Escape from Colditz Review by David Lent
Osprey Games has reprinted Escape from Colditz. It’s a game for 2 to 6 players that was designed by Major Pat Reid who successfully escaped from this POW camp. In Colditz, one player plays the guards and the other players are escape officers who need to be the first to get two of their prisoners to successfully escape from the prison before time runs out. If the escape officers fail, the German security officer wins. Most games have a 50-turn limit, but players can agree to have more or less turns. Obviously, the escape officers want as high a turn limit as possible.
The components in this version are high quality and very thematic. This game’s map is mounted and has a big picture of the prison along with a turn track along the outer rim of the map. Each room of the prison is represented and has a symbol of the escape equipment available in the room. Most of the smaller components come in a box that is made to look like a Red Cross package for prisoners of war. Underneath the game’s insert is an escape map printed on the inside of the box. There are also reprints of prisoner’s post cards, wanted posters and a booklet about the history of Colditz. In addition, there are also many cards that are used in the game.
This version of Escape from Colditz has both the original rules and modern rules. The modern rules seem to be a streamlined version of the original rules that do not use the Do or Die cards.
I usually give a very detailed description of how a game is played in my reviews, but I will only do a general overview in this review since most of you have probably played the original game.
The escape officers each begin the game with an escape kit. In order to escape, the prisoner must have an escape kit and any tools necessary to affect his escape such as keys, documents, wire cutters or ropes. In order to get these items, the escape officer must have two of his prisoners in one or more rooms with the item’s symbol simultaneously. If an escape kit is needed, then the escape officers must simultaneously have a prisoner in a room with a compass, food, documents and a disguise.
Once an escape officer has escape items other than an escape kit, his prisoners are eligible for arrest. A prisoner can avoid arrest by a security guard by being in a room, the appel area or a safe space. If a prisoner is arrested in the inner courtyard, he goes to solitary but the escape officer does not lose any equipment. However, if a prisoner is arrested in the outer courtyard or outside the castle, he goes to solitary but his escape officer has one of his items confiscated. When a prisoner attempts to make an escape, he uses ropes, keys, wire cutters or forged documents. The ropes stay in position, unless a guard following the prisoner chooses to remove them. Keys, documents and wire cutters are lost as soon as they are used.
Security guards have different movement than the prisoners. They can move directly to any guard post from the barracks for one movement point or directly to the Commander’s office from a guard post for one movement point. At the end of the turn, they move from the Commander’s office to the barracks. They may not enter rooms or safe areas and may not end their movement on certain areas such as walkways. Anytime they move onto a space with a prisoner, the prisoner is arrested provided that the escape officer has equipment. The guard player will usually leave several guards in the barracks so they may move directly to a guard post near where a prisoner is escaping or where the security guard thinks a prisoner may attempt to escape.
There are cards that can be drawn when a security guard or escape officer rolls five or less on movement. The security cards are used by the security guard to arrest prisoners in certain rooms, call all prisoners to the appel area (which they may refuse and risk arrest), shoot prisoners outside the castle or arrest prisoners trying to use keys, etc. Opportunity cards are used by escape officers and they can give him equipment, open tunnels, send guards to the Commander’s office, etc. Players may not have more than three cards in their hand.
The strategy for the players is to get the equipment they need and keep their prisoners in areas they cannot be arrested until it’s time to make an escape attempt. You try to keep the security officer guessing as to where you will make your escape attempt, so he doesn’t preposition too many guards near there. During your escape, you can have one of your prisoners run into a nearby guard, so the guard has to arrest him and go to the Commander’s office. In addition, it’s a good idea to have a card in your hand that removes security guards from the board. This is a roll and move game, so both you and the security officer roll for movement and if the security guard rolls better he is going to outrun your prisoner and arrest him.
Escape officers will have a hard time getting their prisoners to escape successfully. The security officer’s job is much easier and he just has to use a little common sense and he will stop most escape attempts. This is a low scoring game and an escape officer will have 0, 1 or 2 successful escapes in a 50-turn game. If you’re the type of person who loves low scoring baseball games (pitcher’s games) you’re going to love this game. However, if you’re the type of person who likes high scoring games, this game won’t be a good fit for you.
As mentioned previously, the modern rules omit the Do or Die cards. I feel this was a mistake. The Do or Die cards are the best cards in the game. They let you roll the dice a specific number of times and attempt to run a prisoner directly from the light gray area of the map to an escape target and guards cannot stop him. If you fail, you lose the game. However, if there is only a few turns left and you need exactly one more prisoner to escape to win, this is worth the risk. During one of the games I played, we allowed the Do or Die cards to be used with the modern rules and the winner won because of them. All of my play-testers liked these cards.
I found this game to be super strong on theme, strategy, components and maybe historical accuracy. However, most of the game was boring followed by a few very exciting periods when an escape was in progress. Most of the escape officer’s game is spent trying to get escape equipment and avoid arrest. The security officer has many turns where he can’t really do much of anything if all the prisoners are on safe spaces and the security officer doesn’t have a card to search a room the prisoners currently are in. However, after playing this game multiple times I found myself trying to think of new escape strategies when I was trying to fall asleep at night. This indicates that I liked the game overall, even though I was bored at times. It’s certainly better than any other roll and move game I’ve played.
Buy your own copy here.
View the components in the unboxing video below: