V-Commandos is a stealth action board game from Triton Noir. It was a successful Kickstarter at the end of 2014 and received great reviews and it has since had two expansions. Triton Noir have recently come back into the spotlight with the announcement of an upcoming Assassin's Creed board game. The miniatures for their AC board game look incredible, so the TechRaptor Tabletop Team thought it would be a good idea to visit the game where it all began, as AC cites Stealth and Cooperation as it's fundamentals, and V-Commandos is a cooperative action stealth game.
In V-Commandos, players take the role of a group of elite commandos in World War II trying to complete missions and extract safely. The components are entirely card, with a selection of different sized map pieces that can be placed together in a huge variety of combinations to make mission maps, as well as tokens, cards and cardboard disks for the soldiers. The individual disks for the soldiers are of a great quality and far from repeating the same image, the discs contain multiple different images for the enemy soldiers (which can be as simple as a different helmet or facing, but it goes a long way to increase immersion).
Players should read through the rules and complete the three tutorial missions as they go, after that, a huge amount of options opens up for players in terms of maps. Players can either play a single map card, which takes around 30 mins, or a campaign of several links map cards. Twenty-six individual maps cards are available in the V-Commandos box, and nine linked campaigns which can be a simple as the single map Operation Green, or as detailed as Operation Wipe, which has five map tiles, 4 of which have to be completed simultaneously in pairs. All of the Operation cards have a rough guide for how long the whole campaign will take as well as any special rules, and the number of commandos that should be used.
Five commandos are available in the box, each with two different load-out options (on double-sided character cards) and each comes with their own unique set of skills. Players can be the Officer who inspires the other commandos by giving them bonus actions, the Sapper who is the explosives expert, the long-range death dealing Sniper, the stealthy Scout who can walk through walls or the support Medic. The commandos all come with set equipment and abilities, and the two sides to the commando's card find a balance with these, either having great abilities and a less effective weapon, or a great weapon and more limited abilities. Finding the right mix and commando load-out is as important to the mission as the plan and execution.
Games take place over a number of rounds, split into 4 phases. During the Event phase, an event card is drawn and its effects take place. The event card also dictates the direction of travel for the enemy forces. During the Commando phase, the players all activate their commandos, in any order they choose. Each commando gets 3 activation points to split between actions such as single point actions like shooting, eliminating an enemy with melee, moving to a different small tile or moving without stealth to a medium or large tile. Two point activation includes some special abilities or moving stealthily to a different medium tile. During the Enemy phase, the enemy units spawn on set entrance points, move towards either the nearest visible commando or in the direction dictated by the event card, and then fire at any visible commandos. The final phase is simply a check to see if the victory conditions have been met.
Mission objectives for the commandos can be as simple as spending an activation in the same terrain tile as an objective, planting an explosive and then detonating it, or more complex like leading a prisoner to safety or capturing and escorting an enemy out. Commandos enter and exit the maps through trap doors and can sometimes travel across the map between trap doors if they are both unlocked. If other trap doors are locked, sending a stealthy commando to unlock it in order for the other commandos to travel unseen across the map, or as an easier exit point, can have a huge impact on the success of a mission.
Remaining stealthy is the most effective way of achieving victory for the commandos, unfortunately the odds are stacked against the commandos and the enemy forces are always prepared and reinforcing constantly. Commandos can move between small tiles without enemies freely and remain hidden. They can also move into medium tiles stealthily at the cost of 2 action points (2AP). Moving into a large tile always results in a commando becoming visible, and shooting a weapon with the visible symbol will also result in the commando becoming visible. Whenever a stealthy commando moves into a tile with enemy forces or enemy forces move into a tile with a stealthy commando, a D6 is rolled for every enemy on the tile. If a 1 or 2 is rolled, the commando becomes visible.
If a commando is visible, the alarm will be sounded. This can also occur if a weapon with the noisy symbol is used (which might not always reveal the commando, but will activate the alarm). When the alarm is sounded, enemy reinforcements double and will quickly begin to fill up the map tiles if not dealt with. During the enemy turn the enemies will attack visible commandos or patrol in the direction dictated by the Event card if no commandos are visible.
The shooting rules are incredibly simple, each map tile has a target number listed on it, rolling equal to or over this number results in a hit. The amount of dice rolled is listed as white dots on either the commando's weapon or at the bottom of the enemy tile. Some weapons are silent but usually roll fewer dice, whereas the larger caliber weapons are very effective, but always make a noise.
