One Year On – Black Orchestra

It doesn’t come out that often, once or twice a year maybe, but when it does it always gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

Black Orchestra

Black Orchestra is a well-balanced game played solo with two or three conspirators, and it’s this fact that makes it so rewarding – I know I’m in with a chance of winning every game and it usually goes right to the wire, making it a tense and exciting game to play.

The historical content is a draw too and it’s good to have games around like this that can teach us of times gone by, both the good and the bad. If you have the chance to play with a WWII history buff the game can be taken to a whole other level, as the events get expanded on and put into context, which can open a world of discussion (expect to add a good hour onto your game!).

I’ve heard people compare it to Pandemic and I can see why, but this game has more depth and variety to it, especially in the level of planning – like Pandemic on steroids maybe – but the theme may not appeal to the masses as much as saving the world from disease!

Black Orchestra
Similarities to Pandemic?

Also, like Pandemic, it is very easy to get into. The rules are straightforward and even when it isn’t your turn, you’ll find yourself getting involved, as you must work together. Though another part of the game that intrigues me, is the fact that sometimes one player can pull it out of the bag all on his own, which feels so thematic when it happens. Imagine, you’ve been down on your luck as a team and think it’s practically all over, when someone manoeuvres into the right place and takes that million to one shot… and it comes off! High fives all round, the drinks are on him!

As a solo game it presents a pretty puzzle. Formulating a plan, obtaining as many resources as possible to increase the chances of success, trying to get everything lined up so you can (careful choice of word) execute it, all takes some managing. The longer this takes the harder it can be to pin Hitler down, as the game tightens itself up as you work through it, making it a fraught last couple of turns and sometimes you just have to take your chances.

Knowing what I know now, would I have still bought it? Dur, yeah!

Will it remain in my collection? It certainly will. It may not be a regular to the table, but I enjoy the mechanisms it employs and above all, I really like the theme. Solo, it’s an easy game to get back into after a long break – the rules are straightforward and it’s quick to setup – which is great when you want something different but don’t want to struggle with rules.

One Year On – Black Orchestra is a solid co-operative game that plays very well solo. Luck can mostly be mitigated and really is the aim of the game, as you try to increase your chances with the dice and hence carry out your plan. For me, though, the theme of the game, and the way it meshes with the mechanisms, makes it a winner – if the theme didn’t appeal, then I’d have probably given it a miss.

Read the review here

11 thoughts on “One Year On – Black Orchestra

  1. Sounds like this is one of those games you’ll keep coming back to! 🙂 Glad you’ve enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, John, I seem to have so many games that I keep coming back to that I struggle to get new ones to the table – not a bad position to be in honestly!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I sold my copy because I find it inappropriate to take the character of a real person who was captured and murdered by the Nazis (e.g. Dietrich Bönhoffer). Also, the request to send the authors a photo of yourself holding a card that has ” We killed Hitler” printed on it is crass beyond belief!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t even think I’ve got that card in the box anymore – I really couldn’t see the need to include it in the first place and agree with you there.
      The majority of the conspirators in the game died at the hands of the Nazis and it comes down to individuals whether that is something they wish to deal with head on. Personally, I like the fact that the game highlights this, as many people have no idea about the sacrifice some Germans made for their country.
      Many wargames portray war as glorious, heroic, and noble, but few people actually stop and think about the roles they are playing. This game does make you think and I believe it should be commended for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. thisisthethud Feb 24, 2021 — 19:16

    Very good game, I loved the attention to historical detail, even applying it to Hitler’s movements. As you say the game goes right down to the wire. As for playing historical characters, many of them were still Nazis, just that they thought they had a better chance of winning the war without Hitler. Plus, if you play a naval game, the crew of the Tirpitz are no less dead, it’s no different just because they’re anonymous!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s one way of looking at it. Though at the time when Stauffenberg and co tried to assassinate Hitler in 44, I guess they knew the war was lost and just wanted an end to it, though when you read into it most had their own reasons for joining the coup. Historians can’t seem to agree on Stauffenberg’s motivations. Some evidence suggests that, whilst a believer in Social Nationalism, he was against the treatment of the Jews – I doubt we’ll ever know his real motivation.
      Anyway, things are looking up for getting out and about later this year, let’s hope we’ll get another game in before 2022!


    2. We’re never going to agree, I know, but here’s my rationale. Of course people die in wargames but I think there is a substantive difference between taking on the character of an anonymous soldier and taking on the character of a real person who suffered horribly for their moral stance. I just find this game’s approach to be not serious enough. It’s sort of, “Hey, you’re being tortured by the Gestapo, do you want to betray your friends?” But if you like it, that’s absolutely fine. My copy was a gift – I sold it and put the proceeds towards building a small platform so that I could make my moral ground even higher 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It doesn’t matter whether I agree or not, Paul, you make a very good point.
        Whilst I agree with you in terms of playing an anonymous soldier, the wargames that I was thinking of are the historical ones, where you take the role of an historical commander, many of which were responsible for war time atrocities, but few people stop to think of the person they are representing.
        In gaming terms, I think getting the balance between seriousness and fun to play is a big hurdle to jump, at least as far as publishers are concerned. If the game explored things to more depth I doubt it would remain fun to play, as people don’t want to be confronted head on with these things – too many people are content to look the other way.
        You stood up to how you feel about the game and that’s great. Myself, I like to explore history, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, and this game made me turn to books to learn a little more about things.
        The question regarding, ‘… do you want to betray your friends?’ poses the player with a moral decision and depending on how you take the game, then I think it can give a seriousness to it, but without delving into anything that would warrant an 18+ certificate. Under torture, right now? you bet I want to betray my mates. In their position, knowing that their life was probably forfeit anyway, one may take a different stance. As I say, I think it’s all down to the individual, how they wish to view the game’s theme and the approach they take to playing the conspirators.
        If nothing else, it certainly opens up a topic for debate, and I very much appreciate your comments.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Quite like the idea of this game and will try to get hold of a copy, as ever with board games, getting hold of them can be difficult (esp if the game was a KS). Out of interest, any games that are similar to this (other than Pandemic). I quite like the WW2 setting but 5-7 player, all-day, games like War Room (or even Axis and Allies) don’t appeal so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Adrian, glad the idea of the game appeals. I believe it’s currently unavailable but restocks are expected within the next couple of months, according to some of the sites I use.
      Can’t think of anything else I’ve played that is similar to this, especially with a WW2 theme. Obviously, there are the other Pandemic-based games, Fall of Rome and Reign of Cthulhu, and Matt Leacocks Forbidden series, which use the same game mechanism as Pandemic – the ‘Infection Deck’ mechanism – but are much simpler games and I doubt they’re what your looking for. I’ll have a think and post anything I come up with🙂


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