Mike
Australia
Greenmount
Western Australia
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I like it.

There. No mysteries remaining after this point, but read on if you burn with the desire to learn why (or have nothing better to do).

Overview
So, we have a solo game about defending an English village from German soldiers during the Second Great War. The challenge lies in organising the defenders' positions, trying to cover key points of the village without being spread too thin, and reacting to the appearance of the enemy before they penetrate too deep towards the centre of town. Folk are armed with a range of weapons, from pitchforks and crickets bats, through simple pistols and rifles, to the oh-so-lovely machine guns.

Gameplay
You have two large boards forming one huge map of the village, ten standard dice, lots of square counters representing people, equipment and such, and four decks of event cards. Each turn some of these cards will introduce events and vie to complicate your plans. Players can choose from other decks, taking a risk of ramping up the enemy difficulty, in order to increase the chances of receiving a wondrous tactic card that might be invaluable in future. (To put it very simply.)

Dice!
There is much dice chucking, so yes a lot of luck in combat, but I find it balances out for the most part. A good run of rolls soon becomes a monstrous catastrophe with not a single shot firing true--and I like this. It gives the game many moments of "Oh dear, I'm in trouble now" and also "Aha! Take that, Hans!" Good stuff.

Charts!
And there is much referring to charts. Much. Some people don’t like such chart checking. I don’t mind.

And more!
Now if you are still here after reading about the dice rolling and chart referencing, you are in for a treat, because there is also frequent referencing of the handbook. Each card contains only a heading and a reference number (as well as a thematic image), so multiple times a turn, and whenever you need to remember the purpose of a previously-drawn card, the handbook will be required. I sometimes find this tiresome, but without it--if the effects were printed on each card, for example—there would be no need to delve into the flavoursome text, and as such I feel the game would be lesser for it. This game is all about atmosphere and immersion. Every character, weapon, event and effect has a listing in the handbook detailing background information and flooded with flavour. Maybe a few icons on the cards would have helped prompt my poor old brain--saving me from looking up the effect of the same card quite so often--but I believe the decision to force the player to refer to the handbook was the correct one.

Not so good bits
Having said that, some extra details being included on the handouts would be a godsend. Why oh why is there no turn reference on the back of any book, so I always have to flip back to the middle of the rules? Why do some tips include half the relevant details and leave out others, so a trip into the handbook is still required? Why does the board not have highlights on important turns so I don't have to keep checking when things happen? (I do admit to having a lacklustre brain.)

Good bits (and back to not so good bits again)
Quality of components is excellent. My only whinge here is mostly due to my own fault: the two game boards could benefit from an extra couple of folds in them. Being as large as they are, it doesn't take much force to accidentally bend them ever-so-slightly in the wrong direction when packing up...resulting in a sudden, stomach-turning tear of paper as the artwork on the opposite side of the fold is torn. This happened today on my second board, and I am now very much unhappy that my once-perfect boards are now slightly spoiled. Oh well. My fault.

Nasty old Chaplin
I guess while I am grumbling, I have another small qualm. A significant feature of the game involves the search for "Chaplin", a dastardly double-agent attempting to thwart our efforts of defence, but I find the best method of catching him is just to sit my policeman on top of the nearest civilian and make my Chaplin role each turn, generally discovering him before the game is half done. I've never had a Chaplin cause me more than the mild inconvenience of having those characters sitting around testing/being tested for part of the game. I do wish there was a bit more to it. Maybe I need to approach it differently.

Squeezing the juice
I do find the game a tad easy. It took the first few games to get the hang of it, but then it was really a matter of playing out the scenario until the end and seeing if I could improve my score. Playing it safe can lower the enjoyment of the game, so I do find it is sometimes necessary to purposefully take some more dangerous choices to liven things up, but I don't count this as a negative; it’s more like “How close can I come to the wire? How much can I press my luck?” There is an incentive not just to win, but to score higher each game, so this plays into it.

Similar Games
I cannot say how this compares to other war games. Is it a war game? I don't know. (Some people on BGG have called this a story game more than a war game.) I don't really know what to compare it to, and I haven't played Where There is Discord (although I’d like to), so I can't even compare it to that game by the same designer. I must admit I have limited experience with similar games. So I’ve proven rather useless in this section. Oh well.

Summary bit
I very much enjoy sharing the trials and tribulations of the people of Birkham Stokes. I rate this as one of my top games out of my collection of about 200 or so. I recommend it to those who enjoy solo games, and games that perhaps can be played at a leisurely pace. I tend to play over several days, simply because I enjoy taking a turn or two between other activities throughout the day.

So, Codeword Cromwell is: an enjoyable solo game that creates the feeling of a tense WW2 battle between townsfolk and soldiers. I plan to keep it in my collection for as long as my collection and myself continue to co-exist. My sincere thanks to the designer, Daniel Hodges.

