There are times when your first impression of a board game can simply be wrong.
Such was certainly the case with V Commandos from Canadian manufacturer Triton Noir.
Our first playthrough seemed to drag on, starting with the layout. The game has a lot of bits and pieces, from a modular board to the tokens for gear and soldiers. On the initial playthrough, you spend a fair amount of time sorting through it all.
The good news is we bagged things for future layouts which will expedite the layout. The game box does not come with an insert to compartmentalize the bits, but bags do work, just have some on hand.
The first game was also one where the dice hated all three of us, and we were killed by the Germans quickly. It was underwhelming, especially after the slow first layout.
The second playthrough, we changed the commandos we played, altered our tactics, and the result was a much, much more enjoyable experience.
But, on to the game, and its background.
“The German army occupies the majority of Europe and nothing seems to be able to slow its progression,” details the introduction to V Commandos. “The Luftwaffe launches air attack upon air attack against London and the major industrialized British cities. Great Britain withstands and gets ready to face an imminent invasion. But Winston Churchill was not one to sit back in a defensive stance. Convinced that the Allied Forces must take the initiative and strike blows behind enemy lines, he orders the creation of elite airborne units. Simultaneously, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) is established with the objective to ‘set Europe ablaze’. After intensive training, these units will conduct audacious operations of all kinds, striking like lightning bolts before withdrawing into shadows. Their numerous successes, although often unknown, weighed heavily in the outcome of the conflict.”
So if you are a gamer with an interest in the Second World War this is one for you. It is not a game with fancy miniatures, cardboard tokens are used here, but they work, and in this one the atmosphere is everything. Be sneaky, or be in big trouble.
“V-Commandos is a cooperative game in which one to four players teams up against the enemy forces controlled by the game,” details the ruleset. “Each player selects a commando specialist and together they form a squad. Then, they can either choose to play on one terrain (quick game) or to select an operation, composed of several objectives that must be completed across various terrains. Each turn starts with an event that may affect the commandos’ plans. Then, each commando alternately, in the order chosen by the players, takes three actions, hopefully making progress toward the squad’s objectives.
“Finally, new enemy reinforcements, playing by their own rules, enter the terrain, move and attack. The game turns to continue until the operation succeeds or fails.”
The theme here works perfectly.
“During World War II, Allied commandos performed dozens of spectacular operations across the world,” details the rules. “What is less well known is that the first missions of this kind took place on the Axis side. For example, the 18-day campaign that saw the invasion of Belgium by Germany began with the capture of Fort Eben-Emael, defended by 1,200 Belgian soldiers and deemed impregnable. On May 10th, 1940, 85 German paratroopers were dropped by combat gliders directly on the superstructures of the fort. In less than an hour, most of the fort was captured thanks to the element of surprise and intensive training of these elite troops.”
“Stealth is critical for those wishing to survive when they are deep in enemy territory, outnumbered by opponents!
“The majority of Commando missions took place at night to ease discreet infiltration. Stealth was required for as long as possible and a quick escape was necessary after completing the objective. The rain was always appreciated: the enemy patrols preferred to take shelter. Since they were always outnumbered and deep in enemy territory, it was better to be unnoticeable, like Captain Patrick Leigh Fermor and Lieutenant William Stanley Moss, who abducted a German general and managed to escape while facing a garrison of thousands of soldiers in Crete!
“Stealthy characters are invisible to the enemy: they can never be targeted or hit by a weapon requiring a dice roll. They may also perform lethal close combat attacks. The two sides of this token represent a commando’s state: stealthy or visible.
“A visible commando is a commando who’s not in a stealthy state. A commando whose token is placed on the visible side is always visible.”
While it comes down to dice rolls, there is a surprising feel of realism here.
This is a game that gained a lot of love with the second playthrough and is a game that might not be top-five of 2019 by year’s end, but I suspect I consider its inclusion.
Check it out at triton-noir.com
Thanks to fellow gamers Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.