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Silent Victory: U.S. Submarines in the Pacific, 1941-45» Forums » Reviews

Subject: What I miss in this game... rss

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Marc Blume
Switzerland
Erlenbach ZH
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After two completed campaigns, I prefer to put this game away for good.

Don't get me wrong: The mechanics are working, there is some modest roleplaying flair in the campaign, and for all what I know about the (submarine) war in the pacific, the game is a decent simulation of the historic events.

cry However, I desperately missed meaningful decision making in this game.

snore The tables do almost everything for you: They determine on which patrol you go, what encounters you have, whether you hit, what damage you do, if the escorts detect you, what damage they do to your submarine, etc.

The decisions you make as a submarine commander are very, very limited in scope and effect. Waiting for the night? How many torpedoes to fire at what targets? Pursue a convoy?

After just a few games (or even patrols), it becomes clear what limited tactics that you can choose are best for you, and then you just play by the tables.

whistle The game reminded me of the small windup toys for children: You wind up the system, and then you mostly just watch something happening in front of your eyes. Most situations become very repetitive and dull after just a few hours of gameplay.

I prefer other solitaire games where you have a much stronger stoytelling approach with a lot of meaningful decision making, like the classic «Ambush!» from Victory Games.


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Victorius Deplorable
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Kinston
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Have you looked into DVG's U-Boat and Gato Leader?
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Marc Blume
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Thanks for the hint - I actually do own DVG's U-Boat Leader, and it was also my first thought to play this one again to see how much better (if at all) that game is regarding the decision making.
 
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Dan
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Interesting. I've been keen to compare U-boat/Gato Leader with The Hunters/Silent Victory. I have the former and enjoy them, but i've been curious about the latter.

This notion of meaningful decision making has been mentioned by others.

some quick notation here for this post.

UBGL = U-boat & Gato Leader

THSV = The Hunters & Silent Victory


In UBGL you make quite a few decisions regarding your campaign and patrols.

1. you select the boats and crew skill of your 'squadron'.
2. you can select special missions and/or special equipment.
3. you decide where each boat will patrol and attempt to form wolfpacks.
4. the special convoy conditions will affect your tactical choices. Example, one convoy condition gives the merchant ships a ram attack bonus. do you stay submerged and avoid this effect?
5. the damage system has a push-your-luck element. Do you deep dive and stress your crew (thus avoiding attacks) or take your chances with the escorts to be able to shoot back?


So, could someone count the choices one could make in THSV?
 
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James Moore
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Sorry to hear you are disappointed in the game's system. As a solitaire game, a great many things do depend on dice and tables.
Especially the actions and reactions of the "enemy".
As a former submariner, I find the choices available to you to be fairly realistic. Do you attack a convoy or not, which range and torpedo type, how many torpedoes for each target etc. If detected, should I go deep or change course? Should I shadow the convoy and wait for nightfall, so that I can make a surface attack, fire a second salvo, and/or use my deck gun?
The very nature of a submarine limits the kinds of things you can do.
That being said, there are a few things IMO that could have been done differently. Perhaps a card system to govern the behavior of escorts.
More actions for the enemy to take, like merchants being able to shoot back at you with their deck guns and zigzagging.
Escorts using star shells to illuminate your boat.
Unescorted ships sending distress signals which could bring down an escort or plane on you etc. But again, these actions would have to be either dice, table or card driven.
The main strength of the game to me however is in the narrative and role-playing elements. Log entries make it like a short story unfolding, and indeed, that is the form my after-action reports take.
But, to each his own, and good luck in your quest to find a solitaire sub game that suits you..













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Barry Miller
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I always likened Silent Victory to B-17: Queen of the Skies, for they use essentially the same system. And I thought the same about B-17 as Silent Victory - that you're essentially playing a computer game, except that you're manually churning out the results instead of the zeroes and ones doing that work for you.

IOW, you provide the input. You churn and see the results. You're correct that there's nowhere near the amount of decision making in this game as there is in most other good solitaire games. But...

But yet, despite, this is a very good solitaire game! Why do I say that?
Well, first let me correct myself... to be true to the above paragraph, it can be argued that Silent Victory really isn't a "game". I said the same thing about B-17, 30 years ago. What it is though, is a great, thematic solitaire experience.

