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Subject: Great system, super game! rss

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Tim Korchnoi
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Richmond
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My Little Man's first real wargame play: Barbarossa Solitaire
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7th Fleet Review

(Since I have written reviews for other fleet series games, some of what is written below is found in other reviews, some of it is not. I have tried to comment on the key differences in each game of the series while at the same time making a stand alone review for those who may not know about the whole series)

7th Fleet is the third in a series of games covering modern naval warfare. Set in the mid to late 1980's the game covers the East Asian region from Asian Russia, south across Japan, along the Chinese coast and down to Vietnam. Units consist of surface, sub, and air military units with a varying degree of military capabilities, ranging from Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) to Surface to Surface Missile (SSM) attacks. Victory points are awarded for accomplishing goals (like getting certain ships to a certain location), maintaining naval units in certain areas (this reflects concepts like control of sea lanes or sea denial) and for the destruction of enemy units.

Playing Time: This can vary depending on the scenario in question. There are nine basic scenarios and four advanced. Once one masters the system, the basic scenarios are playable in roughly 3-4 hrs. The advanced scenarios, which reflect a wide variety of political possibilities, can be considerably longer, but for those with a penchant for “what if” type possibilities, these are worth the time investment.

Maps: The game comes with three maps depicting the East Asia region. The maps depict the area of Sakahlin Island down through Japan, China and Taiwan, as well as the Philippines and a sliver of Northern Vietnam. The map contains features such as bases, cities, and ports as well as water depth. The color is the typical type found in a Victory Games product which, while it may not be aesthetically pleasing, certainly makes for a functional map that is easy to play on.

Counters: The counters represent the naval surface and sub forces of the opposing navies as well as the air units that come into play as well. The counters are nicely done(with the exception of the China-Taiwan counters. They are too similar on their normal side, damaged they have different star burst colors making indentification a lot easier) and, while chalk full of information, do so without being busy. The reverse of the counters contain a star burst which lets players know quickly what is and is not damaged due to combat. All the major powers of the region are represented and any country with reasonable military might is included as well.

Rules: The rules are neatly organized with timely examples to help players work their way through them. The player aid cards have a nice summary of the varying types of combats and makes referencing the rule book minimal after the first few plays. Each sequence is clearly outlined with modifiers to the die roll clearly stated The cards also contain the necessary charts for dealing with reinforcements as well as random events. While it may seem like there is a lot of rules, simulating all the possible types of naval combat (there are six types of combat) does take some time and doing it right (and making it playable at the same time) also requires a lot of skill which, IMO, designer Joe Balkoski does a terrific job with.

Things I like about the game:

● VERY, VERY playable. The entire fleet series is one of the most playable systems I have ever come across. Plenty of detail and tough choices without being cumbersome. Also, it is easily playable solitaire making it easy to work on strategies to prepare for your opponents. devil
● The maps. What can I say? I love the VG color scheme
● Random activations. Each turn players roll the die to see who gets to activate what type of units (surface, sub, air). This not only makes for good games, but it also allows you to try to build plans from turn to turn and, with some luck, you can make a plan come together perfectly, just like real armed conflict.
● The 0 on the ten sided die is a 0. Nothing hammers home the idea of the Clausewitizan concept of friction better than having a great plan and rolling that 0!!! angry shake
● The advanced scenarios. For a grand strategist like me, it is heaven!!!! cool
● The reinforcements procedures. For this you roll the die and move along the boxes a certain amount and, when you reach a certain level you receive X amount of units. I like this better than a standard “here are the forces for this turn” because it again adds to the level of uncertainty.
● Various preparedness levels. You can start the advanced scenarios at low, medium, or high levels of preparedness and, if you want to get really interesting, you can try starting different countries at different levels , thus simulating one side being ready for war and the other not!

Things that can be annoying:
● Following the “you can reorganize your surface units prior to certain attacks” to the T. I played with one guy years ago who insisted we actually do it (rather than just saying verbally, “okay, I’m going to reorganize like this). That can slow down game time when, if you are playing with men of honor, it is not necessary.
● The drift ice hexes on the north map. While I admit the design is cool cool it makes it very difficult to read the hex number for set up shake
● The China-Taiwan counters. Yeah, there’s the official PRC “One Country, Two Systems” business, but seriously they should have had different colors. The first time you make the mistake of firing on your own ships, you'll understand what I mean (trust me, in the heat of battle this happens more often than you think!) angry shake
● Once you have played the game often, the some of the basic scenarios do seem boring. However, on the plus side, they are great ways to learn the game at first and introduce someone to the system (and wargaming in general).
● Three map sheets for the advanced game. Each map sheet is 22"x32" so playing the advanced scenarios requires a rather large table.

Overall Assessment: d10-1 =I’d rather staple my tongue to the wall for a month. d10-9 =Wargame Heaven

Maps= d10-7 But remember: I do like the color scheme. Slight downgrade over other maps due to the drift ice hexes.
Counters= d10-8 Nicely done (except the whole China-Taiwan business).
Rules= d10-9 Great organization and playability. Great rules for random/political events. The various deployment levels are awesome!
Playing time= d10-6 I only put this because I know those who are pressed for time will find the advanced scenarios long (and possibly the last two basic as well).
Ease of deploying units= d10-5 to d10-7 Typical of most wargames. This really varies depending on the preparedness level used in the advanced scenarios. For the basic, it is not hard at all. So, d10-7 for the basic, d10-7 for low level down to d10-5 for high (high may take some time).

Overall evaluation= d10-9 This game has what all wargames long for: interesting basic scenarios, mechanisms that make solitaire play fun, and a wide variety of political and random events that make each advanced scenario tons of fun! cool If you own all the fleet series, like I do, it is interesting to see how the rules evolve and change over time.
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Adrian Hague
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Nice review

Only ever played the game solo, deep but fun.

Fun to have a game where one can deploy Nuclear Depth Charges *KA-BOOM!*
 
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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There was an article in the Avalon Hill house journal _The General_ which proposed a sequence of play using a deck of cards - red suits (hearts & diamonds) would allow Soviets to move, while black (spades & clubs) would do the same for US & Allies.

But instead of allowing each side to activate a 'type' (either all of their air or surface naval or submarines at one time), this variant now has a given side (Red or Black) to choose 1 stack of units to activate.

For Air units, that means 1 Airbase (i.e. 1 - 4 units there) may be selected for movement and / or combat, allowing for the rule that Air unit(s) that fly over additional airbases on their Ingress (outbound) route can also 'pick up' those units for activation / movement / combat if these 'secondary' activated Air units are flying to the same destination hex.

For Surface Naval units, this means 1 stack in any hex (blue water / coastal / port) may be selected for movement and / or combat - I can't remember whether the above rule for 'secondary' activation applies to ships; if it does then use that rules.

For Submarines, this means _only 1_ submarine at a time, not a stack of them, may be selected for movement and / or combat.

I think the variant suggested that a given side (red or black) could not draw more than 3 cards of the same color in a row - if that happened, the Activation opportunity immediately switched to the opposing player. This was done for play balance, but it could also be modified (say no more than 2 cards or 4 cards - whatever the players felt was fair - or even say, 3 cards in a row for the Soviets & 2 for the US - players are open to tinker with this any way they like).

I think this variant improved the game dramatically and allowed for _much greater_ opposing player interaction, as the original Activation choices (either _all_ Air, Surface or Submarine units moving at once for a given - and very lucky - side was unrealistic and could greatly impact the course of the game far beyond what the non-moving player could hope to do with his counter-moves).

Give it a try!
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