Games Gazette Logo

THE OUTCAST HEROES

Adam Kwapiński and Michał Sieńko   -   Historical Games Factory

The Outcast Heroes game represents the historical events concerning members of the Polish Home Army who became known as "the Cursed Soldiers" (depicted by the Wolf symbol). These were the units that fought against Soviet invaders during World War II, mainly toward the end of the conflict, who refused to believe it was over and therefore did not give up their weapons when the war was declared over. They continued to fight against Joseph Stalin and the government he set up. They were fighting for a free and independent Poland.

The Outcast Heroes is a semi co-operative card game where the players send their soldiers on missions – placing soldiers in different roles within those missions and gaining different benefits and/or abilities. The missions are assessed based on the soldiers sent and the order cards assigned to them. Players may be working (secretly) for the Government (and thus are considered as traitors) and will have their own objectives, wanting the missions to fail. One of the problems you will encounter is that all the card backs feature the Wolf symbol and so when face down it is impossible to tell what the type of card is and from which deck. Also you have to remember which deck is which especially if a deck gets moved for whatever reason and then put down elsewhere on the table.

The game is divided into 3 stages, each of which is divided into 4 rounds. The players begin each stage with a randomly chosen secret goal card and during a round heroes are added to player's hands and to missions. Players may swap already played heroes with cards from their hand, as long as they have the correct value of leadership.

The player who is the commander (player with his soldier in the commander role on the mission card) decides whether to start a mission each round, or wait until later, which adds some uncertainty/tension to the game. If they decide to begin a Mission it is resolved immediately.  Glory Points are earned for successful missions. Government Action cards affect the difficulty of the mission and Orders are assigned to the heroes who were real people not just made-up game names; this brings even more of a realism to the game. Unlike reality, captured heroes can be brought back into play with a successful Free the Prisoners mission. The process is very interesting and full of thematic elements which really gives you a sense of the historical events and challenges.

It is generally up to the Players whether they join a mission, try to take it over (if they have a high ranking soldier in play who outranks the current mission leader) or they can try to make the mission fail - this may be a mini mission for them personally.  Cards can add or subtract from the mission's value or modify its parameters. The game is totally card and decision driven, randoms really only come from the draw. Player's choices are often whether to take a part of something or go for the whole and maybe get nothing (by using their cards).

To successfully complete a mission  you must go through all 4 rounds. When you complete a Mission you gain Glory Points, the effects of which may affect hidden goals. To end the game you have to complete all the 3 stages. The Outcast Heroes is more than a good game, it is an indictment of what can happen to regular people thrust into war. It is also a structured piece of WWII history, probably a part of history that most of us have little or no previous knowledge of. It is a game that has you reaching for Google or whatever Search Engine you use to discover more about this real history. One other aspect of OUTCAST HEROES that is a cause for concern is that there isn't a time limit on a player's turn and bean-counter players could take forever on their turn.

The components are of good stock and quality:
32 x Cursed Soldiers cards – these are representative of the actual Outcast Heroes. Each card shows values for Leadership and Strength along with the Soldier's name.
20 x Order cards – These are the Missions on which you send your soldiers. Most cards have modifiers for Strength and Effect.
8 x Government Actions cards – Use of these will raise the level of difficulty of a mission
15 x Mission cards – 3 of these are randomly chosen to create a mission
8 x Secret Goals cards – 6 for the Heroes, 2 are Traitors
1 x special mission card “Free the prisoners”  
4 x Glory Counter cards
20 x Glory Points cards 
1 x Nomination card
4 x marker cubes 
1 x C i C card

The Outcast Heroes brings a series of tough but doable challenges set against the backdrop of a Poland that the majority of players will have no true idea of. This is a Poland that we, in the UK, weren't taught about in history lessons at school and which isn't represented in depth in any of the war based movies most of us have seen. The designers have gone to the gritty dirt of the grey areas of war with the intent of opening our eyes as well as offering us deeply thoughtful challenges within the gameplay.

 

This isn't roll a die warfare gaming, this is a game where each soldier is a member of your town or village, a real person with real needs, not a made-up statistic on a meaningless sheet of paper. Each Mission is different enough to keep it tense and realistic and each is a powerful reconstruction of life during Poland's struggle for freedom from oppression and just how far the Cursed Soldiers would go top preserve it. I have never been to Poland - it is somewhere I would like to visit - but I still felt more attached to these soldiers than I have to the British or other units I have controlled in other war games.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015