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Subject: To Buy or Not to Buy? rss

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Tom McCarthy
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I've been circling around this game for a few weeks wondering whether or not it is worth picking up. (Normally I would have done so already but I bought Imperium 3rd Millennium from Avalanche Press two years ago and I have been a bit wary of their games since). I am interested in getting into naval warfare strategy games but do not think I am quite ready for the "track the velocity and vector of every shell" style of game. So, is this game and the whole Great War at Sea series worth getting into? So long as the rules are coheirant and enjoyable (unlike Imperium) I may lean towards buying it.
 
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Brian Morris
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The nice thing about this system is it's playability. The game is designed for a operational level but when ships comes together you go to the tactical level of the game. The tactical combat rules for this game are rather cool because there are the basic and then the advanced tactical rules. Basically you can add as much chrome as you wish with it and even the advanced rules are pretty easy going by wargame standards.

The rules actually surprise you as there is so much stuff in the box when you start taking it out it's rather overwhelming. You expect this thick rulebook but it's only 20 pages or so. So the rules are the easy part. The hard part is taking in the hundreds of ships and the 44 scenarios you get in this game.
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Xander Fulton
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FWIW, I've not picked this one up, despite an interest in the theme. APL lost their primary artist a few years back, and the counters in this game show a mix of styles, now. Bugs the hell out of me.

This is clearly visible in this image:

(best to view at 'original' size to see what I'm referring to).

Note the US ships in the lower right. Specifically, the 'Nevada', 'Oklahoma', 'Pennsylvania', and 'Arizona' vs 'New York', 'Texas', et al.

You can see it again on the left with the Norwegian fleet. Compare 'Sverige' to 'Oscar II'. Or the Russians in the upper right - compare 'Sevastopol' to 'Alexander Nevski'.

Anyway, for APL's 'Great War at Sea'/'Second World War at Sea' titles, the gameplay is definitely there - no question. Their rules work pretty well, fits the scale of the game very well, and it's all playable nicely in a weekend day. Great action, great sense of fun.

UNFORTUNATELY, their quality control has REALLY gone down the tubes lately. In a big way! Typos and errata in the counters are pouring through, inconsistency in art, quality of counter and map printings, etc. Very annoying, and as a result, their newer games require a lot of user effort to appreciate.

For my money, I'd draw your attention to earlier titles in the series, where their standards were a little higher. "Great War at Sea: Mediterranean" is, perhaps, the best of any of the GWaS games. And "Second World War at Sea: Bomb Alley" is likely the best game in the entire series, bar none (although my personal preference led me towards "SWWaS: Eastern Fleet" for the somewhat smaller scale).

FWIW, the air rules in the "SWWaS" series are utterly brilliant, and make those games truly shine. Definitely look into one of those if you are just getting into the games!
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Tom McCarthy
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Is the Second Edition of GWaS: Mediterranean okay or should I look for an old copy of the First Edition?

I will definately look into the SWWaS series.
 
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Xander Fulton
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The second edition is the better of the two, IMHO. First edition is great, but the second adds a large number of scenarios. Only real downside is that if you want to flip the counters over from the 'top view' side (with stats) to show the back, in many of the titles, you get a generic silhouette for some 'fog of war' - the enemy doesn't necessarily know which ship is which. With GWaS:1E, this is how it worked (and same with 'Bomb Alley' in the SWWaS series). In GWaS:2E, though, they printed the actual ship silhouettes on the back with the same stats as on the front. At the time, they sold this as a feature - 'alternate play backs' - you could play the game with the counters facing 'up' or 'down' and have the same stats (IE., you could choose between using top views or side views of the ships to play with).

I actually liked that, and used it to good effect for the fleets. I would place the ships with sides facing up on the 'fleet cards', then with the top views on the tactical maps. You can see a bunch of pictures I took of this type of usage in the 'SOPAC' entry here on BGG:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/images/game/7114

Worth pointing out that I took a BUCKET of pictures of 'SOPAC' and 'Eastern Fleet' in play, so if you want to get a feel for how those games look in play, take a look at those entries here on BGG.
 
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Tim Capps
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Thomas-of-Ultramar wrote:
(Normally I would have done so already but I bought Imperium 3rd Millennium from Avalanche Press two years ago and I have been a bit wary of their games since).

I own several Avalanche Press games: Panzer Grenadier series, some of their newer small games (like Defiant Russia), Operation Mars, some of the GWaS Series, including Jutland. I also own a copy of Imperium from them.

Their version of Imperium is a disaster, as they themselves admit. But I would not judge the company by that abomination. In fact, I have been very pleased with my other Avalanche Press titles and how they have treated me as a customer.

I hope to try out Jutland this weekend. I'll post what I think.
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Tom McCarthy
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Quote:
I hope to try out Jutland this weekend. I'll post what I think.


I look forward to hearing your opinion. I found a copy of GWaS: Mediterranean at a local gaming store and I should be picking it up this weekend so I can give this series a try.
 
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Tim Capps
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WIthin ten minutes of taking out the first counters I was ready for the first gunnery on the tactical map. The scenario was Dogger Bank: five British cruisers against four German. From the beginning the differences between the two fleets were obvious. The British had high primary gun ratings, but not much in the way of secondary batteries. The Germans had lower primary gun ratings, but higher secondary. The German ships were better armored and more robust, however. The Germans, unfortunately, were going to need that armor, since they are all +1 to hit targets for some reason (italicized names).