Playing V-Commandos is like trying to work out a puzzle, with some simplified wargaming elements. Each turn players need to work out the best way to keep their commandos hidden and work towards the objective, or deal with the enemy threat if the alarm is on. The puzzles are detailed, complex and challenging, remaining hidden is rightly difficult, but very effective. Keeping the enemy levels down once the alarm has gone off is also rightly challenging and V-Commandos finds a very nice balance between fun and challenge.
Our favorite part of V-Commandos are the linked maps. In some campaigns, two missions are played simultaneously, with both maps set up at the same time, and two different commando teams heading into each map. Actions on one map can have an effect on other maps, such as during Operation Snowflake, where the commandos in the village can draw reinforcements from the weapons depot. We also love the fantastic thematic feel of V-Commandos and the individual commando options that give some real depth to the characters, such as the sniper's ability to shoot the reinforcement truck driver, stopping reinforcements from that area for the turn, or the ability to put a crowbar at the reinforcement entrance, until enough troops build up behind it to knock it down, or our favorite event card, Bomber, that flips an inside map tile over to its outside map, simulating the bombing of the building.
The wargaming elements are extremely simplified, the number to hit listed on each tile doesn't differentiate between the skill level of the commandos and the enemy forces, the only difference being in the number of dice rolled, which means that when the enemy has numbers on their side, it is usually in their favor. Commandos have 3 health points each and they also lose action points for each wound they take, so they can't ride through too much fire. Entering and exiting tiles with enemies results in the enemies getting extra free shots, so running away isn't always easy either. Commandos do get several actions a turn, which can be used to incredible effect (in one game we had a BAR wielding commando fire three times into tiles of enemy soldiers with 3 dice each time to remove a total of 9 enemies) and they can also save an action point across to the next round if they don't spend it to turbo charge their next turn.
The enemy AI is also fairly easy to fool, as they will only fire at visible commandos, so you can move past their field of vision while visible, but as long as you are hidden at the end of the commando phase the enemy will revert back to their Event card dictated movement direction which could be in the opposite direction. All this has been done in the name of play-ability though and it works very well in creating a very punchy board game.
V-Commandos is just as good in solo play as it is with 4 players and games are always quick to set up and run and lots of fun with great tactical challenge. A couple of games of V-Commandos can easily be played in a lunch hour, and because of the card elements of the game, can easily fit a an small box for transportation.
If you're creative and work through all of the contents of the box, making up your own maps or designing your own campaigns is also lots of fun. Two expansions packs for V-Commandos are available, Resistance and Secret Weapons which both bring in new enemies, commandos, maps and cards. Triton Noir are also incredibly open to players creating their own content and have several map tiles available on their site, along with the .psd files for creating your own commandos, which is great to see.
The Bottom Line:
V-Commandos is a very fun cooperative tactical stealth game. The focus is very much on problem solving with stealth, but the option to win through superior firepower is also there. There's a huge amount of replayability out of the box with the various map cards and linked map card campaigns, along with some great thematic rules and scenarios. Making your own maps and campaigns is also incredibly easy and great fun in itself. The rules will take a couple of games to get in to, even after the three tutorials, but after that everything is incredibly straight-forward and the focus will very much be on the challenges and problems that the maps provide, rather than any rules issues. The rules are very much written with simplicity in mind, so those after some deep crunch may be disappointed, but we would advise them to give it a go, as the fun here is very much in the theme, puzzle solving and then crisis management with guns if it all goes wrong.
You want a punchy tactical stealth board game.
You want a focus on solving a puzzle with stealth, but with an option to turn on the guns.
You want a game that can be played quickly, but also joined together to form a longer campaign.
You want the focus to be on cooperative problem solving, rather than crunchy rules.
Avoid this game if:
You want a wargame, with deep character stats.
You want a system with crunchy rules.
This copy of the V-Commandos was provided by Triton Noir.
Have you played V-Commandos? What do you think? What do you think of the upcoming Assassin's Creed board game? Let us know in the comments below.
V-Commandos is a fun, problem solving cooperative stealth game. Great solo or with up to four players. It's thematic and challenging throughout. Games are incredibly punchy, and can be extended with campaigns. Very easy to transport, with simple straight-forward rules.