Escape from Colditz
|Age range||12 and up|
|Setup time||10 minutes|
|Playing time||90 mins to three hours|
|Random chance||Dice rolls|
Escape from Colditz is a strategy card and dice-based board game produced by Gibsons Games and first released in 1973. It was licensed to Parker Brothers in the US in the mid-1970s. The game was devised by successful escaper Pat Reid, based on the prisoner-of-war camp (Oflag IV-C) at Colditz Castle in Germany during World War II. A new edition of the game, with brand-new artwork and updated rules, will be released in 2016 from Osprey Games.
From two to six players may take part in the game, one of which must always be the Germans; the others choose to be one of five nationalities (Allies) represented by different coloured playing pieces:
- Red: British
- Blue: American
- Brown: French
- Orange: Dutch
- Green: Polish
The number of playing pieces used for German Guards and Prisoners varies according to the number of players participating in the game:
- 2 players: 8 prisoners plus 6 guards
- 3 players: 7 prisoners for each allied nationality plus 12 guards
- 4 players: 6 prisoners for each allied nationality plus 14 guards
- 5 players: 5 prisoners for each allied nationality plus 15 guards
- 6 players: 4 prisoners for each allied nationality plus 16 guards
Historically, during the war, the guards were always outnumbered by the prisoners, and there were no American POWs until very late in the war. The order of movement begins with the player to the German player's left and proceeds clockwise about the table. The Germans always move last in the sequence. Once one round is over, play repeats at the German player's left and continues until the game is over.
The playing pieces are moved by the score on the throw of two dice. Doubles allow the player to an additional throw. No player is required to use any or all moves and the movement allowance can be split between two or more of his pieces. They cannot be saved for later turns or transferred to other players.
In order to escape, each prisoner must first obtain an "escape kit", composed of food, disguise, compass and forged papers by visiting various rooms in the castle or by using 'Opportunity Cards'. Once collected, this kit is not lost or expended.
Other equipment or materials must also be obtained in order for a player to make a successful escape attempt: wire cutters; lengths of rope; forged passes; and keys. These are gained, like the escape kit, by visiting rooms or using Opportunity Cards. Unlike the escape kit, these cards can be confiscated at certain times by the German player and once used are expended and placed back in the pile.
Opportunity cards (taken from a shuffled pile) are gained on a roll of 3, 7 or 11 (not counting rerolls due to double throws). These present the player with additional opportunities for escape. Some cards allow 'free' equipment to be gained (without visiting the rooms required). Additional cards allow players to use one of the three tunnels shown on the map, hide escape equipment to avoid confiscation, steal the Staff Car, move to safe hideaways, escape solitary or avoid being shot during an escape attempt. Players may keep their opportunity cards secret or secretly show each other their hands in order to assist each other's escapes.
On the German player's turn, a 3, 7, or 11 results in that player taking a 'Security Card' rather than an Opportunity Card. These allow the German player to undertake counter-escape actions, such as 'Shoot to Kill', 'Detect Tunnel', call an 'Appell' (a counting parade forcing all pieces back to starting positions), or perform searches.
Once used, Security and Opportunity Cards are discarded.
Playing pieces caught while escaping, in possession or equipment or found in unauthorized parts or the castle can be put in solitary (a series of rooms on the board) for a few turns to temporarily reduce the number of pieces available to the player. Pieces shot while attempting to escape are removed permanently.
Once players have decided upon an escape route and obtained the necessary cards, they proceed along routes about the castle expending equipment and cards to reach the edge of the map before being caught by a German piece. The German player meanwhile moves his guards about the board, attempting to deduce the meaning of players movements and then react once an escape is underway. False preparations can be used to confuse the German player (say by assembling many pieces in a tunnel room as if about to use the tunnel) while other pieces make the real attempt elsewhere. Alternatively, players may conspire to agree to start all their escapes on the same turn in widely separate sections of the board to overwhelm the German ability to catch them all.
Escapes, their planning and execution, tends to be a dynamic process. As many cards are obtained by randomly selected Opportunity cards, plans can change quickly when 'choice' cards are obtained. Likewise, long-prepared escapes can be ruined before being begun when the German player suddenly calls an Appell or performs a search, confiscating vital hoarded equipment and placing the piece(s) in solitary. Poorly cooperating players can ruin each other's attempts as well.
Ending the game
The game is given a time limit or a target of escaped prisoners (usually the first to two) with the objective of the player operating the guards being to limit or stop the escape attempts.
A final option (used normally as the time limit comes to an end) is to perform a 'Do or Die'. A special card is taken which details how many die rolls are used (from three to seven 2-dice throws). These throws are made and summed (doubles again allow rerolls, no opportunity cards are taken) and if the result is enough to reach an escape target in a single bound (no escape equipment needed), then the escape is successful. If not, the entire team is removed from play.
It is played with a combination of joystick and keyboard, whereby the player controls the four prisoners, one at a time, switching between them freely using the F1-F4 keys.
Guards patrol most zones of the prison day and night. There are curfews and there are calls for recounting the prisoners in the courtyard. Violating them would mean getting arrested into solitary cells; resisting would mean getting killed by the guards, who are quite skilled with guns.
Initially the board game featured a German swastika on the box. This has been replaced by an Imperial eagle.
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