WWII: Operation WhiteBox, the player characters (PCs) play the role of WWII special forces operatives. They may be formally trained and part of an officially designated special forces unit such as the SAS or U.S. Army Airborne, or they may simply be guerilla fighters dedicated to making life hard for the German Army. They may also be covert agents working for organizations such as the SOE or OSS. Whatever their affiliation, their job is to complete missions behind enemy lines, paving the way for the next Allied advance.
For those remotely familiar with earlier editions of the D&D or the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, the game mechanics will click and be very intuitive. For those not familiar, WWII Operation Whitebox uses the d20 OGL system with a WWII theme pasted overtop.
Analysis and in-depth commentary of these rules are outside the scope of this review.
I own both the PDF and the black and white standard softcover edition and they are amazingly laid out! The font used is easy to read, yet it is not a typical font found in other roleplaying books. While different, it is not distracting and in reality is complimentary. The book itself is well organized and loaded with examples and callout boxes that help to provide another level of immersion.
Let’s talk about the art for a moment. To say it’s great is not enough; it’s awesome! The color covers of the book are very evocative, a little gory, but war is hell after all! The interior art is thematically appropriate and really helps to give the reader more immersion. Some of the interior art are photographs, but the vast majority of it is original art by some very talented artists.
The physical quality of the printed book is very good. The spine is solid and not showing any signs of distress as a result of the reading process. I have no reason to believe that it will not hold up over time. The PDF is heavily colored and thematically it’s very cool.
WHAT DO YOU GET INTHE BOOK (from DTRPG)?
WWII: Operation WhiteBox is a standalone game that uses the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox rules as its base. In addition to standard gameplay rules, the game contains the following:
- CHARGEN: This includes Attributes, Nationality, Rank, Profession, etc.
- NEW CLASSES: Eight new classes including the Charmer, Combat Engineer, Grunt, Maquis, Sniper, Tactician, Wheelman, Uberlaufer, each with their own unique abilities.
- GEAR AND WEAPONS: A list of typical WWII weapons and gear. Weapons are statistically grouped by function (Large Rifle, Small Handgun, Submachinegun, etc.) with some named examples to add flavor (M1 Garand, Derringer, MP40, etc.).
- PLAYING THE GAME: Rules for Saving Throws, Surprise, Reaction Rolls, Movement, etc.
- PERSONAL COMBAT: Rules for “theater of the mind” combat including new rules for automatic weapons, using cover and concealment, and explosives.
- VEHICLE COMBAT: Rules for “theater of the mind” vehicle combat (basically the same as personal combat) and vehicles grouped and statted out (Small Truck, Medium Tank, Small Aircraft, etc.) with named examples to add flavor (Kubelwagen, M4 Sherman, British Spitfire, etc.).
- GAMEPLAY EXAMPLE: A gameplay write-up to show some of the new concepts in action.
- COMMON NPCs AND ANIMALS: Stats and descriptions for civilians, soldiers, and common European animals.
- COVERT SPECIAL FORCES EQUIPMENT: Descriptions of some real world equipment designed and/or used by special forces during WWII.
- THE WWII CAMPAIGN: This chapter gives an overview of the different theaters, major events of the different time periods, and lots and lots of tips for running a WWII campaign.
- SPECIAL FORCES IN THE EUROPEAN THEATER: An overview of various Allied special forces units such as the SAS, LRDG, OSS, etc., resistance organizations such as the French Maquis and the Norwegian Milorg, and German special forces units such as the Brandenburgers. This chapter also runs down how to design a special forces mission as well as the different types of missions commonly undertaken.
- WWII TIMELINE: A chronological timeline of major WWII dates and events.
- HISTORIC WWII SPECIAL FORCES ACTIONS: Contains a brief description of real world historical missions undertaken by units like the British Commandos, Jedburghs, etc.
- RESISTANCE AT THE PONTEVILLE BRIDGE: A sample mission deep in Normandy.
- MASS COMBAT RULES: Quick and dirty rules for resolving Mass Combat as well as how to incorporate PC missions into the results.
- MINI-SETTINGS: Nazi Superscience, Nazi Occult, and Nazi Space elements to liven up your game!
WHAT SETS IT APART:
For starters, this is a WWII themed game and while there are others on the market, this one scratches the WWII RPG itch for me whereas the others did not. Having grown up playing D&D and various iterations of it over the years, the rules come across as very simple, easy to digest and internalize. However, there are a few nuances that might trip some folks up.
First, it might feel odd to apply your DEX modifier to ranged combat, but in reality, is firing a gun all that different from firing a short bow or crossbow in a fantasy setting? It really isn’t! Another thing that stood out to me was the high damage values, but let’s face it, weapons in WWII are obviously more deadly than in any fantasy setting. Aside from these things, GMs and players should be able to jump right and kill some Nazis without much trouble.
The game itself does not promote the use of magic for obvious thematical reasons, but they have not completely forsaken it. There is a section dedicated to Nazi Occult Research and other sundry things the Nazis were involved with that should scratch that itch for most players and GMs. These are areas, are specifically add-ons and not a main part of the game, but will give your game that pulpy action atmosphere.
The last area I would like to comment on is the replayability of this game. Players can create special operations soldiers or operatives from a variety of allied nations to include women! Hands down, that is awesome! There are so many historical facts of daring do and sabotage that GMs have a huge volume of real world resources from which to craft missions. Additionally, Small Niche Games has published quite a number of missions (future review) for GMs to pick from. Endless options abound!
Easy to understand rules (more intuitive than in fantasy settings)
New character classes that embody The Greatest Generation
Lots and lots of detail about weapons, operations, historical topics and more
The ability to operate any type of vehicle within the game world
Multitude of optional rules to custom tailor your game to meet your needs
The option of using descending or ascending armor class
Special Forces soldiers have a lesser chance of failing moderately difficult tasks under fire
The theme is very niche and will not appeal to everyone
Nazi occult options can take the game too far into the Sci-Fi realm for WWII purists
Special Forces soldiers and operatives are soft and squishy. Beware!
Let me be clear right up front, I was a history major in college. Therefore, I instantly fell in love with the concept and idea of roleplaying in a WWII setting. The rules feel right (I know that means something different to everyone) and I am eager to get this to the table. If you’re familiar with Whitebox rules or any older version of D&D for that matter, I would recommend you take a look at this. You might find that this scratches an itch for you. The best part is, this game will make for great filler since you play one mission at a time. There is no long-term commitment required up front unless you want there to be. Play it regularly, in between other games or run a session or two for a change of pace. You will love it!
If you’re new to the d20 OGL-based systems, come at this game with an open mind I assure you, you’ll find the rules easy and inuitive.
I want to hear your take on this game, did you enjoy playing it? Does it feel right to you? I know Peter Spahn, designer and publisher, follows Rolling Boxcars so, here’s a chance to provide him some feedback.
Look for future articles on how our games went and if it stands the test of time for me. I plan to get it to the table in the next week or two and will report back then about the actual play experience.