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Damnation: The Gothic Game is a last-person standing game of killing your friends.  Throughout the game, you will probably find yourself...

Damnation: The Gothic Game - Preview Damnation: The Gothic Game - Preview

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Kickstarter


Damnation: The Gothic Game is a last-person standing game of killing your friends.  Throughout the game, you will probably find yourself cackling with glee as you submit your friends to the fiendish rooms and traps littered throughout the Vampire’s castle.  Of course, everyone will be trying to do the same to you so don’t laugh too quickly.

Gameplay

There are some simple mechanics to this game which reflect the game’s original printing nearly 30 years ago. Move aside roll-and-write; roll-and-move and player elimination are alive and well if this game is anything to go by. Generally, I don’t like either of these dated mechanisms but the designer of this game has taken sensible steps to reduce the annoyance factor of both.  The new design has added an abundance of features and variation to the game to keep fans of the original and modern-gamers appeased.
6 unfortunate souls - ready to die
The roll-and-move irritation is actually turned into a welcome decision space by two of the game's mechanisms; a hand of up to five action cards, and your character’s talents.  The cards can be played during your turn for a variety of effects and each player has access to four talents which may allow them to affect their movement.  Of these talents, two will be common to all players (these common talents allow you to roll an additional movement die or to re-roll a die) and the other two talents will be unique to that character (some also affecting movement).   Together, the cards and talents give you lots of immediate decisions every turn to mitigate a ‘bad’ roll.  Although after multiple plays of this the only bad rolls are those in which your opponents are controlling your movement.  Don’t let this happen.
The Gentleman, about to not be gentle
Once you’ve used a talent you must discard a talent token, you start with three.  During the game, you will recover talent tokens but you can never have more than three tokens and you can never have more than one token on a talent, ready to use. All players have a unique inherent talent which could be used each turn if applicable without spending a token.  I haven’t played enough to see if the characters are all balanced but in the majority of the games, I have had the player who ends up controlling the Vampire is favoured – more on that character later.

It’s a rare thing to play a game with player elimination these days; even if you’re obviously losing and there is no chance to catch-up, a lot of games require you to limp along making weight.  Not so in Damnation: The Gothic Game.  This game outright wants to kill you, apparently there are 49 different ways to die … but I guarantee that if you are the first to die you won’t be looking to join another game, you’ll stay and watch the rest of the carnage unfold.  Not only does the game play in about 60 minutes but it’s so much fun watching instadeath happen to the snivelling git who caused your own untimely demise.
The Aristocrat is walking a dangerous path
During a players turn two d6 are rolled, the first indicates the number of spaces your character can move (a natural 6 allows an additional movement roll to be made) and the second is a ‘castle die’ which can land on 1 of 4 unique faces.  The first is a castle, which allows you to draw a card into your hand or as an immediate event; the candle face allows you to move an extra space – it’s surprising how often that extra space can be tremendously helpful; a trap face, which prevents you moving past any trap during your movement – a lovely sight for your opponent if they have the power of adjacency…and finally a blank face after which nothing happens.
Move 8 (exploding 6) and draw a card
If you end your movement on a space adjacent to another character, or within range of one of your weapons (cards in hand) you can choose to control the movement of that character on their next turn or attack them.  As tempting as it is to constantly attack all the things, the power of adjacency is really where the serious damage can be done.  Moving a character into a trap or slide space is a delicious feeling.  It could either mean instadeath or even better, a slow demise into the depths of hell as they try in vain to escape their doom <Mwah hah ha>
Can you see the Grim Reaper?
Most rooms have some unique rules that apply if a character enters them.  In general terms whenever a character enters a room not only will they be safe from anyone declaring the power of adjacency or attacking them but they will also draw a card from that room’s specific deck of cards.  This could either be an immediate event, an action for later use, or a weapon.  These cards and their inherent humour are really what make this game stand out for me; each deck is themed to the room and the art and flavour text are great, but most importantly their effect on the overall gameplay is a huge positive.
There are lots of cards to enjoy
Just when players are starting to get comfortable with the game's rules, the game will pull the rug out from under your feet after a players death in which a Deathknell card is revealed.  These cards alter the fundamental rules of the game so that each game is never boring or feels the same.  I haven’t seen any ‘game-breaking’ cards in the Deathknell deck, each one I have seen has caused some amusement and then often another quick death followed by another Deathknell card reveal - rinse and repeat.  Once players start dying, it’s often a case of who can hang on the longest and you won’t need to hang around for long!
Every piece of art is unique
However none of that talks about the Vampire, at the start of the game everyone is just your average scum-bag looking to kill every other scum-bag in the castle.  The first scum-bag that enters the Vault will become the vampire and will start mercilessly preying on the rest of the players.   The vampire just has to end their movement on another scum-bags’ space to bite and kill that player.  However this power comes with a great vulnerability, the vampire only has six turns in which to hunt before he needs to return to his coffin.  There are lots of lovely thematic touches like this littered throughout this game which complement the art and feel of this gothic horror world.
Vampire doing his thing
With a full complement of 6 players the game will take a little over an hour.  However, it does reward repeated plays.  On my first two plays of this (with different groups) everyone was initially quite timidly exploring the castle without following the core-ethos of the game, i.e. attempting to kill your friends as quickly as possible.  Just exploring the castle in itself was quite a fun game (due to the card art and flavour text) but nothing like the cut-throat brutality of players who know what to expect and are familiar with the rules and are looking to kill you from the first turn.
Nobody's dead yet
I had a four-player game of this with 3 new-to-the-hobby gamers and we were all playing inside 15 minutes.  I may have missed a few rules out as I was learning myself but it’s not a long teach despite the variety of general rule exceptions.  Once players are familiar with the game a turn will generally be finished inside 20 seconds at the most.  There is already very little downtime for any player and even less if you’ve claimed the Power of Adjacency over an opponent.
The current crop of visitors
I would recommend this for gamers and non-gamers.  It’s easy for non-gamers to grasp the more traditional roll and move mechanic but there's enough here to keep your generalist gamer happy too.  It won’t appeal to many self-confessed Grognards nor anyone with a delicate temperament. If you can’t see the funny side of being kicked when you’re down (figuratively) or have been known to flip a table or two because of a bad roll or an event killing your character, then move on, you won’t like this game. 

