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Subject: Battleship Captain: Initial Impressions rss

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Kevin Canada
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This title focuses on capital ship combat in the modern era. I've played many semi-tactical (GWAS) and tactical (for example, Seekrieg, Larry Bond's titles). The former never felt right - too bloody IMO; the latter systems, while realistic, were a LOT of work. When I first read about BC, I was intrigued by its simplicity, making for fast action, but with just enough chrome to make it "feel" right, far better than its predecessor (Dreadnoughts and Battlecruisers). Combat is odds based, which means that pea shooters aren't going to do much good against the likes of the Yamato, unless they're armed with torpedoes. The game system uses a standardized model for calculating firepower factors, with damage reducing ships incrementally based on the pre-set model; in my playings, this system just "works". Exceptions like wing turrets and other odd arrangements of guns are accounted for. Ships take flotation hits, but instead of sinking immediately on reaching their flotation damage levels, they become dead in the water (DIW) and roll each turn for possible sinking. Subsequent flotation damage simply adds to the number of rolls taken per turn - a very eloquent solution to naval warfare! Ships can also catch fire, or suffer catastrophic damage, adding a bit of randomness to play.

I played a DYO scenario US v Spain 1898 this weekend, two cruiser squadrons colliding in the Philippines. The Spaniards had the advantage of numbers and hitting power, but a couple of lucky shots (one a critical hit) left one Spanish AC DIW, on fire, and sinking. Before she went down, her own lucky shot badly damaged the US Olympia (2T) which effectively left her all but toothless, and cut the US firepower by 1/4. The heavier Spanish AC and three small Cs broke off after the damaged AC slipped beneath the waves. A late game F hit on the Brooklyn slowed the US squadron down enough to let the Spanish fleet sail off unmolested, having survived a three-hour running engagement with its more aggressive foe. I surmised that Dewey would not have pursued due to being so far from repair and rearming facilities.

I found the results satisfying: lots and lots of misses, reflecting the generally abysmal shooting of the period, with the occasional lucky hit. Had this been a scenario in GWAS: 1898, the US fleet would likely have taken more damage, and the shooting would have been a lot better than the historical averages (which averaged <5% hits).

I also think that the game design could easily take variant rules without compromising playability. For example, Command & Control rules could be introduced to illustrate the difficulties of keeping a fleet in formation, or heading in the right direction, firing on the right targets, etc. Even in WWII, it's amazing how many times commanders were simply overwhelmed and lost control of the battle (Savo Island, Komandorski, and Leyte Gulf come to mind). Also, more robust torpedo rules could be crafted, especially for the IJN in WWII. But these aren't really needed to enjoy this game. A definite recommend to any naval warfare buff.

I'd like to get the newer edition, just to see if the ratings for some of the ships were updated. In my 2nd ed. copy, I found two ships of the same class with wildly different armor ratings; my own research doesn't show any significant differences, between the ships on paper, so I assume that these are typos (or, b/c I don't own a copy of Conway's, I can't double check against their references). Still, the sheer simplicity of the design makes it ridiculously easy to introduce alternative ratings, and even ahistorical ships - if one has a good overhead line drawing, all you need is a printer (and even that isn't really required).

Overall, this is a very accessible system for all levels of gamers. True, there are no planes or subs, but for what it strives to be, Battleship Captain succeeds better than one might expect for what is essentially an introductory game. I highly recommend to anyone who loves to play out surface actions from the 1890s to 1945.
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Roger Hobden
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Nice review !

Thanks for pointing this out !

I was unaware of this game.
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Roger Hobden
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Here is the link to the game:

http://minden_games.homestead.com/BattleshipCaptain3.html
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Martin McCleary
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is the 3rd ed hardcopy or is it a download? also, has anyone looked at the counter sets they offer?
 
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Kevin Canada
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I will in the next couple of months. My budget runneth over right now!
 
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