Van Ryder Games have been releasing tranches of additional abductors for Hostage Negotiator since the original game was first released. Four came out prior to Crime Wave and a further four since, along with a pack of additional demands developed as a Kickstarter push goal.
As we await the announcement of the next stage in the Hostage Negotiator saga, and a new wave of villains, let us have a look back at these releases and the depth and variety that they bring to an already compelling and variable game.
Connor E. Ogden
If you threaten to terminate Connor E. Ogden's contract, Connor E. Ogden promises to terminate you. This abductor’s short temper is evoked in the fantastic art that decorates this set and also by the special conditions which limit the number of cards the negotiator can play before Connor hangs up.
While your opportunities are restricted, your options are increased. Also in this pack are three Internal Influence cards. Somehow, you have got an ally on the inside who can help you. The advantages they provide are significant but one failed threat roll and the insider becomes ominously unavailable. These three additional conversation cards can be used in any scenario, giving the player an opportunity to customise their deck and upping the replay value throughout the game.
The Pedersen Twins
The second in command mechanic gives pause to negotiators who are keen to call in the snipers. The Pedersen Twins abductor pack amplifies this threat with devastating consequences.
Rolph is the more rational if the two. Negotiations with him are disarmingly reasonable. Situations where hostages are likely to be killed can be mitigated by sacrificing conversation cards. The negotiator also has the opportunity to further manipulate the situation with the abductor specific decision cards. Some demands and terror events trigger these cards allowing you to take one of two options to proceed, the moral option or the questionable.
It’s easy to presume that the high road is the way to go for an upstanding member of the police force, but if Rolph is eliminated his more volatile brother, Dolph, will kill all remaining hostages and you will have only one turn to take him down. Suddenly, planning for an extra-judicial execution by exploding speedboat seems like a reasonable response.
A colleague is under suspicion of murder. He has taken hostages in the hope that this will encourage the authorities to uncover the truth and exonerate him. You believe him and have the unenviable task of managing this situation and investigating the murder. To make things even more complicated his hostages are beginning to believe him too.
This abductor pack aims to simulate the Stockholm syndrome by establishing a third hostage pool. Victims sent here have crossed the chamber and are under the Lieutenants thrall. It is your job, with the help of your investigating, to first disabuse them if their loyalty before getting them out of the line of fire.
The character development in this pack helps immersion as your negotiator is much more involved with the adversary. As A.J. Porfirio and Van Ryder Games continue to build on this game it wouldn’t be surprising to see this, or other abductors return to develop its overarching narrative.
Relieve the claustrophobia of the incident room with a maniacal mystery bus tour through town and country.
This abductor lacks some of the more intricate special conditions and terror card interplay of the previous expansions. Trying to negotiate with a kidnapper and rescue his victims whilst they are driving hell for leather to the Mexican border has its limitations.
It’s a simple deck of locations, each with their own devilish peculiarities, brings variety and tension to the episode. As exciting as the ride is though you are going to have to deploy your new tactics cards to corral and ultimately stop Gonzalo before you can even begin hostage extraction.
Circle of Automata
In this expansion you face a cult where the line between hostage and abductor has been eliminated. These acolytes are unwilling to be rescued so each extraction triggers a potentially deadly fire fight.
These cultists are not the faceless, monotonous drones you might expect. Each is represented by an abductor card and each has a unique character trait which affects the game play. You will face a new member every round but you are also given new cards which allow you to manipulate which individual you are talking to. May the circle be severely broken.
The Seaver Family
Domestic breakdowns can be mired but this scenario takes this to extremes. Clyde Seaver has abducted his children. Currently he’s holed up in a convenience store holding a gun to his own head. But the children are not with him. His sister, Tina, has intimate knowledge of the nearby swamps. The hunt is on.
This is a precarious episode. The kidnappers will not kill the children. The first unmitigated kill will trigger Clyde to end his own life and for the rest of the players to disappear into the wilderness. With this pressure on you must search the swamps by revealing randomised tokens arrayed on a card, a compact and neat mechanic.
This expansion impresses with its additional board and components and demonstrates another route that the game designers can take to add variety and complexity to the game.
Another colleague has gone rogue and in this expansion you may be asked to put your own life on the line to resolve this scenario. One of the most challenging adversaries, Valerie Stone came up through the ranks with you and knows all of your tricks.
As more time passes your adversary will whittle away at your options. Rival cards will gradually come into play through the terror deck. These establish specific conditions which trigger a dice roll that will take a card of a certain value from your control. This begins as an inconvenience but develops into a crippling situation. Thankfully this expansion also includes the means to adjust the difficulty making it entirely possible that you won’t pull out all of your hair the next time.
Sammy is wracked with pain and desperate. He and his girlfriend have taken hostages in a rehabilitation facility and his withdrawal symptoms are making him dangerously hard to negotiate with.
You will not be able to concede to Sammy’s demands whilst he is gripped with pain, which is a pain in itself as the abductor specific demands included in the pack are rather generous. To further complicate the situation each of these demand cards has one of two outcomes. Which one Sammy will deliver is decided by a threat level modified dice roll. And now everyone has a headache.
Demand Pack #1
As if a prison wing of new adversaries was not enough, this pack further enriches the Hostage Negotiator experience. As the name suggests this pack mainly comprises of new demands for the kidnappers of the original set and the first four expansion abductors. A new pivotal event card rounds out the contents bringing a little variety to every scenario, not just those specifically targeted in this pack.
To highlight just one example, Ogden E. Connor's scenario has been given a condition that, whilst harrowing, can prove to be an effective and amusing way of winning as you manoeuvre to catch executives plummeting from board room windows.
Whilst not adding any fundamentally new mechanics this pack is certainly worth the cost for the new challenges it brings. The fact that it is numbered also brings hope that more packs full of tweaks and flavour are pending.
Final Thoughts on Abductor and Demand Pack
For anyone captivated by the Hostage Negotiator games these abductor packs should be an automatic purchase. And their affordability will be a relief for anyone chary of the outlay for either or both of the base sets.
The economy with which they bring more variety and character to the experience is impressive. Preconceived notions of how to play the game, once only tested by the heavy element of randomness, are now met with adversaries that kick away your crutches at every given opportunity.
The artwork is great as we have come to expect, though it is a little inconsistent across the packs. When combined with the idiosyncrasies of each abductors unique game mechanics, the expression of character and motivation in these tidy little bundles of cards is uncanny.