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Subject: Naval Battles - A Mini Review rss

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All of my reviews aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them. I feel that other reviews can be sought if detailed game mechanics is what you are after.

In Naval Battles each player controls the fleet of a major naval power – France, USA, Britain, Germany, Italy or Japan. Each player takes all of the vessels available to that country and selects a total fleet value of 25 points (values are on each card). The ability to customise each game is the first strength of Naval Battles.

The aim of the game is to be the first player to sink a total of 25 points worth of enemy vessel. The same values used to select ships are also the victory points that each ship is worth. This is clever as it allows ships of different capabilities to be valued accordingly and aids the balance of the game.

The players then organise their fleets in rows. Up to three rows are possible, the 1st row is mandatory and a 3rd row cannot be formed without a 2nd row being established. Submarines are placed beside the rows of other vessels. The first thing that strikes you in Naval Battles is the amount of icons and numbers on the cards. Whilst overwhelming at first, the design of the cards is quite brilliant. After reading the rules it is evident that icons on the cards tell the players all they need to know about a card. Ten points for card design! The cards come in two types – vessels and action cards. The vessels include details such as hull rating (once reached the ship is sunk) and the types of weapons it carries – Main Battery, Secondary Battery and\or Torpedoes. The action cards are vital as they are used to fire weapon systems and mix up the play with surprise attacks, depth charges, air raids etc. Each player will start with and usually have 7 action cards at their disposal.

The game itself is divided into 4 phases – Re-organize, Prepare, Attack and Discard. Re-organize allows a player to re-arrange their fleet and possibly enlist reinforcements if they have the appropriate action card. Prepare allows a player to play cards to specific vessels to enhance an attack or bolster defences. The attack phase is the most intricate. Each attack action card will list the specific weapon it can fire, so having the weapons themselves is not enough. In addition the attack card will outline which row the attacking ship must be in and which row of vessels it can target. Most attacks are automatically successful unless a defender plays an action card to nullify or blunt the attack. Some attacks require a dice roll (air raids). If the attack succeeds then the damage listed on the card is inflicted and the card is placed under the vessel to keep track of damage. If the ship is sunk then it is added to the attacker’s pile to record scoring.

The final phase allows players to discard cards. This is vital if a player is holding attack cards with weapon systems that they do not have on their vessels.

The Final Word

Naval Battles is very well designed and the game play is balanced. Multi-player games can be tricky as 1 player never wants to weaken a ship that would allow another player to finish it off, but that simply helps to balance the game and ensure tight finishes. The artwork is excellent and it appears that the designers have tried to make the look of each vessel as unique and accurate as the real thing. I’ll see you on deck Admiral!
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