“There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and to action.”
_____—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945, Letters and Papers from Prison
Black Orchestra is one of those rare games that revels in the hopelessness of its situation. Wallows in it, more like. As one of the conspirators bent on overthrowing Adolf Hitler — whether you’re a civilian businessman or politician, Abwehr or Wehrmacht officer — your chances are, as was the case in the real-life Schwarze Kapelle, nearly hopeless. It’s less an exercise in excitement and explosions, and more a game of waiting, of chewing your fingernails until they’re raw, of walking the line between playing it cool under pressure and taking foolhardy risks the instant an opening presents itself.
By way of example, let me tell you about three plots to assassinate Hitler.
Settle in, because I’ve got one whopper of a tale to tell. I recently played the latest game from hit-or-miss-or-miss-or-miss designer Richard Launius, a doozy that goes by the name of Legends of the American Frontier. How was it? That’s not the important part. We’ll get to that when the time’s right. For now, I’d rather tell you about cheerful Jedediah, the whistlin’ preacher-man who wasn’t ever much good at anything other than stumblin’ right along, no matter how rocky the trail.
Island Fortress strikes me as a deeply silly title for a boardgame. So matter-of-fact. No mystery to it. It’s kind of like naming Archipelago, I dunno, “Unethical Caribbean Colony” or something. Or calling Netrunner “Corporate Hacking.” I’m not sure why it strikes me as so unusually stolid when there are plenty of poorly-named games games out there, but whenever I look at the box, I hear an accountant telling me, in the flattest voice possible, “We are now going to begin constructing an island fortress.” Then he starts eating all the crackers and talking about his favorite equity funds.
Thank goodness I don’t judge books by their covers unless they’re romance novels, because otherwise I would have never learned that Island Fortress is the best time you’ll ever have sending dozens of people to their deaths so that you can play Tetris.