Sniper Elite the board game is a hidden movement 1-4 player box on tension. Now, I have reviewed Sniper Elite from Rebellion Games before. Not a board game, but it was one of my favourite PC games for quite some time.
A visceral stealth shooter that focussed on your bullet as it snaked towards your victim, it then showed you the path of the bullet through your target’s body. Broken bones blood and gore. It was fabulous.
I was curious how you could take such a visually stunning hook, the tension of being caught and the excitement of making the shot and escaping whilst you control the character and take that experience and put it into a board game.
In Sniper Elite you cannot simulate the visual element of destroying a person’s brain. This is something strictly for the video game. However, when we talk about Rebellion Unpluggeds’ Sniper Elite the Board game, something you can simulate so much more realistically is tension.
Before we get into details about whether you should or shouldn’t buy the board game let me take you through the setup and rules so you understand how the Sniper Elite board game plays.
The game board is double-sided. For your first game, it is suggested that you use the Launch Facility Map.
The Sniper player takes their playing piece, the pen, and the loadout deck from which they draw three cards and then create a draw deck from the rest. You then take the matching sniper map for your mission, this is where you will track your movements and then you take the corresponding mission cards and select two objectives at random.
The Sniper setup is complete.
The defenders, three squads comprising a Commander and two soldiers make up the defending force.
Each squad has a coloured base, Black, Red or Yellow and these correspond to each starting area on the map which has four coloured sections within it. The fourth is a white section in which no one begins a patrol.
The defenders each choose a role for their Commander, more on that shortly, and they take four corresponding coloured cubes. Two of which are placed on the round tracker. This represents the actions each squad can perform on a turn.
The other two are placed on their Commanders card and represent a special ability. As well as the two cubes each commander places a suppression token on their card.
The defenders are placed in their starting locations and once the Sniper has drawn his two objectives he chooses a starting location.
You cannot start a mission in the same section (Red, Black or Yellow) where either of your objectives is. This leaves you to start in the white zone or the final-coloured zone.
In the video game, it isn’t really you that gets caught, spotted or seen. It’s an avatar and if you fail the mission you get to just start over. When you play Sniper Elite the board game, you can’t just ask everyone else for a do-over, there is a real cost to getting caught and losing, it is really you that is trying to stay hidden.
The genuine, palpable and gripping tension you feel when someone is right next to you, which happens far more often than you would imagine, whilst you’re trying to look confident and not worried is intoxicating.
The movement is slow and restrictive, allowing you to move one space at a time or more if you want to make noise. Making noise is bad but often necessary as you only have a total of 10 rounds to get to your first objective.
Planning your route seems wise until you get blocked, interrupted or the enemy discovers which sector you are in. Instead, you need to adapt constantly, backtracking and getting worryingly close to the enemy so you can be sure your shot will hit.
Taking a shot is another worry, you must decide how many tokens you will draw from the bag, “more tokens more better right?”
Well not really. To hit a character three squares away, you first must have a direct line of sight, then you need to draw enough grey target counters to cover each square between you including the square you and they are on.
The problem is, draw two noise tokens and your location will be revealed, meaning you have to place your miniature on the board. If you draw too many recoil tokens, five, you’ll misfire, and draw too many of both, not only will you not kill the target but you will also reveal your position.
So you need to draw enough tokens to get to the target. If the target is three spaces from you, you would need to draw five grey target tokens. One for each space and one for each space you occupy.
You could just draw five tokens from the bag but you would have to be the luckiest human alive to draw five grey tokens without grabbing a noise or recoil token.
Long shots are a real gamble when it comes to opening up a route. You could just spend your turn providing intel to the enemy.
You can also play a card from your loadout, you might want to place a trap for example. Traps are hard to pull off as they tend to be placed where you have been and not where you want to go but with a little planning, you can lure the enemy into one.
There are also noise-cancelling cards or cards that let you move the enemy two spaces. The enemy team do not know which cards you have played until a specific time mentioned on the card, it could be the end of the turn or the end of the round or immediately, so there is a lot to consider on each move.
There is also the subterfuge to consider, do you want to play a distraction to move an enemy soldier that is in the way to do you want to move another soldier in the line of sight to a different location to pretend that you are not where they think you are?
