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The Plot to Assassinate Hitler» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Plot to Assassinate Hitler - A game I've played only once in over 30 years rss

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David Brown
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The Plot to Assassinate Hitler, is as you would expect a game that is aboout assassinating Hitler. However, you may find it surprising that you don't actual need to kill the jumped up corporal to win, although it does help.

I got this game as part of my S&T subscripion some 30+ years ago (what has happend to all those years?), yet until yesterday I have never played it. I remember pushing at around solitaire a few times and not fully understanding it, and putting at away. But this weekend I pursauded another old time gamer to give it a go.

This brief review is based on this one playing, so there will be little depth to it, and I may have a few things wrong.

The two sides are; the really bad guys (SS), and the slightly less bad guys (Abwehr). In addition there are three set of 'neutrals' that you can recruit to join your side.

Nazis
OKW (Generals)
Civilians

The SS, as you would expect can easily try and recruit Nazis, but the Abwehr need a loyalty chit to do so (I'll explain chits later)
The Abwehr can easily recruit OKW, but the SS need a loyalty chit to do so.

Both sides can recruit Civilians but they need an associatied loyalty chit.

Each unit has three rating that are based on its ability to influence (scare the shit out of) other pieces, defend itself against being influenced (scared shitless) by other pieces, and move around Berlin and Greater Germany. As you may expect Himmer scores well on all of these, whereas Hitler doesn't (which at first apperars strange). But in this game, Hitler is a bit like the King in chess.

The map is very abstract but works. There is a large section for Berlin, which also has the only terrain on the map ( head quarter hexes for the various sides), and other parts of Greater Germany. Most of the action takes place in Berlin.

The game is really split into two main parts.

1 - Pre Coup phase
2- Post Coup phase

In the pre coup phase, the Abwehr is trying to get into a position so that when they call a coup they are ready to have a good crack at Hitler and have lots of people on their side to go and kill the SS. The SS on the other hand are trying to keep Hitler protected and out of reach when the coup occurs, and to have recruited lots of people to help them string up the Abwehr and any one foolish enough to join them.
In the post coup phase, is a case of last man standing, as everyone runs round Berlin trying to kill their opponents

In our game, during the pre-coup phase, there was a rush to recruit loyal servants to the cause. TheAbwehr were after the OKH, and the SS went for the Nazis, we didn't bother with the civilians. There were occasions where a loyalty chit allowed the recruitement of an 'unnatural' ally (i.e. a Nazi working for the Abwehr), and a Loyalty chit + a Double Cross chit, could mean a previous enemy was now your best mate. This idea worked well.

Once the Abwehr player thinks he has a good position, he can call a coup, it's not a certainty as it's based on a die roll, which can have positive modifiers via certain chits the Abwehr player hopes to have collected. The higher the modified die roll, the better it is for the Abwehr.

Assuming the coup is successful, the first thing is that normal play stops and it moves into the coup sequence. This starts with the Abwehr able to move some of his units (between 2 and 5 -depends on the coup die roll) before the SS can react, it's during this phase that I suspect is the best time to go for Hitler. After this 'bonus' move, each player takes it in turn to move one unit. This movement often ends up with the unit trying to kill an opponent. After all units have moved, we start again with what's left. However, if the Abwehr have failed to kill Hitler, their chances of killing the SS diminshes. The reason for this is that on the first Coup round every unit get a bonus that helps them when they attack, however this bonus dimishes for the Abwehr the longer Hitler stays alive. So as I said at the beginning, you don't have to kill Hitler, but it helps.

The game is won by the last man standing, the Abwehr must kill all SS that are in Berlin and not in their Head Quarters, and the SS must string up all the Abwehr, who are in Berlin and not in their Head Quarters. If both side fails after six coup turns, they both loose.
In our game, the Coup phase was quite exiting and frustrating. The Abwehr got lucky and killed Hitler, but then Canaris got himself killed. Every attemp at killing an opponent runs the risk of getting your own unit killed. During our game the SS was useless and successfully got themselves killed on many occasions.


Conclusion. I am glad I finally played this and would give go it another go. However it is very very random as I'll try and explain.

The first action in the game is, via a table, to randomly send some units to other parts of Greater Germany on assignment. These units are, Allied Agents (nobody owns these, they just restrict movement for other units in the same area as them), and either SS or Abwehr (playing chits can affect this - I will explain chits). Usually the opponent selects and places the units, and it is used to get big hitters (Himmler, Canaris etc) out of Berlin and out of the way.

