The game Black Orchestra and characters in it are based on a real plot against Hitler from his own side during the second world war, codenamed ‘Black Orchestra’ by the Gestapo. Needless to say, an abortive one in real life, but the game lets you conjure an alternative scenario…
The board goes centrally showing a map of Europe, with an inset of various locations in Berlin. All players start in the Berlin train station and move from there. Placed on the board are markers showing Hitler and the upper echelons of the Nazi party: Goebbels, Hess and so on. Each player plays one of the conspirators and on your turn you have a number of options – helpfully listed on the board itself. You can move, pick up cards, play cards, pick up items, deliver items, and (amongst one or two others) choose to conspire, which is a way to try and keep Hitler’s military support low, or raise the spirits of the collaborators.
You want to move because you want to stay out of the way of the Nazi bigwigs who are travelling around the board (and later, you want to be in the same place as Hitler to try and assassinate him). You want to pick up and play cards because that’s how the game progresses: only by playing a Plot card can you try and eliminate the Fuhrer, so you need a few plot cards in your hand if possible. Picking up and delivering items is basically you doing your standard duties as a good Nazi: doing so lowers suspicion against you.
Yes – suspicion. Your character tracks their motivation and suspicion levels on the board, and you spend the game trying to keep suspicion low, and motivation high: in order to get up the opportunity (low suspicion) and courage (high motivation) to attempt an assassination. And while you scamper around the board trying to get your deadly ducks in a row, the game is doing it’s best to demotivate you and raise the suspicion level! After every players turn, there is an Event card that affects the game in some way: often in a way that may not help the players.
The event cards ramp up throughout the game as the players struggle to pull off their goal and win. The Black Orchestra are foiled in one of three ways – if they run out of event cards, if they are all arrested, or if the Final Documents card is revealed from the event deck.
An interesting game that includes a lot of flavour text about the real people involved in the doomed Black Orchestra plot. At time of writing I found it an intriguing experience, albeit maybe slightly too dependent on luck for my preference: assassination attempts come down to a dice roll – you can maximise the amount of dice you roll to improve your chances, but basically no matter how ‘well’ you play, if the dice go against you, that’s it. For that reason I don’t think the gameplay matches up to the daddy of co-operative games, Pandemic, but for its design, theme, and experience I did enjoy playing Black Orchestra a good deal all the same.
None from the other players, as you work in a team for the same collective goal. But plenty from the game itself.
Pretty low - once you're up and running despite the multitude of options Black Orchestra seems to play quickly.
Moderate. Sometimes you'll need to work out a collective plan by co-ordinating your movements so one person tries to free an arrested conspirator, another pursues Hitler to try and carry out a plot, and so on.
If you like co-operative games, and the theme appeals, there's a decent amount of variation here due to the order of the cards and the dice-rolling in the conspire and assassination attempts.