Don’t let the above make you think the Sniper is the only good role, far from it. Playing as one of the German squads you will have plenty to do and openly discussing where you think the Sniper is can be far more rewarding when you narrow down a location.
It’s not as hard as it might seem to get an approximate location for the sniper. You have two actions per round. You can spend them all sweeping your area. You can spend one to search a space adjacent to you or you could attack the space you are in. Get two hits on the Sniper and it’s game over.
You control three groups of three soldiers, each player chooses a role for their officer. These roles are Medic, Jager, Sniper, Radio Operator, Scout and Kennel Master. Each role has a unique ability.
You can use the officer’s ability once per turn and it can make the job of being the sniper feel impossible. However, you will be spending a cube each time you use the officer’s ability and if you can remember just now, you only have two of these.
This means whilst the officer’s ability can be used on top of the standard actions you can only use them twice per game so choosing when to use each ability is critical. For the Sniper player, the abilities can be very problematic.
The Kennel Master, for example, can place dog tokens that will alert the enemy if the Sniper passes through a specific space. It’s handy for blocking entrances especially if there are troops near.
The Medic can stop the effect of a successful shot on a squad member, this is the only action that takes place during the sniper’s turn but it’s exceptionally frustrating to play against.
Scout gets to move a unit to any free space on the game board which can hamper movement dramatically because you feel you are never safe to give up your position.
The Radio Operator can bring any unit back onto the board and place them next to them. I have been in a situation where I was hemmed in because of this and my face alone gave up the fact I was in danger!
The Sniper gets to draw up to 7 tokens from the sniper’s bag and the sniper rules apply. Making noise is clearly not as much of an issue but recoil tokens can frustrate you.
Possibly the worst officer to face is the Jager. They can attack a space adjacent to them not just their own space which means ending up anywhere near the Jager is best avoided.
When you read the rules you find that gathering intel and deploying units can only occur in the Officer’s own sector. With that, you can only move a unit two spaces at a time and you feel this is going to be impossible when in practice, it’s frighteningly easy to hone in on your target.
Sniper Elite Balance
The Sniper Elite Board game is incredibly well-balanced. The sniper has limited movement and must travel a fair distance to complete two objectives but has the option to play gear cards and can always kill a unit in their way. The main benefit of the Snipers role is they are the only player who knows where they are juxtaposed to the enemy units who have special abilities, can work together and have the strength of numbers.
The back and forth of who is winning at any moment changes constantly and for such an asymmetrical experience it’s incredibly well-balanced.
Sniper Elite Quality
The 7 miniatures are very well sculpted and even though they are grey it looks like they have been washed with Nuln oil or similar. The boards and cards are high quality and as you are probably aware, I love an insert that Sniper Elite will not need because the included plastic tray is so well designed everything is held very nicely.
Sniper Elite Board Game is not Perfect
The box itself is a bit thin but you don’t use that during the game, well, you shouldn’t have to use it during the game but there is one glaring omission from this hidden movement game.
The Sniper has no way to hide their board from the other players. Using the box lid as a makeshift shield only works if you can fully cover the sides too.
Perhaps you are supposed to put the board on your lap but I have testicles and can’t close my legs so for now, I have been using the shield included in the original Heroquest game.
A cracking screen and whilst it may be the finest perch in all the land from which to drop falling rocks on unsuspecting fools in unrelated games, “Broawdsowd”, it isn’t the right size to accommodate the small sniper’s board.
It would surely have cost only a little more to add an on-theme screen for the Sniper player to hide behind.
The single-player is not as much fun. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it’s quite robust as single-player board games go, it’s more because pitting yourself against a thinking, strategizing human will always be more fun than playing against chance.
The Sniper Elite board game is an extremely well-balanced, tense but ultimately very rewarding game.
Playing in either role has challenges that make the game fun but the added tension of playing the Sniper role is either something you will enjoy or not. I love playing as the Sniper by my wife finds it too tense. She much prefers being the hunter, not sure what that says about her personality but it does mean I get to play as the Sniper more often.
The Enemy role is great for another reason, it may not be as tense but it’s like trying to put a puzzle together with very few and limited clues. When it comes together and you work out where the sniper is you have the rush of trying to get close before they can escape and then trying to out-think the Sniper to get ahead of their moves.
The back and forth is wonderful and gives the Sniper Elite Board Game something special that makes it far more than the sum of its parts.
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