Next we use another table to select random chits. This was a bit of a lottery and I didn't like this mechanism. The number of chits drawn has too big a swing, from 0 - 13. In our game the SS only once got to draw chits, whereas the Abwehr draw them on five occasions . And chits are important.

The various chits in the game are mainly drawn via the above mechanism, although a few can be got during the game. The chits include:

Loyalty (name of one of the units) - this has various functions (sorry CBA explaining them), but generally help recruitment.

Fuhrer Access (The Abwehr wants these as they modify the Coup die roll)

Travel - used to get a unit back to Berlin

Alibi Arrest - Can be used to help a 'friend' who is under interogation by the SS, or it can help the SS suspect and therefore arrest the Abwher.

Double Cross - When used with a loyalty chit can recruit someone who has already been recruited by the other side.

Friendly Assign - Used to change who is being sent on assigment

Enemy Assign - Used to change who has been sent on assigment


I can't help thinking that this game was ahead of it's time. It does have the right feel of trying to maneuver and influence the various personalities of the Third Reich, however the chit draw mechanism is a feel it's week point, and the rules could do with a bit of rework. If this had been released more recently, with updated graphic, cards instead of chits and a bit of work on the random chit selection table I suspect it would have been reasonably successful.
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Kim Meints
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Chris

If you want the old "Suit Case" variant from Phoenix magazine let me know and I will send it to you

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Badger
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Good review. I too find the chit draw too extreme, although when I have played it's the SS that always get to draw, not the Abwehr. I think some refining of the chart would improve the game.

I also agree that cards rather than chits would improve the feel of the game.

Good to see this underrated game getting some attention.
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Andy Daglish
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thirtybrowns wrote:
But this weekend I pursauded another old time gamer to give it a go.


Helloooo!!

***

The first bullet bounces off Himmler's gold & onyx inkstand, as he falls to the floor fumbling for the PPK in his desk drawer. Pausing only to smack the guard with his bible, Pastor Bonhoeffer takes deliberate aim to make certain with his second shot. 'Ache Herrje' he says, shielding his eyes as brain matter spatters all over the Baccarat chandelier...

And yes this did happen yesterday afternoon. This is a superb game, albeit the hobby's biggest case of Matthew 7:6, which 36 years ago handled a seeming near-impossible task with a degree of simplicity and ease. Y'all need a copy, so maybe we can ask GMT to do one with cards in place of the awkward chits.

Ruleswise if not physically the loyalty chits work very well. They are constantly recycled, so that a fellow-traveller can first pledge his support to the cause, then double-cross his colleagues by playing agin them, only for them to draw his chit, which causes the man to hesitate in the vital hours after the long-awaited coup begins. In other words its just like real life.

The chits are necessarily held mostly by the Abwehr player, however the mathematical average number of chits drawn per turn is not so great, so the apparent imbalance is just that. A driving feature of the game is that Hitler switches at whim from Berlin to Rastenburg, so its hard to set up a perfect defence for him without constant reorganisation.

Another clever feature is Masked/Neutralised status, which with typical SPI 1970s confusion means the same thing -- no game function for the next player-turn -- except that being neutered also means enemies can move through the afflicted character's hex. Often this is impossible due to nearby active zones-of-control, but I wonder if this has been done in other wargames? The unit is still there, but enemies can pass through its location?

The Fuhrer Access chits work well too. The Bomb Plot may be the result of lots of careful planning by many for months, OR a lucky chit draw may be the equivalent of the Führer walking past an armed and highly prejudiced traitor who says: 'sod it, I'll nail the bastard and damn the consequences'. As the game is set up, an injury to the Boss may be of any degree of seriousness, its just that if its serious enough then all the timid cockroaches will emerge into the sunlight, in order to ally themselves with the likely new regime. And there's nothing to stop a wounded Führer dying weeks later, so revivifying the coup.

And to win you have to get everyone in Berlin, for if even the most minor cringing little lawyer survives all by himself until the Allies turn up, then its a draw.

There are a few oddities, such as Ribbentrop taking on his honorary SS rank, and Goerdeler, Mayor of Leipzig and leader of the plot, having greater significance than his enemies accorded him. Hitler was upset when he realised this was the man who would replace him, because as he said 'he's just a clown!'.

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Aaron
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EXCELLENT write up! Thanks for this.
 
