V-Commandos has been out for more than a year but it hasn’t made a big splash, mainly because it has been hard to find unless you backed it on Kickstarter or ordered it direct from the publishers, Triton Noir. Now it is finally coming to retail and it’s sure to garner a lot more interest.
The game is set in World War II. Players control one or more allied commandos, each with a special ability. Every game begins with an assigned mission, and there are a lot of different missions supplied, each with a varied choice of terrain set-ups. Typically, missions are multi-stage: the commandos have to complete an objective at one or two different locations before moving on to another location to complete the main mission objective. They will use and will expect to find more equipment during the course of their endeavours, and they will of course come up against German troops.
V-Commandos is a co-operative game, playable by up to four. As with most co-op games, it can also be played solitaire. Because it is a fully co-operative game, you can introduce new players without having to swamp them with rule explanations before you start play: a big plus. Most co-op games suffer from susceptibility to ‘alpha player syndrome’ (one bossy player taking control and directing play to the extent that the other players end up merely moving the pieces for him). V-Commandos is no exception: an ‘alpha player’ can ruin the game if you let him. However, the fact that the commando team is likely to have to split up to achieve separate objectives in parallel makes it easier for other players to resist being bossed about.
This is not a gung-ho storm-the-enemy combat game. It’s a game where players are striving to make as much progress as they can before being discovered. It is possible to successfully complete a mission guns blazing while the entire might of a respawning German army is pursuing your small team of commandos, but it is unlikely. The game is all about stealth and managing actions so that you avoid triggering alarms.
V-Commandos is an entirely engrossing game where players need to utilise their characters’ actions and abilities with care if they are to have any chance of achieving a collective win. There is a good balance of tactics and luck, with much excitement over a fortuitous or unlucky dice roll, and further tension added through the game’s use of random event cards. The game incorporates a very workable system for controlling the Germans and selecting their movement, and it gives them an ‘intelligence’ because the rules for controlling them vary in response to players’ actions. This makes for a tough-to-beat AI opponent.
In play, V-Commandos has the feel of a video game. That’s true too in its treatment of combat, where the designer, Thibaud de la Touanne, has wisely gone for playability rather than simulation. This does mean, however, that a character can be mowed down by German stormtroopers in one turn and then get completely restored to full health in the next.
V-Commandos looks great – with tiles and character tokens offering a top-down view; so a bird’s eye view rather than a board’s eye view :-) This is a game that could have easily lent itself to the use of miniatures rather than cardboard chits. They would have added to the cost of the game, but I suspect that V-Commandos could well already be a smash hit game if it had come with plastic minis. Having said that, it would be easy enough to ‘pimp’ this game by substituting plastic figures from another game… More urgently, you’ll need to find a couple of cloth bags for chits that are randomly drawn (spawning enemy reinforcements; equipment found after eliminating an enemy unit). It’s a pity opaque bags weren’t included in the game as standard.
V-Commandos is a game that’s a lot of fun to play and where you have the potential in the box for a lot of varied missions. If you’re a fan of co-operative and/or solitaire games, then you should definitely check this one out.