Components

I have only played on a prototype prior to the Kickstarter launch and I have no doubt that some of the components and content will change.  However, the thing that most struck me about these components at this stage of development was the art throughout the game.  Every card has unique art and there are lots of cards in this game.  The art also has a very distinct and consistent style across all components, which was not something I was expecting to see of a prototype.  The artists have done a fantastic job.
A difficult, but worthwhile room to enter

Criticisms

The only criticisms that I have not already addressed (i.e. roll-to-move and player-elimination) is one of scaling and a lack of rules reference. The game suggests 3 to 6 players. I would recommend a minimum of four.  At three players the castle feels a little empty, unless there are 3 tortured souls hanging around the table to see the rest of the gruesome death action, (watching their friends’ characters die).  This is a similar feeling I get when playing a league match of blood bowl, often a non-playing coach will attend pitch-side to see all of our respective failed rolls, injuries, deaths and laugh.  As long as you approach this game with the same humour you’ll be in for a good time.  At four or more players the game shines.

The lack of a rules reference meant I was regularly looking up the unique rules of rooms when characters entered them.  I'm sure that knowledge will come after 3 or 4 games but it was a common request to either have an on-board legend for each room or player-aid.  I feel a bit miserly even commenting on this as it is a prototype and I'm sure the designer will want to address this for the final design.

Conclusion

Damnation: The Gothic Game is a self-published production coming to Kickstarter at exactly the right time in its development.  Blackletter games are very much an indie games company taking on the behemoth of the modern board gaming market and they have every reason to be proud of their first game.  It’s often hilarious, mostly bloody and full of surprises.  Go take a look at the Kickstarter page when it launches on October 24th.

Publisher: Black Letter Games
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/273955/damnation-gothic-game
Players: 3-6
Designer: Kris Rees - redesign of The Gothic Game
Playing time: 1 hour (ish)


Freedom! is an asymmetric card driven wargame that models a relatively unknown yet surprisingly important siege between the Ottoman Empi...

Freedom! a Kickstarter preview Freedom! a Kickstarter preview

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Kickstarter


Freedom! is an asymmetric card driven wargame that models a relatively unknown yet surprisingly important siege between the Ottoman Empire and the Greek rebel insurgents in the city of Messolonghi.  The siege in question is actually the third siege between greek insurgents demanding their freedom from the Ottoman Empire during the early 19th century, none of which I knew anything about prior to receiving this game.

The designer Vangelis Bagiartakis has written a fascinating designer's diary on bgg that is well worth a read if you're interested in the development or history of this game. https://www.boardgamegeek.com/freedom-designer-diary

Gameplay

Watch my rules overview to get an idea of how the game plays.  However, there are far more professional efforts which I will link to below.

