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Subject: Viktory: Terror in Europe - Review rss

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Tim West
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Disclosure:

I was offered a review copy from Peter Morrison of Morrison Games, and he was notified in advance that my review would not be biased as a result. He had no problem with that, and I received the game shortly thereafter. It's my pleasure to report however, after 7 playthroughs with varied numbers of players, that Mr. Morrison need not worry about my reaction as Viktory: Terror in Europe is a delight to play for me and my gaming group, and is one of the nicest surprises as a gamer of 40 years that I've experienced in quite a while. Read on to find out why ...

You see, Mr. Morrison's previous title, Viktory II, released in 2006, was and still is one of my favorite introductory light wargames. It ranks right up there with Memoir '44 in enjoyment for me and my gaming groups. In fact, with the exception of Risk: Legacy, Viktory II has entirely replaced the Risk line of games I've played and owned. Viktory II: features some innovative ideas, simple enough rules, decent strategic depth, and with its map generation, near infinite replayability.

So anyway, in correspondence with Mr. Morrison after my repurchase of that title, he informed me of his newest release: Viktory: Terror in Europe. He further VERY kindly and bravely, offered me a review copy if I would write up a fair review. I accepted of course, and here it is:

Overview:

Viktory: Terror in Europe is an asymmetrical for 2-5 players, one of which plays a terrorist bent on causing havoc and destruction throughout the European continent, while every other player takes on the various agencies of Interpol to apprehend and kill him before too much damage is done. It's a tension filled, serious experience for all involved, most definitely requiring teamwork and well thought out deduction on the part of Interpol's representatives. The terrorist doesn't have it any easier, though in the begining it may seem so. Astute agent's will fairly quickly tighten their net after the terrorist's first few locations have been revealed. From that point an elusive and psychological cat and mouse kicks into high gear, where reading other players, trying to think like they would to predict their moves becomes ever more important.

Before I continue I do understand the idea of playing such a reprehensible person as a terrorist may put off some as it's sadly... tragically a current blight in our world, but neither I nor any in my gaming group have an issue with said role in this game. We view the role as that of an actor playing a part to create a compelling story. Quite frankly there are near countless games in which players represent factions and/or characters that are, or were, just as evil. Nazis in wargames, Evil Overlords in fantasy titles, even serial killers in titles like Mr. Jack and Letters From Whitechapel (of which V: TiE resembles mechanically) and are highly regarded games by many gamers. Furthermore, I personally see it as a bit elitist for some to look down on a board game for having a raw and/or a controversial theme or player role, yet criticize little of far more controversial, graphic, or despicable representations in films or video games. The Call of Duty franchise alone would have much, much more to answer for if one were to hold it the same standards as some reviewers have had in past board game reviews.

Object Of the Game:

For the Interpol player(s) to win, they must reduce the terrorist's strength to 0 from a starting strength of 12. This is difficult, as the only way to accomplish this is through direct combat with terrorist in his current location, and the terrorist, through successful planting and activation of recruiting cells can heal his wounds.

For the terrorist, he or she needs to score victory points to win, and can acheive either a minor (12 points) or major (18 points) victory. Points are scored mainly by successfully detonating bombs, though an incidental point is scored each time an agent is killed. This seems easy to acheive in the beginning, as the terrorist could be anywhere and usually will plant bombs the first two or three turns, scoring some easy points. But once he starts leaving a trail things become increasingly more difficult and risky. A minor terrorist victory is not uncommon, but after 7 plays, no member of our group has successfully pulled off a major terror victory. (The closest anyone came was 17 points, just 1 shy, and the Interpol players literally cheered when they took her down!)

Components:

The game comes in a sturdy glossy box: the art is decent and gets the job done conveying the game's theme, however the color palette is a bit dark and gloomy. It's not eye-catching, but not bad either. Inside you'll find the following materials, all in full color and all of which range in quality from good to excellent:

- 17 custom-made wooden pieces from meeplesource.com; including 3 absolutely awesome painted meeples along with 9 discs representing bombs, traps, and recruiting cells. The other 5 markers are various single color discs that track the health of the Terrorist, Interpol's team members, and 1 that tracks the terrorists victory points. The meeples are the stars of the show as far as eye-pleasing goes and will make you smile as soon as you lay hands on them. If there is any negative critique I have about them its that they are so well done and "cute" that they break the otherwise more serious tone of the rest of the games's quite well done components.

- 12 page glossy rulebook, well written and organized, with an easy to read typeface. There's no index, but the rules are very clear and they really don't need one. On the back there's even a nifty combat modifier reference chart, along with victory conditions. My only suggestion would be since the terrorist player moves in secret, there needs to be a reference for movement as well, as a mistake made in terrorist movement can throw an entire game and potentially cause a restart.

