Designed by Darko Nikolovski, who, along with Iztok Sitar also co-illustrated the game, Join the Partisans is a light tongue-in-cheek board, party and quiz game themed around the Slovenian partisan resistance to the Nazis and Italian Fascists in the Second World War. You'll learn some geography too because most of the place names on the map will be alien and strange to those of us who weren't raised in the Balkans: happily all the cards that refer to specific places incorporate a QR code that shows you where to find it on the map board.
The 2-5 players are competing to complete missions for each year of the war (1941-1945) by moving their partisan figure and using Yahtzee-style dice rolls to represent combat. Along the way, they'll try to pick up bonus points at the 'Partisan School' by answering quiz questions about the Second World War. You'll score 3 points if you can answer a tough historical question without any prompts; 2 points for correctly answering from the multiple-choice options; and just 1 point for answering the relatively easy 50/50 question. Players may be required to sing, draw or even bring food to their comrades! And there are medals to be won too (wooden medals for each year which you can pin on with magnets). The game notionally takes up to six players but the sixth player takes on the role of the Axis powers, rolling for the enemy rather than controlling a partisan. This is really an unnecessary role as the rules otherwise specify that the enemy is always controlled by the player on your right, as the designer explains in his video.
There are plenty of cards that shake up the game. If, for example, you draw a card that says you've abandoned your unit, you don't get to continue your mission for the next three rounds and you instead become a target for the other players, who can earn extra points for capturing deserters. Players can also earn extra points by rescuing comrades who have been caught by the enemy. The rules offer several variants, including the option to play with a traitor in your midst: no-one is actually playing as the traitor but players are trying to find he traitor card.
You can add various stars to your character's card to record your successes as you play Join the Partisans. These aren't merely decorative: depending on the colour they give an extra dice roll for attack, defence or movement, or additional Partisan School questions, and a full set of stars of a colour give you an extra victory point. In our Board's Eye View plays we used the stars as a way of extending play as a multi-game campaign, with the stars carrying forward to our next outing as partisans.
Tho' Join the Partisans is a comedic take on wartime Slovenia, some very real and quite detailed historical knowledge clearly underpins Darko Nikolovski's game. Aside from the WW2 trivia quiz, several of the characters in Join the Partisans are based on actual historical figures - including some who formed an international brigade to fight alongside the Yugoslav partisans. Join the Partisans is perhaps best classified as a party game but it is unlike any other we've seen and, joking aside, it's a game where you are likely to leave the table knowing more about Slovenia, the Balkans and the Second World War than you did before you sat down to play.