Recommend
89 
 Thumb up
 Hide
24 Posts

Thunderbolt Apache Leader» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Eric's Solitaire Review of Thunderbolt Apache Leader rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Eric's Solitaire Review of Thunderbolt Apache Leader



Another review of one of the finest wargame of our times and possibility the best solitaire game to come out ever. The reboot of the old GMT game takes this already great game to another level. I am not going to describe the rules in any details, you can find many good video reviews that does a fine job in that department yourself.

The rulebook is one of the best rulebooks I have ever read. It was easy to understand and I found myself setup and ready to play in under an hour! The examples and pictures are excellent and the way the manual walks you through the game flow is simply perfect. One of the easiest rulebook I have ever read.

The components are sublime, the tiles that make up the terrain is very sturdy, the boards that make up the play area is beautiful and very functional with practically everything you needed for play on display. The counters are very attractive and functional with all the information needed for play all right in front of you. I love the big box that the game comes it, it meant that I could fit a counter tray comfortably in the box and easily close the lid. Great stuff.

The game comes with 8 wars to fight and 6 different situations for each of the 8 wars. 8x6 means you have 48 different scenarios to fight! The situations are of different day lengths and game play conditions and adds both variety and flexibility to the game style and length. I highly recommend the 8 day General War situation! But I get ahead of myself... read on!

Just finished playing Thunderbolt Apache Leader last night, a full 8 day campaign of an North Atlantic War in a hypothetical WWIII scenario. I played the general war situation and I think this was THE way to play this game. It was awesome and tense.

I started with the introductory scenario quickly to learn the rules and jumped in the deep end immediately, having played the original GMT game many times before (that was my favorite game of the Leader series, surpassing even the new reboots of phantom/hornet leader). By the way, is almost as good, but the tweaks and the much better production quality really blows the old game out of the water!

In the General War scenario, the enemy get another 18VPs worth of Battalion Cards and this means that there are a lot more Support & Command units in play. These units often have a detrimental affect if not destroyed (or at least half-destroyed), either taking away desperately needed OP points (the currency in the game) or moving the Assault battalions faster towards your base which in affect also takes away more OP points. Do you attack the support or do you respond to the advancing Assault battalions, the decision is extremely important.

Make the wrong decisions and your situation can become untenable very quickly. Since you lose if you have no more OP points to lose.

So every decision circles the efficient use of these OP points, they are used to buy planes at initial setup, improve your pilots quickly, buy scouts, repair planes and often the most important is to buy advance ordinances that greatly increase the survivability of the missions. In this game you are sometimes force to go with "dumb" weapons because you simply have no more OPs to spend, or you decide to spend the OP on repairs.

During my game I almost conceded in turn 3-7 (yes! every one of these turns!) simply because the strategic situation was looking more and more hopeless, with Assault Units near my base taking away my desperately needed OPs meant I was stuck with crappy bombs! On top of this is the looming pressure of more Assault Units moving forward towards my base!! I was teetering on the edge of defeat till the VERY LAST TURN!! Only in turn 8 did I have the situation under control, finally managing to defeat the forward Assault Forces so that I could buy some nice bombs. In Turn 8 I was able to properly arm my pilots to make a push for some decent points and take the offense to the enemy. Man, was it close and tense! Just when I thought I was bound to lose, with all my pilots totally stressed out, one or more of my pilots increased in level just in time to keep them flying! It was simply amazing and finely tuned.

Notice that I haven't even started talking about the tactical map situation during actual missions. It takes an amazing game to have 3 levels of intrigue, strategic, operation and tactical, and this game does it all with style and fun.

When you begin a mission you are face with the choice of sending which planes with which (often stressed out & tired) pilots out for missions. And before this, you had to struggle with selecting the missions that will improve your strategic situation and realistic enough that you can actually accomplish! No easy task! Once you have your teams and missions matched, you have to select the right ordinances to match the mission parameters and what is best suited to your various pilots' skills. In my game, I was often left with no OP points left to spend but during the 2 turns that I did have 1 or 2 points to spend, it was crucial to use these points most efficiently! The array of ordinance choices and combos is staggeringly deep.



The random events (via cards) color the mission nicely, sometimes throwing a spanner in the works big time or sometimes giving you much needed aid. Often it was neutral since I didn't have the OP points to spend to take advantage on what was on the card to make the positive event happen! In the end, I'll rather neutral events than negative event any day of the week.

