My first game of ‘Black Orchestra’, a game about assassinating Adolf Hitler. It is fully cooperative but I'm playing it solo.
Setup: 10 minutes
When you play solo you must control two conspirators. I chose randomly and have General Friedrich Olbricht and General Ludwig Beck. Both of them are Wehrmacht. It's too early to tell if that will handicap me in some way. I do know that some plots are enhanced if they're carried out by personnel from particular factions.
They both start with their Suspicion level at Medium and their Motivation at Timid. We’ll need to raise their motivation and avoid suspicion if we‘re to have any hope of succeeding. Plots cannot even be carried out unless a conspirator is at least Motivated; some even require them to be Reckless.
Olbricht is up first.
Check for Hitler & Deputy penalties: none. (Starting your turn in the same location as Hitler or his deputies incurs a penalty, unique to each of them.)
Take up to 3 actions. He takes a dossier card. Stockpile Equipment: choose an item from the discard pile and add it to your conspirator sheet. Handy later in the game when there are more than zero items in the discard pile. I’ll hang onto it for now but until conspirators raise their motivation they can only carry a limited number of dossier cards (at Timid we can only hold two cards each, including plot cards). He takes another dossier (I'm trying to find a plot to work on). Yay! Plot H: Sniper.
We have a plot, and each plot has a list of material we can gather to add more dice to the attempt, raising our chances of succeeding. This one needs a member of Abwehr, Weapons (as many as you like), and Intel. Also, to try the plot we must be in the same space as Hitler and be at reckless motivation.
For his third action he moves to Sportpalast.
Draw an event card. Visit From Goebells. Move Goebells to the nearest conspirator. If there is only one conspirator in that space they may raise their suspicion to high to raise motivation by 2. I'm not gonna do that. It's way too early for high suspicion.
Check for penalties. None.
Actions. Beck takes a dossier. Delay Hitler: when an event would cause Hitler to leave his space, cancel that movement.
He takes another dossier. Stalled Investigation: all conspirators lower their suspicion by 1. Let's use that and drop both our suspicion to low. For his third action he takes another dossier. Devise Plot: reveal dossier cards until you discover a plot then add the plot to your hand and discard all other dossier cards. A good one for early in the game but he’s out of actions; that will have to wait for next turn.
Draw an event card. Visit From Himmler: move Himmler to the nearest conspirator. If there is only one conspirator at the space they may roll a die to raise their motivation. If they roll an eagle they raise suspicion by 2. We're good.
Check for penalties. He's in the same location with Himmler (raise suspicion by 1) and Goebells (cancel ability).
He reveals the item in the location: it's a map. He picks it up and moves to Ministry of Propaganda.
Draw an event card. Party Rally: move Hitler and all deputies to Nuremberg.
Check for penalties. None.
He plays his Devise Plot card so he goes through the conspirator deck until he finds a plot. Kidnapping: requires Wehrmacht, Weapons, Signature.
He discards his dossier cards and moves to Gestapo HQ. He finds Intel (which Olbricht needs for his Sniper plot) but has no more moves to pick it up.
Draw an event card. Berlin Speech: set Hitler's military support to its starting value. Move Hitler and Goebells to Sportpalast. All conspirators in Berlin lower suspicion by 1. Olbricht’s suspicion goes down to low.
Check for penalties. None.
Finds Weapons and picks them up. Moves to Zeughaus.
Draw an event card. Assassin Caught: conspirators closest to Hitler raise their suspicion to High. (Ouch! That's Beck.) Move Hitler to the Chancellery.
Check for penalties. None.
He Conspires. Trying to lower his suspicion. A target, and 3 more actions. He picks up the Intel he found in Gestapo HQ, moves to Deutschlandhalle, and finds explosives.
Draw an event card. Investigations Begin: all conspirators raise suspicion by 1. Olbricht at medium. Beck at Extreme. Oh no! I have to get that down or he’ll be arrested and interrogated.
Check for penalties. None.
He finds a map in Zeughaus but he already has one. He moves to Deutschlandhalle and gives his weapons to Beck.
Draw an event card. A key event. Blomberg-Fritsch Affair: raise Hitler's military support by 1. Move Goering to Chancellery.
Check for penalties. None.
Beck conspires. He has to lower his suspicion. A target, an eagle and 1 more action. The target adds to the dissent track so its now 2/3, at 3 we can raise our motivation or lower Hitler's military support. The eagle raises by 1 the suspicion of everyone at this location. Beck is maxed and Olbricht is high. For this final action Beck moves to Gestapo HQ which lowers his suspicion by 2.
Draw an event card. Kristallnacht: all conspirators raise motivation by 1. Move Hitler and all deputies to their starting locations.
