Thanks to generosity of DVG (DanVerssen Games) I am able to further discover the fantastic world of “tower-defense” games created by David Thompson – Valiant Defense Series. It currently encompass:
- Pavlov’s House – which I played extensively and you can find my session reports, digital app and game review on this blog
- Castle Itter will be subject of that article; game based on incredible true events, which you might familiarize yourselves with in the novel The Last Battle
- and recently run through Kickstarter Campaign Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms – which I hope to get soon not only from patriotic reasons (this is about the defenders of the Post in Gdansk) but also because I like the system mechanics
So let me move now to the historical background of the Castle Itter, game mechanics and my initial session. Enjoy!
The Battle for Castle Itter was fought near the Austrian village of Itter on 5 May 1945, in the last days of the War in Europe during World War II. US soldiers joined forces with Wehrmacht infantrymen, an SS officer, an Austrian resistance fighter, and recently freed French prisoners of war to defend an Austrian castle against an attacking force from the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division. Not surprisingly this was probably “the strangest battle” of WWII.
The Game components & rules explanation
During a game of Castle Itter, you take the role of the force that defended the castle from 0400 – 1600 on 5 May 1945. The goal of the game is to last until the SS deck is depleted, without allowing SS Counters to reach the castle. You score points for each Defender that survives the assault and lose points for each SS Counter remaining on the board at the end of the game – the higher your score, the better.
Castle Itter is divided into turns. Each turn consists of two phases:
- Defender Phase – take five actions with Defender counters. Among them Attack, Suppress, Move within a location, Move to a new location, Recover or Special Actions (Command and Escape).
- SS Phase – play three SS cards. You reveal three SS Cards from the SS deck, one at a time, resolving the effect of each one before moving to the next. There are four different categories of SS Cards, based on the card effect: Attack Defenders, Attack Location, Disrupt Defenders and Place SS Counters.
The game ends at the end of the turn when the SS deck is exhausted or immediately if the 142nd Infantry Regiment card is drawn from the SS deck.
That is enough of introductions – let us get to the actual session. As I think the picture is worth thousand words let me invite you to the story told with photos.
PS. You can click every picture below to open an enlarged version.
Despite all the causalities, some rules misinterpretations, my defenders held and in the end I reached 4 VPs which equals to a minor Allied victory! This was basic set-up, without Tactics Cards but I am already eager to try those higher difficulty levels.
Let me now share my initial impressions of the game:
- I really like good, challenging solitaire games about WWII – especially those with dedicated solo mode as major way to play not an addition at the end of the development.
- Difficulty level – the game is challenging and requires form you constant calculation and risk mitigation. Not once I was at the verge of defeat.
- Top quality components – the game is simply shining and beautiful. Sturdy tokens, mounted map, great look & feel.
- Existence of optional rules – there are additional possibilities to play the game, like Tactical Cards or multiplayer versions. They can really enrich the game as well as make it much harder 🙂 Both are very good to extend longevity of this great game!
I am really glad I familiarized myself with Castle Itter. The history behind this title is incredible and the implementation of it into the boardgame – fantastic. I can’t wait to play other modes of this game. Stay tuned!
I love the small scale of the game, with counters reflecting individual people. What a crazy historical scenario, like a Hollywood movie script.
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I fully agree that this game really puts you into the shoes of those soldiers defensing against SS. Each counter is a person and this make this game even more interesting. As far as history is concerned – this is simply crazy, hard to find something more interesting for WWII movie script.
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