Escape from Colditz, does this classic cut the mustard in todays age of modern gaming?
I wrote an article a couple of months ago about my first play of Escape from Colditz, the new edition that was reprinted and re-implemented. You can find the article via the link below:
It plays 2 to 6 players and plays approx. 30 mins per player.
I was lucky enough to have a copy of the original version from my childhood to compare the new one to. The box has taken a beating over the years, but the contents in the box are very much intact and in good condition. I have fond memories of playing this with my best friend when I was a kid all those years ago. I was surprised to hear how many people don’t have this game and was interested in the game. I guess that as I had it as a kid, I took it for granted that there was a lot of copies around to satisfy people’s curiosity. I was wrong to do so it appears. I did take it to a games club a few years back and it did still have its charm and everyone who played it enjoyed it.
My battered copy of the original
The production quality of the new version is superb. This classic game got the treatment it deserved from Osprey Games. They have omitted the swastikas that were on the original version so not to be breaking any laws in Germany or offend anyone who is sensitive about the symbol. The Eagle has been used instead.
The board is one that you would expect today, not the 4 piece jigsaw that the older version was. The cards are in their own wonderful little tuckboxes and it is printed on them which cards go in which box for ease of putting away and setting up. The layout of the board is pretty much the same with a small number of changes that I shall detail later. You get a number of historical facsimiles in the game and along with the rulebook you get a similar sized book about the history of Colditz. Also on the inside of the bottom of the box, if you remove the insert, you will see old hand drawn maps on the inside of the box bottom. There is a replica first aid kit that houses the pawns and dice as well as the punched counters, there are not many counters, but that is where I decided they live.
The first aid kit
Osprey really have done an excellent job on the production of this game.
How does the new version compare to the old one? Does it cut the mustard or has it been butchered?
You are in charge of one the nations incarcerated in Colditz, a Prisoner of War camp for people who have escaped from other camps or were high risk of doing so. It was an old castle in the heart of Germany. One player plays the German Security officer trying to stop the pesky POW’s escaping. So it is a one against the rest, however the rest are competing against each other too. As an escape officer you have 50 turns to escape with 2 POW’s, the first person to do that wins. If at the end of 50 turns no escape officer has escaped with 2 POW’s the Security player wins. You can play it where all the POW’s co-operate together and they have to collectively get 6 out in 50 turns. The 50 turn limit can be changed to 30 if you fancy a bigger challenge.
Game in progress, well, just started.
How do you get your guys out? There are targets around the edge of the board you have to get your guys to. You need equipment to get past the various obstacles in your way such as wire cutters for the barbed wire and rope for climbing out of windows. Movement is pretty straightforward, you roll 2 dice and that is how many spaces you can move around the board that turn. If you roll a double you roll again and add the numbers together.
How do you get the equipment? You move 2 of your POW’s to the same room or 1 in each of the 2 different rooms with the desired equipment pictured in and then they will return to the central ‘Appel’ area on the board. This is when the security officer can make life hard for the POW’s as he can place his officers strategically and prevent the POW’s easy access to certain equipment. They can still get it, it is just more difficult and takes more time, just remember it is a race against time!
Game well in progress now. Solitary is heavily populated now.
You also get to draw Opportunity/Security cards (depending on which role you are playing) if you roll 5 or less. These give you one off things that can aid you in your quest to escape/prevent an escape. These can change the game hugely and some cards are far more powerful than others.
Your POW’s can be arrested if they are outside the castle walls, or outside the Appel area with equipment. They are safe if they are in designated safe areas (coloured blue on the board) or in a room, although security can enter certain rooms with the correct ‘Search’ security card.
One brave soul tried to escape. He failed and paid with his life, poor soul. RIP.
If you are outside the confines of the castle and are heading for one of the targets, the security officer can play a ‘Shoot to Kill’ card where he can, oddly enough, try to shoot to kill the escaping officer, so you can end up losing a POW as he has been shot! There are 2 of these cards in the security deck. These are the cards that the POW players dread and keep an eye out for if/when the Security deck is shuffled. The security guard is very keen to get his hands on these cards.
The security officer really does not want the prisoners to hit the showers.
Well what differences are there between this and the original version? Are there lots of changes? There are a few, I will list them:
- You draw an Opportunity/Security card on a roll of 5 or less instead of 3, 7 or 11.
- Security can now block passageways. They just can’t end their movement on thicker outlined circles.
- There is a turn limit of 50 turns. If no one has won by then, the Security player wins
- The rules for tunnels are different
- The tunnel in the Chapel is significantly shorter
- There is no hand limit on equipment cards
- Escape officers can reuse equipment if the security officers don’t clean up the equipment used in an escape attempt
- Escape officers cannot move through each other (we found it was too difficult to move around the board and we house ruled that this was to be ignored with the exception of in tunnels).
- Security officers going to the barracks can’t move out until their next turn.
- There are 2 ‘Shoot to Kill’ cards in the security deck instead of 1
I think that is about it.
Does it change a lot about the game? Yes. You get less opportunity/security cards as in the old version, so you make do with what you have instead of being able to get through them at a rate of knots looking for a certain good card. I assume that is why there is the 2nd Shoot to Kill card in the security deck as it is a very important card for the security officer to have. The changes with tunnels make them not as desirable to use as the original version and the shortening of the Chapel tunnel is vital as it was too powerful in the original. If you got that card you were odds on to get 1 guy away and possibly 2.
The inside of the base of the box
The reusing of equipment (which is indicated by little punched tokens) is a great idea, plus it gives the security officer more things that he needs to do as an POW getting a pile of rope to use takes a long time and to leave it in situ once used would be asking for trouble, but if he does tidy up all the used equipment, someone might then leg it on the other side of the board during the distraction of removing the used equipment.
The time limit is also a great addition, the original could take quite some time until a POW either got an opportunity card they liked or got a decent dice roll, the turn limit kind of makes it a race game. Security being allowed to block is also a nice addition too.
very beautifully presented
The only thing we didn’t like about the changes was that POW’s could not pass through each other. This was too restrictive and found that the POW’s couldn’t move around the board much especially with a larger player count. We decided to keep this rule for when people were in tunnels though.
I played this a number of times and I was truly surprised with the number of people who had not played this game, considering it was originally printed in the 70’s and had a number of print runs afterwards. People’s reactions were very positive and some were surprised at how good it was considering how old it is. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell it is an old design, roll and move, get a card etc. But there are meaningful decisions to be made, lots of them. The redesign has helped make the security role a lot more interesting and decisions need to be made from the off whereas with the old version the first part of the game was pretty dull with not much to do for the security player.
One of the tuckboxes and contents
We have had a hoot playing this game over the last few months. Two people who have played my copy have gone out and bought their own copy. I found that I enjoyed it more with more people. OK it takes about 3 hours for a 6 player game, presuming it gets close to the 50 turn limit, but we didn’t really notice the time fly by. With 2 players it can be done in under an hour, but I preferred the large player interaction and the social aspect of the game. This is one for families and gaming groups alike, 2 players to 6 players, it plays well with all numbers.
You can pick up a copy via the website via the link below direct from Osprey or from your Friendly Local Games Shop (FLGS) as the game has excellent distribution.
- ManorCon 2019 report and cons in general and possible newbie guidance…. - July 22, 2019
- New to Stew August 2017 - September 4, 2017
- New to Stew July 2017 - August 2, 2017
Escape from Colditz review
A re-implementation of the classic game that has been done to the highest specification. Retains the charm of the original while adding a number of small changes that make big changes to the gameplay.