Players control the two opposing forces and fight out the siege over 6 rounds. In each round, 7 cards will be played for a maximum total of 42 actions per player per game.  The Imperial player, however,  could end the game early if they manage to infiltrate just one of their units into the forts on the wall or into the Southern City, effectively assaulting the city from the Lagoon. 

Ready to go
The rebel player is largely stuck grinding out a victory over the full 6 rounds unless they are able to reduce the morale of the besieging units enough to where they give up and go home. However, nothing about this is a grind for the defending player. You as the defender, are as much a part of the action and must try to follow your own plan whenever possible to get a win. In other asymmetric games, the 'defender' is often just reacting to the aggressor's moves. As the insurgents, it never felt like I was just along for the ride.

I've played three full games of this and in each, they were all well balanced between my opponent and me. The only aberration I experienced was during the very first replenishment of the first game, my plea to the government, as the insurgent player was successful, (I rolled an 11) and had one point in my plea track which made my roll 12, i.e. a successful plea. This allowed my rebels to storm into the lead early on, but I eventually lost the game as my supplies completely dried up in the second period.
An early success for the rebels, unlucky for some
This timing and handling of the plea for government is crucial to manage for the insurgents to be successful.  Likewise, the Imperial Plea for aid is markedly different and nowhere near as significant, however, it is this asymmetry, not just in this mechanism, but in unit's attack, movement and replenishment abilities that really immerse players into a siege mentality, no matter which side you're controlling. There is a constant back and forth struggle, between both players that is evocative of what I imagine a siege to be like.
 
Like other card-driven games, cards are either played for the event or the action points. I should highlight, which for some reason,  it got lost on the editing floor, that when a player plays a card with their opponent's event, the opponent, on their next turn, can discard a card from their hand to have the previously played event happen.  This is an excellent innovation on the standard cdg mechanic, which serves to make the game that bit more accessible and forgiving.  This ability to 'play' your own event previously used by your opponent is unique and I would not be surprised to see the mechanic 'borrowed' by other designers for future projects. 

There are layers of games, area control, tight economic engine, and well balanced between both forces. Integrated into a whole that is engaging for both sides. The insurgents are just as much fun to play as the Imperials.
A selection of all components

Components

I have been sent a prototype and I am stunned by how good the art currently is.  I am reluctant to criticise a prototype's components but I would like there to be unique art for most of the cards. In many cases, the same art is used albeit the card events are similar. I hope they can commission the same artist to do many more pieces for the game.

The graphic design is a little dark in some places and the clouds across the board feel a bit redundant. The overall look of the board is fantastic and I'm sure will only get better as the game raises development funds through Kickstarter.
I'd love there to be unique art everywhere

Criticisms

The biggest criticism I have, and it's probably more justified to level this at our hobby rather than the game, is its theme, it is quite obscure, and serves a niche within a niche. This may serve to hinder the game's adoption amongst potential backers which would be a shame. I think wargamers who may well be very interested in the theme could be but put off by the 'simpler than Twilight Struggle' tag, (let's not discuss whether TS is a wargame or not...). Conversely, casual gamers who would be enticed by a siege game set in the Crusades, or even Leningrad which subjectively are far more accessible, may be put off by a siege in a city they've never heard of, and in a war they don't know.

Conclusion

Any game that I enjoy playing and at the same time helps me to learn something new is, in my opinion, excellent. This game has that property in spades, I knew nothing about the siege of Messolonghi before hearing about this game, and now I know some of the major events of the siege itself from reading the card texts and have also wished for some Messolonghi-related books to learn some more. 
These are glorious, more please...
We often talk about gateway games into the hobby and although this isn't one of those, it is an enjoyable foray into the CDG genre sitting firmly towards the more accessible end of the spectrum. This doesn't detract from the gameplay itself, there's still plenty to consider and mull over each turn. As much as I would like to pull out Labyrinth or TS more regularly, as an introduction to CDGs for interested players, this is a much easier teach and would be my gateway CDG game of choice. 

The underlying mechanics of this game are solid and as polished as any published title from any game publisher. The rulebook itself needs some work and the graphic design across most components could do with a little attention (I do love the art though). Freedom! is coming to Kickstarter at exactly the right time to secure some more funds to push it through the final stages of its design and I salute Phalanx Games for picking this up and giving us the opportunity to support it.  I will follow the campaign with interest. 

This project is live on Kickstarter right now, visit the project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phalanxgames/freedom
These comments are all based from a prototype version of the game which is subject to change. 

A preview from the designer himself:


Bonding with Board Games preview:

Detailed review from the Players Aid:

Publisher: Phalanx Games
Players: 2...
Designer: Vangelis Bagiartakis
Playing time: 2 - 3 hours

Overview Brass: Lancashire is the latest version of Martin Wallace's classic game set during the industrial revolution of ...

