The Start of the Invasion with Codeword Cromwell

September 14, 2021 | Stories | 2 comments

Follow the events that unfold in the quiet village of Birkham Stokes during a fictional invasion with Codeword Cromwell.

For Birkham Stokes! Codeword Cromwell is a sweeping narrative where villagers and a small attachment of the British home guard must mount an unexpected defense against a German invasion during World War II. Over the course of a single day, events transpire to determine the fate of this small village and everyone in it. What could happen today?!

Game Overview

Game Name: Codeword Cromwell
Publication Year:
2014
Designer:
Daniel Hodges
Artist:
Mark Mahaffey
Publisher: Fifth Column Games
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)

At its core, this is a tower defense game about defending the village and surviving to the end. But this is far from a dry experience of just rolling dice. The village and its inhabitants are the elements that tie things together. And when you’re at the pub with some darts, you still fight!

Admiring the Village of Birkham Stokes in Codeword Cromwell
R

First Play

August 1, 2018

Complexity

3

Latest Play

September 18, 2021

Expansions

0

Setup Time

20 Minutes

Lifetime Plays

18

Play Time

6 Hours

:

High Score

227

1

Game Area

42" x 34"

;

Low Score

154

Who’s Who

A quick note that I often struggle with the way the counters lie flat on the board. I tend to lose track or have problems fitting everyone in a square. Standees today!

It’s absolutely imperative to play this game as an experience. Although there is a scoring system, it’s hardly useful for having a good time. It’s all about the people!

12 individual village residents have their own backstories, like Arthur Pendrake here. Bank manager? Most likely.

The interesting twist is that someone is… A spy! And if the traitor isn’t found early on, things can get deadly.

Starting to Consider the Spy with Arthur Pendrake in Codeword Cromwell

The World’s Best Pub

As sobering as an invasion simulation is, there’s a lighthearted side to make sure it doesn’t feel too serious.

Betty Tanner, the proprietor of the local pub, is always a favorite of mine. She’s not just in charge of drinks… There’s a village to defend, and she’s on the front lines!

The pub actually starts with a number of close combat weapons. But these are exceptionally thematic. Those pub regulars know exactly what to do with what’s at hand!

It’s both entertaining and personal. If anyone gets injured or killed, it feels like part of the village itself is lost.

Gathering for Battle at the Birkham Stokes Pub in Codeword Cromwell

Tracking It All

Remember that this all takes place over a single day, starting at 06.00 and continuing into the night. There’s an easy track to see how far in the invasion is.

The progress of the enemy is also tracked. Slow and steady advancements mean that more enemies arrive every hour, hampering the efforts of the brave defenders.

Speaking of the defenders, it’s also important to find the spy amongst them! It could be just about anyone…

It’s quite interesting when coming up with stories because a heroic villager might very well turn out to be Chaplin.

Finding the Spy and Tracking Progress in Codeword Cromwell

Starting the Narrative

06.00. Early morning. It was a quiet Saturday, though there was a tinge of fright in the misty valley around Birkham Stokes. War touched even this corner of Britain.

Betty Tanner was adjusting the radio after Harry and George O’Leary got into a scuffle over a flat pint.

At the shop, Edith Finlay kept her ears open as the wireless hummed. You learned a lot about your neighbors if you simply listened in, and times called for attention.

Suddenly, before Birkham Stokes could shake off the chill of night, an urgent call went out: “Codeword Cromwell!”

A Peaceful Saturday Morning Before the Invasion in Codeword Cromwell

The First Landings

A mixture of terrible dread and excitement gripped the small village. This far away from the war, one never expected to suddenly be thrust into the midst of gunfire.

Most villagers locked their doors to huddle in their cellars. As thrilling as battle sounded, it wasn’t for everyone.

Others raced to the church square, eager to hear what Captain McGowan of the home guard had to say.

But the home guard was already strewn across the village with no hope of reconvening. It would be a scramble, and McGowan knew they were in an unprepared situation.

The Start of the Birkham Stokes Invasion in Codeword Cromwell

Surgery Station

Dr. Greystone was enjoying a cup of tea with Hodges when they heard the church bells sounding the alarm.

Foolishly, a cache of weapons was hidden outside in the event the surgery fell to the enemy. Hodges was unarmed and raced out the back door, leaving his steaming cup.