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Pete Martyn
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It warms my heart to see people enjoying this game. I've always loved it and could never understand its bad reputation. I would adore a high-quality reprint.
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Jonathan Harrison
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Every time I read about this, it moves closer to getting onto the table.

Excellent placement of "only" in your thread title, btw.
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Mark Riley
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Yeah , go for it, this is a fantastic game. I think it got its bad reputation due to the rules expressing the struggle for influence/position in terms of ZOCs which made people think they were playing Panzerblitz again. Also the chits are played like cards and should have been produced as cards. The game is quite procedural and you have to learn what each faction can do. It's such a clever game though and a real challenge for the plotters to win which is as it should be. Do however go to the page for this game on CSW and download the cards here http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?8@@.1dd35016

They are at post 25. Not only are they great looking but they give a mass of historical information on all the characters. If you laminate them and clip the corners to round them you will have a superb looking set of cards instead of the chits.

If you're on the fence watch Calandale's videos showing the game being played - go to the video section on the game's page here on BGG (he used the chits instead of the cards though).

There are a few bits of errata to look out for too, nothing major.
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Mark Riley
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I should have added, the suitcase bomb variant is pretty key to the plotter's chances. The cards referred to above include the suitcase bomb card which states how to use it on the card.
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Mike Hoyt

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Sounds like fun. mark, thanks for the link to the cards, do you think you could get a copy posted here at BGG?
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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goatleaf wrote:
I think it got its bad reputation due to the rules expressing the struggle for influence/position in terms of ZOCs which made people think they were playing Panzerblitz again.

That certainly put me off. SPI was a hotbed of creativity in those days, and to see them fall back on game mechanisms developed for tactical armored combat was disappointing. For me, it fell in the interesting but not quite successful category. I did love SPI for trying such things, though. They pushed the boundaries, and we all benefitted.
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Andy Daglish
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Quote:
I think it got its bad reputation due to the rules expressing the struggle for influence/position in terms of ZOCs which made people think they were playing Panzerblitz again.

Quote:
That certainly put me off. SPI was a hotbed of creativity in those days, and to see them fall back on game mechanisms developed for tactical armored combat was disappointing.

The tank nonsense derives from the first line of the Players Notes, which says "The basic system of Plot rather resembles an armor system [my italic].
Units pay movement points to combat enemies, but rather more than that this unfortunate remark served to fill a deficit in various reviewers' imaginations, since they always seem to overlook the third sentence of these Notes which describes their concerns much more adequately: "However, this is a political game; there are a number of factors which have an effect on play that are not present in a normal wargame."
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aforandy wrote:
The tank nonsense derives from the first line of the Players Notes, which says "The basic system of Plot rather resembles an armor system [my italic].
Units pay movement points to combat enemies, but rather more than that this unfortunate remark served to fill a deficit in various reviewers' imaginations, since they always seem to overlook the third sentence of these Notes which describes their concerns much more adequately: "However, this is a political game; there are a number of factors which have an effect on play that are not present in a normal wargame."

It's a bit more than taking a line from the notes literally, Andy. The game even uses ZOCs. Nobody who played the tactical armor games from SPI in those days could miss where the mechanics came from, even if there had been no notes. You're moving individuals about, but those movements are governed by PanzerBlitz rules.
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Mike Hoyt

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Sphere wrote:
It's a bit more than taking a line from the notes literally, Andy. The game even uses ZOCs. Nobody who played the tactical armor games from SPI in those days could miss where the mechanics came from, even if there had been no notes. You're moving individuals about, but those movements are governed by PanzerBlitz rules.


PanzerBlitz was Avalon Hill

(just quibbling...)
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Kim Meints
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Another quibble(but all in good fun)-Before Avalon Hill got and renamed it Panzerblitz it was in S&T #22 as Tactical Game 3. Another one of the SPI games AH ended up taking(France 1940 another back then)

I think Plot just plain didn't get the reviews or status because it suffered the fate many nice games had to go thru at the time and that was if it didn't have Panzers/Tanks or was a Monster size game back then it wasn't cool to play.