Brass: Lancashire Deluxe Edition Brass: Lancashire Deluxe Edition

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

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Overview

Brass: Lancashire is the latest version of Martin Wallace's classic game set during the industrial revolution of England.  The original game was released in 2007 and owing to its popularity was reprinted in 2009 and in 2015. The 2018 Roxley edition eschews the drab-art of the original and provides gamers with the most lavishly produced game I think I have ever seen.

2-4 players take on the role of a Titan of Industry during the late 18th century in the industrial powerhouse of England, i.e. Lancashire. Through the game, players acquire Victory Points by building and using their industries and providing others with resources whilst expanding their own network of canals and rails.

Players compete with each other to fulfil the markets' demand for coal, iron and cotton at the same time as using the same coal and iron to expand their empire. The economic mantra of 'buying low, selling high' and the euro-gamers mantra of 'do what others aren't' are pivotal for success here.

Halfway through scoring the Canal Era
This version of the game was kickstarted by Roxley Games and as a frequent consumer of Kickstarter projects, I can honestly say that this was the best campaign that I've ever had the pleasure to be part of. I think Roxley have set other publishers the gold-standard of how to do a Kickstarter and I will consider backing any future campaign they run purely on the merits of this Kickstarter.

Gameplay

The game consists of approximately 16 rounds split over 2 eras. In each round, every player will take a turn of two actions by playing cards from their hand. Each round the player order will alter depending on how much money players spent during the previous round with the least amount going first.

On their turn, players will be doing 2 of 5 possible actions; attempting to sell cotton, building industries, building connections between towns and markets, taking a loan from the bank or developing their industry to get more bonuses when it is eventually built.

Handy Player Boards
The industries in which players can invest and use are (left to right in the image) cotton mills, ports, shipyards, iron works and coal mines. As you would expect each of them has different yet thematic attributes which provide a benefit to the owning player and often the other players as well.  Just as in the real world no industry will thrive without customers.

All of these actions and industries are played through the use of a hand of cards. The cards depict either a location on the map or a specific industry type.  Every action must be 'paid for' by discarding a card. The build action, however, requires the correct card to be used. For example, a player can place any industry into the specified location on the card, or the specific industry on the card into a location that is part of or adjacent to their own network.

Card Art Example
However, having the correct card to build an industry is far from the only consideration players have to think about when building. Some industries, require access to and the use of coal and/or iron in order to place them. Exhausting the resources of connected players may provide them with a larger benefit than building your own industry does to you. Your cards may lead you to focus elsewhere requiring a change of tactics. Money is also quite tight in this game and often you will not have enough money to build what you want without taking a loan first.

Constraining each player to two actions per turn does lead to some agonising choices, particularly around shipyards, that have very limited possible spaces on the board and iron works, whose market cycles far quicker than coal or cotton.  I nearly always wish that I could do a third action thereby, for example, preventing another player from building the iron works before I can afford it, or have access to coal in the right area and allowing me to fulfil the iron demand and 'flip' my tile.

Player tokens and flipped industries
Flipping a tile is done when it's resources are depleted. When you first build an industry a certain number of coal or iron cubes are placed upon the tile to show on-map availability of those resources. As they are exhausted the industry tile is flipped which will score Victory Points for the owning player at the end of the canal and rails eras and an immediate income bonus. Each industry is quite different from in this respect; shipyards flip immediately providing large amounts of VPs and little income. Cotton and Ports have no resource placed on them and are only flipped when the sell cotton action is taken.

Generally, earlier industries provide more income bonus and later ones provide more Victory Points. Striking the balance between building industries and developing them, i.e. getting access to the later industries is key.  However, another important source of Victory Points, especially in the Rail Era are the connections. Each industry tile at either end of a connection will score a Victory Point per connection. So a single rail link may be worth up to 7 Victory Points to its owner; there is normally a mad rush at the beginning of the rail era to build as many links as possible, primarily for this reason amongst others.


Halway through scoring the Rail Era
There are a plethora of difficult choices per turn for each player whereby you have to balance immediate tactical benefits with longer-term considerations, and the cards that you've got available with the actions/areas that your opponents are playing.

Components

I feel like I say this for most board games these days but truly Roxley has delivered a game with the most superb components I've ever seen. Granted the iron and coal are standard wooden blocks but this is entirely functional and does nothing to detract from the gorgeous art that permeates the rest of the game. The artwork on the board is second to none, likewise, the cards are similarly designed. I appreciated the industrial flourishes, littered throughout the game.