Check for penalties. He is in the same location as Hitler. Lower motivation by 1. Damn.
He moves to the Chancellery and finds poison. He moves to Sportpalast and lowers suspicion by 2.
Draw an event card. Deputies Deployed. Move Bormann to Hannover. Goering to Tannenberg, and Himmler to Nuremberg.
Penalties. None. He conspires. Target, eagle and 3 more actions. Okay, so that target means we filled the dissent track and can either raise the motivation of 1 conspirator or lower Hitler's military support by 1.
Let's raise Beck's motivation to Motivated which means he can now use his special ability: unaffected by Hitler and deputy penalties + add a die to your plot attempt. Nice. He still has three more actions so he moves to Adlerhost and finds a badge. No need for that right now. He draws a dossier card. Another plot. Derail Train: you can only attempt this immediately after Hitler moves. Optional material: Civilian, Intel, and Map.
Draw an event card. Uh-oh. It's the last one on the Stage 1 deck. Parade In Berlin: move Hitler, Goebells and Hess to Zeughaus. All Wehrmacht in Berlin lower suspicion by 1.
He moves to Munich, finds Intel and picks it up.
Draw an event card. Strategy Session: move Himmler, Goering and Hess to Adlerhost. Shit. That's where Beck is.
Penalties. Since there's a Nazi convention where Beck is he must raise suspicion by 1, discard an item, and discard a card. He drops Intel and the derail train plot.
He moves to Tannenberg and finds poison. He grabs a dossier card. Document Atrocities: discard this card in Auschwitz or Treblinka. Lower Hitler's military support by 1 and all conspirators raise motivation by 1. Auschwitz and Treblinka are stage 4 locations so we can't move there until we’re deep into the stage 4 event deck.
Event card. Propaganda Strategy. Move Bormann and Goebells to Munich, reveal the item there. Olbricht already picked up the Intel he found there.
Penalties. Can't conspire and cancel ability.
He moves to Berghof and finds a badge. He grabs a dossier card. Security Clearance: illegal cards in your dossier are ignored during a Gestapo raid. His hand size is till only 2 so he discards this.
Event card. A key event. Party Rally: set military support to its starting value. Move Hitler and all deputies to Nuremberg. While this is the current key event any conspirator that moves to Nuremberg sets suspicion to low.
Penalties. None. All the baddies are in Nuremberg. Beck draws a dossier card. Resistance Network: lower suspicion by 1 for each target rolled when conspiring. Discard this card if an eagle is rolled. Nice. Since he’s motivated his hand size is 6. Then he moves to Vienna and finds explosives.
Event card. Gestapo Raid: conspirators at extreme suspicion are arrested. No one.
Penalties. None. They're still all faffing about in Nuremberg.
He wants to raise his motivation. He conspires. An eagle and 5 more actions. Bleh. He moves to Hannover and finds a signature. He draws a dossier card. History Repeats: Shuffle all discarded dossier cards back into the deck. He discards that and take another. Leaked Travel Plans: move Hitler up to 3 spaces. Handy. He discards Stockpile equipment and hangs onto that. For his last action he goes to Nuremberg and his suspicion is set to low.
Event card. A key event. Invasion of Poland. Raise Hitler's military support by 2.
Penalties. Um, all of them for Olbricht. Discard a card and an item. Lower motivation and raise suspicion. Ugh.
Beck grabs a dossier card. Quick Reaction: re-roll 1 die during any plot attempt. Nice. He takes another. Stockpile Equipment: go through the discards. He takes one more. A plot card. Coup D’etat. Needs Hitler in Berlin, and chances can be improved by a signature and having all conspirators in Berlin. Hmm, interesting. Gotta lower his military support through conspiring.
Event card. Another key event. Anti-Semetic Laws: all conspirators raise motivation by 1. Okay Beck is finally committed and can now attempt plots. Olbricht is skeptical.
Penalties. Ugh. All of them again. Now his suspicion is high, his motivation is low and he has no items and no cards. What to do with Olbricht? First get him out of Nuremberg. He moves to Hannover and picks up the signature then delivers it to Ministry of Propaganda to lower his suspicion by 2.
Event card. Visit From Hess: move Hess to nearest conspirator (Beck). If conspirator is alone they may lower motivation by 1 to move to any legal space and lower suspicion by 1. No thanks.
Penalties. Beck unaffected by Hitler and deputy penalties. He moves to Nuremberg and finds explosives. He conspires. A target and 4 more moves. His Resistance Network card lowers his suspicion by 1 for each target rolled. He moves to Adlerhost and picks up the badge which he delivers to Sportpalast to lower his suspicion by 2. For his last action he grabs a dossier card. Slow News Day: do not draw an event card this turn. Could be handy to keep Hitler where we need him while people move into position. Beck is now at his max hand size.
