July 17, 2024

#UnboxingDay – Gorbachev by White Dog Games

Michael Eckenfels, 20 May 2021 ~ #UnboxingDay

Gorbachev is a solo game from White Dog where you play as the titular head of the Soviet Union (more or less), trying to keep this huge nation of vast, diverse populations in one piece. And if things do fall apart, you try to make sure they happen as peacefully as possible.


The box design is pretty awesome, especially to someone that grew up as a teen in the 1980s. The threat of war with the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact, not to mention nuclear annihilation, were always in the back of our minds. Gorbachev was like a PR leader in that the West loved him, but I’m pretty sure some Soviets didn’t much care for him. I’m definitely no expert, but this game did open my eyes to a few things I was unaware of before.

click images to enlarge


The back gives a hint of a hot mess of a map in store for you, but otherwise the game looks pretty sharp.


Opening the box, it’s always good to find things neatly secured.


The Event Cards, spread out face down, so you can see the art on the back.


And, the front of those same cards. They’re not usually loaded with good news.


The manual is a bit different from other White Dog Games designs in that it’s three columns as opposed to two. Strangely, I find the three-column design much easier to read. 


The manual is in full color and has several examples included, and it has some very interesting side notes throughout.


The manual also has some Soviet-era photos included throughout, as well. Very cool, not to mention thematic.


I believe the designer, R. Ben Madison, visited the Soviet Union several times prior to its collapse, giving him good insight into things (not to mention interesting pictures).


Some White Dog titles come with a ‘Player Aid Card’ like this, which is meant to organize the various game counters so they can more easily be set up. I love the idea but the different fonts here give me a headache.


The Events Sheet is loaded with descriptions of events within the game…all historical ones that happened (or might not, depending on how well or poorly you play).


The front of the counter sheet. While the Player Aid Card and its different fonts makes me cringe a bit, the designs here are perfectly fine; I like them a lot. I don’t know why that card bugs me, but as I’ve already played this once, it’s not a big deal at all.


It’s interesting that the back of the counter sheet is all black, as opposed to being just blank/white. You don’t see this kind of thing too often, but it works for me.


And here we have the main event…the map. Hoo boy, the map. At a glance, it looks absolutely awful, but I have to admit that after playing it once, it actually works pretty well. I wish the background map was less detailed as that causes a major distraction to the eye. The color-coded tracks, though, help make them stand out from the noise of the background. What’s interesting for me is, as I played, the mess of different fonts, colors, and designs actually helped me keep things straight as I played. Your mileage may vary, but don’t let this fool you. It’s really a good game, deserving of a full review.


Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed our recon of our recent acquisitions.
You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
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