Type: Co-Op / Push your luck

Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: 15 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (1 – 5 Players)

Okay, it’s time to kill Hitler. Yes I think I am supposed to wait six forum threads to post that but I can’t avoid it when it comes to talking about the theme of Black Orchestra because that is your goal. You are a team of individuals working under the Reich, but secretly conspiring to kill the fuhrer.

This is a really distinctive theme for a co-op game and evokes achieving some great, history altering goal. However, how to do it? Well as you can imagine there is a bit of ticking clock – eventually history catches up with you. Your goal is to get a plot together, collect the resources that will support it and then get to Hitler and attack him.

However, Hitler is aware. The more you do, and the more that time passes the more defense the game will build. Defense in the form of military force peaks in the middle of the game (when you would be best positioned to win). It would be very difficult to win at this point unless you have worked hard to reduce the military force. Normally an early victory through luck, or a late victory as the game’s power disappears is much more likely.

This all sounds very ethereal, but once you add the map and the process of moving around the board to gather resources, there is a physical element of this game which adds to the complexity. The resources you need my take time to gather, or take time to find, or just be at the other end of the Reich to the fuhrer.

Oh and getting the plot isn’t simple either – you will be digging through the deck like a furious planning exercise. Good little ideas that help at the margin and big coup plots that move the needle.

All this with a limited number of actions per player per turn and the need to conspire in order to up your commitment and lower the military force. That’s probably the action you will actually do the most in the whole game and it’s rolling dice. Now this for me is one of the slight issues in the game – there’s a lot of dice rolling. It’s not low odds dice, and there’s enough of it to balance out so statistically this is probably sound. However, it feels that you are continually rolling dice.

The statistics do come unstuck though as you will probably get one or two shots at the win – you will have to avoid failure, and then achieve success (makes sense once you see the rules). This small number of dice rolls can go your way or can fall short. It’s not really relevant to how well you played either. That can be frustrating some times, but you have to put yourself in the position to give it a go.

They say that a co-op game without secret information is just a solo game, well having played Black Orchestra I am not sure I agree! Here’s a game with a solo player mode that feels more like you are playing two players roles at once! I say this because the physical and asymmetric element of the characters means that the solo mode uses two roles. As a solo player I find the administration of these two character roles and the refresh phase of the game a bit long and often easy-to-miss.

This game though does break through as a compelling, highly thematic, kickstarter funded co-operative game and is a credit to the design team behind it. A solid 60 minute play that can sometimes run longer, with tense makes including the risk of being arrested and the challenge of dodging the lieutenants in order to reach the fuhrer and succeed in your plot.

Last notes;

  • If you like beat-the-game co-ops with high theme then this would work well
  • If you don’t like working for an hour only to have one dice roll cripple the chance of victory – have a plan b
  • If you win, try again and change characters (there are a good number in the box)