In hushed tone, the British escape officer briefs his fellow prisoners, ``Men, the tunnel is complete. We will leave at 22.00 during the changing of the guard. There will be a new moon tonight, so we will have the cover of darkness on our side. Meet me at the tunnel entrance at 21.45 and on my signal we'll skedaddle!''
Skedaddle is the rather silly name of a recent board game based on the real life adventures of the prisoners of war who were assigned to Colditz Castle during World War II. One player takes the role of the German Kommandant whose job it is to keep all his charges prisoner until the Reich is victorious or for twenty seven game turns, whichever comes first. The other players represent Escape Officers of various nationalities whose job it is to coordinate the escape plans of the prisoners. Each player gets five pawns; getting three of the pawns assigned to that player out to any of the four places on the gameboard marked Freedom before the completion of the twenty-seventh game turn results in victory for that player.
Inside the box with dreamy cover art you will find: one gameboard, some yellow discs, some black rings, thirty nine pawns of various colours, three chits representing three different conveyances, rules two strategy sheets and a pamphlet about escape stories. The gameboard represents a stylized map of Colditz Castle. The Kommandant player gets four pawns representing sentries at the four sentry posts. He also gets two more pawns for each player in the game. These pawns start in the barracks. All the Escape Officers begin with pawns in the open at the roll-call area.
The game begins with the Kommandant player drawing from his order deck a stack of nine cards. The order deck represents the game's time limit. When this deck has been gone through three times the game is over. The Kommandant may play most of the cards at any time during his turn but timing is crucial, because at the end of every ninth game turn, all cards must be discarded and the deck reshuffled. After the card is drawn, the Kommandant rolls the dice and moves the sentries. The sentries must be moved off the main posts as quickly as possible to be replaced by other sentries from the barracks to keep an eye on the prisoners.
The other players take their turns in order clockwise from the Kommandant player. Each Escape Officer will, in turn, roll the dice, move the appropriate pawns into rooms and collect cards. These cards, sorted into seven decks before the game begins, contain various implements such as disguises, rope, wire cutters and the like to enable them to escape.
Because the Escape Officers are free to trade at any time, some of the most dogged negotiations this side of Diplomacy can be seen as players barter for needed cards. It's caveat emptor because the rules say that once the cards have been traded there are no take backs.
I believe escape plans of the prisoners are a reflection of the personalities of the players. The stealthful can cower in a cart and once that cart has been moved use a key and slip out a side gate to freedom. The brazen can be disguised as the commander of the sentries and escape by ordering a sentry to leave his post. The determined can dig a tunnel. There are dozens of ways to escape from Colditz.
The Kommandant player eyes the flurry of activity of the Escape Officers and their pawns and decides on a course of action, keeping in mind that the acting sentry will wind ip temporarily out of play in the barracks. That action may consists of landing on the same space or room as the prisoner pawn. This act sends the pawn back to the roll-call. A prisoner captured anywhere else other than a room or any of the hexes near roll-call puts that prisoner in solitary confinement. However, that may be part of the escape plan because it is also possible for a prisoner to escape to freedom from solitary confinement! The Kommandant player is clearly on the defensive as the Escape Officers scurry around the gameboard in several different directions to escape their captors. In three games, there have been no Kommandant victories and all of the games ended before the game was two thirds complete.
How does it compare with the older Escape From Colditz from Gibson Games? The older game has the more colourful presentation. Its rules are clearer and the game is better balanced. A skilled German player can actually win. Skedaddle is shorter and has more, perhaps too many, options for the Escape Officers. This game is a race between Escape Officers to met the victory conditions. The Kommandant player is little more than an inconvenience. The later game could have been improved by having the explanations of the cards on the cards themselves. The rules are constantly being passed around during the game as the players seek rules clarifications.
I recommend this game because there is never a dull moment for the players. The luck factor is balanced by the amount of risk the Escape Officers are willing to take. With some minor tinkering with the rules, the Kommandant player might even find the game interesting.
SWD: Great word, ``skedaddle''. I have been fond of it since I was a kid. For the benefit of the non-native speakers whose vocabularies might not stretch this far, here is the dictionary definition from `The Shorter Oxford': ``To retreat or retire hastily or precipitately; to flee. (originally U.S. military slang)''. As translations my German dictionary offers `türmen' and `abhauen' and the French one the nicely descriptive `se sauver à toutes jambes'.