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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Mil05006 Reviews: The Hunters! rss

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Erik Miller
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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43 (now called The Hunters) is a solo wargame (With a 2-player option) where you take command of a U-Boat in World War 2 and try to sink as much shipping as possible before your tour of duty ends in 1943 or is ended early by the faithful efforts of the Allied destroyer escorts or Air Force. It comes with 174 counters, 9 2-sided player sheets/aids, 5 dice, a rulebook, a journal to keep track of your missions, and a BOX! This was my first "real" wargame so I had to chuckle at that. What a perk! Anyways, costing $40, is The Hunters worth it?


Here's a picture of everything you get in the game (minus the counter tray)





Before going too far, I would like to state that this is my first official wargame. I've owned and traded away a copy of Memoir '44, and currently own Axis and Allies, Tide of Iron, and Battles of Westeros. But those mostly deal with minis and not counters like this game. I picked it up because it looked interesting and someone was selling it for a good deal here on the geek. Anyways, onto my review!


How to Play:

Relatively simple to explain but more difficult then it sounds. You pick a boat (like the picture below) which determines your starting date.



There are 8 different boats in the game of two main types- the Type VII and the Type IX. Each boat has a date under it's type that determines when you start. The better boats start later in the war, so you have less total time to sink ships. You can upgrade your boat during the course of the game, however, if you have a good game.

To detail to boat: In the top left you have your Captain's rank. Higher ranks give you a better chance to pick your patrol location instead of getting an assignment. Next to that is the Knight's Cross spaced, earned by sinking shipping or capital ships and giving you bonuses to your die rolls. The top right has your crew rank, which starts off as trained and can get better (bonuses to die rolls!) or worse (subtractions to die rolls!) and next to that is a space where you can very rarely get a bonus to your ship (like better torpedoes or a reroll token).

Each sub can only carry a certain number of torpedoes, listed next to your Captain's rank/reward box. You can adjust the types of torpedoes a little bit. There are 2 types of torpedoes. Steam torpedoes are more accurate and less likely to be a dud, but if you attack during the day with them you are easier to find. Electric torpedoes are less accurate and more like to be a dud but are untraceable because they leave no wake. I usually go with more steam torpedoes- they hit more often and explode!

To the right of that you have you ammo for your deck gun, used on unescorted targets, and the whole right side is full of different places that can get damaged and totally screw your game over. You also have your torpedo tube load outs, where you have what torpedoes you currently have ready to fire and what reloads you have for your forward and aft tubes. They cannot be moved to the other end. Once placed you're stuck so choose wisely! Your forward tubes almost always come home empty.

There's a damage tracker for your hull and flooding. If either of those fill up you sink or have to surface and your game is most likely over. The huge chart on the bottom 2/3 of the chart keeps track of your location as you go on your patrols. That pretty much sums up the U-Boat chart. There are slight differences for each U-Boat but in general this is what is on each chart.


Now, this game is a LOT more exciting then the following gameplay description leads one to believe:

A patrol goes like this:

Roll dice to determine where you're going.


Roll dice for the transit spaces to see if any planes find you (VERY BAD!). This is more likely as the war progresses. If you roll a 12 at anytime during your patrol a random encounter occurs, where you roll a die on a different chart to see what happens. This only happens once per patrol.

After you transit to your patrol station, roll a die to determine if you find anything. Keep rolling until you either find something (Explained below) or have to transit back to base, where you refit and go out on another patrol.

Your choices of combat encounters are as follow:

Airplane. Always bad. Try to crash dive before they bomb you and potentially call in escorts to help blow you out of the water.

Ship encounters are all different but you roll a die to determine what kind of ship(s) you see (Small/Large Freighter, Tanker) and to determine what their name/tonnage is. Bigger targets are more lucrative but harder to sink.

Unescorted ship. Roll to determine if night or day, go in and sink with a combo of deck guns and torpedoes determined by size. Leave area before anyone else shows up.

Escorted ship. Roll to determine if night or day, attack with torpedoes. Dodge escorts through die rolls and hopefully escape to fight another day.

Convoy. Roll to determine if night or day and to determine what the 4 ships in the convoy are. Attack with torpedoes and hopefully escape the depth charging. Can attempt to follow to repeat the target selection and day/night process and keep up the fight.

Capital Ship. Roll to determine if night or day and let fire with all torpedoes. Hopefully sink it in first round (pretty unlikely), dodge escorts, attack again until it goes down. Celebrate your victory after you escape... hopefully.


Combat goes like this for all targets except aircraft, which I won't explain:

Determine ship size, than the name and tonnage of ship. Place ship on target board with right HP (1-5. Only capital ships have 5, small freighters have 2, and large freighters/tankers have 3 with under 10,000 tons and 4 with 10,000 tons plus). Determine if day or night. You are easier to detect during day at the beginning of the war and night eventually catches up. Night gives you the option to do a surface attack, where you can fire your forward and aft torpedoes, but you have a better chance to get detected. Pick out what range (close, medium, or long) you want to fire at. It's harder to hit at long range then close, but at close range the escorts get a chance to detect you before you fire. Either way, pick your targets and put torpedoes on them and fire. Roll a die to see if you hit, then roll a die to see if it's a dud, then roll a die to see how much damage you deal. If you fail to sink a ship you can follow it and try again later after the escorts get their chance at you.

