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Subject: WWII Carrier Warfare Game Recommendations rss

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simon thornton
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What game Simon? (sorry, so many have been mentioned it's a bit confusing now)


My apologies , I am referring to SWWAS system. You cant beat the tension of an umpired double blind system, but the search turns are incredibly long and too be honest the two umpired games of flat top Ive played pretty much played in real time (12 hours of gaming for 12 hours of battle time).

It is a matter of taste but I like the fact that in SWWAS , your staff are essentially doing your searching for you . You can only launch a air strike if you have successfully found an enemy task force even if you can see that lttle marker moving across the map towards you.

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IIRC the SWWaS series assumes searches extend in all 360 degrees from the base/ship. There is no need to search in any particular direction. In fact, the search planes don't even "fly" on the map, you just allocate so many factors to "searching". Sucess then becomes a simple function of the number of planes committed, and the distance to the target (which is sitting right there on the board for you to look at anyway).

I found it to be very unsatisfying. Simple and quick yes, but robs the searching player of some very real decision points, while making it impossible for the opposing player to do anything like come in via an unexpected direction. Heck the search planes are even able to report on targets located out at their maximum range even on the turn they just took off!

I wrote a Session Report on Second World War at Sea: Arctic Convoy that I think highlights some of the problems with the air search system in this series. Notice that the Condors are virtually useless in this game, whereas in real life they were a significant contributor to finding and shadowing the Allied convoys

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/377529/operational-secen...
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Martin Gallo
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Sounds like some of us have our particular favorite carrier games. I have not played them all yet, but I enjoyed Scratch One Flat Top the most. Not always accurate but it was a lot of fun.
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M Stumptner
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bluekingzog wrote:
Quote:
What game Simon? (sorry, so many have been mentioned it's a bit confusing now)


My apologies , I am referring to SWWAS system. You cant beat the tension of an umpired double blind system, but the search turns are incredibly long and too be honest the two umpired games of flat top Ive played pretty much played in real time (12 hours of gaming for 12 hours of battle time).

But that's of course not a question of double blind vs ships on the map, but of scale. Flat Top has a quarter the time scale (1 hour per turn) that less detailed carrier games have. If you play the Basic game of Carrier Battles, or the Smithsonian Guadalcanal/Midway games from AH, or Victory at Midway, that problem goes away, and these have exactly the same four-hour time scale (which I believe is also the time scale of SWWAS?).

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It is a matter of taste but I like the fact that in SWWAS , your staff are essentially doing your searching for you .

Except that no real staff would have searched in the manner that the game does it, with 360 degree coverage.

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You can only launch a air strike if you have successfully found an enemy task force even if you can see that little marker moving across the map towards you.

And you also see where the little markers aren't so that you can skedaddle away from them if you want and you know when you are out of range. No carrier admiral had that comfort. IMO it really waters down the experience.
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M Stumptner
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martimer wrote:
Sounds like some of us have our particular favorite carrier games. I have not played them all yet, but I enjoyed Scratch One Flat Top the most. Not always accurate but it was a lot of fun.

Scratch One Flat Top is pretty good, it is an effective compromise between Flat Top/Carrier Battles and the smaller carrier games. It's "in the middle" in in both map and time scale. And the air strike resolution minimap was pretty clever, too.
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Mike Smith
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I am always surprised that the AH Smithsonian Midway and Gauldalcanal don't get more discussion and plaudits. I hav'nt played either but own both. From a superficial view they seem to hit a nice spot of intermediate complexity and detail. Is there something negative about them in practice?

I cannot understand the praise for Flat-top. The combat results table simply does not work for the small strikes that were typical of 1942-1943. You cannot reproduce the success of the US Midway strikes on that CRT. The same goes for air lossses in air to air combat. The CRT and modifiers cannot produce the disproportionate losses that were typical when an outclassed plane type came up against better opposition. Given that this game is reputed the last word in Carrier games that seems damning to me. We played a umpired game of Coral Sea in the 1980s but gave up in disgust half way through.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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M St wrote:
Except that no real staff would have searched in the manner that the game does it, with 360 degree coverage.


Two questions.

1. How would you handle searches in a carrier game?

2. I found dummy counters made SWWAS much better. It isn't perfect history, but it did create much more tension. What is your take?
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Martin Gallo
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Mantuanwar wrote:
I am always surprised that the AH Smithsonian Midway and Gauldalcanal don't get more discussion and plaudits. I hav'nt played either but own both. From a superficial view they seem to hit a nice spot of intermediate complexity and detail. Is there something negative about them in practice?
I think these are both terrific games.
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Mark McG
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Mantuanwar wrote:

I cannot understand the praise for Flat-top. The combat results table simply does not work for the small strikes that were typical of 1942-1943. You cannot reproduce the success of the US Midway strikes on that CRT.


