Note: ARGNet received a comped ticket for this show.

Broken Ghost Immersives’ newest hybrid experience The Rogues Gallery asks players to step into the roles of supervillains for an evening at Wildrence, forming villainous team-ups of two to three players bent on world conquest. And I’m a little nervous about how easily my friends and I slipped into our nefarious roles.

It started before the game even began, when No Proscenium’s Kathryn Yu reached out to nefariously strategize before the event: “we can conspire and split up the Spiras”. While I’d ordinarily be opposed to splitting up the Room Escape Artists, Kathryn promised me one evil monologue if we won, so I responded “clearly, the target is Lisa. My bet would be David gets distracted being evil.” Lisa was on board, noting “David can fend for himself.” This was the origin story of the supervillainous cross-over team of No Proscenium, ARGNet, and Room Escape Artist: Team “Here to Make Friends” was born from betrayal at the start.

Luckily, The Rogues Gallery rewards duplicitous behavior, and primes players to embrace their worst impulses by handing out Supervillain identities on a lanyard upon entering the venue, along with optional capes and masks. The core gameplay mechanics are deceptively simple: players spend four types of gems to deploy their henchmen on a global map: green gems purchase troops, blue gems finance henchman movement, and red gems activate a supervillain’s unique powers. The only catch? Teams don’t start out with any gems: they can only be obtained by assisting the various supervillain administrators in a surprisingly varied collection of diabolical deeds.

Choose Your Own Evil Adventure
Evil can take many forms, and The Rogues Gallery embraced that. Players interested in speed cipher-cracking could assist Miss Trust, while Dr. Divisive handled…something of a scientific nature. I think it might have involved blacklights? I definitely saw villains walking around, flashing blacklights. A number of tablets floating around allowed the lucky villains to chat with eldritch forces, allowing players to make the occasional deal with the devil. The bulk of my evening was spent assisting Dolph Mysterio in collecting information, along with a role-playing mission with Ambassador Apathy.

Dolph Mysterio’s missions were a delight for a lore-junkie like myself: peppering the walls of The Rogues Gallery were over 20 years of newspapers, with front-page stories revealing all sorts of fascinating tidbits about the world. Tidbits of information Mysterio was more than happy to pay for. Simply approach her as she wandered the Gallery, and a mission card was sure to follow. “Who does [Villainous Administrator A] work for”, one might ask. “What was [Villainous Administrator B]’s secret identity?” Every a correct answer was fed back to Mysterio, she would act suitably shocked and scandalized, and then proffer payment.

The beauty of The Rogues Gallery is how all these seemingly separate tracks intertwined to provide nearly countless opportunities to be evil. Answering one of Mysterio’s questions was surprisingly hard, so I turned to one of the eldritch forces living in the tablets, and offered a trade: I’d do what they wanted, but only if they confirmed their power by getting me some information first. A deal was struck, and particularly juicy information emerged…information I later used to blackmail one of the administrators.

During my role-playing mission with Ambassador Apathy, I volunteered as one of three villains from different factions to take a trip to the moon, to rob and plunder from the Moon-people. At various points along the freeform roleplaying session, our party happened upon a collection of gems that Apathy let us divvy up as we saw fit…until the final prize, claimed by one of my fellow adventurers claimed by demonstrating knowledge of the Moon-people’s desires and prejudices. I didn’t walk away empty handed, though, as I was able to extract confirmation of a theory I’d been harboring over the course of the event.

Image courtesy of NeXT SCENE

The Rogues Gallery is a chaotic mess of a game, in the best of ways. Like Broken Ghost’s prior show The Bunker, it serves as a hyper-condensed hybrid LARP, mixing a little bit of everything into an immersive tasting menu. In the interest of time, character development was largely limited to a villainous character name to prime players’ creativity, paired with the imperative “go be evil.” Similarly, the megagaming portion of The Rogue’s Gallery seemed more constrained, although the rules were built with enough flexibility through secret player powers and…other possibilities to warrant the megagaming title. This gave in-game space for the mission-based structure to come through as the real hero of the story.

Over the course of two hours, players flit from mission to mission, catching glimpses of their partners and rivals in crime going about their own criming. In addition to the Case of the Mysterious Blacklight, I witnessed villains walking around with giant crystal shards, and blinded by goggles. By the time the dramatic conclusion rolls around, some villains will nod knowingly as they already pieced together what was really going on, while others will come prepared with the tools and resources needed to counter it. And for those who got lost along the way? Randy the Janitor is here to clean up the chaotic mess, and point players in the right direction.

Randy’s role in the game was a necessary one, as I found the first few moments of the game to be overwhelming. After getting my first mission from Mysterio, how exactly was I expected to find the answer? Was the task intended to be one of social engineering, espionage, or research? The initial instructions were left intentionally vague, since I quickly learned the real answer was “whatever it takes”. Having Randy on call for assistance was a welcome safety net, in case that confusion stretched on too long and evolved into frustration.

For its current run, The Rogues Gallery is showing at Wildrence on July 27th, August 2nd, and August 3rd. The Bunker (which ARGNet also reviewed) is also back at Wildrence, with shows on July 31st and August 1st.

…and yes I got to do my evil monologue, thanks to the diligent efforts of my fellow villains on Team Here to Make Friends.

Unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy of Broken Ghost Immersives