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.

Kickstarter Preview: The Grimm Forest

This is a title that has more than one member of the To Die For family very excited. The Grimm Forest is a game by Druid City Games where players must use cards and tricks based on familiar fairy tale characters to play cards and gather resources in order to be the first to finish all 3 levels of their house.

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Players are encouraged to use any of the devious tricks they have read about in the many books of Fables found throughout the land. Some will have their plans wrecked by that villain of old, the Big Bad Wolf, while others will gain bricks, straw, and wood by the cart load.

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The art on this game is quite nice and the components for the players pieces and the houses are great sculpts. Our very own Board gaming Pinup girl, Mandi has had a chance to play a demo of the Grimm Forest and has had nothing but great things to say about it. Check it out March 21 when the project goes live.

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Kickstarter Preview: Dig!

Dig! is a cool little push your luck style game that has a very interesting 8 bit look. Designed by Julien Charbonnier this game looks like it could be a blast to play.

The Hill hides many treasures and all it takes to collect them is to DIG! However, these are not the only things the hill hides… Creatures and traps await, the galleries you will create might either mean wealth or despair.  Delve into the hill and gather ten Gems to win the game! Take some risks, push your luck, hire recruits to dig deeper and win favors of companions (Knight, Wizard, Scout, Hunter…) to protect your galleries from the many creatures (Thieves, Skeletons, Orcs…) and traps the Hill hides.

The artwork really appeals to me and as a man of great height (5’3″) I really appreciate that the shortest player goes first. If retro game art and pushing your luck looking for treasure while fighting of monsters is your cup of tea that check out this game when it goes live March 19th 2017.

Trade & Troll Preview

Trade & Troll is a game for 2-6 players designed by Emanuele Buffagni and Giulio Torlai with Art from Monica Bauleo. The game is published by Good & Evil Games and should live on Kickstarter April 25th. The game is a clever take on economic games that uses tile laying and route building to create a production engine. The rules are simple and easy to learn while still providing players with a framework to make some interesting choices.

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Set Up

Place closed road tiles on the board in the configuration for your player count, shuffle the building tiles (Resource, Stall, and Market) separately and make 3 stacks next to the board. Turn over 5 tiles from the Resource, Stall, and Market stacks, these are available to purchase. Each player receives 12 merchant meeples and a troll bag, 1 randomly chosen resource tile, 1 road tile (except the last player), and 5 coins. In turn players place a building with a meeple to indicate ownership and a road with the last player placing only a building.

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Game Play

Each game round is divided into 3 phases:

1. Troll Auction

This phase is skipped during the first round. At the beginning of the troll action the number of coins a player has is open knowledge. Players then take their coins in hand, secretly decide on a bid and reveal the bid once all the players are ready. The player who wins the auction gets a victory point token, the acquisition token and the Troll meeple, in the case of a tie no one receives any rewards. All players then put the coins they bid into their Troll Bag, once in the bag the number of coins is no longer open to the other players. At the end of the game the player with the most coins in their Troll Bag will score 3 victory points and second place will score 1 victory point.
The winning player places the troll either on an intersection to block the flow of resources or on a building to prevent it from being activated. They also place the acquisition token in front of them, this means in the next round they cannot bid on the Troll.

2. Player Actions

Players will take 2 actions (1 action at a time) from the following possible actions:

Buy and Place a Building

Buy and Place a road

Both these actions are pretty self explanatory, buy either a building tile (resource, Stall or Market) or a road tile and put it on the board according to the placement rules.

Activate a Building

This is the heart of your engine, this is how you will gain your points and win the game. On their turn a player can activate any building that has not been previously activated this round. A resource can always be activated as it has no dependency, A stall must have a clear path to the resources it requires (indicated by the colours on it’s borders), and a market must be connected to stalls of the correct type. The resources or stalls you use to activate your stalls or markets don’t need to be your own buildings you can rent buildings from other players but this will cost you 2 coins.

Activated buildings score the following amounts:

Resources – 2 Coins
One Resource Stalls – 5 Coins
Two Resource Stalls – 7 Coins
Markets – 12 Coins

Once you have activated a building you lay the merchant meeple down to indicated that it cannot be activated again this round.

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3. End of Round

This is the clean up phase. The first player token moves to the left, merchant meeples are stood up, and the Troll is removed from the board if he is there.
These 3 phases are repeated round after round until the number of free spaces for buildings is equal to or less than the number of players once this happens it triggers the end game sequence. Finish the current round and then play 2 final rounds skipping the Troll Auction phase in these rounds.

Once the final two rounds are player or all the building spaces are filled players complete the final scoring. You score victory points for all buildings that could be activated (resources 1vp, stalls 2vp, markets 7vp) any placed buildings that could not be activated subtract these values, coins give the players 1 victory point for every 10 coins, and final score the troll bags 3 victory points for the player with the most coins in their troll bag and 1 vp for second.

Components and Art

I won’t speak to the quality of the components of Trade & Troll as the version I played was a print and play copy that I printed and assembled myself but I can say that the images I have seen of the design look promising. Monica Bauleo’s art is colourful and interesting but shouldn’t distract from easily analysing the current situation on the board. The design of the building tiles with the coloured borders will make reading the resource type or requirement clear and concise. I look forward to playing a production copy

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Final Thoughts

I enjoyed all my plays of Trade & Troll. The game was easy to learn and to teach, the tile laying and route building is intuitive and familiar but still feels like a fresh implementation of these mechanics. Going into the game I wasn’t sure how the troll auction would play into what appeared to be a straight forward economic game but I really liked how it added player interaction. The scoring of the coins in the troll bag was also a great incentive to get people to bid even if winning the troll auction wasn’t their end goal. I played mostly 2 player but also a few 3 player games and I feel the game felt good at all counts but the sweet spot is probably around 3-4 players. Overall the game is a solid little resource management, economic euro that almost has a pick up and deliver feel without the pick up. If you like games where you build a nice little engine to score points this game is worth keeping an eye on Kickstarter for.

