Review – Sniper Elite: The Board Game
Adjust for the wind
|Roger Tankersley, David Thompson
|Jose David Lanza Cebrian, Edouard Grould, Ed Savage
Sniper Elite: The Board Game is based on the popular stealth-shooter video game. In the board game version, one player takes on the role of the sniper while 1-3 other players play as the “defenders.” The sniper tries to sneak around the board and complete 2 objectives, while the defenders do their best to stop him. Is it a shot in the dark or a hollow point round through a watermelon? Read on for the review!
The video game version of Sniper Elite made its mark by showing graphic, slow-motion bullet-cam kills when the player makes a particularly good or deadly shot. Kills in the board game just remove the defender from the board until a time when they can be deployed again. There is no blood or gore. Also, the game is set in World War 2, the sniper is obviously American, and between their uniforms and the iron crosses the “defenders” are obviously Germans, but the game designers have sidestepped that by never calling them German or Nazis, just defenders. I’m assuming this is to make the game more palatable, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when a WWII game doesn’t want to name the bad guys out loud.
Play in Sniper Elite: The Board Game consists of the sniper’s turn, followed by the defenders. The sniper’s mini doesn’t show up on the board at first – they record their movement on a smaller version of the game board with a dry erase marker. The sniper can move, shoot, and use equipment cards in any order, but cannot split up his movement. Also, should the sniper move 2-3 spaces, if any of them are adjacent to a defender, they have to point out which defenders heard them moving around. The sniper also isn’t allowed to move into a space with a defender, but can stay put or move away should a defender move into their spot.
The defenders are 3 squads of 2 soldiers and 1 officer each, and each officer has a special ability that they can use twice each game. For example, the Medic can prevent a soldier from dying, the Radio Operator can deploy soldiers from any squad, and the Kennel Master has two dogs that can help find the sniper (no, the sniper cannot target the dogs). There are 6 officers to choose from. Each of the 3 squads gets 2 actions per round, and they can also use the officer’s special ability. Defenders can gather intel (costs 2 actions and the sniper must tell them if they are in that squad’s sector), move up to 2 spaces, attack, spot, sweep, deploy, and dismiss squad members.
The sniper is best played as a hit-and-run, always keeping the defenders guessing where you’re headed or where you’re shooting from. And it pays to shoot, as each officer grants you a suppression token when you first defeat them, and each soldier grants you another aim token for your bag. When you take a shot as the sniper, you have to call out how many tokens you’re grabbing, and then you pull them out. It only counts as a kill if you draw an aim token for each space between you and your target, including the one they’re on. Snipers start with 6 aim tokens, 2 noise, and 3 recoil tokens. Should the sniper ever draw 5 or more noise and recoil tokens, it counts as a misfire. And if you draw two noise tokens, you reveal your position on the map. Snipers also have to reveal their location when completing their first objective.
Defenders need to quickly figure out what zone the sniper is in and try to close in on the sniper’s position. There are many different paths in and out of each sector, but if you can clog up the lanes, you might be able to narrow down where the pesky sniper is headed – at the cost of a few defenders, of course. The game ends if the sniper completes both objectives, if the defenders wound the sniper a 2nd time, or if their cubes are on the final row of the track at the beginning of their turn.
Sniper Elite can be a lot of fun on both sides of the board, but I definitely recommend the sniper player should use a DM screen, or something to keep their movement board hidden. Also players should try out both sides of the game to help better understand how everything works – it will probably be easier to think like the sniper if you’ve actually played him before, and vice versa. The game also comes with a solo mode, which has the defender’s actions randomly chosen by a dice roll that corresponds to one of three cards, but I found that mode to be extremely easy. Play with friends if you can; it’s much more enjoyable that way.
Despite lacking the one thing that the Sniper Elite video game is known for (slow-mo bullet cam kills), and not calling the German forces Germans, I had a lot of fun with Sniper Elite: The Board Game. It’s a fun cat-and-mouse gameplay that makes me want to look into other hidden movement games like Scotland Yard or Letters From Whitechapel – but the upside is Sniper Elite can be played in a much shorter window of 30-60 minutes.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
The Bottom Line
While devoid of any of the kill-cam violence that inspired it, this board game version is still a fun, quick, hidden-movement game with potential for many tense moments.