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Mo Caraher
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After four plays of this I'm still unsure how I feel about it.

The game looks so great that you really want to like it. The double-wide ship counters with fine top-down illustrations are outstanding, and the operational map is very attractive, as well. One small problem arose in the two matches in which I took the Central Powers; my eyesight is becoming a problem and the ship names rendered in Fraktur are nearly impossible for me to discern.

The operational game is well conceived and, for me, the most fun part of the game, with the common naval game conventions of pre-plotted movement and fleets being represented by only a marker, their true nature unknown to the opponent until contact is made. Once contact is made, action shifts to the tactical map, the contents of the opposing fleets are slowly revealed and the battle ensues.
This is where things are less fun.

While there are sometimes meaningful decisions to be made in this phase, it typically devolves into a load of dice rolling. I mean, a lot of dice. The combat system for this series is well documented so I won't go deep into that. It is what it is and it kind of works, but it can be a grind carrying it out. How someone could bear playing one of the Battle Scenarios, in which the action begins and ends on the tactical display, baffles me.
The game is simple enough on the surface but the mediocre rulebook suggests otherwise; it's not very well organized and is, curiously, too verbose in some areas and too vague in others. This is easily overcome with a little patience.

The tactical game sports myriad exceptions, DRMs and special cases, all of which shoulda coulda been summarized on a play aid, but are not. This stuff sinks in pretty fast but expect to do a lot of things wrong before these modifiers are memorized. The game aid chart produced by
Gordon Mosher
United States
Binghamton
New York
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is essential, and can be obtained here:
https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/107290/gwas-game-aid-char...

So we played four scenarios, two small and two large and three of them were blowouts. We chose historical scenarios, exclusively, rather than "what if" situations, and found that the results were pretty accurate, historically. That doesn't always mean a fun time, though, unless the victory conditions are arrived at in a way that will offer the losing side a chance at some kind of victory, either by limiting their own losses or by fulfilling some condition other than points earned for sinking vessels. In the three blowouts that was never the case; the side that lost in reality lost in the game, badly, with no special victory considerations to let that side have anything to actually play for.

Maybe we just chose badly, or maybe we need to explore the "what if" scenarios to get something going that both players will enjoy. Not giving up on it yet, but we're not far off.

Edit: spelling
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Xander Fulton
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Lake Oswego
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Well I'd say, of the series, this is definitely one of the weaker entries - so, not a surprise to be somewhat ambivalent about it.

Not that it's bad, just that the scenarios tend to involve A LOT more ships than the other games, so resolving the tactical battles can take forever. At least one thing that can help a lot is having a brick of dice of different colors - I picked up the Chessex sets CHX 25608, CHX 25610, and CHX 25601...to have dice for primary/secondary/tertiary factors. That way, you can roll a ship's entire salvo in one go.



That helps a lot.

FWIW, the real joy of the game is - as you note - in the operational scale, so I tend to prefer the entries in this series and it's WW2 cousin that feature a lot more movement, there. Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean and Second World War at Sea: Bomb Alley are probably two of the stronger entries in the line, for just that reason.

Still, I rather like the tactical battles - reading naval AARs from the period...ESPECIALLY WW1...you really don't get the sense that the fleets engaged in the kind of meter-by-meter precision maneuvering, or shell-to-shell finesse of firing that most gamers seem to want. The battles felt like they were resolved, in reality, in more the broad strokes of maneuvers and decisions that I think this system does well.
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Mo Caraher
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Thanks for the comments, Xander.

GWAS: Med IS next on the agenda, so perhaps we'll see a revelatory change of attitude
I also have a couple of SWWAS games waiting for me at my US address, so that will happen sometime, too. I expect to enjoy the air assets in SWWAS; what little of that there is in GWAS is of minimal impact.
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Xander Fulton
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Lake Oswego
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moly19 wrote:
Thanks for the comments, Xander.

GWAS: Med IS next on the agenda, so perhaps we'll see a revelatory change of attitude
I also have a couple of SWWAS games waiting for me at my US address, so that will happen sometime, too. I expect to enjoy the air assets in SWWAS; what little of that there is in GWAS is of minimal impact.


Yeah, the air game in SWWaS is incredibly solid - it definitely overshadows the tactical naval aspect, which...well, you'd expect that in WW2, so...
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