London in 1889 is a very different place then you might have imagined. It exists as the center of the modern world, shrouded in a deep fog that rarely seems to lift. It is a world of steam powered marvels never before seen. The streets are inhabited not only by the poor and underemployed residents of the city, but also the walking corpses, raised from the dead to work in the factories as cheap, loyal labor. Zombies have taken the jobs of many of the living and threaten to cause a major financial meltdown. Mutants hide in the corners and alleyways, rejected and misunderstood by the rest of society. They are treated as pariahs despite having done nothing to earn the scorn of normal people.
This is a London that exists on brink of civil unrest. Queen Victoria reigns over the land from Buckingham Palace, but a terrorist attack has left her body crippled. It's been replaced with metal and oil, and although she is not what she once was, her mind remains as sharp as ever.
In the first The World of SMOG tabletop game, On Her Majesty's Service, the date of the Royal Jubilee approaches, and the Queen has invited members from many of the different city Clubs to take part in a bit of fun. A spot of competition to take place in the legendary Shadow Market. Each Club will be tasked with finding four beautiful and powerful Artefacts and returning with them to the Queen. The first to do so will be showered with honors, but the task will be more difficult and dangerous than it seems. The Market is a mysterious place with shifting geography and a confusing, maze-like layout. Then there's the Shadow Master. He is a man that can be an enemy or a friend, if you can pay the right price. Players will move around the Market collecting different Ethers, trading them in for ever-changing values. The price of Ectoplasm, Mana, Blood, and Titanium will shift over the course of the game. Players must strive to make their exchanges at the highest possible value. Gold comes with great importance as the Artefacts players are collecting aren't cheap.
The Shadow Market board is made up of a grid of 13 rotating disc-shaped tiles. They all have a starting position when the game begins, but as play progresses, they will be rotated, changing the makeup of the board. The position they're facing on any given turn will determine how much coin a player will receive for the Ether they're looking to exchange. It can also result in barriers of fog that are near impassable and will limit movement through the Market's confusing lanes. Players will each sit on a distinct side of the board to easily tell what value they are faced with.
On Her Majesty's Service plays out over a series of rounds. Each turn, players will take three of the nine available actions as they buy or sell Ethers, move from tile to tile, request coins, acquire Artefacts, and, when they've completed their tasks, exit the Shadow Market.
Strolling between the booths of the Shadow Market are a number of mysterious Shadow Agents. They each have their own entrancing story, like the Witch, who escaped London, fleeing from the persecution that caused the deaths of so many of her kind. The bent and haggard old woman has come to the Shadow Market to stop anyone from recovering all four Artefacts. Starting a turn on the same tile as the Witch will cost the player one of their actions. Then there's the Dandy. Once one of the most celebrated cricket players in all of London, he turned to a life of thievery to alleviate his boredom. That is, until he was caught, skinned alive, and killed. Now his resurrected body haunts the Market, and he's up to his old tricks again, stealing a gold piece from anyone starting a turn on his tile. There are six different Agents, but each game will only introduce four. Some of their effects are positive, some negative, but either way, the combination being used will impact the game differently each time.
Once a player has collected all four of the Artefacts requested by Her Majesty, they must make their way to the exit. At the start of the game each player receives a Secret Gate card and a Secret Combination card. This tells them where to find a portal to take them out of the Shadow Market and the cost of their escape. The first player to exit the Market with all of the Artefacts will win the game and, more importantly, the praise of the Queen.
The Shadow Market's mysterious booths and lanes can sometimes be like a dream, sometimes they are like a nightmare. Careful decisions and daring movement can lead players to victory, but the race to find the Artefacts will be fierce. Players will have to work hard and smart to represent their Club well and earn the respect of the Queen. You can learn more about the game here.
On Friday, we return to The World of SMOG with a look at the upcoming game The Rise of Moloch from CMON and Guillotine Games. Plus, we’ll have an announcement on when you can expect to see the game hit Kickstarter!