Then the map and enemy positions on the map is randomly produced and this makes for a very interesting puzzle each time. How you position your aircraft initially is vital and how you use the terrain to your advantage is also vital. The ridges between the large hexes that make up the terrain block line of sight and you need to use these to your advantage if you are going to solve the puzzle. There is a mechanism where if you fly up in High altitude either to fly over these ridges or use some types of weapons, you have to pick a random pop-up chit at the start of the turn which could result in some previously hidden enemies spotting your planes and really ruin your day! The risk of these nasty surprises really keep you on your toes, during some missions, I had to abandon the mission promptly or risk my planes and pilots. In several missions where I had almost destroyed the whole battalion, I had to be escape earlier to save my pilots and planes from damage & reduce my win to destroying half the battalion because of these damn pop-up chits! Very frustratingly fun. When you get a "no enemy" chit, I found myself cheering! Good thing is once you have reduced a full battalion to a half battalion, the becomes much easier to destroy in a later day. You can often send in fewer resources to deal with the weaken battalion. In the weaken state these battalions lose their negative penalizing effects which is very important strategically.



Yes you can avoid flying high by flying through the ridges, but you risk increasing your pilot's stress, making them less useful in later missions. There are choices around every corner of this wonderful game!

In the end, I managed a "Good" victory result by grinding it during the early and mid game and taking on some risky missions on the final turn to push up the score. Boy... it wasn't easy and even with a successful result, I was close to losing ALL THE WAY! Only in the last did I felt I was in any control!

Highly recommended! The most solitaire fun I've had since D-Day at Omaha Beach and in my mind this game is even better. It is the only solitaire game I know that blends strategic, operation and tactical aspects of war so seamlessly. Come to think of it, there are not many multiplayer war games that does it better! A must own for any wargamer, not just solitaire wargamers!

I am giving this game 10 out of 10 and possibility the title "Best Solitaire Wargame Ever Made". 'Nuff Said.

For more of my solitaire game reviews, you can find more in my geeklist:
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/71266/erics-solitaire-revi...

It is said that there will be rules to integrate this game with Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations! Can't wait Dan!
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review Eric. I'm really glad you focused on why you like...nay, love this game. It was nice to read about the rules and mechanics you like without hearing the rulebook restated.

I've only played 5 missions since my pre-order arrived. Real life has gotten in the way recently. I'm looking forward to getting this to the table again soon. In my limited play experience I have seen much of what you mention in your review. Although I didn't have quite as much fun as I was hoping for as the enemy tore up my aircraft & pilots each mission I flew!
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Ryan!

In the game mentioned in my review, I got shot down only once. It was one of those big 5 VP missions and I had NO operation points left, I flew the A-10, 2x Harriers and the F-16, it was an important mission, I think it was the command battalion that randomly moved one of your assault battalion forward EVERY SINGLE TURN, which was KILLING ME. The mission had a ton of AAAs, SAMs and Mobile Commands and as you know these are the dangerous enemies...

With no advance weaponry, I had to go all out for a quick and massive bombardment, hoping to kill everything dangerous in the first turn before they can get more than one shot at me...

As you know, not all the pilots are fast, so the enemy WILL get shots in... and it destroyed my A-10!! But the plan worked in the end, the rest of the planes finished the job soundly... BUT... the pilot in the A-10 was one of my better ones... a Veteran. Fortunately, for every ton of ordinance you add one to the pilot survive roll and because I had so many planes on this flight... I had many tonnes of stuff left after the mission, so my pilot was saved! (the pilot survive roll is surprisingly gentle with the modifiers!)

I found that I rather just destroy 1/2 the battalion and cancel their BAD effect than risk a long drawn out fire fight that will damage the planes... so I literally, flew my planes in for a turn or two (no need to risk any scouts either!) and flew straight out after letting go of as much ordinance as possible on as many targets as possible in 2 turns and run on the first sign of trouble!

Great stuff.

Highly recommended to upgrade one of the pilots to an ACE at the beginning... the "Evasive 1" skill is worth a million and the "Cool 1" skill isn't too shabby, I found the ACE was able to fly almost continuously with some luck! There is a "Return to Base" event card that comes up once in awhile that allows one pilot to recuperate 5 stress and that just kept him flying and flying. The fact that he was "Shaken" from "7-10" meant he can stay in the fight for a LONG TIME!

The only thing I am waiting for is MORE SITUATIONS! The only 8 day situation is "General War" and I wish there were more variety there. Just love the ebb and flow of the multi-day long campaign!

I hear that Dan is testing rules (soon to be release) for combining this with Hornet Leader!!! If he manages to "fix" my complaint about unlimited freedom in weaponry armaments in that game and melt the two together in a MASSIVE Solitaire FEAST... I will be in heaven!
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
In the short campaigns I played I selected a variety of aircraft so I could maximize pilot availability. However, I selected expensive aircraft and did not begin the campaign with much in the way of SO points. That was a bad deal.

The first picture you used in your review looks like one I uploaded to BGG. In that game the first enemy fire chit I drew outright killed my AH-64 pilot. I think I drew it again the following round and killed my A-10 pilot as well. My Cobra escaped with some stress and a ton of damage. Needless to say, that result ended my "surge" situation.