[Edits: some words]
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David Janik-Jones
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this | Transgender pride | Unconditional love, pride, and support | LGBTQ Ally | The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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I would love to give this a go ... but not enough so to pay the price that's being asked for it, unfortunately. Excellent review, btw.
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Phillip Good
United Kingdom
London
London
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Good review and close to how I feel about this game. It doesn't always make it's way out of my games cupboard very often as, like you, I like to take a few days over it and the wife gets grumpy if I monopolize the coffee table for too long!

I actually prefer 'Where There Is Discord' but both games are quite dissimilar (barring the obvious similarity of the Event Book). WTID is more of a dynamic strategy game that lobs hand grenades at you whilst tempting you to push your luck every turn; for every day that goes by you say a little prayer to yourself.

In my first game of CC I ended up with the Senior Officer at the GPs trying to get healed for the entire game whilst everyone else (barring Daisy and Reynolds who decided to disappear off for a snog in the bushes)piled back to the church (once the fallschirmjagers had taken the school)to try and defend with very limited weaponry.... upshot? We lost big style with the 5th Infantry Division mullering the remaining villagers in a shootout.... cue lots of broken stained glass, slowly panning cinematography and the playing of 'The Last Post'.

Very atmospheric and full of flavour but you will waste your money if you don't immerse yourself and treat it as a card pulling, dice rolling rush to the (big) finish.

Pip
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Dances With Militias
United States
Ethnic Spokanistan
Washington
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Excellent review.

I thoroughly enjoy this game, if only for its uniqueness in design. A fun, satisfying change of pace from the more traditional hex-and-counter games.

But yeah, you need to sit back and enjoy the narrative to really appreciate this game.
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Stuart Holttum
United Kingdom
Southend on Sea
Essex
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lordofscones wrote:
Nasty old Chaplin
I guess while I am grumbling, I have another small qualm. A significant feature of the game involves the search for "Chaplin", a dastardly double-agent attempting to thwart our efforts of defence, but I find the best method of catching him is just to sit my policeman on top of the nearest civilian and make my Chaplin role each turn, generally discovering him before the game is half done. I've never had a Chaplin cause me more than the mild inconvenience of having those characters sitting around testing/being tested for part of the game. I do wish there was a bit more to it. Maybe I need to approach it differently.

It sounds like you are playing to slightly different rules to me....

My understanding is that Drake moves OR searched for Chaplin - which means either you have to try to funnel Characters to wherever he is placed doing his shooting, OR you will be sub-optimally placing him for combat while he roams the village. Either way, unless you park Drake somewhere and never move him again (which seems unlikely) you will not be able to "Chaplin Test" every turn.

So it seems likely therefore that Drake will be able to test for Chaplin somewhere around half the turns in the game (when he doesn't move).

He can also only discover Chaplin if the Character is with him when he rolls. The chance of having more than a couple of Characters with him at any one time seems pretty remote - I suppose maybe you could have all the non-combatants follow him round and get continually tested, but you wouldn't want to put ALL your decent ranged-combat characters into the same square - there are reasons to have some of them sit with Drake, but not spreading them out to cover at least the Objective squares seems like a poor decision.

I guess I don't see how you are able to reliably discover Chaplin in the around eight turns, especially with the "move or question" rule in place for Drake......would appreciate some more detail on how you are managing it!

Or maybe I'm reading the rules wrong!!
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Bill Kirkup
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I think there is a way to have a good chance to unmask Chaplin early which doesn't spoil the story line too much. This is how the story unfolded the last time I played, with the moves in parentheses.

News of the impending invasion reaches Edith Finlay first, via the radio in her shop. The suspicions she has had for some time, based on the incessant gossip in the shop, can be denied no longer. She hurries to the Police Station. (First pre-invasion move: Finlay to Police Station).

She tells Sgt Drake her concerns. Linking her gossip with his knowledge of the unknown person of interest in the village, he immediately summons Arthur Pendrake for questioning. (Second pre-invasion move: Pendrake to Police Station.)

Firing can be heard on the west edge of the village, but Sgt Drake is determined to pursue his suspicions. He interviews Pendrake, who denies it all. Mrs Finlay gives Sgt Drake more details though, and the questioning resumes. (First Invasion turn: attempted Chaplin roll fails, repeat as Finlay present also fails.)

The interrogation continues relentlessly, aided by Mrs Finlay's unerring recall of endless details. At last, Pendrake cracks under the pressure, admits everything and attacks Drake, but is killed by the policeman. (Third Invasion turn: Chaplin roll comes up seven on 2d6 at the fifth attempt and Drake wins the ensuing shootout).

Given the repeat rolls enabled by Finlay and Pendrake's Chaplin number of seven, the probabilities of success are good - roughly 30% in the first turn, cumulatively 50% by the second and 95% by the eighth.

in reality things may not run so smoothly - maybe there won't be a second pre-invasion turn, maybe the Fallschirmjäger will appear from the east early on forcing Drake to react, maybe an Event will disturb one of the three characters - but it still seems an effective strategy if the objective is to deal with Chaplin early. It has the added bonus that Pendrake doesn't seem one of the more effective characters so his early loss isn't very damaging.

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