The CRT has problems, but IIRC they were disproportionate towards small strikes. The example that sticks was that on BHT=1 for 39 planes, it was 3 times more effective to send 3 groups of 13 over 1 group of 39. It also gave three times the chance of Critical Hits, which was the mechanism for reproducing Midway losses.

In the end, I made up my own combat table based on the bucket of dice system. Basically it was roll a d20 for every 2 factors. Score a hit if less than or equal to the modified BHT. Critical Hits were simply luckier rolls.
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Ray.T
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martimer wrote:
Mantuanwar wrote:
I am always surprised that the AH Smithsonian Midway and Gauldalcanal don't get more discussion and plaudits. I hav'nt played either but own both. From a superficial view they seem to hit a nice spot of intermediate complexity and detail. Is there something negative about them in practice?
I think these are both terrific games.


I also have them and I agree with you.
 
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M Stumptner
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Mantuanwar wrote:
I am always surprised that the AH Smithsonian Midway and Gauldalcanal don't get more discussion and plaudits. I hav'nt played either but own both. From a superficial view they seem to hit a nice spot of intermediate complexity and detail. Is there something negative about them in practice?

Ironically, their main flaw is exactly what you complain about with Flat Top (although in the other direction). Their combat results don't work. Both games are far too bloody. Ships sink too easily, bases are wiped from the face of the earth (an impossibility given the technology of the time) and search is also much too easy.

Mind you, this was likely intentional. These games were directly targeted at kids (complete with large boxes etc) and I suspect Craig Taylor made them like that so they would be fast, furious, and provide massive bloodletting. (He did similar things with some earlier games, most notably Ironclads.)

As a result, while both have roughly the same scale as Victory at Midway, their system is much inferior in terms of accuracy. Unfortunately, due the competitive dieroll combat system, it is also much harder to adjust relative lethality. They had great graphics for the time and I played in a fantastic umpired game of Guadalcanal for some time but I would not play or recommend them today.

Quote:
I cannot understand the praise for Flat-top. The combat results table simply does not work for the small strikes that were typical of 1942-1943. You cannot reproduce the success of the US Midway strikes on that CRT. The same goes for air lossses in air to air combat. The CRT and modifiers cannot produce the disproportionate losses that were typical when an outclassed plane type came up against better opposition. Given that this game is reputed the last word in Carrier games that seems damning to me.

If you look at the start you will see that those who have tried more would not consider it the last word; that is probably Carrier Battles. In fact the combat system of Carrier Battles was intentionally designed to avoid the incorrect outcome spreads of Flat Top.

However, Carrier Battles is really hard to find (and has some flaws of its own). In terms of scope and concept, I think Flat Top is not perfect but it wouldn't consider it as having been really superseded by newer designs the way this happened to Midway. (Presumably this is simply because there are much fewer giant carrier games.)

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We played a umpired game of Coral Sea in the 1980s but gave up in disgust half way through.

I like people with high standards and you have my admiration for that.
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M Stumptner
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gittes wrote:
M St wrote:
Except that no real staff would have searched in the manner that the game does it, with 360 degree coverage.


Two questions.

1. How would you handle searches in a carrier game?

Well, I have to start out by saying I don't see any better way than using umpired (if you have the third person) or double blind play.

Beyond that, it depends on what detail level you want. I'm happy to play detailed and/or complex games if I have the time and opponents with the time. In absence of those (which is much more the case than it used to be) simple games will do just fine if they are well designed.

So at Flat Top/Carrier Battles detail level I'm perfectly happy with plotting search flight tracks ahead and following them during the turns. (I think they should be plotted ahead for the whole mission by the way, as it's normally done in umpired games including the PBEM Flat Top games I've been in, not just for one turn as it's done in face-to-face Flat Top.)

In simpler games (usually about 4 hours per turn), it depends on the type of search. For the short range searches (up to about 300 miles from a carrier or base using single-engined planes) the solution that Ben Knight invented for Victory at Midway is IMO simply blindingly brilliant. He actually chose the scale of the game so that the typical search fan for a 9-plane squadron in the game can be approximated simply by the megahex surrounding the counter: the hex you place it in and the ones around it. This requires no moving parts, no complex tracking - you place the counter, the other guy (from being told only the position of the counter itself) knows trivially which seven hexes are searched. On the next turn the counter goes into the "unready box" before it can be used again, simulating the last part of the return trip, maintenance and refueling. Fantastically simple.