Flourishes aplenty
However, the best components in this game are the Iron Clays. These are the poker chips that are provided with the Deluxe edition of the game. They feel wonderful to touch and are the most tactile poker chips I have ever used. I normally substitute cardboard or (heaven forbid) paper money with poker chips in games and my generic chips feel and look terrible compared to these. Apparently, there is a Kickstarter for Iron Clays from Roxley later this year (or early next, considering we're almost in December) that I will definitely be backing to replace all of my chips.

More please!
The poker chips are only in the deluxe edition of the game which can still be ordered. The retail version features cardboard token for the money, and I'm sure they're functional and perfectly fine, but if you can and you're interested I would definitely recommend the deluxe version as these Iron Clays are something special. I even learnt to shuffle poker chips because I enjoyed handling them so much...

Criticisms

I wouldn't recommend learning this game with 3 new players or trying to learn where all 4 of you are new, you must have an experienced player to instruct.  I taught this to two of my group; they came over requesting a 'brain-burner' and this was a perfect choice.  It did take the best part of 3 hours despite only reviewing the rules for about 20 minutes or so before we got into it. However this isn't really a criticism as any more-complex game will suffer from a similar learning curve. However, don't think that this is overly complex as the rules fit into just 10 pages, the duration came from every player suffering similar 'hard decisions' as mentioned above.


I've played several games with less experienced players now and they thought that they were largely at the mercy of the cards they drew. There certainly is an element of randomness induced by the cards but experienced players should be able to manage and mitigate any 'bad cards' by strategising their hand and current opportunities. I've played the original game, and the excellent PC (also available on Android and IOS) many times and I don't think this is a valid criticism.  I would however, love to see a collaboration between Cublo and Roxley to update the app with Roxley graphics...

In most of my games with the Roxley Deluxe edition, we have run out of coal cubes by just 1. Especially at the beginning of the Rail Era when lots of coal mines have just been built in preparation for the Rail Era. I have also seen bgg forums suggesting they've had games where they had run out of iron cubes, which I find hard to understand how that is possible. However, this doesn't affect game-play as you can substitute anything else for the missing cube but one or two more coal cubes (maybe iron cubes as well) would have been nice.  This is a very minor nit-pick though.

App screenshot
Conclusion

All elements of this game play subtly different from each other, for example, the cotton market can be exhausted, whereas coal and iron will always be available in the market. Each industry tile has different rules regarding their bonus and utilisation, canal links and rail links have different rules regarding their building and coal and iron themselves have different rules to determine players access to them. These differences are all clever design choices to more thematically represent the industrial revolution in this medium-to-heavy Euro economic game.

The game is littered with hard choices and the ability to deny your opponents spaces and opportunities is rife, especially if you manage to pull off a last/first turn order combo effectively getting two turns on the bounce. You're constantly having to reevaluate your position with respect to your cards the available resources and it is certainly a brain burner that warrants its playtime and reputation in the hobby.

Despite the over-the-top production, I thought the price remained reasonable and for the retail version is an absolute bargain. It's not a game for everyone though, as there are lots of subtleties to grok before you're going to be competitive and there is a significant but-easily-surmountable-with-an-experienced-player learning curve.  The next time anyone requests a brain-burner, this is the game I'd recommend.

I'd like to thank Roxley Games and especially Paul Saxberg for providing the review copy of this game.

Publisher: Roxley Games
Players: 2 - 4
Designer: Martin Wallace
Playing time: 60 - 120 minutes
Deluxe version: Pre-orders still open for $75 + shipping
Retail version: Best price (delivered to UK) at time of review: £46.10

Conclusion U-Boot: TheBoard Game is an innovative U-Boat simulation that allows players of any ability the opportunity to work together...

UBoot:TBG a Kickstarter Preview UBoot:TBG  a Kickstarter Preview

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Kickstarter

Conclusion

U-Boot: TheBoard Game is an innovative U-Boat simulation that allows players of any ability the opportunity to work together in a fun, tense and immersive board game experience. If you like games: that make you think, that require lots of player interaction, that are stressful (in a good way) that are asymmetric, where your actions determine your entire experience, that are based on real military history, then this cooperative wargame from Phalanx Publishing is well worth taking a look at.  (Kickstarter Preview page)

I don't normally start reviews with my final thoughts, but if you’re interested to see if you’ll like this game, read on. The first thing to mention is that this game is entirely reliant on a mobile app and my review is based on a prototype edition of the game so any art or components pictured, are subject to change. The prototype does, however, feel very advanced and has custom miniatures in 1/72 scale that represent the 32 submariners (2 work shifts of 16 crew) under the player's control. There is also a U-Boat model that serves as a crew position reference as they ‘mobilise’ around the submarine.
Close up of the U-Boat model
I will attempt to describe the most significant rules and features of the game to let potential Kickstarter backers judge for themselves whether it’s for them or not.