I think the next campaign I play I will go with cheaper aircraft to bank up SO points for the first couple missions. I keep reading that players with more time in than me recommend destroying 1/2 an enemy battalion, like you do, as to reduce pilot exposure & and to eliminate the battalion trait. That concept is hard for me to deal with because I'm used to the objective being complete target destruction as in Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. I'll have to keep this principle in mind, though.

A combination of Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations and Thunderbolt Apache Leader into one campaign would be great. Hopefully Dan is able to find fruition with that concept.

The preponderance of short situations struck me as well. I've only ever played long campaigns in Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations and I am slightly disappointed by the lack of longer situations in TAL. I need to play some more before delivering final judgement, though. I'm 0 for 2 on the surge situation.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Verssen
United States
Glendora
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmb
Thank you for an awesome review Eric!

I have almost finished the TAL / HL combined campaign rules. I should have them ready for the next DVG update in a few days.
28 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Ryanmobile wrote:
In the short campaigns I played I selected a variety of aircraft so I could maximize pilot availability. However, I selected expensive aircraft and did not begin the campaign with much in the way of SO points. That was a bad deal.

The first picture you used in your review looks like one I uploaded to BGG. In that game the first enemy fire chit I drew outright killed my AH-64 pilot. I think I drew it again the following round and killed my A-10 pilot as well. My Cobra escaped with some stress and a ton of damage. Needless to say, that result ended my "surge" situation.

I think the next campaign I play I will go with cheaper aircraft to bank up SO points for the first couple missions. I keep reading that players with more time in than me recommend destroying 1/2 an enemy battalion, like you do, as to reduce pilot exposure & and to eliminate the battalion trait. That concept is hard for me to deal with because I'm used to the objective being complete target destruction as in Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. I'll have to keep this principle in mind, though.

A combination of Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations and Thunderbolt Apache Leader into one campaign would be great. Hopefully Dan is able to find fruition with that concept.

The preponderance of short situations struck me as well. I've only ever played long campaigns in Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations and I am slightly disappointed by the lack of longer situations in TAL. I need to play some more before delivering final judgement, though. I'm 0 for 2 on the surge situation.


I spent most of my OP on planes too, I ended up with an A-10, 2 Harriers, Apache with an ACE pilot and the F-16 (the enemy helicopter killer), I bought 2 scouts (which was a waste of money because they died by turn 3!) After I upgraded the pilots, I had Zero OPs to start the game with! The game was well balanced that the advantages I gave myself spending all them points panned out well over the course of the game... but it was hairy most of the way!

P.S. Since I had no OPs for most of the game, the Scouts were pretty pointless as I almost always had the free extra fuel tank for the extra turns. If I had to play again, I wouldn't bother with the scouts! Or just buy one scout for that extra tough mission (and not risking it on every mission!).

DanVerssen wrote:
Thank you for an awesome review Eric!

I have almost finished the TAL / HL combined campaign rules. I should have them ready for the next DVG update in a few days.


Thanks for great games! I have been a fan since the original! I've always thought that was the best game you designed even back then! Even after the release of FC: Napoleon, I thought that the original TA Leader was better! I have been waiting for you to release this baby for a LONG time.

Looking forward to the new campaign rules, any hints on how its going to work?
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Rockhopper01 wrote:
Thanks for the great review Eric.

I love TAL too. The only thing stopping me from getting more plays in is the DCS A-10C simulator on my PC!


I understand! I built a replica of a Boeing 737 in my study once for flight simulation! It had all the bells and whistles, all the consoles, avionics, everything analogue! I had 5 computers all syncing to make the simulation work! With the lights out you would think you were in the real thing! The only thing missing was a mobile platform!
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stig Morten
Norway
Kvernaland
flag msg tools
Thunder Alley: Crew Chief Expansion - Coming soon to Kickstarter!
badge
Evil lurks here!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review, Eric.

You should link it to the DVG preorder geeklist for a chance to win a Cool pair of Leader dice.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Cowen
United States
Union Springs
New York
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Winning the North Atlantic General War scenario? "Impressive...most impressive". I got crushed at the end of turn 3, when one my A-10s drew the dreaded red kia chit, because I hung around trying to destroy the whole battalion. Thanks for this geeklist.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brandon Pennington
United States
Springfield
Missouri
flag msg tools
designer
badge
If your orange juice doesn't burn on the way down, then you need more vodka!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I really need to get this to the table.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
United States
Sellersburg
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ
badge
"By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thank you for this, I will have to seek out a copy, as you said, PL got a little samey for me. Glad to hear this one does not.

Dan, would you be willing to elaborate more on the combined campaign? Thanks much!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I am going to try to play U-Boat Leader now, for some reason even though the rulebooks for that and TA: Leader is written in similar formats, the rulebook for TA:Leader is SO much clearer. In any case, I am looking forward to that game too.

