This session ended up focusing on a big combat scene. While I was prepared for it, I hadn't really planned it to be such a big feature. Several issues made the battle problematic for me as Keeper:
1. The players' intent was to fight to the last, even after I'd suggested that wasn't the best, or only strategy. They were up against overwhelming force (three feral vampires, borrowed from NBA) but kept coming up with clever tactics and holding their own. I didn't want to subvert what they were accomplishing, even if they were mostly just prolonging the inevitable.
2. Winning or losing this fight wasn't that important as a plot point. It was intended to be a stress scene that would lead to another, more story-significant scene.
3. There was an element of trickery built in as well. The Investigators, as expected, thought they were trying to defend the piece of the Simulacrum they carried with them, when their enemies were actually after something else.
4. Given that it was a combat situation with a lot of dice rolling, many things ended up being determined by luck. That's fine for how a f20 game works, but not normally how I like GUMSHOE to go.
I think the players largely enjoyed things, since it was a change of pace, but if I had to run the situation again, I likely would have try a different solution, even if it meant taking away some player agency for a moment. Maybe. There's a lot in the original campaign that happens by Keeper fiat and I really want to avoid that when possible. If they end up in a similar situation again, I'll definitely remind them of how they were almost all killed "that one time" and see if they have can Spend their way to a way out.
In the upcoming sessions I really want to return to the core campaign story and the recovering of the rest of the Simulacrum. I think the players want that as well, after several side missions. Since the characters are very suspicious, they do not want to follow the exact route of the Orient Express and are skipping ahead to Sofia in Bulgaria. This is a fairly uncomplicated scenario. I'm wondering if it might possible to cover it in one session, rather than the usual three...
Finally, I want to give an additional *SPOILER* warning here, since I'm going to discuss a key plot point in the campaign.
A surprise at the campaign's end is the Investigators finding out that the Prof. Smith they have been working for is in fact an imposter and they've been helping the bad guys all along. I wasn't sure quite how to handle, or even use, this twist, since it isn't as shocking an idea today as it once was (I even used the idea myself in my D&D campaign back in the 70s). In my mind I was leaving the question of Smith's identify unresolved. A player actually started suspecting the deception early on (I had dropped a lot of clues about false identities and wearing other people's skins). In the campaign the trick isn't revealed until almost the very end, but in our last session the players received a secret letter from someone claiming to be the "real' Prof Smith, and informing the Investigators about the deception. The player who had been suspicious was delighted, but the others wondered why exactly they should trust this "Smith" more than the other. The answer to that question I am still leaving open, even to myself for the time being.