The good doctor quietly sipped away as the door slammed shut. He could still hear the birds singing in the trees and a distant dog barking. All sounded quite right.

He would not allow his mind to imagine the sounds of the next hours. No. It was normal village life beyond his tea.

Creating a Defensive Post Around the Surgery in Birkham Stokes

Guarding the West

Ford was contemplating a visit to the nearby schoolhouse when the warning came. He had an arsenal of weapons close at hand, but no one to join him in the defense.

A seasoned soldier, he was unphased by his position. This was to be the bridge that he would hold, no matter what.

Nearby, Ms. Featherlake felt much the same about her schoolhouse. She had the acid ready and the laboratory prepped to supply the teachers with more weapons.

It was a far cry from the previous day. The Overstone boy toppled chairs and spent the afternoon reciting poetry.

Preparing to Defend the West Both Conventionally and Unconventionally in Codeword Cromwell

From the Woods

Prepared as some areas of Birkham Stokes were, it was the extremely young Hartwell who encountered the first forces. He hadn’t even wanted to join the home guard…

Yet as he lounged amongst the trees, certain he could find a hiding place outside the village, he spotted movement.

He gulped down a bundle of nerves. Enemy troops here?! The nearest weapon was in their line of sight.

They crept. Oh, how they crept through the underbrush. Hartwell’s eyes widened as he sunk lower onto the ground. This wasn’t what he signed up for. Home was so far away.

The First Sighting of the Enemy by Hartwell in Codeword Cromwell

The First Attack

The telltale snap of a twig gave Hartwell away in an instant. He tensed up, almost certain no one had heard. But there was only silence in the woods. And enemy eyes.

He could feel them close by. Still creeping endlessly and terribly. Closing in on him. His heart pounded and his hands shook until he couldn’t take it. Hartwell peered out.

Bullets flew past alarmingly close and he was on the run. Out in the open, Hartwell raced for the closest ditch.

And he would have made it had his feet not failed him. Stumbling near the edge, the pain almost made him faint.

Barely Surviving the First Assault in Codeword Cromwell

Aid from Afar

Even at this early hour of the invasion, every maneuver was critical. The crackling of the radio broadcast was all some of the villagers concentrated on, eager for news.

Help arrived from leagues away at sea. British forces were able to sink parts of the invasion fleet before it came anywhere near land, which was a rousing victory.

The hampered invasion was a small triumph, yet Birkham Stokes was already in a rough position. Poor Hartwell.

Not knowing where the next troops might appear, every defender was on edge, awaiting the worst.

Help from the Sea in Codeword Cromwell

The Fallen Stream

Ford armed himself at the bridge just as he realized that the enemy was advancing to the north. This wasn’t the plan: The bridge was the strategic stronghold.

In an instant, a small part of the village was lost. Ford traversed the stream multiple times as he kept a close watch on the invading force. They were so far away.

Defending was his specialty, yet launching an assault? He fired into the trees, desperate to stop the advance.

He merely revealed his position and lodged bullets in some of the ancient oaks overlooking the village.

The Loss of the North Stream and a Dangerous Situation in Codeword Cromwell

All for One

Hartwell could barely see past the terrible pain. He had never been shot before, and never imagined it would happen to him. The world felt fuzzy and awful.

He barely registered the movement nearby. Yet the gunfire was unmistakable. That was the sound of British weapons!

Sergeant Taylor and Hodges raced to the west woods when it was apparent that the young recruit was in trouble.

They didn’t simply lay down covering fire. A calculated attack cleared the area of the threat as they took a look at Hartwell. “I’m a bloody mess today, sir,” he winced.

Taylor and Hodges to the Rescue in Codeword Cromwell

Assault on the Pub

Everyone knew the only thing of note in the northwest corner of Birkham Stokes was the pub. More importantly, you never crossed the owner, Betty Tanner.

So it was with chagrin and outrage that she met the invading force that fired upon the Black Bull. Her pub?!

It was an unfortunate position to be in, so armed for the usual pub brawl but not for an invading force. She called for all to take cover and stay down. The pub would hold.

Yet it took her by surprise when the brothers, Harry and George, cried out in pain after the rain of gunfire.

An Outlandish Attack on Betty Tanner's Pub in Codeword Cromwell

No Nautical Assistance

Already well into the morning, the villagers saw their defenses floundering. The home guard wasn’t organized and no one seemed prepared to deal with an invasion.

