Black Orchestra – First Look!

frontier wars 728x90 KS

What’s inside Black Orchestra (2nd Edition, Starling Games, 2017) ~

Michael Eckenfels, 18 April 2018

“Is it twue what they say about boawd games wif ‘bwack’ in the title? (opens box)…Oh…it’s twue! It’s twue!”

– Lily Von Shtupp, upon receiving her copy of Black Orchestra, 2ndEdition…or so I imagine, anyway

I’m like the rest of y’all…anticipating the arrival of a board game is something like waiting for Christmas to arrive, ogling the delivery time/schedule online like you would presents under a tree. With this particular title, I’ve managed to work myself up into a…well, tizzy, for lack of a better word, because I’ve done my homework on this one. I’ve read reviews, checked out the videos, saw Game Night’s excellent play through of the game…the works. And every time it struck me that this is a game I just had to own.

Why? Well, the game’s central theme is offing Hitler. I’ve played games like that before – some truly bad ones, actually – but the game play in this one looked solid and very intriguing. As one of the conspirators in the Third Reich recognizing Hitler as leading Germany to ruin, you have a finite amount of time to cultivate and execute various plots to put the Corporal into the ground permanent-like.

The box art alone is pretty awesome; it reeks of noir art style, perfect for the setting of the game, which starts in 1936. Another thing about this game that I found very intriguing is, it follows history more or less. Germany’s Anschluss of Austria is on the near horizon; it will invade Poland and France, and even Russia.

As it is a cooperative game, it is highly soloable. Solitariable. Whatever. Point is, you can play it by yourself, you anti-social heathen. But it would be more funner with people, I expect, as some of the play throughs I watched generated some very interesting dialogue among them.

Sorry for the bad Blazing Saddles reference at the top, but in all honesty, that line from the genius Madeline Kahn went through my head as I unboxed this puppy. And when you first open it and are greeted by a solid black rule book (and a pretty thin one, too), if you’re not channeling something along those lines, I just don’t even know you any more. Not that I did in the first place. Though you really should move that lamp from the side of the living room window, because it’s blocking my view of the hallway from outside.

The rulebook looks great. A cursory flip-through and picture-taking shows you some of the design style carries over here, using the Germanic font for section titles. The rules are in full color and look well-organized.

Just a glance here too can showcase some of the components, which grow my anticipation in seeing them in action as I play the game.

There’s a handout, which looks like a player aid, and one sheet of thick counters to punch out.

The map is noir itself, and invokes a feeling of despair just looking over it. Early in the game, you’ll not have access to all spaces on the board…these will become available as the game (and history) progresses and Hitler moves around more. The locations on the map seem to be all the places he ever visited in real life, too, even including his Wehrwulf headquarters in the Ukraine.

Berlin is a multi-space space, while others represent cities and various Fuhrer Headquarters. Each space will hold an unrevealed element, which will turn out to be a device that can be used to further a plot against Hitler. Players can trade these if in the same space.

The board has a LOT of the rules printed on it, too, which from what I’ve seen greatly minimizes needing to look through the rule book.

I love the look and feel of this game so far. I’m not saying I like seeing Europe cast into darkness by Nazi forces, but it might make you hum Horst Wessel. Or maybe not, because you’re probably normal.

The silhouettes of what look like Ju-88s over a bombed-out city adds to the overall imposing board design, almost crying out that this is what happens if you and the players fail in your plots.

The conspirators are all real people (mostly Nazis too, believe it or not) whom all had little love for Hitler. I’m not certain if historically all these guys came to this conclusion at the same time or not; I’m thinking they did not, and some were no doubt ardent Nazis early on. And that, actually, is embedded in the game to an extent – your character(s) can become more committed to the idea of a Hitler-free Germany over time, or can have this reversed and become more tolerant, depending on how game play goes. Each conspirator gets a unique special ability of their fervor is high enough.

Everything looks great, and I’m itching to get this to the table.

Chat about it below, or in our forums, or hit our FaceBook page >>