamemaster and players to resolve such a situation.
Unfortunately, the publication lacks an introductory adventure, not that one needs one to learn the game. Still, it is always a treat to have at least one adventure provided in a core book as a guide for Gamemasters for future adventures. Tiny Spies does give the Gamemaster opposing oppositions and organizations to weave into their own stories. The organizations follow the classic cinematic nomenclature of acronyms. There is C.O.V.E.R.T., the superspies organization, and D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R., their rival.
Tiny Spies is a very easy and straightforward game to comprehend. Character building is super easy, even for beginners. It evokes all the hallmarks of classic espionage stories to provide heroic gameplay. Tiny Spies is also compatible with most TinyD6 games. For those searching for an espionage game that is low prep and complexity, Tiny Spies is for you.
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