Each side had all ships stacked in their single respective hexes (you can stack up to eight friendlies). Movement and combat occurs in a series of impulses involving proportional movement punctuated by both sides conducting simultaneous gunnery then (at a range of 0 or 1 hex) torpedo fire. I was glad to see that movement was optional, as this allowed me to have movement impulses work out to where the British were three hexes away from the enemy for gunnery. Due to the way the movement and firing impulses are written, two fleets closing on each other could easily "skip" a range. The British wanted to take advantage of their superior primary gunnery factors at the maximum range of three hexes.

As I contemplated my attacks, I had ship record sheets before me that showed the number of primary, secondary, and tertiary gunnery boxes for each ship, the hull-mounted torpedo (one each) movement and hull boxes. Each box was coded to indicate heavy or light armor, or no armor at all. There is not a lot of information needed per ship, and for a small scenario it was easy to simply write the ship records for both sides on a single sheet of paper. (Of course, the idea is you photocopy a stack of sheets beforehand.)

While my gunners spot the first splashes, let me make a few observations about the game.

The components are very nice, and there are a lot of them. The counters are functional and easy to read, with each ship displaying a tiny national ensign, as well as having a unique national color scheme. There are oversized counters for big ships, and small counters for swarms of small ships. One quibble is that all the ships appear to be the same size! The overhead depiction of a battleship and a light cruiser occupy the same amount of space on the counter.

There are two maps, reflecting the operational and tactical elements of the game. The battle map does not bear much comment: it is functional. Your fleet's formation is abstracted at this level: a stack of counters in a hex. Battle lines of steaming warships bringing guns to bear on the enemy will have to be supplied by your imagination. This is not a miniatures-style ship combat system at all. (Which may explain why the ship artwork on the counters does not reflect relative sizes; its just not that type of game.) The other map is for operations in and around the North Sea and Baltic, and it is more interesting. Everything is nicely rendered and very easy to read, which is especially nice considering the small squares each have an identifier that is used for plotting fleet movement on the operational map.

Now that the battle is underway, however, further examination of the operational side of the game will have to wait. Combat could hardly be simpler. You name your target, roll a number of dice equal to your gunnery factor and score a hit for every 6. Actually, the British score hits on a 5 or 6 since these German ships are easier to hit. For every hit, you roll two dice and consult a damage table, which is inconveniently located in the rulebook. (Why not printed on the battle map?) If the guns you are firing can penetrate the target's armor at the indicated location you can start crossing out boxes. Primary guns can penetrate heavy armor, secondary light, and tertiary cannot penetrate any armor at all. On a 2 or 12 you go to another table for a critical hit roll.

Combat is simultaneous, so any guns lost in an impulse still get to fire back.

As the range closed between the fleets, the British were eventually scoring hits on 4, 5 or 6 (+1 for italicized German names, +1 for close range). Damage added up fast for some ships. When the battle ended the British had lost Princess Royal, and the Germans had lost Derfflinger and Blucher.

Interestingly, afterwards I read about the real battle of Dogger Bank and learned that my plan was exactly the same as the British Admiral's: New Zealand and Indomitable were to engage Blucher, while my three bigger ships each took their opposite number. My crews on both sides were more effective, however, with three ships lost to enemy fire. It could have easily been the historical result with a few different dice rolls.

The tactical game was easy to learn, reflected the difference in combatants, and presented choices in determining engagement ranges and target allocation. it is not, however, a ship maneuvering game. There is not a lot to distinguish similar ships -- this one has a couple of extra hull boxes, that one a secondary battery instead of a tertiary. I found myself thinking that the same mechanics with a different presentation might be better. If each ship had a card, with a picture, historical comments, and damage grids, you could use sleeves and mark damage with a dry erase pen. This would be easier to handle than flipping through sheets, but more importantly, would provide the historical color that doesn't come through with the presentation as it is. I'm not suggesting this is how the game should be, but illustrating the way the tactical game left me wanting something more.

Still, it was fun and mostly satisfying, and I am looking forward to the operational game. I was expecting the rules and play to be more intimidating for some reason, so the ease of learning it was a nice surprise.
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Gary S.
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Umm Tim, it's been a while since I had this one one the table, but IIRC the italicised name rule means that the Germans have superior gunnery and hit the British on a 4,5, or 6, not vice-versa as you seem to state
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Tim Capps
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You are right; the rules are clear that it is the firing ship's bonus. I admit I was puzzled about why certain ships would be easier to hit. No wonder the British did better than they did historically!
 
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Jim Dauphinais
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Quote:
UNFORTUNATELY, their quality control has REALLY gone down the tubes lately. In a big way! Typos and errata in the counters are pouring through, inconsistency in art, quality of counter and map printings, etc. Very annoying, and as a result, their newer games require a lot of user effort to appreciate.

Let me state that I do not feel this is not a fair criticism of the Jutland game. There is no question there were quality control problems in 2006 with such Avalanche titles as SWWAS: Bismarck. However, Jutland is not one of those titles. Jutland was my first Avalanche game and I have found it up to the standards I normally expect from other publishers such as GMT and MMP. This not to say there is no errata or the series rulebook could not be a bit more complete in certain areas, but rather to say Jutland is up to the standards I would expect from a leading wargame publisher.
 
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