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If you're a James Bond fan, then you'll be very familiar with SPECTRE - the organisation if not yet the board game. It's the appropriately sinister acronym of the international Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion: the syndicate whose nefarious plans MI6 is trying to frustrate in the majority of Bond movies.

With SPECTRE: The Board Game, Modiphius have tapped into the Bond IP but 007 is only a peripheral presence. This game focuses instead on some of classic Bond villains: Emilio Largo (Thunderball), Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love), Aristotle Kristatos (For Your Eyes Only), Raoul Silva (Skyfall) and Ernst Blofeld (the Donald Pleasance version from You Only Live Twice). It's a semi-cooperative game in that the 2-4 players are working together to collectively satisfy mission requirements but you'll each have asymmetric powers that can be triggered and your own individual schemes and 'secret plan' objectives. Your villains are in competition with each other to complete these in order to become head of SPECTRE.

There are set collection elements (you'll need to collect gold, intel and blueprint tokens for your schemes and plots) and there's a bidding phase, but the core mechanics involve worker placement and area control. Players each have a playing piece representing their villain and another representing their henchman. You'll take turns to place these out at one of the seven locations on the board, triggering that location's action: yielding specific resources or allowing you to place out your agents (cubes). As you'd expect, there's a benefit to having a majority in a location but in our Board's Eye View plays we especially liked the appropriately wicked cascade effect where resolving one location could affect the majority in another...

James Bond is represented by a poker chip that blocks off a location and can therefore frustrate SPECTRE's plans but, even tho' games like the Villainous series from Ravensburger have gotten us used to taking on the part of villains rather than heroes, some players will inevitably be disappointed that 007 is quite such an abstract presence in this game. We were also disappointed that the villain and henchmen playing pieces were plastic 'octopus' pawns, especially as Modiphius are known for the quality of their minis. The consensus among player was that minis or even standees of the villains and movie henchmen would've been preferable and would've dovetailed better with the artwork that otherwise uses screenshots from several of the movies.

The rulebook could be laid out more clearly but it provides examples that offer a Quantum of Solace. And if you love the Bond franchise, you'll probably play The Living Daylights out of this game!

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