- A central game board which depicts along the edges, the Terrorist's victory point track, his health track, the health track of the 3 Interpol agencies, and a 3 space card track for the terrorist's hidden movement. The central area depicts a map of the European continent along with parts of North Africa and Turkey, as well as the seas surrounding all. The map is divided into 12 color coded "regions"and littered with 125 city spaces ranging from small towns to capitals to air and sea ports. These locations are all interconnected by web-like road and rail lines. It's appearance is somewhat of a Risk meets Pandemic meets Scotland Yard and it's very well thought out mechanically, and must have been a logistical nightmare to balance and playtest. The board's easy to look at and discern what you need, but it's evident that it's artwork was not a major concern, other than for functionality and contrast.

- 1 mounted miniature game board depicting the map for the terrorist player to reference when making his moves. This is a nice touch and well thought out design, as it allows the terrorist to not give away his location by eyeing the main board when planning his destructive path.

- 1 decently sized terrorist screen that provides ample room to keep his mini-map, cards, bombs,traps, and recruiting cells away from prying eyes. Another nice touch is the screen has a reproduction of the map as well. If a revised edition of the game comes out, I'd suggest adding 2 reference tables on the flaps of the screen: One for movement and the other for combat modifiers. This is a minor quip though, as both are fairly easily referenced in the rulebook.

- 125 standard-sized cards, representing every town, city, and airport/capital. The backs have an elegant design, and the faces are very easy to read. Each card is individually numbered in the top right corner to keep the cards in alphabetical order, making it very easy to find the card you need to play. Along with the name of the location, In addition each card has a full color picture of exactly where where it is on the game map. Finally the bottom 2 corners of each card show how much strangth a recruiting cell adds, or how many victory points are recieved when a bomb succesfully explodes' The cards are of average thickness and never need shuffling, but do get handled quite a bit, so sleeving them might be wise.

- 3 standard 6 sided dice. 2 white and 1 green, for Interpol and the Terrorist, respectively. They're average and functional. Not much else to say about them.

Setup:

Setting up a game takes very little time at all, our average being about 5 minutes, regardless of the number of players. The terrorist player sets up his components behind the screen: All the cards, tokens, and the minimap. It's wise and quicker to find specific location cards for the terrorist player to divide his or her deck into 3 or 4 smaller ones to speed play. Once that's done the 3 agencies of Interpol place their meeples in any starting location they desire, and place their health trackers at full. It's wise strategically for the agents to all pick different regions in the beginning, and even wiser to place them at airports/capitals, as those locations allow agents to rapidly move to other regions, but more importantly to keep the terrorist from placing bombs in them.
Finally after the agents have setup, the terrorists plays his first location card face down and plants a face down bomb, trap, or cell on top of the card, and you're ready to play. Please note it took me longer to write this one paragraph than it actually takes to set things up.

Gameplay:

The terrorist is always played by a single player, with 1-4 additional players representing Interpol's agencies; Turn order is always exactly the same regardless, and no player may alter this order (i.e. Interpol players cannot decide to have their Special Forces move before the Bomb Squad):
1. Secret Agents move.
2. Bomb Squad moves.
3. Special Forces move.
4. Informant makes a call (more on this in a bit)
5. Terrorist slides his card or cards one space to the right on his movement track, and places a new location and token as his current location.

Movement rules are as follows, and knowing them well is absolutely key to tracking down the terrorist player for Interpol. For the terrorist player even moreso, because if he or she makes a mistake during their hidden movement by moving to a location they could not legally travel to to, it literally throws the entire game to the point of a restart. Don't let my words intimidate you too much though, because movement is very simple to understand overall and shouldn't present a problem.

For all players, terrorist and Interpol forces alike movement is as follows:

1. You can move 1 space by road from your current location to an adjacent location.

2. You can move 1 or 2 spaces by rail from your current location.

3. You can move from any seaport to any other seaport that shares your current location's sea (or seas as some locations border 2 seas).

4. You can move from any airport to any other airport.

For the terrorist player, moving into an airport from road, rail, or sea is a face down secret move as normal, BUT taking a flight from one airport to another results in the destination airport being played face up, as tight surveillance at these locations has spotted him or her.

Secret Agents and Bomb Squad agencies have an additional "special move" option: They may move two locations by road or seaport instead of their usual move provided the entire move uses the same mode of transport.

Normally the terrorist player must reveal any of his secret locations traveled to or through, but Interpol players should be prudent with the "special movement" option for the Secret Agents and Bomb Squad because when moving this way the terrorist does not have to reveal the intervening location card; only the final destination of the move.

When an agency moves into a location the terrorist recently visited (within the last two turns of his current locale), they must reveal and deal with the token planted there. Each of the 3 agencies specialize in dealing with the 3 types of terrorist tokens. Secret Agents are better at withstanding traps. Bomb Squads are better at (what else?) disarming bombs, and Special Forces better at handling Recruiting Cells. Specialization in all cases simply getting to roll 2 dice instead of 1, and picking the more favorable result.

Traps are direct, planned attacks, causing 1d6 damage to the agency there. (All agencies have a max health of 6, so an instakill is possible)

Bombs are the main means for the terrorist to achieve enough points to win the game. When an agency discovers one they're defused on a roll of 1-3. On a 4-5 it detonation occurs and the terrorist player scores victory points as per the location. On a 6 the bomb not only detonates, but the agency there is killed as well. The terrorist may only plant bombs in Europe however, not in Turkey or North Africa.