Another early blow to morale came over the broadcast. Despite strong currents that should have slowed the invasion, the fleet pushed through with landing barges.

They were getting closer and stronger while the injuries started to stack up. How long before someone died?

The grim reality of the situation took the wind out of the sails. There was no excitement now. Only dread.

Bad Luck with the Invasion Fleet Arrival in Codeword Cromwell

A Shaky Defense

Everyone in Birkham Stokes was somehow linked on that fateful day, whether they realized it or not. At the bridge, Ford was joined by Clark to mount a strong defense.

Yet as they set their sights on the forces to the north, more troops appeared across the bridge. That sense of dread traveled far from within the village to settle over them.

Steady hands were less reliable than usual, and only Clark managed to secure a hit. It simply wasn’t enough.

The pair huddled beneath the bridge in a makeshift defensive spot. Waiting. Hoping. And, of course, dreading.

Minimal Effectiveness at the Dangerous Western Advance in Codeword Cromwell

Trouble at the Bridge

It was almost poetic how accurate the invaders were. Ford and Clark managed to avoid the worst of the attack, but the pair was hardly prepared to hold their position.

A leg wound was simple enough to bandage and Ford smiled through the pain, knowing Clark was almost terrified enough to make a run for it. He was in bad shape.

His arm hung limply from where bullets grazed his shoulder. He would live, but he could barely hold his gun.

“The stories we’ll be able to tell, right?” Ford patted Clark on his back, mustering the courage to hold onto hope.

Mounting Injuries in Codeword Cromwell

Session Overview

Play Number: 14
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)
Outcome: Incomplete

Birkham Stokes stood on edge, its feathers ruffled. There was a reality to the war that no one thought they would face. Neighbors wondered whether they might see their friends again. Would the village even survive? It was still so early. What once seemed so simple was now in limbo. The home guard wasn’t invincible, and even the stalwart pub was in serious danger. It all seemed so surreal hours before, yet war had come to Birkham Stokes.

Bracing for the Next Wave and Trying to Protect the Village in Codeword Cromwell

%

10 Plays

Affordability

Price & Value

3

Functionality

Challenges & Mechanics

9

Originality

Design & Theme

10

Quality

Components & Rules

8

Reusability

Achievement & Enjoyment

8

Variability

Distinctness & Randomness

10

+ Pros (Positives)

  • Every little story that evolves during play is memorable and weaves into a tale of the village’s success or failure.
  • Although not designed to be highly strategic, there are still important decisions to make during every round.
  • The hidden spy element is very intriguing and adds an unexpected layer since someone is a traitor in hiding.
  • Enemy troops start off small and relatively easy, yet each passing hour adds potential tension and difficulties.
  • There are a huge number of possible events that may affect the game, either at a grand scale or for a character.
  • Backstories and other written elements bring the fictional village to life and add a lot to the gameplay.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • It can be difficult to keep track of movement with so many units on the board, which can lead to mistakes.
  • The general flow of play is easy in practice, yet referencing the rulebook every round is often necessary.
  • Cards typically have small effects that are oddly only included in a giant booklet that must be checked a lot.
  • This isn’t a particularly complex game, but the large number of components requires a lot of careful planning.

More Codeword Cromwell

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Victory Conditions

Achieve a British Tactical Victory

  • Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%

Goals and Milestones

R

Score at least 150 points.

R

Score at least 175 points.

R

Score at least 200 points.

Continue the Conversation

What do you think of Codeword Cromwell? Have you ever had a chance to play? This is a fairly unknown game that’s been out of print for a bit. I simply love the stories that evolve over the course of play through events and different dice rolls. Things certainly look a little dire in some spots, yet I look forward to finding out what happens next very soon!

2 Comments

  1. Obviously you have Went the Day Well playing in the background. 🙂 Or possible Noel Coward’s song “Could You Please Oblige Us With a Bren Gun” (on YouTube if you don’t know it).

    I’d love to try this some time, but as you say it’s hard to find. Though I think I know someone with a copy he might lend me.

    Reply
    • I have so many movies or songs I need to look into in order to enjoy this game some more! It’s a shame it’s hard to find, although you sometimes can stumble across a copy. As much as I love it, I know the prices can be extremely high. Best to borrow or enjoy some random accounts of the action like this! Thanks for following along!

      Reply

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