Can you Escape from Colditz?

In late 2016, Osprey Games released a special edition of Escape from Colditz to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pat Reid‘s escape from the inescapable German prison. Originally released in 1973 Escape from Colditz was designed by Pat Reid and Brian Degas with art by Pete Dennis. The game was given the deluxe treatment with great new components but the original design is intact.

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Gameplay

In Escape from Colditz one player will take on the role of the German security officer who will control a number of guards who will patrol Colditz to prevent the escape of the POWs. The POWs will be controlled by one to five players who will play an escape officer who must help their team gather equipment to enable their escape and then make their move.

Each round begins with the escape officer to the German officer’s left rolling two dice. The total of these dice is the amount of movement points the escape officer can use this turn. Movement points can divided among as many POW pawns that the escape officer chooses. If they roll doubles, they roll again (up to three rolls maximum) and add the total of the rolls together for their movement points. If any of the rolls are lower than five, the player draws an opportunity card that will provide them with an item or action that they can take at any time during their turn. Over the course of the game, escape officers must gather the items required to assemble an escape kit ( food, documents, a compass and a disguise) as well as items that will help them scale walls (rope), cut through fences (wire cutters), open doors (keys) and get through checkpoints (passes). The items are gathered by ending a turn with two POWs in rooms where those items are found. Play will proceed clockwise until each escape officer has taken their turn and then it is the security officer’s turn.

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The security officer begins their turn in the same way as the other players by rolling two dice and determining their movement points. Guard movement is much more versatile since they have the ability to jump from the guard posts to the commander’s office to the barracks, allowing them chase POWs much easier. A roll of less than five will grant them access to security cards rather than opportunity cards. The security cards will allow the guards to recall the POWs to a corral point, take sniper shots at POWs outside the falls, search areas they normally couldn’t enter etc… Guards can arrest POWs and send them to solitary if they are caught with escape equipment and depending on where the POW is caught the item could be removed from the game. At the end of the security officers turn the round marker is moved one position.

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The game will proceed like this until one of two conditions triggers the end of the game. When the round marker reaches the eagle the escape officers each have one final turn and if the escape conditions aren’t met the security officer wins. Alternatively one escape officer will successfully gather all the required items and get two of there POWs to an escape point, if this happens that escape officer wins.

Components

The treatment given to this game by Osprey Games is really impressive. The first thing that strikes you when getting your hands on a copy of Escape from Colditz is that the box itself is large and very sturdy. The cover art is striking and the graphic tone set by the cover carries throughout the game. The game board is very large and on very heavy stock, it has a lovely touch of the title silk screened in gold on the underside. The inside of the box features a large cardboard insert that holds a box fashioned to look like a Red Cross prisoner care packages which contains the game components. The cards come in matching tuck boxes. The cards themselves have a great aesthetic and vintage art. Throughout the box there are little historical touches like newspaper clippings, postcards and other documents from the prison and the era. All the pieces look and feel great and have a coherent look.

I found that the art and style really brought the theme to life and also really respected the original publication of the game.

 

Conclusion

I know that roll and move words that will make many modern gamers run for the nearest worker placement game but I was really surprised at the depth that was provided with such an old and much derided mechanic. The non-linear aspect of the movement combined with the multiple pawns to move and the many goals those pawns can accomplish make the decisions in Escape from Colditz quite tactical. I found that every turn you had to choose from many meaningful decisions and required some thought beyond just moving your pawns the maximum spaces.

This game is steeped in history and not just its own, which is rich and intriguing enough. Included in the game box is a little booklet recounting the story of Pat Reid’s escape as well as some interesting back story on the prison itself. I played several great games of Escape from Colditz and have no problem telling people to try this game as I think that for such an old game with such simple mechanics it really does a wonderful job of bringing history to life and really is quite fun.

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Mint Works Review

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Mint Works is a curiously strong worker placement game designed by Justin Blaske and published by Five24 Labs. The game plays 1-4 players in 10-20 minutes and is suitable for players 10 and up. The objective is to score the most stars for the buildings you have built in your neighbourhood.

Setup

Getting Mint Works out of the tin and onto the table is quick and will have players rolling in very little time.

  1. Place 4 core Locations on the table
  2. Place 2 Deed locations on the table with the “”closed” side up
  3. Shuffle the Plans and make a deck
  4. Draw 3 plans from the deck
  5. Give each player 3 mints and place the remaining mints in a pile
  6. Give the start player token to the first player

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The game comes with a variety of additional locations that can be added once players have played a few games and want to change up the strategy and options presented.

