Review by Sean Branney
November 4, 2020
Platte Air Force Base in Nevada is a dead-end assignment for Air Force personnel whose careers are going nowhere. The sole break in the weekly monotony at this unimportant and godforsaken base is a weekly card game. But this week's game is not going to be like last week's game, and it's entirely possible that there be no game next week. Or ever again.
PX Poker Night is an excellent inroad for a new group of players to get a taste of what the world of Delta Green is all about. The scenario comes with a set of pregenerated characters, all of whom are Air Force Personnel with a drab assignment in a drab location. But as Poker Night rolls around, events on the base get stranger and stranger and ultimately there's a fair chance they may not survive the night. I would not recommend this scenario for beginning Handlers (the term for Keeper in the Delta Green universe) or for beginning RPG players for reasons I'll go into in a moment. But for an experienced gamemaster and for players who have some RPG experience, PX Poker Night is a setup for a good night's gaming.
If you're thinking you might play the scenario at some point, I'd urge you to stop reading here. But if you might someday run the game, you might be interested in the following considerations. Some investigations are linear. A leads to B, B leads to C, C to D and ultimately D leads to a resolution at E. Players find clues that lead them on a storytelling trail that ultimately has a resolution. Other scenarios are "sandbox games" where investigators can poke around an environment, and bit by bit the piece together the issues and events of the game. PX Poker Night is neither of those. Rather, this scenario has a modestly complicated setup. The Handler needs a solid grasp of the layout of the base and where its personnel are located. Beyond that, time is a big factor in the game. Events unfold on a timeline known to the Keeper. NPCs come and go and do their thing according to a timeline. As the investigators become aware that something's amiss, how they go about handling the situation is very much dependent on WHEN their characters take action. So, if running a game is new to you, you'll probably find this one a challenge. If you have a group of new or uncommonly passive players, they might also find it a challenge. But if at least a few of your players are the types to throw themselves headlong into weird events unfolding around them, then they're likely to have a good time.
As an introduction to the world of Delta Green, PX Poker Night succeeds on a couple of levels. It assumes that the Air Force personnel are simply normal folks living out a crummy assignment. But depending on how their investigation goes, by the following dawn they could end up with a very disturbing understanding of the kinds of experiments the government gets up to, the costs of those experiments, the government's relationship with non-human entities, the technologies of those non-human entities, and so forth. An Agent able to survive such encounters is exactly the type likely to be recruited as a Delta Green operative.
This scenario was published a few years ago in PDF and has only now come out in hardcopy. It's not particularly long, written to be a one-shot for most groups. And while the plot isn't lengthy, the collision of forces at work on the base should make for an interesting and challenging evening for most groups of players. ArcDream has included some nice dossiers including color photos of the Agents. They also have handouts of Sanity cards. Because there's a high potential here for Agents' sanity to decrease over the course of the evening, these cards allow the keeper to give players a set of symptoms which may express themselves as everyone goes crazy. Here it's a useful mechanism when a bunch of military personnel lose their marbles.
I have not yet had a chance to play PX Poker Night with a group of players, but I look forward to doing so. I fully expect that this is a Delta Green experience that Agents and their Handlers will thoroughly enjoy. Hmm... maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word. You know what I mean....