Game summary

In this game, up to 4 players, take on the role of U-Boat Officers during WWII. Players choose to be either The Captain, The First Officer, The Navigator or The Chief Engineer. Each of these positions has a very different, yet equally important, role in making sure the entire crew returns home safely, hopefully with some destroyed enemy shipping to their name. To carry out their particular role each player controls a set of four miniatures which each have their own set of abilities. Effectively managing where the miniatures are in the boat at any given time is crucial to this game i.e. having the right amount of abilities in the right compartment.  This will involve so much discussion among all players, all the time, I would say this is a hybrid cooperative/social/thematic war game …
Setup at the start of a mission
There are no rounds or traditional game-play phases in this game; it is a ‘real-time’ sandbox where your crew will have to react to events and conditions that are triggered either through the mobile app or card draws. In order to react to any event, each player has to move his miniatures around the U-Boat model/board to the correct compartment to carry out any particular order. However, no-one can move their players until they are ‘mobilised’ first by The Captain. (The official Core Rules video is here.)

Mobilisation

Mobilisation allows all players to move all of their miniatures to any compartment in the submarine, (unless it has been flooded). Each mobilisation is paid for by the Captain by advancing a token on the Order Track. Once the Order Track token can go no farther the Captain must advance a token on the Morale Track to pay for any mobilisations. The Morale Track is a measure of how tired and fed up your crew is. The Order Track does get reset after every other watch (huge relief) but the Morale Track is only reduced through certain events and The Captain’s cards.
The Order and Morale Tracks
Once all players have finished moving their miniatures around the boat, The Captain can issue an Order. Again, these must be paid for by advancing a token on either the Order or Morale Track. There are consequences for The Captain pushing the crew too hard; too many orders in a short space of time will cause command and control issues. When the Morale Track token lands on certain spaces an Event Card is drawn. These are nearly always negative consequences and ultimately could lead to a mutiny and the Captain being relieved of his command. 
 The official Captain rules video is here.

Orders

Each player, including the Captain, carries out the orders, by using the abilities of the miniatures under their command, after they’ve been mobilised to the right compartment. For example, to alter course the navigator must have two miniatures with the helmsman icon in the control room; to change speed the Engineer must have two miniatures with the telegraph icon in The Engine Room etc.  In all, there are a total of 17 distinct orders that the players cooperatively attempt to resolve.
The Captain's Player Board
However, responding to orders only describes half of your actions as an Officer on board the U-boat. You will also have unique tasks that you must do in your own play area. The Captain is managing crew morale through his hand of cards which allows them to issue orders and mobilise the crew.  The First Officer is controlling the mobile app and announcing events such as shift changes as well as looking after the health of the crew.  The Navigator is plotting courses and target intercept vectors as well as making sure the crew have enough variety in their diet. The Chief Engineer is attempting to keep the boat from sinking (too far) through repairing leaks and environmental conditions.
Oh dear, things are not going well!
This sounds like a lot of things to be managing, and it is, but the designers have used a time dilation feature on the app to provide some much-needed breathing space. This allows a dynamic passage of time, which gives players just enough time, if you respond quickly, to an event before the next issue crops up. This doesn’t stop issues from piling up if you just ignore them or don’t prioritise them appropriately. Sometimes feeding the crew is not as important as putting out a fire in the Torpedo Room. However as you’d expect, things are much more frantic with an enemy nearby.  The level of player engagement, whether that’s in transit mode (sped up time) or attempting to get a firing solution (near real-time) is spot on, in my opinion.  It’s just enough to keep things suspenseful without being exhausting.