Recruiting Cells are the terrorist's means of regaining lost strength when activated. When agents of Interpol discover these a roll of 1-3 breaks them up, a 4-5 activates them, and a 6 results in activation, and the agency's death.

Combat: When either an Interpol agent moves into the terrorist's current locale, or vice-versa, combat occurs between them using die rolls. At first blush this may seem entirely luck based, and although luck is present, their are tactical elements to consider to tip the odds. The attacker is the player who moved into the opponent's location and firefights play out like this:

Each side rolls a single die, and adds the following modifiers to their result:
- Secret Agents, the Bomb Squad, and the Terrorist add +1 if they were the attacker. Special Forces add +2 instead.
- Interpol Operatives get an additional +1 for each other living agency in the same location.
- The terrorist gets +1 for each dead Interpol agent in the same locale.
- The terrorist +1 if the battle takes place in North Africa or Turkey.

After adding all pertinent modifiers to the die roll the higher result wins, causing the loser a strength loss equivalent to the difference betwen the results. In the case of a tie (after modifiers), a rather interesting "combat break" mechanic occurs, ending the battle. Otherwise the conflict continues until the terrorist or the Interpol agents are wiped out.

Further Commentary and Review:

Viktory: Terror in Europe is a worthy edition to any gamer's collection who wants a fast, fun, TENSE, game of cat and mouse deduction, and can separate the fantasy world of a board game's personified role from reality. Playing a terrorist does not make you a terrorist, nor does it condone terrorism in any way, any more than Robert DeNiro is a gangster, or approves of the on-screen behavior he has portrayed.

The game plays best with 2 or 5 players, but has worked well with 3 and 4 for us so far. Adding players adds nearly nothing to a game's length, and indeed may make things easier for Interpol's team to track the terrorist's moves as two or more heads are better than one. The components are all of good quality, and the meeples are particularly delightful, but they also don't quite fit thematically with the rest of the pieces. It's not a big issue, but definitely a little off pudding.

What marries best to the game's theme however is it's mechanics. They're spot on! In the beginning of the game, Interpol has nothing more than vague rumor to go on, only knowing that a terrorist attack is imminent, yet having no clue where it will be. Agent's will randomly poke about early on, covering as much area as possible, hoping blindly to stumble upon leads as they travel. Once the bombs start going off, or more rarely, four rounds have past, the tension and heat ramps up with Interpol kicking into high gear as former location cards are revealed, and informants call with valid info. Interpol players burn brain cells and discuss predictions of the terrorists movement and plans, strategize how best to tighten their net and protect vital airport/capitals, and even analyze the psychology of their terrorist opponent, trying to think like he or she does etc. The endgame can come abruptly in a single showdown, or in fits of drawn out firefights due to multiple combat breaks. This is in large part due to the luck factor, but as famously said many times before "nothing ever goes as planned in war".

This game will no doubt be compared to predecessors like Scotland Yard, Fury of Dracula, Mr. Jack etc. But Viktory: Terror in Europe is, in this reviewer's opinion, a very good game in it's own right and a nice addition to that genre. Though it certainly draws inspiration and borrows mechanics from others of it's ilk, there are some unique additions: it's combat resolution system, agents specializations, and most of all subject matter, which really makes you think about what a daunting and enormous task it must be in real life for the world's law enforcement agencies to combat such an insidious current an ongoing threat to our security. I for one certainly do not envy them their task, and think Mr. Morrison a brave designer to have put so much obvious time and effort into this game's design without shying away from it's subject.

All in all, Viktory: Terror in Europe won't win any awards, but I feel it's definitely a meritous one and worthy of your time checking out. I truly fear however,that like Mr. Morrison's previous excellent title Viktory II (which to this day remains severely under-noticed); that this game will go largely unnoticed due to the sheer plethora of bigger companies ad campaigns, Kickstarter bombardments, and even just the sheer frequency of new games currently being released to market.

Final Rating: 8 out of 10.

Thank You, dear fellow gamer, for taking the time to read my review. I hope, whether you agree or disagree with my opinion, that it has at least been an enjoyable read. This it my first review in years here on BGG. I've missed this community and it's taken years to rebuild my gaming collection as well as my life in general, and it's good to be back!

Special Thanks to the following people for making this review possible:

Our Gaming Group Playtesters:
Beverly Washington
Denny Lococo
Ginna Lococo
Tiffany Holland
John French
Alexander S.H.

Review copy provided courtesy of Morrison Games

And a Very Special Thank You to Peter Morrison for his time and patience responding to my email queries regarding design, inspiration, and rule clarification for Viktory: TiE.
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Beverly Washington
United States
Tennessee
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I really like and agree with Tahndur's review, this is a great game! I disagree about the Meeples - I thought they were fantastic and their "cuteness" didn't detract from the feel of the game, just gave it more flavor. I love games with figures of some sort so they added to the game in my view.
 
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