And to be honest I barely looked at it either until the Loyalty cards were posted on Consim and then pulled it out and found how nice it was.And I have both the boxed and S&T editions sitting all these yearsgulp
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Yup, as Kim says, PanzerBlitz was published by Avalon Hill, but it was an SPI design. If you do an advanced search for Jim Dunnigan as designer and Avalon Hill as the publisher, you'll find they published eight of his games:

Jutland
1914
PanzerBlitz
Origins of World War II
Outdoor Survival
The Game of France, 1940: German Blitzkrieg in the West
Panzer Armee Afrika
Panzergruppe Guderian

And that's just the Dunnigan designs. AH also published SPI titles by other designers, including Conquistador, Frederick the Great and Freedom in the Galaxy. That's off the top of my head; there are probably others. Many people don't realize how extensively AH tapped into SPI's design skills.





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Mike Hoyt

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OK, I stand corrected. And better informed. Good day all around.

"Tactical Game 3"? Wow, somebody learned Marketing at Collective A14 Business School of the Glorious Revolution of September...
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Mike

And it helps having a copy of Tac 3 too
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blockhead wrote:
"Tactical Game 3"? Wow, somebody learned Marketing at Collective A14 Business School of the Glorious Revolution of September...

SPI used 'Tactical Game X' as a working title while they developed prototypical game systems for various eras. Once published, the games got real names. Tactical Game 3 was published in the same issue of S&T as Tactical Game 14, a.k.a. Renaissance of Infantry. That led to Centurion, Phalanx, Dark Ages and Armageddon: Tactical Combat 3000 to 500 B.C.. All five were subsequently republished as the PRESTAGs series.

When SPI sold Tactical Game 3 to Avalon Hill, they agreed not to publish their own east front tactical game as part of the deal, thus Panzerblitz was born. SPI did publish Combat Command, a west front variation on the same foundation, shortly afterwards.
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Andy Daglish
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Sphere wrote:
It's a bit more than taking a line from the notes literally, Andy. The game even uses ZOCs.


As well as intermittent ones.

Quote:
Nobody who played the tactical armor games from SPI in those days could miss where the mechanics came from, even if there had been no notes. You're moving individuals about, but those movements are governed by PanzerBlitz rules.


I don't understand the specifics of similarity here. Both games have movement points and hexes, and so did several thousand other games.

Plot is perhaps slightly ahead of its time. Its certainly of a late 70s era of design. Panzerblitz belonged to the preceding period, whose redolence relies on a characteristic crapness I had no trouble in rejecting between the ages of 8 & 13. The games of 1977 permanently changed everything.
 
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A member of our game group who has not been around for awhile gives this game high praises as well.

I remember getting the Bookcase Version from my Mom when I was 17 - just started the hobby - traded it way as fast as I could for another wargame.

Just so happens, due to the several trades I did a few years back, now have two copies of this in S&T format.

Our group does enjoy the occasional foray away from traditional wargames (Escape from Colditz and BattleStar Galactic a lot most recently) - this review reminds me yet again that I need to revisit this.

aforandy wrote:
Sphere wrote:
It's a bit more than taking a line from the notes literally, Andy. The game even uses ZOCs.


As well as intermittent ones.

Quote:
Nobody who played the tactical armor games from SPI in those days could miss where the mechanics came from, even if there had been no notes. You're moving individuals about, but those movements are governed by PanzerBlitz rules.


I don't understand the specifics of similarity here. Both games have movement points and hexes, and so did several thousand other games.

Plot is perhaps slightly ahead of its time. Its certainly of a late 70s era of design. Panzerblitz belonged to the preceding period, whose redolence relies on a characteristic crapness I had no trouble in rejecting between the ages of 8 & 13. The games of 1977 permanently changed everything.
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Ian Watters
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As an area game, preferably with cards, this would have worked.

As a hex game... the abstractions are much too clear for any chance of belief in it.
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unprinted wrote:
As an area game, preferably with cards, this would have worked.

As a hex game... the abstractions are much too clear for any chance of belief in it.


Disagree. It's elegant and effective.

Moreover, I am solidly against cards. That would make things very unwieldy. I put all my chits in a cigar box where they are easily arrayed. I do not want all my chits to be 2x4 cards.

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jackiesavon wrote:
And to be honest I barely looked at it either until the Loyalty cards were posted on Consim and then pulled it out and found how nice it was.And I have both the boxed and S&T editions sitting all these yearsgulp

Hi,

I am the guy "behind" the loyalty cards. Please tell me if some corrections are necessary. I too have both editions but never played it yet.
It is on my "must play" list.
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Faustus MItternacht
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Ahem....
http://magazine3k.com/magazine/military/84903/strategy-and-t...
cool
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