Once upon a time, a lone American sniper single-handedly won World War II. At least that’s the case if you’ve played any of the Sniper Elite series of video games. Now, Rebellion has bought its digital IP to the tabletop so you too can guide a single super-powered stealth sniper to victory against three squads of German defenders (Check it out on Amazon). Or this time, to make sure it’s a competitive game, the Germans can actually win.

what’s in the box

While there’s no ray-tracing or gory kill-cam in the tabletop transition, you get 10 ink-washed military miniatures instead, and they’re still great eye candy. Nine slots, one officer each, in three sets of colored bases to represent German squads. The second is the number of times a sniper appears on the board.

They are set on a board that shows the submarine pen on one side and the launching facility on the other. The maps are well drawn with clear walls, elevations and iconography to facilitate smooth gameplay. There are also two mini-maps for the sniper to stealthily advance and a poor-quality dry wipe pen to mark his path.

Some bags of plastic cubes and decks of cards are components outside the manifest. One deck is for sniper weapons, one for special forces, one for solo board game play and the final deck is for sniper objectives. They are all quality and, in a nice touch, the objective deck is printed to look like the addresses used by Allied intelligence to send information to POWs.

Rules and how it plays

Sniper Elite is an asymmetrical stealth movement game. One player controls a sniper character, who deploys stealthily and moves across the map to try and reach two randomly drawn objective locations on the board. Others control German defenders whose job it is to hunt down and either kill or delay the sniper so that the turn count decreases before he can complete those objectives.

Although three players can control German teams, this is probably best played one on one. Two German players have to share a team, while running three risks one player bossing the others.

If the sniper moves more than one space and there is a guard nearby, he must alert his opponents that they have heard the sound. In turn, their list of actions includes Spot and Search. The former allows them to specify a single location and the sniper must reveal it if it is there. With the latter, they can nominate three places and tell the sniper that they are in one of them, but not which one. A squad may sacrifice both of its actions to perform a sweep that determines whether the sniper is in the same board region.

This is the basic dynamic that drives the game. A sniper has 10 turns to complete one objective and then another ten turns for another. Given the intricate walls and doors of the two maps, the sniper will be at least seven or eight spaces away from any objectives at the start of the game. So even under ideal conditions, crawling in one spot every turn will put them under time pressure. And the longer they take, the more time they can use spot and search operations to find German snipers. Each passing turn increases the tension for both sides.

Each passing turn increases the tension for both sides.

A sniper can of course snipe, to clear the way and reduce the number of enemy actions. It uses a weird mechanic where you declare how many tokens you’re drawing from a bag, requiring as many target tokens as there are spaces for the target. But alongside those tokens are recoil tokens, which are duds, and noise tokens that can reveal your position. Certain conditions add a token to the bag, such as completing your first objective, which adds a sound token to indicate a heightened state of alert.

While draw tokens are tense and blind pulls are a good way to simulate the potential for sound attention, the boards are too small for this to feel like sniping. Nothing like the open-world feeling of video games: instead, you’ll prefer to take short-range shots in tight spaces to minimize the number of tokens drawn. As a result, it is rare that the effect of the shot is in doubt. Instead, the main risk is exposing your position, which, while exciting, feels like a missed opportunity.

Shooting, however, is only one part of the game and in all other aspects Sniper Elite: The Board Game delivers beautifully. Unlike the slow burn puzzles of Mind MGMT, cornering a sniper and moving around in the dark, this is good old fashioned stealth movement.

Thanks to hidden information, both sides are constantly under the impression that they are only one step away from losing. A sniper player is under pressure a lot of the time and must constantly take risks, but it is up to them which risks to take. Meanwhile, the German players have to use these pieces of information to penetrate, block key routes and hurt snipers or run down the clock.

To add to the fun, both snipers and German squads get special cards from the right options to change things up. For snipers, it’s something like an S-mine that they can secretly place on their map and kill any unlucky German soldier who makes a mistake. In return, they have squad features like a medic who can put a sniper-killed soldier back in place and on the board twice per game. There is also a German sniper who can shoot back using the sniper’s shot bag. Overall, it has plenty of variety to help with long-term replayability.

Where to buy

For more coverage, check out our picks for the best board games to play in 2022.