Looks like Thunderbolt got more Dan love in it!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Rockhopper01 wrote:
Garfink wrote:
Rockhopper01 wrote:
Thanks for the great review Eric.

I love TAL too. The only thing stopping me from getting more plays in is the DCS A-10C simulator on my PC!


I understand! I built a replica of a Boeing 737 in my study once for flight simulation! It had all the bells and whistles, all the consoles, avionics, everything analogue! I had 5 computers all syncing to make the simulation work! With the lights out you would think you were in the real thing! The only thing missing was a mobile platform!


Cool. I used to be heavily involved in flight sims as well, particularly with PMDG's 737 and 747, and Level-D's excellent 767. I have the yoke, throttle quadrant, and pedals, but never had the cash to go all out with the other components. You could dump thousands of dollars into MFD's, overhead consoles, etc.

Things have certainly changed though. You can get an iPad app that displays your MFD's, cold start controls, and flight data computer for the A-10C sim. I'm confident that there are iPad apps for MS Flight Simulator as well to act as glass panels. Given that so many aircraft nowadays are completely digital with glass displays, you could put together a complete cockpit with just a couple of iPads, far cheaper than those high-end flight sim cockpit components.

But I digress!


I loved PMDG's 737 apps! They were simply awesome! I had so many mods it was boarding on the ridiculous. The computers and graphic cards nowadays are so much faster that it would be much easier to setup the system. The analog panels that I had all the avionics attached could be slide away and I had another monitor to replace it for glass cockpits stuff. Great if you don't want to fly an airliner. I loved them bushwacking planes and flying between small airports around Alaska was just amazing. I even had a REAL Garmin GPS hooked up for GPS approaches!

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Rockhopper01 wrote:
Garfink wrote:
This last point was a major weakness in Phantom Leader & Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations where you could willy nilly arm your planes with your favorite ordinances and once I found my favorite strategy, I just got the same ordinances every game, which made the games very monotonous and killed replayability in my eyes. In this game you are sometimes force to go with "dumb" weapons because you simply have no more OPs to spend, or you decide to spend the OP on repairs.


In your U-Boat leader review, you claimed that there were no SO costs to weapons in Phantom Leader, which is not true.

I just noticed this part of your review here. There are SO costs to special weapons in both Phantom and Hornet Leader. So this "major weakness" is unfounded.


You are right, I will clarify that in my review, its been awhile since I play those games. I have the impression that SO points wasn't as tight as it is in TA: Leader though.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brent M
Canada
Burlington
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Excellent review. I ordered a copy today and should have it by the weekend; can't wait!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Ink
United States
Mundelein
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Does anyone know how this compares to B-17: Queen of the Skies?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Farmer Harv
Canada
SK
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Inkwan wrote:
Does anyone know how this compares to B-17: Queen of the Skies?


It doesn't compare at all IMO. In TAL you control/manage a squadron and make many critical decisions about who, what, when, where and how to apply weapons, aircraft and tactics.

In B-17 you're pretty much along for the ride. A great ride to be sure, but I don't remember making any real decisions that could or would affect the outcome of the mission.

Watch a few of Lonesome Gamer's videos and you'll get an excellent picture of what TAL is all about.

6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Inkwan wrote:
Does anyone know how this compares to B-17: Queen of the Skies?


Love Thunderbolt Apache Leader for the action, tension and decision making.

Love B-17 for the historical flavor and tension.

Both games make you hope against the odds that your nerve wracked crewmen and shot up aircraft return home alright.

Also, TAL is more like playing a sports game. B-17 is like watching a game on television and passionately rooting for your team from the sidelines.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Lai
Hong Kong
Happy Valley
None
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Inkwan wrote:
Does anyone know how this compares to B-17: Queen of the Skies?


Apples and oranges really. B-17 just takes you for a ride, a rather thematic ride with good narrative, but a ride with little decision nevertheless. TAL has less narrative in my opinion, probably because of the lack of personalize names like in B-17, but has many more decisions required and its quite tense and exciting at various points. Between the two games, I would buy TAL first because there is more GAME in the box, B-17 is a fun ride as well and I would buy that too if finances allowed.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Ink
United States
Mundelein
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow! I am surprised there are so many who have played B-17 before! Thanks for the advice. I understand your comments completely having played B-17 a number of times. The only impactful decisions where which gun to replace when you have 2 gunners down and exactly when to drop your bombs and yet it was fun anyway.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexandros Boucharelis
Greece
Drama
Macedonia
flag msg tools
designer
badge
ubi bene ibi patria // vidi perfutui veni
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
thanks for this awesome review Eric! TAL will arrive in few days and i ll try to play it before Christmas..and B 17 rocks!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.