V-COMMANDOS from Triton Noir A solo/cooperative game of small unit commando actions drawn from historical situations. Hopef...

V-COMMANDOS V-COMMANDOS

V-COMMANDOS

V-COMMANDOS

V-COMMANDOS

from Triton Noir


A solo/cooperative game of small unit commando actions drawn from historical situations.




Hopefully you've seen the appetiser for the game and the linked contest to win a canvas picture of one of the stunning pieces of artwork from the game. Stunning sums up many aspects of V-Commandos.  The box art, which like many games is replicated on the rule book cover, sets the mood and game flavour admirably.  The comic book element inevitably took me back to childhood copies of the paperback series of Commando comic books and even W.E.Johns' Gimlet series, which featured one that I read entitled King of The Commandos.

Like Heroes of Normandie by Devil Pig Games, this is certainly Hollywood's version of WWII, but I'm glad to say that Triton Noir, the publishers of V-Commandos, have not gone the whole hog [no pun intended] for the total cigar-chomping cartoon style that Devil Pig opted for.  In fact much of the card artwork makes me think that the Noir from this company's name has had the stronger influence.



These Tarot-size cards could so easily have just been plain backed, but the choice to go with these scenic pictures adds substantially as always to the atmosphere of the game.  Equally effective are the many tiles that are used to build up the terrain for each scenario.



Here are two of the sheets of tiles [in this case, small and medium size] that you'll use to build up the terrain.  At this point, it's worth explaining the meaning of the word "terrain" in this game.  Terrain is a geographical playing area made up of several tiles - in some scenarios, the whole playing area may constitute as many as five terrains.  

In some cases, you will find your commandos having to split up in order to achieve objectives on different terrains; in others, you may have to work your way through a sequence of terrains achieving your objectives as you move from terrain to terrain.

Here is, chronologically, the first scenario, Operation Time Pencil.  The name on the map card of Bruneval and accompanying historical photo of the radar station easily identifies this first scenario as based on the Bruneval Raid in February 1942.

 The playing area is made up of three terrains: the Forest, the Radar Station and the Villa.  As you can see, each terrain has specific instructions relating to it, for this individual scenario.



Below are the cards for each of the three terrains, showing you how to lay out the tiles.  The darker panels with black edging are room tiles and the pale panels with faint grey edging are open tiles.



The next picture shows how you might build up the tiles to create the Radar Station.  The two lorry markers show were German reinforcements arrive and the two blue triangles indicate the location of the Commandos' Objectives explained in the Scenario cards.


In creating the terrain, you're free to use whichever tiles you wish, provided that they are appropriately open tiles or building tiles.  The one aspect that has drawn some criticism is that there are scenarios that involve as the terrain such areas as a battleship, a shipyard and dock, and bridges.  None of the tiles remotely resemble these and so you do have to employ what the old "willing suspension of belief ".  In other words, you've got to pretend that the tiles in front of you are a battleship etc. 

I can understand the limitations of the tiles might not be able to recreate some of those, but I would have thought at least a range of tiles could have been produced that would at least include enough to build a credible bridge!  Frankly, though, that is the only detail that doesn't match the otherwise excellent features of this game.

So, on to considering some more of these excellent features.  Certainly, the very good quality, circular, cardboard discs that represent the many single-man figures in the game are high on that list.  I had imagined buying and painting some commando figures [of which there are many fine products on the market], but soon decided that I much preferred what you see here.



These are your five commandos, drawn from different nationalities and with different attributes.  This base set comprises a scout, an officer, a sniper, a sapper and a medic.  My immediate reaction was to lament the absence of the French Resistance and hoped that Triton Noir would soon produce an expansion to remedy that lack.

You can guess my delight to find that just such an expansion is already available.  [I have yet to discover whether it might also contain some tiles that make a bridge!]

Equally effective are the many German soldier counters.  Here are the ordinary regular infantry, nicely done in different poses, some with helmets or caps and even a few bare-headed.  Small attention to varied detail like this is a big plus for me, instead of just churning out a generic image.



Added to these are a few regulars with sledgehammers [oh yeah!] and some special guys [identified by the black edge to the counter] and a few dummies.  Note that the number of white cube markings show the number of dice rolled when these units fire at your commandos.



Among the many other smaller tokens are equipment for the commandos, spotted tokens, 20 doors [open on side/closed on the other], the lorry tokens mentioned already that indicate where German reinforcements enter, objectives and alarms [crucial to all scenarios] and open/closed trapdoors.

Before we come to the reading material - the rules - there remain the 5 large cards, one for each of your commandos


and a handsome deck of Event Cards.



What amazed me was that the game contains dual sets of all the large cards and Event cards along with separate rule and training books in both English and French!

There isn't a single item that falls short of the highest standards of production and the rule book is no exception.  The 24 pages are more like glossy, thin card with a very durable and substantial feel.  They are easy to read and follow with plenty of illustrated examples and accompanying artwork. 

It's very well organised, taking you through the three Phases of the game: Event, Commando and German.  These are followed by information on Commando Selection and Commando Health - no, they don't have to have travel injections, it's about getting injured, critical condition and, gulp, elimination!  The good news [especially if you are playing a cooperative game] is that, if your commando dies, another commando is drawn from your reserves to rejoin the scenario.  Your new commando will have some initial limitations [like, no equipment], but you know how resourceful you are!

