The Outcast Heroes Review

The Outcast Heroes
The Outcast Heroes

So we picked up copies of The Outcast Heroes in Essen and because of the pitch and my recent trip to Poland, I was rather interested in playing it. The game centers around the Polish resistance to the German occupying forces and players must together or against one another over the years to win. However, instead of playing to a final ‘win / lose’ proposition, players are attempting to score Glory Points.

Rules

I am not going to go too deeply into the rules-set but need to explain some of the rules to explain the game.

Each game is played across 3 stages with 4 rounds in each stage.  Players at the beginning of a stage are given secret mission cards which indicate if the player is a traitor or not.  Successfully completing a secret mission gives bonus victory points.

During the first 3 rounds of each stage, a new mission is revealed.  In addition, at all times a 4th mission (Free the prisoners) is available for players to run.  Players during each round only have 2 actions – they can recruit soldiers from the headquarters, play a soldier to a mission, take over a spot in a mission to receive the spots benefits or if they are the leader, begin the mission.  As such, each round goes pretty quickly and with only 12 rounds a game only takes about an hour or so.

When you run a mission, the leader draws and distributes the glory points that are available for the mission before government cards (bad cards that increase the difficulty of the mission) are drawn and then orders are given to the soldiers.  Orders to soldiers running the mission can range from ‘running away’ to getting injured or dying or being thrown into jail (potentially adding strength to the mission though).

Any missions not started by the end of round 4 automatically start too and if 2 out of 3 of the missions succeed, the rebels win.  If not, they lose and the traitors stand a chance to win additional points.

Appearance

At first glance, the artwork is very, very good.  There’s a lot of good artwork for the wolves and the design and it looks like the art is actually done in period style. However, the biggest problem with the artwork is that it is all in shades of black and grey, with mostly washed out tones.  Cards and card backs aren’t done in a manner that is significantly different (which wolf feature was it that was the Government card?) that can slow down the game itself as you try to remember which card goes where.  Block text on the back of the cards would have helped a lot instead of relying purely on graphical design.  Once you start learning the bits though, it’s not bad.  Still, those with colour blindness and who aren’t that good at quickly memorising the backs of the cards should be warned.

Gameplay

Overall, I have to say the game play quite well but it feels a bit clunky with the number of moving pieces / rules involved.  There are a lot of cards that need to be dealt each time a mission is played – glory points, government action cards, order cards, order cards have to be played and then finally, all cards resolved.  Compared to say the Resistance, the game definitely feels much more involved – though the cards themselves add a little bit more uncertainty and strategic options to the game.

I definitely like how managing your soldiers and the additional ‘free the prisoners’ mission added to the game.  You have to decide who to send, where to send them and what kind of cards you are willing to sacrific for the greater good.  One player had the majority of their characters thrown into jail by the third stage while I had only 1 character in jail (and 4 dead!) which meant I was more inclined to focus my efforts on the main mission.  It also meant that I could get to the leadership positions first, ensuring I had the best victory points if the mission succeeded.

I should also note that I have only played one game so far and I did it with non-gamers.  The non-gamers definitely had fun, but thinking back to the game, I think we missed a lot of the strategic / meta-gaming possibilities involved.  It’s easy to tell who is a traitor or not during the game, so one potential option a leader has is to bribe potential traitors with glory points to successfully allow a mission to succeed.  Since a traitor only gets 2 glory points if 2 / 3 mission fails (and 1 more if all 3 fail); it might make sense for a traitor to help at least 1 mission succeed (and potentially both if he gets 3 glory points a mission).   It’s something I think a ‘gamer’ crowd, or one that has been introduced to something like the Resistance or Werewolf would catch much faster earlier on, rather than ‘after the fact’ with non-gamers.

Which  I guess indicates that this game has definite replay possibilities – you want to try at least a few more games to see how it plays out, with both different number of players and with the same group as you learn the intricacies of the game.

Conclusion

So, would I consider this game a definite buy? I’m not sure.  The Resistance is a much tighter game, and the betrayal mechanic is done in a much shorter format in One Night.  On the other hand, the Outcast Heroes hits on a unique historical theme (or at least one that isn’t as explored) and seems to have a decent amount of replay value with a higher amount of complexity than either of the above two.