Draw an event card. The last one of stage 2. It's a key event, and because we already have a key event this one gets discarded and now we’re onto stage 3. A key event. Western Offensive: move all Wehrmacht to Adlerhorst.
So, he needs motivation. He conspires. 3 targets. Which means the dissent track is full and we can either raise motivation or lower military support. We raise Olbricht’s motivation to skeptical.
Event card. Visit From Goering: move Goering to the nearest conspirator. If conspirator is alone… he's not. Both are in Adlerhost.
Penalties. Discard an item. Damn. That's Beck’s only item. He loses Weapons. Beck moves to Prague and reveals weapons, yay! He picks them up and that's his turn.
Event card. London Bombed: raise military support by 1. Move Hess to Prague and reveal item there. Too late, smelly.
Penalties. Discard an item; he cannot. He moves to Posen and draws a dossier. A plot card. Ambush: same space as Hitler in any level 3, 4 or 5 location. Needs keys, badge and all conspirators must be in the same location. He draws another dossier. Devise Plot: go through the deck and find a plot.
Event. Gestapo Raid: conspirators at extreme suspicion are arrested. No one.
Conspires. Two eagles and 1 more action. Ugh. His suspicion is extreme. He moves to Berghof.
Event card. Visit From Hitler: move Hitler to nearest conspirator (Beck) and if that conspirator is alone the may set their motivation and suspicion to starting levels. No thanks.
Penalties. None. He conspires. A target and 5 more actions. He conspires. High-Ranking Informant: If Hitler’s military support is 5 or higher use this to add one target to any plot attempt. He conspires again. Urgent Communique: move two deputies to any one space. He moves to Wolfsschanze and finds keys which he keeps.
Event card. Uh oh. Berghof Retreat: move Hitler, Himmler, Goebells and Bormann to Berghof.
Penalties. Suspicion +1. Motivation -1. Can't conspire. Can't use ability. Beck picks up the badge and delivers it to Sportpalast lowering suspicion by 2. He takes a dossier card. Slow News Day. Discard.
Event card. Key event. Sea Lion Postponed: conspirators lower motivation by 1. Bleh. They're both back at timid. They both have to discard cards down to 2.
Penalties. None. He uses Devise Plot to find a new plot card. Poison Gas: Hitler has to be in a fortified location with conspirator. Needs Abwher, poison and keys.
He has keys and there is poison revealed on the map. He conspires. Two targets and 1 more action. That's 3 targets on the dissent track so he lowers Hitler's military support. And then moves to Tannenberg where he remembers seeing some poison.
Event card. A key event. Invasion of Normandy: raise Hitler's military support by 1. Ugh.
Penalties. None. He conspires. An eagle and 4 actions. He raises his suspicion to high. He moves to Warsaw and finds and picks up weapons. He moves to Anlage Sud.
Event card. Key event. The Fall Of Paris: set Hitler's military support to 5. Lower all conspirators motivation by 1.
Penalties. None. He picks up poison and moves to Wolfsschlucht finding a signature.
Event card. Germany Bombed: raise Hitler's military support by 1. While this event is current add an eagle to all plot attempts. No matter. It's the end of stage 3 and events are discarded. We’re in deep kimchi, though: Hitler's military support is +6 and both our conspirators are timid.
Penalties. None. Finds a map, moves to Posen and finds keys.
Event card. Gestapo Raid. We’re all good.
Penalties. None. He conspires. One target and 2 more actions. He moves to Nuremberg and picks up explosives.
Event card. Gestapo Raid. We’re still good.
Penalties. None. Beck moves to Auschwitz giving him +2 motivation and +1 suspicion. Then he plays Document Atrocities which lowers military support by 1 and raises all conspirators motivation by 1. Olbricht is skeptical again and Beck is committed. He draws a dossier card. Inspiring Speech: all conspirators in your space raise motivation by 1. He draws another dossier card. Covert Operation: ignore one eagle from the result of any plot attempt.
Event card. Visit From Goebells. Move Goebbels to closest conspirator (Olbricht), all civilians lower motivation by 1. Luckily, both these conspirators are Air Force (Wehrmacht).