There are also sections on Equipment and Escorting a Character that occurs in some scenarios and one of the longest sections, called Play An Operation is on the process of setting up an Operation [i.e. scenario]

The rules pause at three points to direct you to the training manual that provides three mini-scenarios to help fix in your head the section you've just gone through.  Though very simple, I would strongly recommend following the format, as I found them very effective in achieving their intended goal of consolidating learning the rules.

At the very heart is the concept of STEALTH.  A commando counter will automatically be flipped to its stealthy side when entering a small tile where there are no German units and commandos may always enter a medium sized tile in stealth mode by using up two of their three Action pts.  However, commandos must always flip to their visible side when entering a large tile.

Whenever a commando in stealth mode enters a tile with enemy units on or vice versa, each commando must roll one die per enemy unit to see if they are spotted.  Roll 1 or 2 and you're spotted.  Though not wholly necessary, it's a nice touch that the twelve dice provided are customised with a partial eye symbol on the 1 and 2 faces.



Attention to small details like the dice all add to the sense that care has gone into producing a quality game.  Attention to detail is also a prominent factor in the rule book.  As I read rules, I have a bad habit of thinking, "... but what if?"  I failed to break this bad habit, as I went through the rules for V-Commando and each time the answer to my "What if?" was a few paragraphs later or clear in an example.  It was an object lesson in being more patient in my reading and testimony to just how good these rules are.  They are thorough, without being burdensomely lengthy, and easy to follow.

I mentioned earlier the value of using the three training scenarios, but that value is in helping you fix the rules in your head so that you have minimal reference to the rule book later, not because you need them to understand the rules, as is often the case with some rules sets.  What impressed me most was the section on the German A.I. that runs the Enemy Phase of the game.  Moving and shooting in games where your opponent is A.I. determined are often hyper complex and encyclopaedic in length.  In part, this is because the rules in V-Commando are well pared down. 

Remember stealth, well if your commando is in stealth mode, he can't be seen or shot at.  If visible, he is seen and able to be shot at, if he's on the same tile as the German unit or an open adjacent tile or a room tile that has an open door.   No arguments about line of site.   Movement is governed by equally straightforward rules that depend on only two factors: if any commandos are visible, then German units move one tile towards them by the shortest route - if all commandos are stealthy, then German units move one tile in the compass direction displayed on the Event card currently drawn for that terrain for this turn.

Perhaps this random factor may not suit some people, but, hey, this is the movies, haven't you seen the Germans in films from The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen to the more recent Inglourius Bastards rushing around while the good ole Brits or Americans sneak about, just out of sight from them?

Finally, the rules take us to Play An Operation.  In all other games that I own or have played, this would form part of a separate booklet that would also contain all the Scenarios.  Triton Noir have decided to go with the novel idea of providing the nine scenarios in the form of pairs of high quality, double-sided, cards.  This decision has added enormously to the already very satisfying ambiance of the game.

The first of each pair of cards names the Operation with an accompanying map and, on the reverse of the card, a background to and the objectives of the Operation.





The second card in each pair shows the terrain to be set up for the Op on one side and, on the other side, any Special rules that apply to a specific terrain and/or the initial Set-Up.   So to continue with the example of Operation Time Pencil, three terrain will be needed and each terrain has its Special rules, but in this case there are no Special rules relating to initial Set-Up.




Finally, the necessary terrain cards are placed out on your gaming table and the requisite tiles chosen to build up each terrain.




As you can imagine, with the biggest Operations involving five separate terrains, there aren't enough tiles to lay out all the terrains at one go.  The format for handling all the Operations is that the tiles for each terrain in the left most column are laid out.  Then, when the objectives have been completed on each of these terrains, the terrain card is flipped over to show completion and the terrain tiles are removed and the next column's terrains are built from the necessary tiles.

This whole process is, as far as I'm aware, wholly original.  The combination of the two pairs of cards for each Operation allows for great variety as, for example, though you may be operating in forest terrain in several Operations, the differing Special rules and objectives created for that forest terrain imbues the scenario with its own qualities. 

The cards are also a fantastic design feature for those who will soon want to create their own favourite Operations.  My own personal wish immediately turns towards Holland as, though a couple of the Operations included in the game involve bridges, neither are influenced by that epic bridge at Arnhem.  For others who like bridge scenarios, their goals might take them instead to Remagen. 

However, that's just a dream for the moment, as the nine provided in V-Commando will certainly task your skills.  Each terrain of an Operation forms its own mini-puzzle to be solved with the vagaries of the dice ready to throw a spanner in the works.  Just in case you turn out to be a prodigy of success, all the Operations contain one Veteran Special rule.  Once you have played Operations with the Standard set of Special rules, you can add in the Veteran Special rule which adds additional difficulty and always increases the number of German reinforcements you will have to face!

As a game that can be played cooperatively, it has a good RPG feel and, especially gaming with friends, it can be great to discuss what actions each commando will take and what order they'll activate in.  Outcomes and die rolls all become that bit more tense.  But, by preference [and perhaps sheer greed], I can't help saying that solo play is my favourite.  I just want to be the guy organising my team of commandos.

So, by now, I doubt that you need to be told that for me V-Commandos is an out and out winner in every category. And, please, if you need to ask the question [as has been asked on at least one game site] what does the V stand for in the game's title, just think Winston Churchill!  In fact, if you do need to ask the question, perhaps running a commando might not be your best choice yet!

Good luck and keep Stealthy!!!!

























































































































































































































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