Game Buzz: Black Orchestra

Not being a WWII aficionado, the title of today’s game brought to mind an image that was entirely different than its actual subject matter:

image by BGG user Jumpseat
image by BGG user Jumpseat

Black Orchestra is a new game coming soon from designer Philip duBarry and publishers Game Salute.  It’s a 1-5 player cooperative game set during the reign of Adolf Hitler.  Players are part of a conspiracy from within the Nazi army to assassinate Hitler.  This was apparently a real thing, and they were called Schwarze Kapelle by the Gestapo (as opposed to Rote Kapelle, the Red Orchestra, which was made up of dissidents from outside of the military).  This game is currently up for pre-order, and is NOT using Kickstarter – a rarity these days, and particularly odd coming from a company that uses Kickstarter as much as Game Salute does.

The game comes with 54 Conspirator cards, 6 Interrogation cards, 84 Event cards, 5 Conspirator pawns, 12 Conspirator markers, one Hitler’s support marker, 6 Hitler and Deputy tiles, 10 dice, 24 Item tiles, a main board, and 9 Conspirator boards.  At the start of the game, Hitler and the five Deputies are placed in designated spots, and Item tiles are randomly distributed on the board.  Hitler’s military support begins at 3.  The Events are separated into stages, with two from each stage removed from the game.  Stages are then stacked from 1-7.  Each player gets a random Conspirator board, a pawn, and two matching markers.  Conspirator pawns all begin at the Train Station in Berlin.

image by BGG user Shrieking Emu
image by BGG user Shrieking Emu

Players will take turns performing the following three steps: check for Hitler and Deputy penalties, take up to 3 actions, and draw/resolve an Event card.

HITLER AND DEPUTY PENALTIES: If you begin your turn in the same space as Hitler or one of his deputies, you get hit with a penalty.  Each has a different effect:

  • Hitler lowers your Motivation by one.
  • Hess forces you to discard a card of any kind if you have one.
  • Goebells prevents you from using your special ability this turn.
  • Bormann adds an Eagle symbol to any plot you attempt this turn.
  • Himmler raises your Suspicion by one.
  • Goering forces you to discard an item if you have one.

ACTION: You may take any combination of three actions, in any order and repeating actions if you wish.

  • Conspire allows you to roll up to 3 dice to attempt to gain more actions.  For each number you roll, you gain that many extra actions.  Any rolled Eagle symbols increase your Suspicion by one.  If you roll a Crosshairs symbol, the die is placed on the Dissent track.  When the Dissent track is full, you may increase someone’s Motivation by one, or you may decrease Hitler’s support by one.
  • Move One Space means that you move to a connected space on the board.  You can only move to places that are opened based on the current Event stage.
  • Draw a Card from the Conspirator deck.  This card will be held face-up in front of you, and there is a limit on the number of cards you can hold based on the number of players and Motivation.
  • Play a Card and follow its instructions.
  • Share a Card/Item with another player in the same space.  Limits must not be violated at any time during the transaction.
  • Search Location by flipping the item in your space.
  • Procure Item by taking a revealed item in your space.
  • Deliver Item to a marked space.  Simply discard the corresponding item and gain the listed benefit.
  • Release Conspirator from Jail while in the Gestapo HQ space.  Your Suspicion is raised by one.  The Conspirator that has been released increases their Suspicion to Extreme (the highest).

DRAW/RESOLVE EVENT: After your third action, draw an Event card from the current stage and follow the instructions.

In order to win the game, Conspirators must draw and play at least one Plot card.  In order to attempt the plot, you need to at least have Positive Motivation, and sometimes Zealous Motivation.  To succeed, you’ll need to roll Crosshairs equal to or greater than Hitler’s Military Support.  In this case, Hitler is assassinated and you win.  If you fail, you may remain undetected unless you roll too many Eagles.  In that case, all Motivation is reduced by one and the Conspirator who attempted the Plot is arrested.

You win by assassinating Hitler.  You lose if the Conspirators are all arrested, or if the Event Deck is exhausted.  If you win, your final score is based on the Event stage, and is counted in how many million lives were saved.

image by BGG user Jumpseat
image by BGG user Jumpseat

This game seems to be really immersed in its theme, and as an aspect of history I am almost entirely unfamiliar with, that interests me.  There seems to be a lot going on in the game, and I think that really diving into the theme will be the big selling point.  It’s hard to say exactly what the game will be like, but I think it’s worth a look.  Philip duBarry has a pretty good track record, so it’s got that going for it as well.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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