TDG: So... There's That...

Apr
09

Is this the end of The Discriminating Gamer?

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TDG: The Colonists

Apr
07

My favorite pickup line: "You must be a pioneer, because I'd settle for you." Speaking of settling, join Cody as he takes a look at this epic resource management/worker placement game from Mayfair Games. Will it colonize your heart, or leave you out in the wilderness?

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TDG: Hammer of the Scots

Apr
03

Did you enjoy Screwdriver of the French and Sandblaster of the Portuguese? Then have I got the game for you! Join Cody as he takes a look at this historical block wargame from Columbia Games. You may be able to take my dice, but you'll never take- MY FREEEEEDOOOMMMM!!!!

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TDG: V-Commandos

Mar
24

Now you too can kill Nazis up close and personal- in board game form! Cody checks out this World War II era dungeon crawler from Triton Noir, and learns a thing or two about stealth and trap doors in the process.

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TDG: Star Trek: Ascendancy

Mar
20

Hailing frequency open? No? Too bad, because I'm going to tell you all about Gale Force Nine's foray into the world(s) of Star Trek. Will phasers be set on fun? Or will it beam you away? Cody investigates.

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TDG: 1812: The Invasion of Canada

Mar
17

It's safe to say that if America lost the War of 1812, we'd all be speaking English right now. Join Cody as he explores that long ago conflict in board game form, from Academy Games, and learns to always be leery of the lingering Canadian threat.

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TDG: Assault of The Giants

Mar
13

Have you ever wanted to play a game that was all Goliath and no David? Well look no further! Cody takes a look at this game from WizKids that boast biggish miniatures. Will it live up to its giant expectations? Or will it assault your sense of fun? Cody takes a look.

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Salt Con Spectacular 2017

Mar
13

Join Cody, Holly, George, Shawn and the crew as they check out Utah's own Salt Con board game convention!

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TDG: Athens & Sparta

Mar
06

How can you see in the dark while jumping up and down on one foot? With a Hoplite. Get it? Anyway, join Cody as he explores this game of ancient warfare from Columbia Games. But will you have a Helot of a good time, or will it feel like a Marathon?

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TDG: Black Orchestra

Mar
03

Black Orchestra, from Game Salute, is a new game based on the various resistance plots that existed to assassinate the Nazi Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. The game depicts a map of Germany (with several locations in Berlin their own spaces- the Chancellery, Gestapo HQ, Sportspalast, etc..) as well as various other locations in Europe like Prague, Stockholm, Vienna, Paris, Auschwitz, and more. Most locations have random items on them, which are placed face down to hide them from the players. Each player draws a random conspirator, based on an actual historical resister like Clause von Stauffenberg, Wilhelm Canaris, Hans Oster, and more. Player cards have motivation tracks- how committed they are to the cause; and suspicion tracks- how much the Gestapo suspects their loyalty to Hitler. On a players' turn he or she may take three actions like conspire, roll dice in an attempt to add successes to the dissent track which will help to increase motivation or lower Hitler's military support; move from one location to another; search to reveal the item at a location, obtain that item, or draw a conspiracy card, or more. Conspiracy cards may give you advantages in the game to move directly across the board, or modify dice rolls, or contain plots to take the Fuhrer out. After the player takes his or her action, the player draws an event card which may move Hitler or his henchmen (Goebbels, Himmler, Goering, etc..) around the board, which can cause the player problems when they start their turn in the same space with one of them. Event cards also unfold the course of the game. Divided into seven decks, they unlock more territories as the war expands in Europe. Each deck also contains a number of Gestapo Raid cards, which will result in the arrest of on conspirators who have the highest suspicion ratings. Once arrested, they may be interrogated and forced to do bad things to their co-conspirators.

Players attempt to carry out a plot. The plot card will tell them what they must do to kill Hitler, and what cards and conditions will give them more dice and other advantages. Players then roll dice the plot card allows them to, and add in any more dice from conspirator cards. They must roll enough successes that it beats the rating of Hitler's military support, but also not roll the German eagle symbol greater than their own suspicion level- lest they go to the Gestapo prison. The players win the game when they successfully kill Hitler. They lose if all of the conspirators go to jail, or if a certain cards is revealed from the final event deck.

Black Orchestra is designed by Philip duBerry, who designed one of my favorite games, AEG's Courtier. The mechanics here are solid, and players really get a sense of the difficulties it took to get all of the pieces into place to take down of the most heavily guarded figures in history. Every turn you've got something to do, even if it is trying to get an item to another location in order to lower your suspicion level. Where the game really shines, however, is in the strong narrative that it provides. Conspirators are darting around Europe, collecting the pieces of the puzzle that they need, all the while careful not to make a misstep that will leave them to the tender mercies of the Gestapo. The way the war expands with the different event decks is really cool, allowing European locations to open up with the growing tide of war. Also, the various abilities that the conspirator cards provide offer some great decisions and touch choices, particularly when you want to keep them all but are limited to your hand size.

With a background in history myself (I wrote my master's thesis on Hitler and Stalin as military commanders, and studied for a time in Berlin), I really appreciated the strong historical narrative here. Also, I love games based on history- and do it well- that are not wargames (though I do love wargames, too). Black Orchestra will take its place alongside historical board game gems such as Twilight Struggle, Origins of World War II, The Grizzled, Churchill, and others. The only complaint I have with regard to this game is that it can feel a little random, and therefore a little frustrating at times. It's not nearly as random as Escape From Colditz, but there is that element there if that is something that might turn you off of the game. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Black Orchestra and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys solid cooperative games and rich, historical games that are filled with narrative.

The Discriminating Gamer

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