Have you ever wanted to infiltrate a secret base with James Bond? Go ghost hunting with the Ghostbusters or Scooby Doo? Race through the post-apocalyptic desert as Mad Max, blowing enemy warriors off their bikes with spiky football protection? Or maybe you’d rather help Indiana Jones steal the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis? No problem with 7TV: Inch High Spy-Fi!
I have often mentioned the game 7TV by Crooked Dice. 7TV lets you replay the vast majority of popular movies and series as tabletop variants. It offers a set of rules with flexible, generic characters and troops, so you can adapt it to any scenario you come up with. It is figure agnostic, so can easily be played with anything you have that you want to use as a representation for your desired scenario.
In the meantime, there are several thematic boxes on 7TV, each dealing with different film genres. Generally, the original box “Inch High Spy-Fi” is considered the most flexible, which is why I bought it and would like to present it here now.
The Inch High Spy-Fi box is the original basic set of the 2nd edition of 7TV. Thematically it is based on the movies and series of the 1960s and ’70s – a clear focus is of course on spy movies. However, you can play almost all modern scenarios as well, there are no rules limitations to any time periods or themes. Let’s take a closer look at the box:
Like all other 7TV boxes, this box contains the necessary game materials. In addition, you only need a measuring instrument in inches and, of course, the miniatures. Additional W6 dice can’t hurt either. Miniatures are not included in the boxes, but you can play with anything you like. Crooked Dice now has a wide range of suitable figures with pop culture references (just look at James Bond and Blofeld on the box), but there is also a steadily growing number of other manufacturers such as Hasslefree Miniatures, Copplestone Castings, Studio Miniatures or Tangent Miniatures.
Specifically, the box contains the Director’s Guide (rulebook), the Producer’s Guide (a sort of sourcebook for assembling the casts), a deck each of Heroes and Villans profile cards, a deck of Countdown cards, a deck of Gadget cards, counters, markers, dice, a stencil, and a small tin maguffin in the shape of a TV.
All parts are processed in high quality, made of solid glossy paper and plastic (template) or glass (counter). The box itself is made of very sturdy cardboard and makes a valuable impression. I like the design very much. It is mainly kept simple and clear and overall fits nicely into the oldschool 60’s setting. The books contain a lot of scenic photos (by none other than Kevin Dallimore), which look a lot like Bond movies and put you right in the mood. Some marginal notes are interspersed in the form of newspaper clippings.
The relatively high number of cards is not completely needed in the game. From the profile and gadget cards, you only choose the ones that represent your miniatures in the game, the rest remains in the box. You then draw from the countdown cards during the game. We’ll get to how that works now:
At its core, 7TV is a classic 28mm skirmish with 5-10 miniatures per side. As mentioned before, you don’t play a real conflict, but you are in the middle of shooting a TV episode. Your own miniatures are therefore divided into “star”/main actor, “co-star”/important supporting actor, and “extras”/secondary actor/statistician. The group results in the “cast”, abilities are “special effects”, special skills of your stars are “star qualities”, the point value of your cast is measured as “rating”, the game itself is called “episode” and the player whose turn it currently is is “on screen”. These designations, not relevant to the game itself, add nicely to the atmosphere. It’s actually worth taking on the role of producer.
The movement and action rules correspond as far as possible to common skirmish rules. The models can interact almost freely with the environment: Run, climb, swim, enter buildings, etc. The players move one after the other and act out the complete turn before it is the other player’s turn again. The turn is divided into three phases: 1. countdown phase, 2. action phase, 3. end phase.
One of two innovative game elements comes into play during the countdown phase: the countdown cards. They are divided into “Act One”, “Act Two” and “Finale” and provide the game with the spice of a dramatic television episode. Act One symbolizes the beginning of a television episode, where the game is more about movement and positional play. Act Two gets down to the nitty gritty: the cards deal primarily with action. The final cards make the end of the game a bit unpredictable – after all, when the heroes infiltrate the enemy base, anything can happen!
The cards are shuffled within their act and then discarded face down in the order 1-2-Final. Players draw one or two cards from the top of the pile at the beginning of the countdown phase, in the latter case only the second card is played and the first card is ignored and discarded. When the entire countdown pile is empty, the game is over. So by drawing two cards, you can speed up the game and get to the second act or the finale faster.
The second innovative game element is the Plot Points. This is a point system that primarily affects the activation options on one’s turn. The models on the board generate Plot Points, drawing a Finale card generates Plot Points, winning or losing the initiative roll before the game starts also generates some. So the number of Plot Points varies each turn. You represent the Plot Points e.g. with the glass stones from the box and thus get a number every turn, which you can now spend on activations and special actions. So there is a certain random element to how many actions you can do per turn.
A nice idea I find is that each side can announce “steal the scene” once in the game. At the end of the turn you declare this and can immediately add a second turn, but generate fewer plot points for it in the following turn. You can’t steal the scene in the final phase.
The special effects, that is, the special abilities of your models, cover a huge range between movement benefits, abilities such as hypnotize, spy or repair or, of course, hardcore fighting skills.
Finally, it should be noted that items can be used and vehicles can be driven.
The bottom line is that 7TV offers varied and witty exciting rounds with simple action rules, but with a lot of possibilities.
The Producers Guide
The classic army formation/list is handled in 7TV with the composition of the cast. The total number of all stars, co-stars, extras and co results in the rating, which must correspond to that of the opposing cast. There are heroic and villainous casts, from which you can choose more or less freely. Heroic casts tend to have more stars and co-stars, villainous casts tend to have simple but numerous thugs.
The Producers Guide guides you through the numerous options for the composition of the cast. For example, the heroic cast can be led by the Actio Hero, the Flamboyant Agent or the Military Mind. On the villainous side, it could be the Evil Mastermind, the Otherwordly Invader or the Underworld Boss. Finally, the options for extras span several pages and offer everything from aliens to soldiers to robots.
Although the profile cards already provide you with ready-to-play characters, you can also create your own stars that have the desired characteristics.
The second half of the Producers Guide is about the game itself: How is the game table designed, where do I set up my cast? You can add extra zing to your games by playing a certain type of episode (aka scenario). From ordinary confrontations, to chases and assassinations, to robberies or ambushes. Depending on the scenario, special rules and different conditions for victory apply.
The 7TV Inch High Spy-Fi Box is a wonderful introduction to the world of 7TV – at least the more modern settings. It is flexible to use and you can already do a lot with it. If you like it, the additions are definitely worth a look. I have only tried the Spy-Fi box so far and will definitely get Fantasy as well.
Unfortunately, the boxes are not cheap. The Spy-Fi box costs 50 pounds, Apocalypse and Pulp 60 pounds, each containing only books and game materials, no miniatures. They are not starter sets in the sense that you have to make additional purchases to be ready to play. The boxes are well made, great designed and quality for the money, but they are still comparatively expensive. If you don’t mind shipping and taxation from the UK, you can find them in Germany at e.g. Battlefield Berlin or Miniaturicum.
However, there are starter casts on certain topics (Action, Army, Mad Science, Aliens,…) that provide you with a basic set.
Tip: At Crooked Dice you can order the basic box together with two Starter Casts and save money compared to buying them separately. Of course, the meanwhile expensive conditions for orders in the UK relativize the savings – here everyone has to weigh up for himself.
I think 7TV is a brilliant game, but in my opinion it has far too little awareness in Germany. Certainly the language barrier is a factor, but a translation is certainly not to be expected. As long as you don’t mind English-language rules, I’m happy if you take a look!