Crew Figures

Prototype Miniatures
 Your miniatures, however, will get exhausted. Each time a miniature’s ability is used one of its activation spaces is blanked off by a token. Each sailor has two different abilities; this means that the dedicated repair miniatures (The Chief Engineer’s) or the dedicated observer miniatures (The Navigator’s) may not be available for their primary duty. Any other figure can perform an order for which they do not have an ability icon but they will be less effective doing so. You will have to blank off two of their activation space for one order. Each miniature only has 3 abilities to start with, so you should attempt to minimise this inefficiency.  This is easier said than done as you’ll constantly have to decide whether it’s worth the exhaustion of one submariner (not so bad) or mobilising the entire crew so the miniature with the right ability can move, and in so doing, advancing the Morale Track to a card draw space (bad) but completing the order (good).
Thanks Cap'n
Each miniature will recover one activation space on a watch changeover - announced by the mobile app and repeated for all to hear by the First Officer. The watch changeover will cause all players to flip their crew panel to reflect the new watch, which has subtly different abilities from the earlier watch, and hopefully more available abilities i.e. they’re more rested. The miniatures remain where they were and now represent the new watch. They have in effect, taken over the corresponding submariners’ task from the earlier watch.  Some events and mobilisations will cause the miniatures to take damage which is resolved by drawing a Health Condition card.  These cards have a strip of icons on them which indicate the effect and treatment.  Each of these Health Condition effect icons will also blank off the activation spaces of the affected miniature, effectively removing them from taking any part in the rest of their watch or until they receive first aid.

Player roles - The First Officer

First-aid is administered by The First Officer. Every Health Condition requires a specific treatment from the First Officers medical supplies. For example, a ‘Severe Burns’ condition wounds and exhausts that miniature and it requires three medical supplies to treat; syringe, ointment and bandage.  Health Conditions also consider the mental aspects of U-boat service, with exhaustion, depression and insomnia all making an appearance. If a miniature ever receives a second wound card they are KIA and no longer available for that watch.
First Officer's Player Board
The First Officer will be working like a one-armed paper hangar managing the mobile app, making sure the right people are aware or remember certain conditions and administering first aid from their supply of medical tokens.

The mobile app provides several first-person views, from the bridge looking through the observer’s binoculars and through the periscope, when at periscope depth, for enemy disposition and torpedo targeting. Whilst surfaced you can use the sextant which will report the grid square the U-boat is in. All of these will require the right miniature in the right compartment to legally access the screen. The integration between what you do on the board (U-boat model) with your miniatures and the app is very well thought out. The official First Officer rules video is here.
An exciting view for the crew...

Player roles - The Navigator

Every day the crew must eat.  In fact, food is one of the primary considerations in managing the morale of the crew.  As mundane as this sounds, it is absolutely right to represent this and the mini-game the navigator has to complete each day can have a significant effect on the Morale Track and can be surprisingly strategic.  The navigator has a supply of Food Tokens with which to prepare a meal every day, which dwindles over time. In essence, The Navigator is attempting to combine ingredients together, with some constraints. For example, having eggs and meat adjacent to one another allows ham omelette to be made with no discernible effect on morale. A casserole, requiring meat, eggs and onions, adjacent to one another, will lower the Morale Track by 1.
Navigator's Player Board
On top of this, The Navigator is responsible for Strategic and Tactical Navigation. Strategic Navigation is simply getting the U-Boat to the right area by plotting a bearing on the Strategic Map – as long as you know where you are.  Tactical navigation is completed by using the attack disk and the shipping tokens on their Player Board map. Reported contacts’ relative position should be plotted and updated (as well as possible) to minimise periscope Orders. The Attack Disk is then used to calculate the best intercept vector for the optimum Torpedo firing point. This was my favourite position as it pretty closely resembles my military experience. The official Navigator rules video is available here.

Player roles - The Chief Engineer

Aside from diving, surfacing and changing speed the unique task of the Chief Engineer is to repair the boat. The VII C, as evidenced by this game is a leaky bucket! There may be times where there are no repairs to manage but when there are you will probably have to coordinate those with not only your miniatures but those of the rest of the players as well. Repairs normally will consist of having the right miniatures, with the right abilities in the affected compartment. However in the most serious of repairs, the Hull Breach you will have a small technical puzzle to complete.  I can’t really comment on the puzzle as it wasn’t included in my prototype.
Chief Engineer's Player Board
As well as the four miniatures position, The Chief Engineer also manages the positions of the two toolboxes around the boat. If some events, i.e. ‘check electrics in crew quarters’ are ignored, they will ultimately develop into an Environmental Condition. These will require one of the supplies within the toolbox to effect repair – much like the First Officers medical supplies.  The toolboxes must be carried by a mobilised sailor into the affected compartment in order to start repairs.

