Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome! will occupy every bit of your free time if you let it!

The last time we experienced a World War II-themed cooperative game, it was Philip duBarry’s superb Black Orchestra: Second Edition. I couldn’t get enough of Black Orchestra at the time, and when I read about Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome, I felt a similar level of compulsion to play it. Feeling like a more complex, often nerve-wracking and always highly thematic alternative to something like Pandemic, Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome is one of the best cooperative games I’ve ever played. 

On first setting up, Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome may feel a little bit daunting. There are decks of cards for just about everything and lots and lots of tokens. Thankfully, you’ll quickly realise that a lot of the tokens relate to each of the specific five scenarios, as do some of the cards, whilst other cards drive the actions of player characters not in the game. With some whittling down done, the extremely clear setup instructions and the scenario-specific setup cards do a fantastic job of getting you into the game.

Players will normally each control a single member of the Dutch Resistance, and these characters are all based on real people who made a stand during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. Just as the inclusion of real conspirators did in Black Orchestra, the resistance members in Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome really increase the thematic value of the game. You will play as a normal person; you have little or no power over the events around you and you feel a sense of the need to succeed.

Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome caters especially well for solo players with three potential variants. I’ve tried one of these (effectively playing a standard two-player game but controlling two characters) however the game also allows a solo player to control just a single character with a supporting group (represented by a card). I’m really pleased to see this level of support for solo players in a cooperative game, and I feel strongly that Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome offers a solid and enjoyable solo experience that many will enjoy.

I hinted earlier that Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome was like a more complex Pandemic and that is honestly quite the understatement. There’s absolutely loads going on in this game and I would suggest that at least one player should take the time to learn the rules and try a few games before attempting to teach it to their friends. There’s nothing individually complex here, but the phases of play do add up in such a way that you’ll want to understand them to make play as smooth as possible.

On their turn, a player will simply use a combination of their action cards and available shared action tokens (which are the orange tiles on the right side of the board) to do things around the city. There are a number of standard actions such as moving or increasing the security of the current location, but each scenario will usually bring at least one or two scenario-specific actions with it. 

Where games like Pandemic give each player a single character-specific bonus or benefit, Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome uses a small deck of cards for each character. Most cards will allow the player to simply take one standard action, but almost all of them will also provide some kind of thematic additional benefit or alternative action. For example, our nurse character can move fast on her bike (with the possible risk of attracting attention) whilst our Train Conductor can take a rail movement action without a ticket — which is really nice. 

Players need to be aware at all times that they are not at liberty to move freely around the city, either. German occupiers control a small number of streets (based on the difficulty you choose), whilst even the Dutch police will slow you down. Moving past policemen or soldiers is never a good idea, and even having items on your person (such as rations or documents) can massively increase the occupier’s suspicion of you. When a player does move through an occupier controlled space, a Halt! card will be drawn, leading to… Mostly bad things.

Additionally, after the players have used all three of their action cards (and any bonus actions) they must also resolve an occupier card that they drew at the start of their turn. Typically, occupier cards are also bad in the same way as Halt! cards are (and it’s just a question of how bad) but one of the things they can do is lower the safety level of your current location by your current suspicion level. Should the safety level of a location ever hit zero, the players will need to draw a Raid card. Did you guess that Raid cards are usually the worst of all? If so, good, because they are.

Between the Occupier, Halt! and Raid cards, two things are going on. Firstly, the level of immersion in Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome massively increases. All of these cards have great art and often, especially on Halt! and Raid cards, a bit of narrative that brings the story to life. Secondly, each of these cards affects the game systems – lowering safety, reducing morale, confiscating items, potentially arresting a key person of interest (who might also be a scenario objective) and lots more. When systems and themes combine like this, I am always a very happy gamer.

The thing is, Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome is hard – even on the standard difficulty — but it’s incredibly clever and very enjoyable. Where many cooperative games can become a bit predictable (I would certainly say Pandemic falls into this bracket), Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome never does. It also has enough systems in it that you’d have to be very unlucky for enough of the same things to go wrong on consecutive turns that you could lose without knowing how it happened. 

Rather, the players are forced into a very delicate balance of managing those systems and also trying to advance their objectives. One scenario I played was essentially what board gamers would call a simple “pick-up-and-deliver” game where we had to reach important people and then get them to the train station with some suppliers and a set of approved papers. The players need to get five people out successfully, and there are between seven and nine people to available (meaning that you can only allow at most four of them to be arrested). 

Moving with these characters in tow is easy, but using occupied roads is extremely dangerous, and moving too fast will increase your personal suspicion level enough to make any location unsafe. Worse still, supplies are spread all over the board, so players are left with the choice of getting the necessary items earlier (increasing suspicion but not putting the important person at risk) or collecting the person and then making a dash over two or three turns to collect everything and get the whole lot back to the station. Neither of these options is optimal, but then again neither is crawling along trying to secure each location you reach. 

It’s always difficult to convey how a game feels in a written review, but in Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome you will feel as though your objective is clear, you will know the steps you need to take to achieve it, and the puzzle is making sure you can take those steps without triggering enough negative consequences to stop you. The balance of risk — I can only imagine — replicates how it must have felt for the real-life resistance members as they fought against their oppressors. In Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome nothing is ever a gimme, and even with near-perfect planning, things are going to go wrong.

Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome easily surpasses almost every other cooperative game I’ve played for overall excitement and mechanical integrity. It’s so clever, so tough and so rewarding that I love every game of it that I play. However, it is materially more complex than games that most cooperative players are used to (like Pandemic) and it’s even a big step up from Black Orchestra which feels simplistic alongside it. As a result, my single reservation about Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome is that you might not find people to play it with… But then again, with three ways to play solo, is that even a problem anyway?

You can purchase Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome on Kickstarter.

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