Game Play

Each round has 2 phases Development and Upkeep. During the Development phase players will make one of 2 choices:

  1. Place a mint on an available action and perform that action
  2. Pass

That is the extremely simple view of Mint Works, essentially on your turn you are trying to accomplish 3 major things

  1. Get more mints
  2. Get a Plan
  3. Build a Building

Getting mints is relatively simple as long as the producer or leadership council actions are open but the other two require a little planning. To take the Supplier action which allows you to take a plan you must play the amount of mints indicated on the plan you intend to take. In order to build you need to first have a plan in hand and then place on the Builder action space. Getting buildings built in your neighbourhood is key since this is not only how players score but certain buildings will grant the player bonuses during the upkeep phase.

Once everyone has passed they complete the upkeep phase:

  1. Check if anyone has reached 7 stars, if so move onto scoring
  2. Refill the plan supply to 3 plans
  3. Check each players buildings for upkeep effects and resolve them
  4. Check if any played on a deeded location, if so pay the owner
  5. Return all played mints to the mint pool
  6. Each player takes 1 mint

If scoring wasn’t triggered during upkeep play another development phase until the end game is triggered. Once the end game is triggered the player with the most starts in her neighbourhood is the winner.

Components

Mint Works is really well done. The embossed tin looks great and fits nicely in your pocket or back pack. My only minor quibble was that the instruction booklet didn’t pop out of the tin as smoothly as I would like due to its square corners when the tin has rounded corners, this was quickly resolved by trimming the corners. The mints are lovely little wooden bits and even the start player marker is wood. The location and plan cards look great and have a good weight. The overall presentation is excellent, its cute, its functional, and is extremely portable.

Conclusion

Mint Works is the perfect introduction to the worker placement mechanic, it boils the system to its purest form and makes it extremely accessible. It sets up, teaches, and plays quickly. The solitaire option is an excellent addition with several AI opponents included that can prove to be fairly challenging.  The price point and play time make this a great little game to carry with you at all times and I highly recommend looking into this pocket sized power house.

13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a micro game  that distills the excellent 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis which is a distillation of the masterpiece Twilight Struggle.  I hope I haven’t lost too many of you with my meta discussion but I wanted to lay some groundwork with readers that maybe familiar with the two games that this games a lot to.  The game is a head to head strategic game of balance where players must make good and sometimes the least horrible choices, like it’s older siblings, but I think it still offers a fresh take on the premise.

Setup & Gameplay

13 Minutes packs a decent amount into a tiny box that contains only 13 cards and 26 cubes. The setup is quick and simple. Place a card face down between the two players. This will represent Cuba. Next players take a number of cubes from their 13 influence cube allotment and bid for the chance to decide who plays first. Once this is decide the players drawn two cards and take turns playing one card. A card can be used for one of two actions:

  1. Command action: place the number of cubes illustrated on the card onto a single battleground.
  2. Event: if the card played is a neutral UN card or for you superpower, you can use the event power of the card.

Cards are played either into the neutral area in between the two players or into that   players “sphere of influence” which is the tablespace between him and the neutral area where Cuba begins the game. The cards on the table become battlegrounds where the two players will place and remove cubes to fight for influence in this areas. The player with the most cubes on a battleground controls it and will score it at the end of the game. When cubes are placed onto a card, now a battleground, the battle ground moves. It moves towards the player when adding cubes and away from the player when removing cubes. Having a card in your sphere of influence can be good as it breaks ties if both players have the same number of cubes on a battleground but can also lose you the game if you have 3 battlegrounds with the same colour DEFCON symbol.

Players will go back and forth playing one card until they each can no longer draw a card. When each player has one card remaining you add up the following to determine who wins:

  1. 1 prestige per battleground the player controls
  2. 2 prestige for controlling Cuba
  3. 1 prestige for controlling the most military battlegrounds (Orange DEFCON symbols)
  4. Reveal the remaining cards and add up the cubes for each superpower. The superpower with the most cube images gets 1 prestige.

Unless someone has started a nuclear war by having 3 DEFCON symbols of the same colour in their sphere of influence then the player with the most prestige is the winner.

Components

13 minutes comes in a sturdy little box and features the same graphic design as 13 Days. The font and historical photos are the same which makes a nice consistent look. The cars are well laid out and easy to understand. The quality is good. I really like the overall look of the game.


Final thoughts

I will confess that it was going to take a lot for me not to enjoy 13 Minutes. I love 13 Days and Twilight Struggle is one of my top 3 all time favourites so the theme had me right away. If you don’t like political themes or the Cold War theme in particular then it may not appeal to you but I think it’s abstracted enough as to not be a major factor. I loved the mechanic of moving the battlegrounds back and forth as a physical representation of the political struggle you are playing out on the table. I think this game will make an excellent filler, from set up to take down you can play a game of this in under 20 Minutes easily. I found that I still had decent choices to make and there was a good amount of tension. Overall I think this is a must buy filler for Twilight Struggle or 13 Days fans that still deserves some consideration from people that might be turned off by those bigger games.