Penalties. Cancel ability. He conspires. 7 actions. WTF? Uh. He moves to Riga, finds more poison and picks it up. He moves to Treblinka which gives him +2 motivation and +1 suspicion. He's now committed and can attempt plots. Let's see where Hitler is. He's in Berghof which is not fortified and that's what we need for the poison plot to work. Can I move him? No. I lost my timetable card, or whatever it was. Three more actions. He draws a dossier. Decrypt Communication: reveal the next two event cards and either remove one and return the other or put them both back in an order of your choosing. He uses that card and discards Visit from Himmler which would have lowered motivation for all Wehrmacht, which we are. He draws a dossier. Military Secrets: when in Stockholm or Zurich, lower Hitler's military support by 1. He uses his final action to draw another dossier. Cover Story: all conspirators in your space lower suspicion by 1.
Event card. Yugoslavia Speeches: raise military support +1 and move Himmler to Paris.
Penalties. None. He moves to Wolfsschlucht and picks up signature which he then delivers to Prague for -3 suspicion. Phew. Low suspicion again.
Event card. Hitler Resumes Command: raise military support by 1 (bloody hell! It’s maxed at 7!) and move him to Wolfsschlucht. Hang on. Wolfsschlucht is fortified. Maybe this is our chance to poison him? Ugh. Not with +7 military support. There’s no math that makes that work out. 4 dice (mine) to 7 (his).
Penalties. None. Moves to Zurich (which raises suspicion +1) and plays Military Secrets lowering military support by 1. He draws a dossier. A plot. Hidden Bomb: same space as Hitler and not fortified. Add civilian, explosives and keys to increase dice. Another dossier. Another plot. Poison Food: same space as Hitler in Berlin. Add civilian, poison and Intel.
Event card. War Conference: move Hitler and all deputies to Anlage Sud and reveal item there. Too late. It's a map.
Penalties. None. He conspires. A target (2/3 on dissent track) and five more actions. Dossier. Leaked Travel Plans: move Hitler up to 3 spaces. Okay. This could be great. Just got to get his military support down. Dossier. A plot. Plane Bomb: only attempt after Hitler moves. Must be committed or reckless. Needs Abwehr, explosive and map.
He moves to Deutschlandhalle and picks up explosives. Dossier with final action. Man. Another plot. Lone Gunman: same space as Hitler and reckless. Needs Wehrmacht, weapons and badge.
Event card. Pearl Harbor Attacked: lower military support by 1. Remove the next 3 stage 4 cards (ugh, the game got shorter), remove Hess from the game.
Penalties. None. He conspires. 1 target and 5 more actions. That's three on the dissent track: lower military support by 1. It’s at 4 now. He moves to the Chancellery and picks up poison, discarding explosives to make room for it. Dossier. OMG! Another plot. Poison Parcel: same space as Hitler in Berlin. Needs signature, poison and map. He discards and takes another. Quick Reaction: re-roll one die during any plot attempt. He discards the plot Hidden Bomb and keeps that card. Last action, one more dossier. Moment of Truth: add 2 die to any plot you attempt. Excellent turn from Herr Olbricht.
Event card. Whoops. Stage 5 of the war. Key event. Lebensraum: all conspirators raise motivation by 1 (both Reckless now). Move Himmler to Wasserberg and reveal item there. It's keys.
Penalties. None. He plays Leaked Travel Plans and moves Hitler to Wolfsschanze. Dossier. Convincing Alibi: lower suspicion by 1. Another dossier. Convincing Alibi again.
Event card. Rommel Defeated: lower military support by 1.
Olbricht. Here we go.
Penalties. None. Seriously. We’re going now. I'm not kidding.
Olbricht moves to Wolfsschanze. Go splash some cold water on your face, Herr Olbricht.
Okay. Plot G: Poison Gas. Here's what we have for dice:
Poison x3 - 3 dice
Keys - 1 dice
Moment of Truth - 2 dice
Plus Olbricht has a Re-roll and Beck has a Covert Operation which ignores an eagle on our roll.
Military support is 3.
So I gather 6 dice. I need to roll at least 3 targets. I rolled 2, an eagle, two 2s and a 3. Covert Operation means we ignore the eagle. (Because Olbricht's suspicion is at 2, two eagles would have meant an automatic fail but Beck’s card saves us.) Now I use Quick Reaction to re-roll one die.
Hitler is poisoned!
Well, that was very great. Normally, it would make me a bit batty to play a game with that much luck (die rolls and card draws and where the items are on the map) but in this one it feels very thematic (in reality they needed a ton of luck) and it adds a barrel full of tension.
I was lucky to win. I won on a single die roll, after mitigating everything I could with dossier cards. I briefly considered waiting but what if the next event card moved Hitler somewhere else? What if it lowered our motivation? The deeper you go into the war, the more powerful his military strength becomes so you need to manage that as well as juggling all the details of the plot you're working on.
Great game. Easy to learn. Very tense and thematic. Very well designed.