Repairs (and observing), unlike any other order, take time. When a miniature is repairing something one of their activation spaces is blanked off by a special repair activation token. These are coloured green, orange and red to correspond to maintenance, failure, or major failure, which could take a different amount of time and/or number of sailors to repair. The official Chief Engineer rules video is here.
This is not going to end well

The mobile app

I know there’s some ill-will in the board game community towards app-driven games but I don’t share that opinion.  The app in this game helps with your immersion (… anyone?) and integrates more with the game here than in any other app driven game I have tried (Mansions of Madness, Imperial Assault, Descent 2nd Edition).  The app provides some of the events (Morale Track provides the rest), it tracks your world position, it generates enemies, it gives a first-person view and adds an authentic feeling soundtrack. German is definitely the best language in which to bark orders!
My U-Boat credentials
This take on submarine warfare is more immersive than any computer sub-sim I’ve played (see above pic) albeit it’s not as complex. However, through playing the Silent Hunters and Dangerous Waters of this world, I think they are missing a crucial element; when I play them I don’t feel like I’m working together with a crew.  From my military experience, the crew or the people you have around you are what makes or breaks your mission.  In U-Boot: TBG, because there are four of you working together; it really feels like (as far as a game is able – let’s get serious!) you’re a crew on board a military submarine.

In most areas, the designers have got just the right amount of complexity to keep the game enjoyable and realistic at the same time. I would struggle to describe it as a simulation, in my head, they are not fun and usually end with your instructor giving you a less-than-pleasant debrief. However, I think the designers want to implement different levels of complexity within the app that you can try for more of a challenge.

Gameplay Experience

During our missions we’ve experienced amongst other events, compartment fires, leaks, electrical conditions which all divert your attention from sinking enemy vessels. We were advised to check the electrics in a compartment, we ignored that because we didn’t want to have to mobilise the crew again. Unfortunately, it turned into an electrical failure and again it was ignored. Finally, it turned into a hazard causing damage to all miniatures in that section, and any miniature that needed to mobilise through that section. Things were not going well. This seemed to cause multiple lighting failures all over the boat and we had three compartments with no lighting. At this point our First Officer suggested that we turn off the lights in the room we were playing in (we didn’t). A few chuckles were had when Toilet Cleaning was required in the crews quarters.
That's one trigger-happy crew...
On one mission we found a lone merchantman and sunk him for 2500 GRT. We then decided to go and visit Scotland, not a good idea – we were hit by multiple mines and eventually sunk. On our next mission (everyone wanted to play again), we found a small convoy. Everything got very hectic after this as we were nursing several leaks, and electric motor repairs, which led to a fire just as we were lining up on the leading destroyer. Unfortunately for us, at Periscope depth, we were distracted by all the mechanical issues and we were rammed and sunk by the enemy. In hindsight, we should have gone for the merchantmen at the back.  As ever, discretion is the better part of valour. We had such high hopes after discovering the convoy as well!

Future Development

The app is by no means perfect but I wouldn’t expect it to be at this stage. Several things haven’t been fully implemented and I’m sure that through further development the designers will add more content. For example, we were alerted to a patrolling plane but this was only an engine overhead sound, we ignored the second one and nothing seemed to happen. The deck guns aren’t implemented yet so we couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. We received a new message from HQ, but couldn’t read it because the enigma machine hasn’t been implemented either.
The Hydrophone
If I have one quibble with the current gameplay, it is that the TDC screen feels a little simplistic, it’s a case of flood the tube and fire. That is probably not going to satisfy the Silent Hunter aficionados out there. I would like to see more complexity, as an option for experienced players, added to the app.

Things that are currently missing, which could be implemented are the ability to work in conjunction with other U-Boats in wolf packs, maybe even over the internet with another group of players…  The prototype only has one patrol mission in the North Sea and after playing it four times I’m ready for some more variety.  I would like to see different types of missions, namely escort missions, rendezvous missions, troop insertion missions, specifically targeted vessels, risky transits from one base to another i.e. going through the Gibraltar Straits or the English Channel, to name a few. I would also like to see a campaign mode covering the rise and fall of the U-boat in WWII. Maybe this will add experienced submariner crews with bonus abilities from successful missions. I have no idea how some of that would be implemented but from what I’ve seen so far I’m sure the final product will meet most of my expectations.

Kickstarter project

In my opinion, this project has come to Kickstarter at the perfect point in its development. It is a project close to what I think Kickstarter was originally intended.  It’s not a polished CMON product offering masses of miniatures as stretch goals nor is it a completely finished-already Queen Games Kickstarter. This is a small(ish) publisher taking on a brilliant (in my opinion) and well play-tested prototype from dedicated designers that needs more development. The game is brimming with potential and is already good value for money at £65. This will only get better as the Kickstarter campaign progresses and more elements are implemented through further design.

The designers and publishers have been very active on the games bgg page, so if you've got a (hunter) killer idea or must-have feature then get in touch with them through the game forums at bgg.

The Kickstarter campaign is currently due to go live on the 22nd January 2018. 
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