The escorts get a chance to detect you. If they fail you're fine. If not, you roll to see how much damage you take, then to see what is hit. As systems on your boat are damaged, it gets harder and harder to escape and your chances of survival are dim. All of this is accomplished through die rolls. You cannot shot at the escorts and can only attempt to escape. Crew members can also get injured and, if you escape and fail to repair the damaged parts of your ship, you may have to abort your patrol and return to base for repairs.


After you return home to base, you spend time refitting (1 month always plus more depending on the damage you've taken) and go back out. The Type IX boats spend an extra month on patrol (not rolling, just on the log sheet) because they had extended patrols. You can also go on special mission patrols, where you have to drop off mines or secret agents. Each patrol where you completed your mission (mines/agents) or sent at least 1 ship to the bottom is a success and, after 3 successive patrols, you roll a die to improve someone on your crew so you have a better chance at repair or healing injured crew members, or just a better crew overall. Every year you get a chance for promotion to give you some better perks, and if you sink enough shipping or an important enough capital ship you get the Knight's Cross, which you can get additional bonuses to (like Leaves) that can help you out as well. If you survive the whole war you become a trainer and tally up your stats alive. If not, you have a chance to get captured and betray the secrets of enigma or just get captured or killed. Either way you still tally up your stats to see how you did and go back out for another patrol!


Final Thoughts:

The Hunters is a REALLY fun game. Though it doesn't have a lot of tactical decisions and you don't have to try and sneak into a convoy, this game has a lot of tense moments. You can't help but getting angry when your torpedoes are duds and bemoaning the fortune of your crew as the depth charges drop all around you. You can really get into this game, cheering when you sink a big target (like the Royal Oak or the Empress of Britain) and groaning when an Allied plane finds you. Sound effects are encouraged as well. The lack of major decisions doesn't matter because this game is intense. I've had commanders survive the entire war and retire and others go down on their first patrol. Luck definitely plays a part, but it also matters what ships you shoot at, what range to pick to shoot from, and if you decided to take more risks or not during your torpedo run. The Hunters does have a lot of luck involved in it- the die rolls can make or break your game easily. However, part of this is true as historically as well. Did the escorts detect you? Are they just moving over you because of chance? Did you target your torpedo correctly? Is it a dud? Can we make it down before the plane hits us? Etc. etc. etc. Though training and experience helped to minimize the risks (as much as possible) of running a U-Boat, don't expect to come back that often. The German U-Boats had the highest percentage of causalities out of any service in the war. So don't expect this to be a cakewalk either.

As stated earlier, this is my first wargame experience and I absolutely love it. I've racked up 10 plays in the first month I've owned this game and I don't want to stop. I get so mad at the fate of my crew sometime, and I really feel the pressure as the depth charges are hitting all around and I'm hoping that they don't hit anything vital or kill anyone I really need. For the fact that this game really is mostly luck based the tension is crazy. They did a great job making you feel like you're actually out there hunting Allied shipping and trying to do your best. I know some people might not enjoy the theme but really, you're just sinking a little counter. It's not a real person and while some people may not want to fight for the Nazi's most of the Kriegsmarine was anti-Nazi but Pro-Germany. At least that's what they claimed. This game does a great job of feeling like a simulation of a convoy/shipping attack and, while it may not be as indepth as some people want it to be, it really does a great job of making you feel like you're in a U-Boat. As the war goes on your chances of survival drop exponentially and you really feel it. I absolutely love this game and recommend it to everyone who likes wargames, submarines, or who wants to try our a wargame. It's an amazing game that, while it sounds boring, is actually incredible and is now one of my favorite games.



Check out my other reviews at Reviews by Mil05006
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Gregory Smith
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Hey Erik,

Thanks for your kind words

I have to say the the main satisfaction I've received from having made this game, is hearing how much folks are enjoying it.

It is funny how incredibly tense a little die rolling gets when the depth charges are coming down and you're trying to sneak off, isn't it? It wouldn't seem to be so, but I think that's the part of the game that really captures the imagination, as most people who play it have seen "Das Boot" and have a good visualization of what is happening. I myself have received strange looks from the wife as I scream while on patrol. hehehe.

Anyway, I'm happy you're enjoying it! Good luck in your patrols!

Greg Smith
Game Designer
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Erik Miller
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Sturmer wrote:
Hey Erik,

Thanks for your kind words

I have to say the the main satisfaction I've received from having made this game, is hearing how much folks are enjoying it.

It is funny how incredibly tense a little die rolling gets when the depth charges are coming down and you're trying to sneak off, isn't it? It wouldn't seem to be so, but I think that's the part of the game that really captures the imagination, as most people who play it have seen "Das Boot" and have a good visualization of what is happening. I myself have received strange looks from the wife as I scream while on patrol. hehehe.

Anyway, I'm happy you're enjoying it! Good luck in your patrols!

Greg Smith
Game Designer


Wow, thank you for your kind words! And this game really has me riveted- excellent design that's easy enough for an inexperienced wargamer like me to pick up and play, understand, and enjoy, but exciting enough that I don't ever see myself NOT playing it at least a few times each month. So well done! Plus, it's easy to stop mid-campaign and finish later if you need too. So great job there too! And thanks again!
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Jack Beckman
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Please download the Living Rules from http://www.consimpress.com/downloads/the-hunters/ along with the updated charts and tables. Most of the changes are just clarifications but there are a few rules corrections in there.
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Contemptus Mundi
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When is this going to be re-printed? I can't find it anywhere!
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Jack Beckman
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I believe the last item went to the printers a few days ago. I don't know what the lead time is from there.
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