2p: Patchwork

Two player only games have a bit of a stigma in the board gaming community, but I think this is changing as gamers realise that playing epic games of Twilight Imperium 3 or Battlestar Galactica isn’t all there is to the hobby.  Personally, I have really gotten into two player games in the last couple of years. The big change for me was that I really started to focus on getting some playtime in with my spouse. I was tired of trying to only game around my family’s schedule and wanted to work it into our schedule. My first step into this world was the wonderful little take on Agricola that is Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small but the real break through was Uwe Rosenberg’s Patchwork.
Patchwork is an excellent introductory  game because of its whimsical theme, familiar Tetris like shapes, and abstract game play. It is not nearly as daunting as some heavily themed, rule heavy games like my favourite 2p game Twilight Struggle.

Now I am far from the first to mention the greatness of Patchwork. In fact, if you ask any board gamer for an easy to teach and fun game to introduce someone to the world of 2p games then invariably you will get told to buy Patchwork. This is why I want to start off this series exploring 2p games with what I agree is the perfect place to start.

Patchwork is simple to teach.  Players take turns choosing pieces to fill their grid. There are 3 factors to consider on each piece. 

1. How many buttons will it cost to take the piece?

2. How much time will the piece cost on the timer track?

3. How much income will that piece generate in further turns?

Despite the simplicity of the game, Patchwork has some real meat to it and plenty of strategic and interesting choices.  This is what I think makes it so spectacular. Simple to teach, easy to learn, hard to master, and quick enough to play several rounds in an evening. 

Gone quiltin' #boardgames #bgg

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Gaming as a Family

As many gamers can attest to, finding the time to play all the games you want to can be difficult. This is especially true of those gamers, like myself, who are parents. This isn’t to say that gamers without kids aren’t busy but their schedule is usually more flexible and has less moving parts and dependencies.
Gaming as a parent has phases, each with pros and cons. When your kids are infants and toddlers you can usually work an evening around the kids. These young children are usually early to bed so you can have people over early evening to get a game in but you probably are playing to late into the night as you will have an early wake up call, and maybe a few in the night. As the kids get older your evenings get busy! Homework, soccer, hockey, piano, more homework…This is the phase I am currently in. I have a teenager and a set of twins in the second grade. Our evenings are packed but I have found a few things that have really worked well for this gaming family.

First of all I am lucky to have a spouse that is supportive and helps me schedule game nights with people either in our home or out and about. Unfortunately even with a spouse that wants to help you get to games groups it won’t always happen this is where I got lucky once again. She is an excellent game partner. This took some work to really fine tune. When I first got into serious hobby boardgames she was happy to play the gateway games and some of the deeper titles but as I dig in and started getting into really meaty, long games I lost her. This was OK, I had my heavy gaming group to scratch that itch, but I really like gaming with my spouse and I had to find a way to make that happen. The real breakthrough in our couples gaming was Patchwork. It didn’t have a dry cold war theme, it wasn’t in your face conflict, but it still gave us to sink our teeth into and develop some strategies. We started playing regularly in the evenings rather than sitting in front of the TV. It has quickly became our thing, we’ve added some games to the regular rotation like Lotus, Castles of Burgundy, Agricola and others. These gaming sessions which started in order to supplement my game group has become my primary gaming and some of the most satisfying as it is also great time spent with my favourite person.

The second big change was that the kids are now old enough to play interesting games. As young children we played all the usual suspects, Candy Land, Guess Who, The Game of Life etc… All of which teach kids the very basics of winning losing, reading a board, rolling dice but are not a whole lot of fun for the adults involved. The first game that started our transition was Carcassonne but the real breakthrough was King of Tokyo. When King of Tokyo entered our lives everyone one fell in love with it and my family of 5 spent many hours chucking dice and pitting our monsters (I’m always Cyberbunny) against each other. We have since added many games that all the family loves but our well used copy of King of Tokyo has a special place in my heart.

My oldest son is transitioning into his teens so is spending less time playing with his parents but when he does I can really get into some bigger games. His first love was Summoner Wars, we play that a lot! I still remember when the tables turned and he started consistently beating me at it. Recently, We had a game night with one of his friends not long ago where we go Mechs vs Minions to the table and we flew through the first four missions laughing and trash talking all night long. His latest acquisition is Cry Havoc which I got him as I thought it would appeal to his video gamer side. It’s science fiction theme as well as the constant and direct conflict was a big hit.

We don’t set a specific game night, we don’t force anyone to play but there is lots of gaming happening in my house. It always makes me smile when of the kids says “I’m bored” and the solution is usually a board game. I’ve tried very hard to make our love of gaming grow organically. I make an effort to see what games work so I can have a good idea of what new games to introduce. So if I have any advice to someone that wants to get in lots of games is to introduce the people you spend the most time with to games. Another key is to let it happen naturally, pay attention to what the others like and don’t push. If you shove your hobby on people they’ll shove back, but if you make it inviting and enjoyable you are far more likely to get buy in. The single best advice though is go into it with the goal of spending great quality with your family with a perk of it being around a game board, make sure they know how special your time together is and it won’t make them feel like they are just there to enable your gaming.

If you have any questions about getting your family or spouse to play games leave a comment or send me a message and I will be more than willing to talk you through it and maybe guide you to games that may work.