The Black Orchestra: a connection of German government members in WWII who sought to overthrow Hitler. Can you work with a group to formulate and execute a plan that will eliminate the Nazi leader for good?
This week we played Black Orchestra from Game Salute.
The year is 1944. As a member of the German government, you have been given clearance to attend one of Hitler’s conferences. You have obtained a briefcase containing a bomb, and believe you might be able to get close enough to Hitler to kill him in the explosion. You compatriots want to take out Himmler and Göring at the same time, but they are not here. Do you make the attempt, or wait for better circumstances?
This is the game of Black Orchestra. Each player takes on the role of a member of the actual “Schwarze Kapelle”, or Black Orchestra from World War II. As the game progresses, Hitler and his deputies move across the board, performing key actions pulled straight from the history books. Hitler’s support will rise and fall based on these actions, and your own involvement, but do not do too much, or else suspicion about you will rise.
Through this game, Germany will grow in size and power. The players will cooperatively try and avoid prison while they gather support, materials, and undermine the Nazi regime, all while trying to formulate a successful plot. If the players are successful, Hitler dies and the players win. If at any point, all players are in prison, or the “Documents Located” card is drawn, signaling everyone’s identities as Black Orchestra members becoming known.
In our playthrough we teamed up as General Ludwig Beck and Henning von Tresckow of the Wehrmacht, General Hans Oster of the Abwehr, and civilian Erich Kordt. Early in the game, Oster began manipulating the political climate by conspiring, and using his additional actions to fill his hand with cards his allies could share. The other players spread out to procure resources, and attempt to find a plot card we could work towards. Our first attempt at assassinating Hitler resulted in failure when our suitcase bomb was too far from him when it went off, leaving Erich in prison. As the game progressed, Hitler’s military support skyrocketed, causing each member of the Black Orchestra to fear failure of each plot drawn. Finally, however, the Nazi hosted a Party Rally in Nuremberg. The drop in Military Support allowed General Beck to derail the train bringing Hitler to Nuremberg. The die roll was against the players, but all dice surprisingly all landed with target symbols, allowing for an early success.
We all had an absolute blast playing Black Orchestra. The tension in the game was real, and as Hitler gained power, we became a little more desperate to act. Some players took tons of risks to progress our play, others held back and floated under the radar. The mix of play styles worked well together, and we quickly were able to raise each player’s motivation to the committed level. The historical facts woven into the gameplay really adds to the immersion, and even though our game ended quickly, each player felt they contributed to our success. The game seems complex, and definitely allows for tactical decisions to be made, but the co-operative component and ease of action choices makes the game accessible to a wide range of players.
In all, we would highly suggest Black Orchestra as both a fun co-op game, and as a teaching tool.
We would like to thank Game Salute for this great donation.
If you would like to give Black Orchestra a try, or another selection from Game Salute, they are available for check out here, at the UNT Media Library.