Heroes of Telemark lets players vicariously relive the Allied sabotage in Norway

The Game: Heroes of Telemark 

The Maker: Decision Games, $14.95 

The Basics: Heroes of Telemark is a card-driven game for one. Assuming leadership of a special operations team, the player infiltrates enemy lines in Norway’s Telemark region to destroy resources intended for the German nuclear research program. The player is tasked with recruiting and equipping a small team of spies with limited weapons and equipment, as all missions require transportation via parachute or glider. Stealth, speed, and surprise are paramount.

The Objective: The game features four separate missions based on real-life historical quests such as the February 27, 1943, sabotage of the Vemork heavy water plant in Telemark. These can be played either separately or in order as part of a campaign game.

Historical Accuracy: Available forces reflect historical ones, both in terms of headcount and weapons, the latter ranging from silenced pistols to Bren light machine guns. Some game counters even represent specific people, like Joachim Rønneberg, a well-known Special Operations Executive (SOE) operative who conducted missions in Norway.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The game plays in about an hour and requires little physical space, making it ideal for travel. It’s also versatile: with some work on the player’s part it can be a role-playing game as well as a single-player historical board game. But the instructions, while few and seemingly simple, lack key details; figuring them out proved to be just as challenging as the game itself. (Unfortunately, no online tutorials exist to remedy this.)

Playability: The game is easy enough once you’ve deciphered its rules. But given the limited number of possible scenarios and units, you will have played up all the missions sooner rather than later. 

The Bottom Line: Heroes of Telemark explores an aspect of World War II—the Allied sabotage in Norway—that to this day receives little widespread attention from history buffs. And for the low price point, you will more than get your money’s worth once you figure out the rules and how to maximize the game’s potential. 

World War II Rating: 3.5/5 stars

–Chris Ketcherside is a retired Marine, a lifelong wargamer, and a PhD candidate in American history.

This article was published in the February 2020 issue of World War II.