Full disclosure: Triton Noir provided me with a review copy of V-Commandos.
What is this game about?
V-Commandos is a game set during World War II. You and your fellow players cooperatively control up to four commandos as you sneak into Nazi bases and work together to complete various objectives. The game comes with several different terrain layouts and scenarios, which you can either play as one-off missions or chain together as part of larger operations. (This is why the play time on the box varies so widely—from 30 to 120 min.) The Nazis are controlled by simple AI rules that can nevertheless give your commandos a serious challenge.
Probably the most significant aspect of V-Commandos is its emphasis on stealth, which is unusual in a board game. Your characters will start off in stealth mode, and it's in your best interest to keep them that way for as long as possible. If (more like when) a commando becomes visible, he or she triggers an alarm and causes additional enemies to pour onto the map from every possible entrance point. One thing you don't want too much of, though, is outright combat. Your commandos don't have much health, and can't take too many hits. Even worse, every injury you sustain results in a reduced number of actions you can take on the following turn. This aspect of gameplay is what really sets V-Commandos apart from other board games I've played.
How does it play solo?
V-Commandos solos well. It is fully cooperative, and can easily be soloed using as many commandos as a scenario demands (1 to 4). The enemy AI is very easy to operate, which means that you don't get held up doing administrative work when all you want to do is play.
Stealth is one of my favorite video game mechanics, and I'm happy to see a board game that tries to implement it. (I even blogged about this back in 2016.) That said, do not expect analog stealth gameplay to feel like being a Khajiit assassin in Skyrim. Your ability to remain hidden depends on rolling a die for stealth checks, which means that sometimes you will just get unlucky and be spotted. If there were some way to tie stealth to skill just a little more tightly, V-Commandos would probably be a 5-star game for me.
If you can deal with the fact that a run of bad luck can blow your cover, then V-Commandos is a lot of fun. There are a lot of different strategies to try, which makes the game intensely interesting and gives it plenty of replay value. Don't panic when you inevitably fail a stealth check:The game allows you to make interesting choices when it comes to how you'll handle the AI. Will you allow one commando to become visible so he can lead the enemy away from your other agents—or into a TNT trap? Will you use a crowbar to block the door and temporarily shut enemy reinforcements out while you run wild inside their base? What combination of commandos will be best for a given mission?
As you learn the game, be prepared for a few rules ambiguities. This game comes with English and French rulebooks, but it's pretty clear that the English has been translated from the French, and there are a few awkward sentences in there. I had to look up a few of the event cards on BGG, as well. That said, I am really pleased with the way the rules are set up. In addition to the rulebook, there is a set of training scenarios that introduce you to the rules in manageable chunks—something I really appreciated and would like to see in other games.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. If you don't mind controlling multiple characters, V-Commandos is a fun one. It's relatively light, but it offers an interesting puzzle and a unique stealth mechanic. I will definitely be keeping it in my own collection.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.