The technology in the game is another sticking point. Some of the devices used are advanced, and the test team found that, with the exception of the laptop and cell phone, they didn't use most of their equipment. They enjoyed the part of the game where they tracked a character's vehicle through downtown using GPS, but there were technical glitches, too — sometimes the team lost its Internet connection, and videos they were supposed to view wouldn't load.

"You need a tech-savvy person on the team. I'm totally not tech-savvy, so I couldn't do that part," Parrent says. "I still felt completely like a part of the team the whole time. I never felt like I was outside our team, but if you had a whole team of me, it would be hard because I'm not comfortable using technology all the time."

Players also felt they were slowed down at the restaurant, where they spent almost two hours. The Shaws wanted the game to include a meal, but it's been a sticking point in every test game. In earlier games, the meal was at a Mexican restaurant, which was disastrous.

Jamie Peachey
In The Citadel, Greg Shaw takes people on a trip to various locations, including seedy motels and desolate diners.
Jamie Peachey
In The Citadel, Greg Shaw takes people on a trip to various locations, including seedy motels and desolate diners.<

"What was happening was, they were getting a couple beers and talking and having fun and getting nacho grease on the equipment," Sonja says. "SCOPE would call in and say, 'Where are you guys in the game?' and they'd come back with, 'We've discovered an agent. His name is Jack Daniel's. And we're leaving with him right now.'"

In tonight's game at the deli, it took almost 30 minutes for the team to get their food, and they'd just settled in when SCOPE began calling, trying to prompt them to the next location.

"It felt like we were there a really long time. We just relaxed, and lost that sense of urgency," Parrent says. "Maybe recommend people have a meal before they start the game and tell them coffee will be available at some point. Once I finally figured out that code thing, I didn't even really want to eat. I just wanted to keep going."

"Personally, I could do without the meal," Parrent adds. "I came to play, I didn't really come to eat."

When asked how the players felt about the action scene at the hotel, everybody says it was one of their favorite parts. Barker, one of Parrent's teammates on the mission, says, "I felt perfectly unsafe — in a great way."


Citadel headquarters is located in the Renaissance Two tower off Second Avenue and Adams Street, on the 14th floor of the tower, which is really the 13th floor that people label incorrectly out of superstition. The massive multi-office building is full of faux gold trim, green marble floors and walls, and elevators that won't work without key fobs. When receiving visitors, the Citadel sends down an "agent" to meet them in the lobby.

This is where Michelle Parrent and team Dragon find themselves at their end of their test-game mission. They've been picturing this place all night, and it's cool to finally see headquarters, with its Formica desktops and panoramic windows. Below, the red neon sign of the Hotel San Carlos glows brightly.

The team's brought its evidence, and it has put most of the puzzle together, but now there's a twist — a "ticking clock" component. SCOPE says they will cut to live satellite video and audio feeds from a small foreign country, where the urgent action's taking place.

The room goes dark, and static-filled satellite images materialize on a large projector screen. Tech dispatch agents from the foreign country communicate on loudspeaker with SCOPE, who asks for enhanced images. The camera zones in on a building; thermal imaging reveals several people moving around inside, including Citadel agents who are also patched in to SCOPE's audio. SCOPE directs the agents inside on the positions of the enemy, and what to do.

Parrent's on the edge of her seat, watching the action unfold. On the loudspeaker, agents are screaming and scuffling with the enemy. SCOPE is shouting at them through her headset. The red glow of an explosion reflects off Parrent's glasses.

When the lights come back on, her jaw is open. "That was awesome."

Before revealing the team's score, SCOPE tells Dragon's members that they did an excellent job on their first intelligence mission. They uncovered some key things, including new characters, but they missed others, and it's clear there will be more to this story.

"You are now going to become a sleeper cell," SCOPE tells them. "That means you will return to civilian life and wait for us to call upon you for future missions."

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7 comments
J.M.
J.M.

I found this article because I was just sitting in my house thinking up the same idea and googled to see if anyone else had done it yet. Dam.

Greg Shaw
Greg Shaw

Hi Marcia. The game is designed for four players, but you could play it with one, two, or three players if you like. The per game cost is $380 regardless of team size. We would consider 5 players in certain situations (4 students and an adult) but our testing showed us that teams larger than that had a hard time keeping things together throughout the mission. Our contact info is in the article if you'd like to book a game with us. Thanks!

Marcia Heitz
Marcia Heitz

Sounds a little scary for kids... but my husband and I would love it! How many can play?

George
George

Cool idea! Paying to be a spy for a night. Awesome!

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

Wow, this sounds pretty damned cool. If this becomes a viable business, I might just have to play next time I come to Phoenix to visit family. Great story, too, gives background on role-playing, LARPS and alot of other stuff.

Good Luck with The Citadel, I hope it works for you guys.

Gotta try this
Gotta try this

It sounds like virtual reality without all the computers. I can't wait to play this game. Sign me up.

Julie Coleman
Julie Coleman

This sounds like a totally fun night out...something definately different than dinner and a movie. My husband is such a geek, he'll love it too.

 
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