Ahhhhh, co-ops how I love them! No kidding I really do and if you’ve kept up with my podcast and other reviews you would know this! Not only do they tend to produce some of the best thematic games, but they tend to be easier to teach to new players. Especially as that person doesn’t have to think they’re about to get beat on constantly by the better gamer – certainly works for my girlfriend anyway, thank you Forbidden Desert.
However historically themed games I don’t tend to go crazy for because it’s not my style. Not that we have many historical co-op games these days, but Freedom: The Underground Railroad springs to mind which was actually a pretty decent game, despite its highly sensitive theme – you can check out my personal review here.
So when you combine one of my most loved genres and one of my least favourite themes, what do you get? Neutrality? Or does one side outweigh the other? I’d like to think that if it’s a co-op game, that side will win the day and certainly it did with Freedom. But will that always be the case?
Here we have 7 Days of Westerplatte and before I played this game, if you asked me what this was in reference to? I would stand there in zombie mode with no clue whatsoever. Yeah, yeah all you historians, put away your pitchforks, my history trivia knowledge is pretty pitiful. I admit that after having given up the subject back in Year 8 of secondary school, much to my joy! But needless to say, since playing this I have been educated and I encourage you all to read this link to learn more before reading the rest of this review. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Westerplatte
But does it hold up as a good game in general and can it stand out amongst the competition?
“I’m afraid you don’t get to pilot a battleship, sorry guys!”
Designer: Lukasz Wozniak
Publisher: G3 Games
# of Players: 1-4
Play Time: 45 Minutes
The Last Line of Defence… Against Insurmountable Odds!!!
The players take the role of Polish commanders holed up in a military depot and must hold off the German attacks for 7 days (i.e. 7 rounds). At their disposal they have a wall of bricks on the front line and various useful supplies in the buildings such as ammo, mortars, landmines and more bricks.
The Germans are represented by a deck of cards which are deployed on each players turn in one of 5 columns, A through to E. These columns are what the players have to defend against during the game. The German forces are a mix of infantry (short range), artillery (long range) and air raids (instant) and will vary in their damage output and hit points. They are deployed after each player’s turn depending on the column letter shown and act in different ways. Infantry will continue to move up until they are within firing range, artillery will bombard from a distance straight away and air raids will damage walls and reduce morale in the Polish forces.
Players will get two movements and an action. The first is self-explanatory, but actions will include using the actions/resources from a building or if on the front line, firing at the incoming enemy in that column. It is possible to team up with allies when supplies are low. They will also need to watch their morale, as high morale grants bonuses and rewards, however more often than not the morale will be low, as a result of air raids, events and overwhelming (when there is no room to place a new German card) which will incur penalties.
After 8 German cards are killed (or discarded) an event card is drawn which may be positive or negative and the next day begins. The game continues until 7 days have elapsed for a Polish victory or two buildings have lost all their brick protection (i.e. are destroyed).
Simple Rules, Simple Gameplay . . . Too Simple?
It can definitely be said that Westerplatte is a fairly light game. The rules are easy to pick up and teach even to non-gamers, in fact I swear it takes longer to set the game up with all the fiddly bricks than it does to explain the rules. It’s by no means easy to win though and with multiple difficulty levels you can tailor the game to your hearts content.
The component quality itself is not bad either. The bricks and resources are mostly basic wooden pieces, but it looks the part when it’s all laid out on the board and the artwork from the cards is nicely detailed and keeps the WW2 theme intact.
However, simple as the game is, it does put itself in danger from the Alpha Gamer who might dictate to other players where they should move and who they should attack. This is mostly a flaw of the group I admit rather than the game, but you need to bear this in mind.
The game play is not especially varied in how it flows. It flows very smoothly and quickly, but each of the 7 rounds is exactly the same – fight enemies until you fill up the discard pile, rinse and repeat. On top of that, there’s not a huge amount of variety either in the cards. You have three types of enemies, one of which is more like an event card and a few events that trigger during the game which are fairly basic in nature. Not all event cards are used each game, but there’s so few of them that it’s not a big deal and this isn’t one of those games that I can see getting an expansion.
A Strong Sense of… Escalation and Tension!!!
Despite the “rinse and repeat” nature of the gameplay, there is a strong sense of escalation as you proceed from the early game towards the end game. You start off thinking that everything is fine, but as the ammunition, mortars and landmine resources dwindle, the tension quickly kicks up and the challenge increases. By the end game you’re going to have plenty of gaps in your defences and a lack of bullets to shoot back with. Not to mention that in the games I’ve played, that morale track is almost impossible to keep at a high level.
As a result the endgame feels like a struggle for survival against overwhelming odds, which when you consider the setting thematically, is kind of the point! The original historical battle was a war of attrition, with the Polish mounting a last line of defence strong enough to hold on for 7 days. So it certainly captures the setting well and keeps up the tension throughout, which is the game’s biggest plus point. By the time you’re on the last round you are effectively backed into a corner and it never feels anticlimactic. This helps to make up for the very linear format of the game, as otherwise it would fall completely flat and be boring.
Verdict on 7 Days of Westerplatte
7 Days of Westerplatte is one of those games that does what it says on the tin……or the box I guess in this case. It’s a co-operative game, re-enacting a famous historical event set at the start of the 2nd World War that is light and simple, yet challenging. And that’s about it really, which is the problem. On its own it’s a decent game, but when compared to many other co-ops in the genre, which is starting to get pretty bloated now, it doesn’t really offer anything new or unique.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have a place among collections. I can see this as a good introductory game for the non-gamer getting into the hobby, given that it’s co-op and very easy to pick up. The challenge rating cranks up pretty high in the normal and difficult variants, meaning that even a seasoned gamer will be put to the test. The same could be said about Forbidden Desert which is cheaper, if a little more abstract and in a tin (I don’t like tins). I would bet that if you put the two side by side, Forbidden Desert would get played more, but this one I feel has a slightly better sense of escalation and climax at the end.
So in summary the game is fine and will suit introductory gamers and families nicely, maybe perhaps even used as a good teaching tool for school kids learning about WW2. However, other introductory games exist in this genre, so the real pull for you will have to be the escalation aspect and the theme and setting it is based on. It’s good, quick to set up and play (especially solo), but nothing special and that’s a war wound that’s never going to fully heal.
You Will Like This Game If:
- You are attached to the theme it’s going for – it does re-create the setting well.
- You require a game that’s easy to teach – very few rules to get across.
- Dice combat is something you don’t like in games – no dice to be seen here.
You Will Not Like This Game If:
- You want something more complex – it’s pretty simple and light
- Alpha Gamer is an issue you come across often – they could take control here.
- You aren’t interested in the theme – if so there are other options elsewhere.
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.