And that's how Silent Victory should be viewed - as an experience rather than a game! The joy of playing SV comes in the story which unfolds in front of your eyes (steered by the minimal decisions you do make). But those "minimal" decisions, combined with the randomness of the dice rolling, will guarantee a different story every time you play! The value of Silent Victory is written in the After Action report - not the gameplay itself.

So that's where I get the value from Silent Victory. Enough that I will keep it. And when I'm in the mood to tell a good submarine story to myself, will pull it out!

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Barry Miller
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mblume wrote:
Thanks for the hint - I actually do own DVG's U-Boat Leader, and it was also my first thought to play this one again to see how much better (if at all) that game is regarding the decision making.

Well, I don't own, nor have played, U-Boat leader, but I just played my first game of Gato Leader (I like the subject more). And I must say that I enjoy Gato Leader a lot. Almost just as much - if not as much - as Thunderbolt Apache Leader!

Yet I keep seeing poor reviews for U-Boat Leader. Perhaps it's because U-Boat Leader is designed by a different person? Anyway, if you dissed on U-Boat Leader, I suggest giving Gato Leader a look, nonetheless. I'll post something over in the GL forums soon.

Anyway, Gato Leader is immersive and has some good decisions to make, much in the same way as TAL. But it's also more of a "game" than Silent Victory. (See my post above about Silent Victory being considered a game).

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Mike Adams
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If you think about it, what choices did a WW2 US submarine commander actually make themselves?
Except for a chosen few, patrol assignments were just that, "assignments" you were told where you were going and when.
The majority of a commanders decisions were,
Attack in daylight or wait till night with a chance of losing contact?
Surface or submerged?
Range to attack from?
How many torpedoes at which targets?
Which type of torpedoes at which targets?
Follow damaged target or non damaged target?
Attack escorts or not?
How much sub damage is to much before heading back to base?
How many crew injuries before heading back?
These are all decisions made by the sub commander in this game.
Like most solitaire games there is quite a bit die rolling and chart checking as to the actions of the enemy.
That's the trade off with any table top solitaire war game.
For what's its meant to do I think it does a pretty good job.

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Gregory Smith
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Hey,

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'd have to point out there's a lot more decisions to make in the game than might first appear...certainly a lot more than it's spiritual predecessor, B-17. (one of my main complaints with that game was the fact you were almost completely along for the ride...very few choices to be made at all.

In SV and in The Hunters, you are making risk management decisions that directly affect your survival. Even deciding NOT to attack, based on current damage or torpedo situation, is, in fact, an important decision. Which torpedoes at which targets? what range? If detected, do you risk going deep? What patrol zone do you request, if given the option? Etc etc. (as listed above,and more.)

Yes, the game is heavily immersed in role-playing and story-telling, and these elements are probably what give it the gripping feel it has for those who enjoy it. No two games will ever be alike. (Nothing like getting pounded a few cycles and finally getting away, for one thing.)
I do like to compare it to Texas Hold'em, actually. It's risk management. If you make good decisions, you will tend to do better. Yes, just like on TV when the bad player gets the Ace of Hearts on the river to win, sometimes the Japanese escorts will hit the "one-outer" and nail you. But that's life.

Anyway, I know it's not for everybody, and I'm OK with that. But I do disagree with the opinions of folks who say "it's just chart checking and dice rolling and nothing more." I feel they really just don't get it, in my opinion. They are entitled to think that, I just think it's incorrect Now if they said "it's a lot of chart checking and dice rolling, and I don't care for it" that certainly makes more sense to me. It just isn't going to be everybody's cup of tea, and obviously it didn't quite hit the sweet spot for the original poster. Which is fine, I wish it had, but you can't win them all. I just want to point out to him I feel he isn't quite giving the game credit for the amount of decisions it actually has.

So there's my .02 on this subject.
Sorry to bother you all,
Greg
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Stephen Shedden
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Amen.
 
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João Martins
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Recently got this, since I never got to get a physical copy of B-17 but thoroughly enjoyed the stories it created. I was looking for a similar experience.

My latest captain sank the CA Ashigara and the Tayio Maru for 24500 tons in September '42, after which she promised promised to get the crew through the rest of the war.

That is, until they ran into the Shokaku, which was cautiously attacked and damaged, though with significant devastation to the sub. It was too good a choice not to try. And until they saw the Akagi, which was sunk in October '44, at great risk. Except for these three encounters the rest of the campaign was absolutely unexceptional, sinking mostly ships under 3000 tons.