(This may sound like the simple calling out of sectors in Midway, but the scales are different. In Midway the "calling out" fails to represent the fact that search planes travel contiguous areas of ocean. In Victory at Midway, that is automatic since the "megahex" covered by a search represents the whole area that that group of planes would fly over during its one turn of searching. The other system that uses a similar "place the counter" mechanism is Jack Greene's White Ensign / Rising Sun. Unfortunately, although Jack is an experienced designer with some excellent games to his credit, something went wrong and the game underestimates the area covered by plane squadron by a factor of 14 (in words: fourteen). As a result you cannot get a carrier battle going because you can never keep track of where the other side is long enough to hit them. It is quite funny to read the reviews of the time as the reviewers tiptoe around the fact that they never got a carrier combat to happen, without exactly knowing why this was so. We only found this out because the outcomes so puzzled us that we made a mathematical model of the search procedure to compare it to other games.)

Anyway, For longer searches (Betties, B-17s, Catalinas), I would (tautologically) do it the way I did it in Solomon Sea. Note that I'm not just tooting my horn here, I'm just answering the question. This is the way I'd do it because I could not come up with a better system in the seven or eight years I worked on the game, or in the decade since. You have a set of numbered markers, you place them on your map in sequence, with the next always within three hexes of the previous one, and the last one back in range of the base where it lands. So, in effect, each numbered marker shows the sweep of the searching planes across the next segment of their 12-16 hour path as they search out to 600 or 800 miles. And you automatically get at least vaguely fan-shaped searches that correspond to the fans that the historical search squadrons would cover on the map. It's only vaguely so because the map, at 100nm per hex, is rather large scale. But the payoff you get out of that is that you can play a full double blind face-to-face carrier battle (Coral Sea or Santa Cruz) in an evening.

Quote:
2. I found dummy counters made SWWAS much better. It isn't perfect history, but it did create much more tension. What is your take?

I don't doubt it. In most land games using fog of war, dummy counters (even if it's just a few) have the same effect.
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M Stumptner
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Minedog3 wrote:

In the end, I made up my own combat table based on the bucket of dice system. Basically it was roll a d20 for every 2 factors. Score a hit if less than or equal to the modified BHT. Critical Hits were simply luckier rolls.

I like this. If I ever get around to playing Flat Top again I'll try this out.

The problem was apparent to people at the time and IIRC there is at least one variant in the GENERAL that tried to address it. Don't remember if it really worked across the board though.
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Markus wrote an interesting article on searching in various carrier games. See

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/3885/an-overview-of-se...

(Is there a better way to provide a link to files?)
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Darrell Pavitt
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One game missing from the discussions so far is The Fast Carriers.

It might be possible to graft the search system onto other games such as SWWAS.

Markus didn't review fast carriers in his comparison of search mechanics mentioned above, so I have no idea how close it comes to historical outcomes.
 
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M Stumptner
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I think Fast Carriers was mentioned a couple of times (must have been around p.2 of this thread). It has serious weaknesses in combat. Flak far too deadly, air attacks (at least small ones) far too weak.

As for search, I don't remember if I had a copy available when I wrote the article. I know I took a look at it at some point which may have been later, but couldn't settle on what would be a "representative" search pattern that would enable me to assess density.
 
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Darrell Pavitt
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Yes, the combat system is poor.
 
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Kev.
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Read & Watch at www.bigboardgaming.com
Where do the GDW titles fit into the mix?
 
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M Stumptner
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Quite laborious from what I recall, as there was only one map you moved your task forces prior to discovery by plotting their hex locations on a sheet of paper as they moved. Nothing there that would make me recommend them in particular.
 
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Lawrence Hung
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As a result you cannot get a carrier battle going because you can never keep track of where the other side is long enough to hit them.


Hi Mark, thanks for the illuminating discussion on the carrier search. But I don't quite understand the above quoted. Can you elaborate a bit more?
 
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M Stumptner
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From memory, basically, in that game, a fleet can move two hexes per turn. So even if you find it, say, on turn 4, on turn 5 it can be in 19 different hexes that it can reach from it start hex (including staying in the same hex). However, each side can only search two hexes per turn. So even if you find someone by chance at some point it is for all intents and purposes impossible to close the range and find them again.
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