This tells a story, and is almost exclusively what makes me enjoy these types of games.

Unfortunately, I find that Silent Victory produces less engaging stories than B-17. The above is really the only story I remember for a half-dozen or so campaigns I did.

I understand the thematic restrictions, but I miss naming crew members, and having them involved in episodes of the ship's story. I miss staring at the game for five minutes until it sinks in that that particular crewman bought the farm. I like the feeling that it's not the plane/sub that's at stake, but Joe, Tony and Mike's life, you know? For instance, I know that I lost a few non-generic crewmen, but I don't have that recorded anywhere, and I don't recall being affected by the event. I think that's because they never shot at anyone, they weren't critical or "responsible" for any die rolls or anything like that, if it makes sense.

I guess this game might exist in this weird spot in which it straddles both storytelling and tactics and is decent at both, but doesn't excel at either?


Hope this is useful feedback for any other designs coming up!

I will agree that there are definitely important choices - more so than in B-17. You just shot at the obvious enemy to shoot at and that was that. SV's choices are mostly within the low-risk/low-reward to high-risk/high-reward continuum, though I understand that some people prefer choices more subtle than that.
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Marcus Lind
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mblume wrote:
I prefer other solitaire games where you have a much stronger stoytelling approach with a lot of meaningful decision making, like the classic «Ambush!» from Victory Games.


Can you recommend any other solitaire games like that? Preferably available ones Personally, I'm considering getting Nemo's War (2nd Edition) and the new edition of Robinson Crusoe.
 
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James Hébert
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Another aspect adding to the "story" behind the game is the state of the world at the time, and world events that occurred during a patrol. You can use a book or the web to provide that added dimension.

Granted, submariners did not likely have up-to-date information as we do today, but when you take into account what occurred in September of '43 in light of your patrol mission you get another layer of involvement and a sense of what the captain and crew might have felt had they known. Certainly they would hear rumors and snippets.

There over a dozen timeline sites on the web. I am no historian and cannot vouch for its accuracy or completeness, but this one stuck out to me: http://www.secondworldwarhistory.com/1944-ww2-events-timelin.... This page is dedicated to events throughout the months of 1944, as is this wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_World_War_II_(1944).

At the bottom of the page you can select years from 1939 through 1945.

I've not yet found this game, which I only just heard about (sad face). But I am doggedly looking! EDIT: Found one! Woo-hoo!!!
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Richard Agnew
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I think it's comparing apples to oranges somewhat. In U-Boat Leader, the player generally controls a minimum of 3 submarines (dependant upon campaign length and number of Special Options points). In that sense, UBL should be seen as more of an operational level game compared to The Hunters or Silent Victory.

At an operational level the player would, of course, have much more control in decision making regarding patrol zones, resource allocations, etc. While there is a tactical segment used to resolve combat, the operational segment plays an important part in UBL.

I guess it really depends on what you are wanting/expecting out your gaming session. For my money, The Hunters/Silent Victory succeeds brilliantly in recreating the FEEL of being in submarine combat.

There's nothing like the feeling of stunned disbelief you get when your boat has survived years of combat, sent many an enemy merchant to the bottom, only to be sunk by a random air attack on the return to base. Or, having your captain kia by an aircraft strafing the boat, as happened to mine.

Conversely, I've survived double-digit depth charge attacks, limping back to base with one diesel, with more than half the boat's systems out of action. When a boat like this gets sunk, you take it personally; it almost brings you to tears.

UBL never elicited anywhere near this level of immersion from me, not even close. While their system worked very well in HLCAO (Hornet Leader Carrier Air Operations), I don't think it succeeded in UBL.
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Nick Bos
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Rammstein69 wrote:


UBL never elicited anywhere near this level of immersion from me, not even close. While their system worked very well in HLCAO (Hornet Leader Carrier Air Operations), I don't think it succeeded in UBL.


Completely agree. Although I agree with OP that this game doesn't have a lot of decision making, at least it's immersive. I do like to play this game sometimes when I feel like not thinking too much.

U-Boat / Gato leader don't have a lot of decision making, and they're also not immersive.
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"She comes out of the Sun in a silk dress runnin' like a watercolor in the rain."
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    My wife has loaded up 1940s big band music on her Amazon Echo for when she quilts, so this game has just been calling to me from the shelf. The only thing missing is Tokyo Rose.

    Really evokes a feeling.
 
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